Monday, February 26, 2024

Wild hog hunting in Florida

Mark and I were up a little after 3 am and left the house before 4 am. The drive north to Fort McCoy took less than 2 hours, so Mark and I took a nap outside the ranch gate until our guide from West Shore Outfitters, Kolby, arrived at 6 am. The guide briefed us on the hunt procedures including safety considerations and had us sign waivers before driving us to elevated blinds in a modified Jeep. Mark and I were placed about ¼ mile apart in metal covered boxes that were about 8 x 8 feet. The blinds were about 8 feet above the ground and had a 10-inch slot all around permitting a shot in any direction. We were the only hunters on the property this morning.

Smaller first boar

The air temperature was 39 degrees when we got set up in the blind, so we were a little chilly. Mark and I texted each other as we sat waiting for hogs to come into view. As we waited, we heard whip-poor-wills, sandhill cranes, barred owls and other birds. Both of us could hear rustling in the palmettos either from squirrels or hogs. A group of three smaller hogs walked into view around 6:40 am, so I leveled the 50-caliber muzzleloader and dropped the larger of the group with a head shot. I called the guide to check in as instructed, then texted Mark with an update. A little before 7 am I heard a shot from my 30.06 rifle and had a text that Mark had taken a small male pig. Kolby came to pick up the dead pigs and drove us to the shed where he cut both pigs into sections that we could take home for the freezer.

Mark's second boar

Since the hogs were small, we decided to not have them processed because the fee is the same regardless of the size of the animal. However, in discussions with the guide, we decided to take a second hog, this time using the dogs to find the game. Another hunter from Minnesota came who was also doing a dog hunt for hogs, so we went in two vehicles with three dogs, our guide, Kolby, and the Minnesotan’s guide, Cody. Because the other hunter had booked his dog hunt earlier, he would get the first animal. Mark and I would be next.

My second boar

The guides stopped in a dense area of palmettos and released the dogs. The dogs were a mix of cur and other breeds but were surprisingly friendly. The three dogs worked the underbrush in widening circles until one dog found a hog. There was a brief chase, but the hog jumped into a pond and the guide said that it would be easier to find another hog than to pursue that one.

We made a few stops with the dogs until they located another hog. The dogs are trained to surround the hog rather than chase it. When the guide and hunter arrived, the guide gave a command and the dogs backed off allowing the hunter a shot with a 20-gauge shotgun with BB size pellets. His first shot took the hog’s left ear off. At the sound of the shot, the dogs are trained to engage the hog again to keep it from running. We were instructed to not fire a second shot until the dogs were called away from the animal. Once the dogs backed off, the hunter fired a second time putting the hog down. However, the pig still had a lot of life and was full of fight, so Cody borrowed my 9 mm Glock and dispatched the animal. When we dragged it out of the brush, we saw that it was an exceptionally large male. Once loaded into the bed of the ATV, the boar continued to kick so Cody borrowed my pocketknife to pierce the animal’s heart.

Our hogs being skinned

We took the ATVs another 100 yards or so when the dogs surrounded another large male hog. Cody called the dogs away, and Mark put the large black boar down with a single shot to the neck. This hog wasn’t quite as large as the one the hunter from Minnesota killed, but the tusks were significantly larger. Before the boar could be loaded into the ATV, the dogs flushed another hog. This boar was slightly larger than Mark’s and slightly smaller than the other hunters’ kills. Once the dogs had the animal surrounded and were called off, I killed it with a head shot.

Mark's boar

Kolby and Cody hung the three large boars in the processing shed where they skinned and gutted the animals. They cut the carcass into sections for processing by the nearby Circle S Ranch. Mark elected to have the head of his boar made into a European mount which is basically a cleaned skull. We paid our fees and chatted with the guides and the hunter from Minnesota. When Mark mentioned that he lived in Homosassa, Cody asked him if he would mind picking up a large saltwater fishing reel from someone in Beverly Hills. He gave Mark the $250 for the reel and asked us to bring it when we came back to the area to pick up the processed meat. We said our goodbyes and headed south.

We made a quick stop at a Circle K gas station to buy a bag of ice for the two smaller pigs that we had in the tub in the bed of the pickup. We continued to Beverly Hills where we picked up and paid for the reel then drove home as we ate the lunch that Mary packed for us.  Mark and I had one of the soft drinks we packed and I asked him if he can finished his tea.  He said that he had not but that I must have accidentally given him an herbal tea that he didn't care for.  I noticed that the hot water that I had for myself had an odd taste but I attributed it to the Florida water.  It wasn't until we got back to the house that the mystery was solved.  On Sunday evening Mary noticed that the hotpot that we use to heat water for tea was getting a lime scale buildup.  To clean the pot, she filled it about one third with vinegar.  When I got up in the early hours on Monday, I filled the pot, heated the water and made tea not realizing that the liquid already in the pot was vinegar.  No wonder the tea tasted odd.

Once at the house we cleaned the guns and put them away then kicked back a little. We saw the neighbor, 90-year-old Jimmy, and his daughters had a range out on the deck. We went over and took the stove down the homemade elevator and loaded it into their pickup and tied it down. We chatted with Jimmy for a bit, mostly about his former career running a sawmill. He told us about his countertop that he made from a single slab of cypress that was 24 inches wide and over 2 inches thick. The cypress log was recovered after being submerged for over 100 years.

While we were away, Mary and Cindy walked the dogs. Mary did some laundry, cleaned upstairs, and knit while Cindy finalized her tax documents and made flight arrangements to visit us for the total eclipse in April. Later in the morning, they went out to Ollies to look for lamps and other household goods. Afterwards, they went to the Homosassa Springs branch of the Citrus County Library. It’s in a spacious new building by a large public park with ballfields. Cindy registered for a library card while Mary browsed the shelves. Cindy found a Tom Clancy book that she hadn’t read, then they returned to the house.

After a shower, we did a quick walk with the dogs then drove to Marguerita Grill. We enjoy this place since the food is good and the owner is a very outspoken conservative. There are signs throughout the restaurant supporting various branches of the miliary and espousing American values.

Mary had the stuffed grouper, Cindy had crab cakes, and Mark had coconut shrimp. Mary had spoken well of the restaurant’s crab cakes when she was here in November, so that was my choice. Everyone enjoyed the meal. Mary and I traded halves with me giving her one crab cake and giving me half of the stuffed fish.

After arriving back at the house, we watched two episodes of Astrid then went to bed.

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