It is an autumn of Anything Can Happen. Witness Auburn, for God sake. After a year of trying to catch up with him, I had no illusions of killing this boar on this day or any other. But, there he stood in broad daylight behind my 16-ft. ladder stand Thanksgiving morning, nose up in the crisp 30-degree air, attempting to sniff out any danger.
Since he started visiting our lease last fall, I have collected hundreds of pictures of this boar, always around midnight. He survived that hunting season without being noticed. I bragged in a post back in February that he’d be BBQ by mid-March. By late-March we set a trap only for him to disappear and us losing interest in driving down to check it every other day. When he did pop back up over the summer, he religiously visited a particular corn pile every night. I picked a day on the calendar with a full moon, planning a lunar assault on this stud. Luckily, before I sacrificed sleep and blood to the skeeters, I checked the trail camera the day before the hunt to find him vanished once more.
Though I prefer doing so for deer, I could no longer dump corn on the ground. He siphoned it up too quickly when present and accounted for. He’d show up periodically through late summer and early bowseason, but the timed tripod feeder just didn’t interest him as much as the all-night buffets. Good riddance, I thought. Though he was a trophy animal, corn is too expensive these days to waste on him.
The uninitiated generally don’t understand – or just don’t care – how hard it is to hunt big boars in a free-range, non-dog hunting situation. Nocturnal is their MO. By the time they develop their swagger and linebacker shoulders, trophy boars have had run-ins with hunters, predators, hog dogs and other boars. While they’re tough as can be, big boars are also pretty cagey and pay close attention to their surroundings to avoid confrontations. Those noses are not easily fooled. Their eyesight is limited but still capable of discerning an excited hunter in a tree.
This is why I held my breath and Ruger No. 1 still while his nose periscoped the atmosphere for signs of alarm. Fortunately, he was not heading towards the feeder. The wind was blowing right towards it and a little button buck who could not have cared less. The boar would have cared and been gone before I could have clicked the safety off, I guarantee.
Where he was going, I can’t say. While the corn feeder is a plus, my stand is positioned at an intersection of game trails that run North to South on the property. If there is a weakness for wild boars, it is that they have a tendency to use the same two or three trails on the way to feeding to bedding and back again. I had noticed he’d been wearing down this trail in recent weeks, though the camera on the feeder wasn’t revealing his presence. Per usual, the trick was being in the right spot at the right time, in this instance right after a cold front had pushed south, plummeting the Central Florida temps into the 30′s. It’s weather to get most animals on their feet in the mornings.
Once the boar was satisfied the coast was clear, he continued on the trail, badly limping. It appeared his front right shoulder had been injured. About 10 minutes prior, I had heard a shot from the orange grove to the south. Was I finishing off the walking wounded?
I settled the .25-06 behind his shoulder. At 15 yards, he filled the Nikon glass, even on 3X. I squeezed the trigger, and he never broke stride or left the trail. For a moment, I thought I had missed. The No. 1 being a single shot, I frantically reached into the box of Remingtons for another round, but it was unnecessary.
The boar wandered 30 yards down the path, spun in a circle and dropped. I hurried down the stand, rifle reloaded to ensure he’d given up the ghost. Satisfied it was over, I pulled out my iPhone to snap a picture to send to people. As I leaned in for the photo, he let out a final grunt and lunged up, but that was the end of it – the King was dead and my pants very nearly soiled.
In 20 years of hog hunting, I’d say he’s in my Top-3 boars – certainly my best in the last 10 seasons. I loathe to estimate a hog’s weight, but he was a solid 250-275 lbs. I’ve shot smaller hogs with bigger cutters, but his were a very respectable 3 1/4-inches with worn wetters. He stunk only like big boars do, and his front right leg had been broken at the shoulder and not by another’s bullet. An eight-inch long thin scar appeared indicative of him getting that leg caught in wire of some kind, either from a fence, trap, or snare. Perhaps this injury is why he’d disappear for such lengths of time – he just couldn’t get around like he used to, though he clearly wasn’t missing many meals.
While I’m thrilled to have finally caught up with the boar, it is kind of depressing to know he won’t be on the trail camera in the future; however, I know it’s only a matter of time before another takes his place. I’ll get that one, too.