Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Stalking Orange Groves for Wild Hogs
I wish I’d taken more pictures, but I didn't want to stop the action and burn daylight for the camera. Get while the gettin’s good. So after we tossed one meat hog in the back of the Chevy, down the road we went, sneaking from row to row, glassing for more targets in the open trails between the lines of Valencias.
And the pigs were thick. More pigs on the hoof than fruit on the trees. No scurvy swine in this herd. We stepped over the crushed rinds of oranges and grapefruit dragging hog after fat hog back to the main road. Whether the swine scavenge fallen fruit or pluck them off the lower branches, they take a sample of Florida’s signature cash crop in their snouts and smash it open, consuming only the pulp. Here I thought pigs would eat the whole thing!
But beyond the vast quantity of goodies, the whole grove proved something of an ideal location to spot and stalk wild hogs. The thick cover of the grove kept them shaded and provided a false sense of security - very false for those of us with a scoped magnum. The trees hung low to the ground and wide, concealing much of our movement as we glassed down the lanes and prepared for shots. The cowboy who worked the ranch knew all this and was more than happy to provide us the combination to enter the grove.
The plan in the mornings and evening was to sneak into the grove, and slowly creep down the main roads. The hogs, always the movers, often had us stalking back and forth between rows waiting for a shot. But eventually they’d freeze long enough for a steady rest – my Harris bipod proving to be a real winner here – to torch off a round.
The owner of the property made it well-known his distaste for wild hogs and gave us permission to strike down as many as we wanted. But we all sorta had our own goals. I was looking for a nice boar for a mount. Travis was grocery shopping. And E-Man just wanted to pull the trigger on something. Honestly, more got away than bit the bullet, all of us uncommonly polite around this bounty, waiting on the other to decide what to do.
T got the train moving, taking a couple of meat hogs. I got a small boar one evening, and whiffed another on a rushed shot as it bird-dogged a sow.
But E-Man got the trophy of the group, plugging his best hog ever, a 220 lb. boar with 3-inch cutters and a pair of the sharpest wetters I’ve seen. So happy, he even claimed he’d tattoo a boar on his chest with the gate combination to the grove inked in above the hog body art.
This has been a couple winters ago. We’ve since hit the grove during all the seasons and routinely enjoy a fine hunt. In Spring and Summer the hogs camp out to feed on new-growth grasses and wallow in irrigation ditches. They know when the workers are abandoning their labor for the day and emerge in the evenings and early mornings, or after a thunderstorm. No matter the constant efforts to keep the grove hog-proof with fencing, there are always plenty of trails they sneak in through.
If you have access to an orange grove, you may have access to successful Florida hog hunting year round. Ask around, you never know who may accomodate your request.