"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Lost Hog Lease

The neighbor who owns the cattle lease is trapping hogs?

I just didn’t buy it from Mike. The claim was pure conjecture. He had no real evidence. But something had caused the hogs to disappear. I chalked it up to the usual culprits – you know, if you hear hoof beats, don’t think “zebra,” think “horse.”

Over the previous nine months the 100-acre lease had become an all-purpose outdoor club. Shooting ranges, duck blinds, feeders, stands, dove fields, ATV’s, blackberry gathering, predator hunting, turkey hunting, butterfly collecting...the varying pursuits of the six members appeared infinite. It was well-trodden by the time Mike pushed his theory.

When we signed the lease agreement in February of 2010, the hogs were thick as flies. You could not walk around the property and not see at least one or two. Corn feeders were hung, and hunters reported sizeable herds arriving near dark, including a couple real beasts. The place had no deer and only a few turkeys, but it was fairly cheap and within 15 minutes of the house. There may be Midwestern hunters reading this wondering what the big deal was, but private land this close to home in Central Florida was a luxury, even if only for piggies.

Of course, a few people killed hogs late last spring and into the summer. I bowhunted in June and a herd of black hogs ran back and forth by my ladder stand through the palmettos until dark, never presenting a shot. After that, the buzzing flocks of mosquitoes and humid heat largely kept me away until September.

By then, the hogs were no strangers to the pain. The only swine photos on the trail camera were at night. Then, suddenly, there ceased to be any porcine pictures.

As one who likes to analyze and explain events, this was pretty simple. The pressure was just too much. Hogs are sensitive to human influence. Sure, they’ll accommodate vehicle traffic and cowboys and other regular influences, but once the shooting starts and human scent is dusted up and down their trails, they either go totally nocturnal or evacuate the property. Since our lease backed up to a state park, I assumed the swine abandoned our slice of Heaven.

But still, the hogs should be on the corn feeders. From late October thru February not a single hog was photographed.

Explanation?

In Florida this past fall, we had a magnificent acorn crop. It was like nothing I can remember. Acorns were still ploinking out of oaks into March. Once the acorns start falling, hogs will leave the corn be. This high-grade protein is too much for them to pass by.

The only thing that really bugged me – more so than the lack of photographic evidence – was the lack of spoor. No rooting, no tracks, no crap, nothing - which led me back to the pressure/state park theory.

Well, April arrived and we had to decide whether to stay on the lease or not. Of the original six, three bailed. We survivors figured we’d find two more guys, pay a little more and develop a plan to bring the hogs back.

PJ knew a couple guys from work who enjoyed bowhunting and videoing hunts. We held a Captain’s Meeting the next Monday and shared our thoughts on what to do to manage the land for strictly hunting. We’d cut out the extra-curricular activities like hiking and target shooting and barbecuing. Food plots were planned, with a dove field to plant in the summer. Guest limitations were set. Stand locations and feeders were discussed, and I left figuring by fall, with this group, the healthy population of swine would return.

The next evening, the two members were sitting along the eastern fenceline, newly erected by the cowboy neighbor, turkey hunting. Lo and behold, he drove up on the guys and had a conversation with them.

It seemed the guy was none too keen on our turkey hunting aspirations and let the newbies know it. His house was on the northeast border of the lease and near the thick cypress swamp that shared both properties. He had been feeding the turkeys for years and thought of them as pets. Apparently, the notion of number 5’s whacking his beloveds did little to endear us to him, though they were wild birds.

As a third-hand story, I never figured out if he did it out of reprisal or just for the sake of doing so, but he admitted to trapping hogs off his place for the last six months, catching several each time the trap was sprung. What he did with them I never ascertained, but it was evident he wasn't releasing them nearby.

Mike’s fears were founded. With this small property and the numbers of hogs he supposedly captured, no wonder we'd not seen any pigs in half a year. By Florida law, he was well within his rights. Feral hogs are considered the property of whoever’s land they inhabit.

But this did nothing for us. PJ called the landowner with apologies, but we’d have to bail on the lease. It would be too expensive to justify only a dove field.

EPILOGUE

Again, this has all come to me through the filters of several different mouths, but even if the truth is a better tale, I still enjoy this one.

Apparently, the landowner was awfully upset with the neighbor. The owner knew he had a pretty penny in the hunting lease. Anyway, he ordered the neighbor to get his cattle off the property. That’s a fairly swift and stiff payback.

Furthermore, the land, from what I was told, went on to be leased by a group of AR-15enthusiasts. I’m sure if he had it to do over, the neighbor would sacrifice the occasional gobbler rather than listen to that racket every weekend morning.

We still have not found a new lease.

7 comments:

Albert Quackenbush said...

Damn, that sucks that the neighbor had to be such a testy a$$. I really got into this post and was hoping for some vindication for you guys. I guess it came at the cost of losing the lease though. That is a huge bummer. Sorry to hear that, Ian.

Ian Nance said...

No vindication here. But it's OK. Just another cautionary tale!

Gorges Smythe said...

Well, at least willie's words rang true, "a little old-fashioned karma comin' down."

Anonymous said...

I have found through many years of experience on different leases that some years they are there (hogs) and some they are not. It takes a reasonably long time to predict when they will show. Corn feeders are no guarantee even if they are using the property. I have been hunting the same 500 acre lease for ten years and some years there might be one or two taken and other years I take 50+ and never get 20 feet from the truck. By the way; the entire surrounding properties get trapped and hunted.

LB @ BulletsandBiscuits said...

Oh man, that sucks! Good luck finding a new lease, Ian. It's a shame people don't realize grass isn't always greener on the other side...I am sure he's regretting it everytime he hears all the rat-a-tat-tat's every weekend!

Mark said...

Ian, this is a really well written post. I was completely drawn into the story, and I am sorry to hear about the outcome. Unfortunately one of the downsides to a relatively small piece of land can be the people who surround it. I have dealt with that myself and it is no fun!

Ian Nance said...

Thank you for your sympathies! (and for reading!)

Anonymous, I agree with you whole-heartedly. I should have let you know more about the property. It's basically an oasis in the middle of suburbia. All of it was once mined for phosphate in the early 1900's....game is slowly seeping back in. If it'd been out in the country somewhere, it'd been worth holding onto as the hogs would come back quickly...where it was/is...it would take more time, and money had to go elsewhere. Thanks for reading!