Looking back, I’d have to say that I’ve been pretty fortunate as a bowhunter. Notwithstanding a handful of hunts, I’ve been able to leave the woods with the buck or bull I was after. However, if there’s one critter that has caused me fits, it would be the wild pig. I’m really embarrassed to say how many times I’ve given chase to these stubby-legged chunks of pork only to come home empty-handed and broken-hearted; but let’s just say it’s more than I care to remember!
The first time I ever gave chase to a wild pig was over a decade ago in East Texas. Although I was fairly new to bowhunting back then, I was having a great season when I stepped out of my truck and into those Piney Woods. That September I had arrowed a 305-inch Colorado bull, and a couple months later double-lunged a 167-inch Kansas brute. I was at the top of my bowhunting game, or so I thought, and I was not about to let a fat, snot-nosed, Lone Star porker get the best of me.
The thick layer of wet, dead, pine needles felt like a plush carpet pad under my boots, and with the wind touching my face, conditions were ripe for a sneak on the black boar that was gorging himself on the lush green shoots along the field edge. I really wasn’t worried about his fuzzy eye-sight. My concern was his sharp ears and keen nose, and by how things had progressed thus far, it looked as though I had those concerns whooped. All that was left to do was wait on him to show his front shoulder. As he turned, I pressed my bow into service and burned my 30-yard pin low in his chest. Needless to say, at that moment I thought he was the underdog; however, after my arrow zipped under his chest, those roles changed for the next several years. I can still remember what the breeze felt like after he turned and jetted past me at less than five yards, grunting, or better yet laughing, all the way. I really couldn’t tell why I missed--those things occasionally happen when you incorporate close range critters, bows and a thumping chest. But I never would have thought that encounter was the beginning of my multi-year journey to poke a pig.
The rest of that Texas, pig-jumping weekend went much of the same--bad shots, bad wind, “bad” pigs and just plain ol’ bad luck. No matter what I did, stalks just seemed to unravel in the end. Looking back, I might have been able to anchor one under one of the many corn-slingers found throughout the ranch. But some animals are better chased at eye level, and I guess for me wild pigs are one of them. When that long, humiliating weekend was all said and done, I relegated my follies to a lack of pig-chasing experience and fate.
If we were to honest, wild pigs are the “Rodney Dangerfield” of bowhunting. I mean you rarely find a bowhunter just going pig hunting. If you do, most are trying to fill a gap between seasons. In a way, I guess you can’t blame them. They aren’t adorned with sweeping antlers or a colorful tail-fan; and they really don’t look very attractive on a wall, although some folks in Arkansas might have a bone to pick with me on that. But when you take a good hard look at the wild pig, they are underestimated by most hunters. Sure, their eyesight is their weakest link, but their sharp ears, stellar nose, bolt-like speed, aggressive nature and their ability to adapt in almost any environment should make them a prize for most bowhunters.
The following December, I headed back to East Texas in hopes of fulfilling my wild pig quest. With new found access to a stretch of un-hunted river bottom that by all reports was full of these swirly-tailed critters, I felt opportunities would be ripe for the picking, and for the most part they were. I wasn’t there but a few hours when I found a half dozen of them taking a bath in a muddy pond, but an errant step on a dry twig sent them scurrying.
The next day I had a pair of raven-black hogs heading down a two-track in my direction, but their sixth sense got the best of me before I could release an arrow. Add to that another missed shot, as well as a swirling breath of wind, and my second attempt for these short-legged squealers ended much like the first, with frustration.
It was two years later before I visited that East Texas river bottom again, and I told myself I wasn’t leaving without a porker in my truck. Just like my previous visit, I saw a lone chocolate boar at the other end of a two-track, but this time the crosswind was steady. With his head buried in the thick switch grass, I eased at a snail’s pace in his direction. Each step closer brought with it promise, and before I knew it I was less than 25 steps away. In one fluid motion I drew and released, and in an instant he wheeled away with my arrow buried behind his shoulder.
He didn’t dash 40 yards before piling up in a heap, and needless to say, his plump body lying in the grass was a sight for sore eyes. It might have taken longer than my pride would have liked, but sometimes it’s the hard ones that make the time spent in the woods worth all the effort.