Same thing …only different
With a vacant freezer, and the addition of another rifle, the time had come to venture south once more to “bring home the bacon” …literally.
This trip was similar to recent hunts in some ways, and new and exciting in others. The old Jameson Inn in Dublin, GA had become the Baymont Inn (although I failed to see any difference), and the very convenient Wild Wings cafe and watering hole (located across the parking lot) is now closed. I’m not certain if the locals have found a suitable alternative for karaoke, but then, I’m really not interested in finding out.
With repeated attempts to connect with Briar Bed Outfitters going unanswered we were forced to look elsewhere, and with excellent results. The Wild Hog Hunting Preserve in Wrightsville, GA (20 miles north of Dublin) more than adequately filled the void. The pre-dawn drive was a little tricky given a dense fog that blanketed the area. Billy (my navigator, and hunting mentor), had called Nathan Pool (owner and guide) to inform him that we were running a few minutes behind schedule. Nathan stated that he could hear us approaching and a few miles later we arrived at his front gate to find him waiting. Having grown up in rural Georgia I can remember the wonderful sounds of the country and the distinct sound of an occasional automobile as it pierced the tranquility of the day and would grow louder as it approached. Working in Atlanta and living on the outskirts of suburbia had buried that memory until this trip. We hadn’t even walked in yet and already a fond memory of country living had been revived by Nathan’s comment.
The recent rains had left an already muddy terrain saturated. As my company of brothers (four total) followed Nathan to our designated blinds I was so busy watching my footing that I failed to see the red fox that intersected our path and turned and barked at us. Another first for me as I had never known or heard a fox bark. While the city-folk may wonder, “What does the fox say?”, the country boy knows for sure.
With two of my party (Bill and Roger) already seated in their blinds and the other two of us walking toward ours, we were quickly halted by our guide who had spotted a couple of sows approximately 60 yards to our left. Nathan asked if either of us wanted to take the shot and Billy obliged him. A few seconds later the sow lay dormant and the first kill of the day had been taken. With one down and three to go I arrived at my blind and since Billy had already scored his take for the day he sat with me. In less than hour the sound of Bill’s rifle pierced the silence of the morning. Two down, two to go.
This was my first attempt using a blind and I hope my last. I have grown accustomed to sitting in a tree stand, in the open environment, and with full view of the life and scenery around me. A blind, although hiding the hunter from view and preventing his scent from being carried by the wind, does limit his view and periphery. However, I must admit that a limited focal point does force a prolonged stance and an in-depth search for movement. So much so that I found myself being entertained by the quail scratching for remnants of corn left behind by the hogs that frequented the feeder directly in front of me, and surprised by the beautify of a fox squirrel that I feared would join us in the blind, but instead scurried away for another destination. Spring was awakening the world around me and quickly reminded me that with the new buds, blossoms, and warmer weather also brings mosquitoes and tics which were alive and well in late March in middle-Georgia. After waiting well over an hour for the guest of honor to arrive Nathan texted us to ask if I wanted to trade the stationary blind for the action of stalking the hogs. It took little time to reply with an affirmative response.
With Nathan guiding my path we set off through underbrush; wet and muddy lowlands; and pine thickets, all of which were rutted by the hogs we were tracking. I am amazed by the destructive nature of these animals and equally amazed by their speed and agility which became quite apparent as we spooked a razorback approximately 20 feet in front of us. To see such the large bulky animal speed through the forest underbrush is almost comical.
After traversing many acres for over an hour we managed to get ahead of a small band of hogs and was well perched to intercept them as they crossed an ATV trail. Two sows were following a boar and as they slowed and eventually stopped in the path I was left with a perfect shot as one of the sows stood broadside. During previous hunts I had utilized my 30-06 but that had proven a little too much power for these animals which usually resulted in damaging a lot of meat. I had purchased a .243 from a coworker and friend a few months prior, and although I hadn’t had as much time to practice with it as I wanted I felt certain that it was sufficient for this hunt. From approximately 45 yards the black sow filled my scope and I had her entire left side in view. The shot was my best to date and the neck wound dropped her immediately while leaving the meat undamaged.
As I replay the events of this hunt in my mind I am reminded that more often than not the things that have meant the most to me have required perseverance. Like this hunt, when the end goal is reached I may be tired, scratched-up, and weathered but, no doubt, it was worth the effort. In fact, it could be said that because of the work involved I am more appreciative of the rewards. Thus, sitting and waiting for something to cross your path may eventually work, but stalking and actively perusing your goals builds strength, endurance, patients, and satisfaction that you would not otherwise obtain.
After my kill, Nathan and Roger (the last member of my party) began tracking another sow and eventually we all watched as Curt (the official butcher) quickly dismantled the four hogs and packed them in our coolers.
Oftentimes, the only hindrance to our growth and experiences are of our own design, or that of well-meaning parents and friends that place undue restrictions on us. This became apparent to me as I watched Nathan’s nine year old son (Caige) drive his father’s ATV (with a hog secured on the front of it) off its trailer and park it so that Curt had it in close proximity to his tools. I was even more stunned as Caige asked Curt if he wanted him to bring over my 200+ pound sow which was resting on the tailgate of a truck. My chuckles soon turned to a gasp as Caige pulled the sow to the ground and dragged it the wench for processing. Kudos to any father that can allow his children to experience life to the fullest while keeping watch over their safety and well being.
By late afternoon each of us had field-dressed pork on ice and was heading north up I-75. Many thanks to Nathan, Curt, and Caige for you hospitality, and for Billy Green in arranging the logistics of the trip.