Steady now, get it right. Pick your shot.
“Bill, I’m gonna shoot your hog!” cried Chris as the hog charged closer, now about 30 yards from the three of us.
Relax, you’ve got this. Stay calm. Just one shot, but do it soon. Not much time left. Don’t miss…
Two months earlier my friend, Chris, and I decided to book a hog hunt in Georgia. The two of us had bow hunted whitetails together more times than we could count, and we’d definitely landed our share of rainbows, browns, and walleye together over the years. But a work-related move separated the dynamic duo and ended our (at least) weekly outdoor adventures. We continued to hunt and fish, but we were going it mostly solo now due to our geographic separation. As Chris neared another work move, we settled on a Georgia hog hunt and chose Woods-N-Water as the venue.
Woods-N-Water consists of nearly 5000 acres of private hunting and fishing land spread over three counties in central Georgia. The owner, Mr. Blaine Burley, has over 35 years of wildlife management experience including inventing the Plotmaster food plot planting machines and eight years of hosting hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel. Blaine would also serve as our guide for the hunt.
Mr. Burley met us as the cabin shortly after we arrived and invited us to confirm our zeroes on our rifles. He set up a target at 100 yards and we got to work. Chris was shooting his Browning A-bolt in .270 Win; I was shooting a 1975 Belgian Browning BAR in .30-06. The rifle had been gifted to me by my father-in-law who bought it new in 1975 and never shot it. I was the first person to shoot the rifle just one week before the hunt. We made quick work of confirming our zeroes and then settled in to do some fishing before the safety brief. We each caught a couple of largemouth and a few brim, met Blaine back in the cabin for the brief, and readied our gear for the evening hunt.
We drove out through the woods and down several small twisting roads that, if not for the setting sun, would have completely disoriented Chris and me. Blaine stopped the truck along a ridgeline and instructed Chris to follow the trail down the hill about 50 yards to a ground blind. “Go slow and stay ready; there may be pigs down there now,” he said. I helped Chris grab his stuff, and after a quick fist bump he stalked down the hill. We waited a couple of minutes and then drove off to my stand, only about 300-400 yards away.
Blaine set me in a two-man ladder stand overlooking a feeder in a small field. The stand was very-well grown in, providing exceptional concealment. I climbed into the stand, loaded my rifle, set up my camera, and put on my mosquito head net to protect my neck from the numerous horse and deer flies. Suddenly I heard Chris’s rifle thunder through the swamp. I picked up my phone to text a sarcastic congratulations to him and he responded with “That’s a dead pig.” His first hunt that trip lasted less than thirty minutes and ended with a nearly two hundred lbs. sow in the cooler!
I spent the evening listening to the swampy orchestra of frogs, cicadas, owls, and other unidentified creatures harmonizing with the slight breeze. I heard hogs grunting in the woods around me, but none of them broke cover. I began to second guess my scent and sound, but then a whitetail doe pranced out, fed near the feeder for several minutes, and left the small field by walking right under my stand. She would return numerous times that evening, informing me that I was doing everything correctly and my position was good. The pigs just weren’t ready.
Blaine and Chris picked me up around 11 pm and we returned to the cabin for an evening of catfishing and maple bourbon. We each landed several speckled cats as late night turned into early morning and the bottle got much lighter. Shortly before dawn we turned in to rest for the next night of hunting and fishing.
We spent most of the next day relaxing in the shade or fishing in the pond. Around 6 pm is was time to do what we came there for again. That evening Chris would be hunting from a different tree stand and I would be hunting an adjacent property with the property owner, Todd. Todd had seen a massive boar, which he estimated to be roughly 400 lbs. regularly. Some of his fruit trees had been recently uprooted, and he attributed the damage to the boar. We stalked for hours, scouring Todd’s 1200 acres of pine, swamps, and cotton. We never did find the big beast, despite Todd’s continued excitement. “Get ready, we’re going to round this next turn and he’s gonna be right there” he would periodically predict. Around midnight we rounded a corner and saw at least ten small hogs in the trail. I quickly raised my rifle and dispatched the largest of the small hogs, and then another as it ran from one side of the path to the other. As we approached the pigs, I realized that they were quite a bit larger than I originally thought; each one was nearly 50 lbs. They would be perfect table fare. I was happy to have the two small pigs down, but Todd was ready for more.
Not quite happy with the evening’s exploits, Todd led me to another cotton field not far away. As he scanned the field with a powerful spotlight, I heard grunting immediately to my right. Todd swung the light over, illuminating what was possibly the big boar as he led a large group of pigs away from us. There was no way to get a shot on the boar, so I centered my crosshairs on the eye of a large sow as she ran from left to right and pulled the trigger. I watched in disbelief as I realized that what I thought was a perfect hit turned out to be a perfect miss. My 150 gr bullet slammed into the ground just past the big grandma, sending up a huge cloud of dust. The old girl ran behind a pile of stumps, turned away, and escaped. I walked to she was when I pulled the trigger, hoping to see a blood trail. On my way up I heard a small grunt to my front. I shined the light, illuminating a tiny piglet likely only weeks old attempting to charge at me. It froze in fear as I chuckled at it, then it turned away and squealed off in the direction that the herd vanished. With no sign of blood, we decided to return to the field the following morning to look for the hogs. The field was fenced and we had been closing all of the gates as we passed them, so it was possible that the pigs would still be there at sun up. Todd was confident that all of the pigs would still be in the field, and he wanted us to remove all of them. We felt eager to oblige. We returned to the cabin, skinned and quartered my two pigs from earlier, enjoyed some more bourbon, and then slept for a couple of hours.
We rose with the sun, and Blaine was waiting for us in the living room. We loaded into his truck and went back to the field, with an ATV in tow. Upon arrival, we unloaded the ATV and began to recon the 250 acre field. Shortly into our patrol we noticed that one of the gates had been pushed open, and our hearts sank. Did all of the pigs get out? Blaine took the opportunity to educate us a bit: “Hogs are a lot smarter than most people think. They’ll use their tusks and snouts to lift a fence and go under it. They’ll also know where the gates are and will push them open sometimes. I kind of thought this would happen.” We closed the gate and continued our circumnavigation. Just when we thought we were done for the weekend, Chris shouted “Pigs! I got the one in back!”
He jumped off the back of the ATV and I ran to the front to get a clear shot. Before I could even round the four wheeler, Chris’s rifle rang out for its second time that weekend. The boar dropped in its tracks. The other boar, however, was running away from us before we even got off. I aimed at the pig, but without an ethical shot I decided to wait. We got back on the ATV and sped off out in front of the pig. When the pig stopped and started trying to lift the fence, we stopped and I jumped off again. I looked through my scope, but the pig was facing away again. I began to step off to the right, hoping to get a broadside view. It was just then that the 200 lbs. boar began his charge.
Patience paid off. My 150 gr Federal Fusion entered through the hog’s left cheek and dropped him instantly. We congratulated each other and enjoyed the moment as the adrenaline drained from our systems.
Chris and I departed Woods-N-Water later that afternoon with a total of five pigs in the cooler and a few great stories, which we relived during our ride back to Chris’s house and with our families when we returned home. Chris is headed out to Washington State soon and we won’t see each other for months, but we hope that our next hunting adventure will be as exciting as this one.