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Hog Wild
April 2002
Dave Cooley

As we heaved and pushed against the 4WD Bronco and sloshed through the water and mud in the darkness, my mind flashed back to that morning when we had seen two water moccasins and a copperhead snake as we were hunting similar bottoms about twenty miles away. Who knows what was slithering around our boots. But the Bronco was stuck and we wouldnít sleep until we got the truck to the "hunting lodge" so we kept pushing as the tires were spinning and slinging mud all over us and everywhere else.

After much shoving and putting wood and other debris under the wheels, the truck finally found traction and took off toward the lodge leaving the three of us in the pitch dark with the swamp critters. As the noise of the truck engine and the headlights disappeared in the distance, we began to think about just what we were walking through.

Iím from Arizona where Iíve become comfortable walking around in the dark since the snakes have the decency to warn you before they strike. This was northeast Texas where they have alligators, armadillos, poisonous water snakes and who knows what else. Itís like a different country here. They even speak a different language. But Iím getting ahead of myself.

This was March of 2000 and we were in Texas near the Arkansas border with the intent of hunting wild boar. Mack, a good friend of mine, had invited me to come up and hunt wild boar, as heíd seen many near his place in east Texas. His nephew, who lived up in this neck of the woods, thought he could put us into some.

So I flew into Dallas where Mack picked me up and drove me to his home in Athens near the Louisiana border. Early the next morning Mack, his son Roger and I drove to his nephew Coryís house up near Texarkana where the excitement would begin.

Although I had hunted bottoms near Mackís place two years before, this was different country and I wasnít sure what to expect. Iíd heard stories of a rancher friend of Mackís having trapped a 700 pound boar in a trap made of rebar -- tales of hogs killing cattle, treeing professional hunters and lying in wait to attack people. I was mentally prepared for just about anything. A little excitement is a good thing . . . right?

The first thing I discovered was that I couldnít understand a word that Cory said. It was like this kind of monotone that he moved his lips through. This noise would start coming out of his nose and then the lips would start moving and heíd say "Yeahwejusbringemdowgsor-heerandravemhowgsoutembo-emsanshoo-emwi-a-shogun. Sheeee" Heíd go on and on like that and Mack would pick out most of it and interpret for Roger and I. Iíve been to 12 different countries in my life and have never had this much trouble understanding the locals.

The other thing I learned was that as long as Cory had his pinch between the cheek'n-gum, he was a happy camper. Never mind that his wife had just delivered another kid the day before we got there. We were huntiní howgs.

The first morning we parked near a corrugated metal shack near a swamp with the plan that if we got into some hogs or found fresh sign in the area we would spend the night there. In Arizona we put prisoners in pens like this and make them wear strange underwear. So we grabbed our artillery and set off into the swamp, keeping into the wind and glassing every few minutes to see what lay ahead of us.

Hogs have noses without peer and, without the wind in our favor, we would be wasting time. Mack decided to spend the rest of the morning in a tree stand and said he would meet us at lunch time back at the shack. His nephew, son and I worked our way around the swamp, shooting a water moccasin but seeing no hogs and no evidence of their having been there recently. When these hogs have been through an area there is no mistaking it. They leave a trail a blind man could follow. They dig up every root and tuber making a trail like someone had pulled a disc through there with a tractor.

Finding no sign, we decided to return to the truck for some lunch. Approaching the shack, we could see Mack sound asleep on an old mattress that was laying outside. At Rogerís suggestion, I pulled my Circe varmint call out of my pocket and when about a foot away from Mack, let out the loudest, most blood-curdling squeal I could coax from the call. Mack made Hindu levitation look childish. He came straight up, about 3 feet off of the mattress without touching a thing. I had no idea he could do that!

After lunch, we piled everything, including Mack, who was still uttering incoherent epithets toward the rest of us, into the Bronco and headed out to the "hunting lodge" where this story started. This is where I learn that "hunting lodge" is Texan for an old abandoned house with dead rats.

By the time we were within a mile or so of the "lodge" it was late and pitch dark. We had not eaten since lunch and the "road" was just a gap between the bushes sticking out of the water which was getting deeper. East Texas had much more than their normal rainfall that year and most of the bottoms were flooded. Cory was certain though, that the lodge would be on dry ground so we kept going.

Roger wasnít used to driving in four wheel drive or mud so it wasnít long before the truck was stuck and we were wading around in the dark trying get it moving again. As I mentioned at the beginning of this tale, we eventually got Roger moving, whereupon he took off like a scared rabbit throwing plumes of mud and reptiles into the air, leaving us to walk the rest of the way in the dark to where we would spend the night. It really wasnít too far and before long, we had the mud-encased Bronco unloaded and were sitting around a nice camp-fire cooking dinner.

It doesnít seem to matter where you are, when youíre with friends around a fire everything is great. It was a beautiful night. After a great dinner we went inside, threw the dead rats out the back door, put the sleeping bags on the old roll-away beds and slept with one eye open. It had been a long day. Mack probably slept with both eyes open.

I woke early the next morning, a bad habit of mine, and left the others asleep for a walk around before breakfast. I grabbed my Marlin 30-30 which was stoked with some hot handloaded 170 grain shells and headed into the wind, opposite the direction we had driven in. Cory had said that the river was in that direction.

The muddy road wandered through lots of thick, dead vegetation that looked impenetrable, so I stuck to the road, walking quietly, ready for the first sign of hogs. After about an hour of seeing nothing I headed back for some breakfast and ran into Roger and Cory about a half mile from the lodge.

After breakfast we went back out that same road and then split up near the river. There were several tree stands near there where hunters put out food to attract deer in the fall and which occasionally attract hogs as well. We each found a stand roughly a quarter mile from each other and began our vigil. About an hour later, I heard Coryís shotgun go off three times. I quickly climbed down and headed in his direction. Either he had shot a hog or he was using the three shot distress signal which they probably havenít heard about yet in that part of the world.

I ran into Mack on my way there, but upon arriving at Coryís stand, we found it empty. There were some fresh hog tracks near the stand but they were too far away for a shotgun shot. The tracks appeared to go into the thick underbrush which was between my stand and his which meant they might have come out near me if Iíd stayed in the stand. We werenít sure how to proceed at that point and while we were debating what to do, Roger came up.

We decided that since our scent was now all over that area and with the noise of the shots, the hogs had probably headed into the next county. We headed back to camp but took the long way around near my stand just in case. We did not see any tracks which made me feel a little better.

Cory showed up later to inform us that he had seen the hogs and had gotten down from the stand to get a closer shot. He wasnít sure if he had hit any or not, but had tried to follow them into the brush to look for signs of a hit. Iím not sure a weasel could have gone into that brush let alone a man but I took his word for it. We ate lunch and, not wanting to negotiate the swamp road in the dark again, we headed out that afternoon. Mack and I still had to drive back to Athens and I had an early flight back to Phoenix the next morning. While I didnít see any hogs that trip, it was one of the more exciting hunting trips Iíve been on. I keep hearing that they have these big hogs in Texas and one of these times Iím going to get a shot at one.

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