Note: The incidents described herein took place over the course of two hunts.
Game is plentiful here; bowhunting for wild boar on the Seminole Reservation is generally action-filled and exciting hunting.
Understand that I would have felt considerably more confident facing down a charging boar with a rifle or a shotgun. Though I enjoy a little excitement from time to time, taking on an angry boar while armed with a bow and arrow is right up there with bungee jumping and hot-air ballooning in a gale on my list of adventures to avoid.
For a good 10 minutes I’d been sitting on my heels glassing the hog, trying to determine if he was the trophy I was seeking. Now he was getting bigger by the second, and I was poised to race for the nearest tree, shinnying up a tree being the recommended evasive maneuver for bowhunters in such circumstances.
A quick glance around confirmed what I already knew: The large glade through which I’d been stalking was bordered by cypress trees and palms, but the closest tree was a good 50 yards away. I had no hope of reaching it before the boar closed the distance.
Fortunately, at times like this the body tends to override the brain. I rose to a full kneeling position, drew, and hesitated. About 15 yards away was a small stump. When the boar veered slightly to get around it, I released.
Thunk! The arrow hit at a sharp angle just behind the left shoulder, slightly higher than I would have preferred. The boar grunted and turned slightly, the carbon arrow protruding from in front of the right ham, hanging by the nock for two or three steps before dropping to the ground. The pig blew by me about six feet away, ran another 20 yards or so into some sparse grass, and rolled. I stood motionless, feeling a strange mixture of exhilaration and relief. By the time I reached the boar, he was stone dead.
Squinting in the sun and reaching for my canteen in the oppressive heat, I suddenly had the strange sensation that I was shrinking. During the time I had spent stalking that boar, the world was reduced to one grassy clearing containing a boar and a hunter. When the boar suddenly froze and then began a walk that turned into a charge, the world became downright confining.
The south Florida Everglades spread out around me, a large, grassy savanna punctuated with cypress groves and cabbage palms and the occasional palmetto. Heat waves shimmered over a dirt road that led out of the clearing; above that a trio of vultures circled lazily.
The air was hot, dry, dusty, and suddenly full of sound, as if I had been under water and just broken through the surface. I had tuned out the sound, along with the rest of the world, but now, in the stillness of the late afternoon, insects droned, fish crows squawked, small birds fluttered in the palmettos. Somewhere in the distance a hawk keened and a gobbler responded.
The author with a “meat hog” that provided some unanticipated excitement.
I tried without success to summon a whistle; too dry. Another swig from the canteen and I managed an anemic sort of half-whistle, which was sufficient. In the distance I heard the swamp buggy fire up and start my way. For most of the day we had followed this procedure, the guide driving within 200 yards or so of a likely wallow, crossing, or clearing, then waiting patiently as I slipped up to glass the area. Often there were no hogs in sight, or there were sows but no boars, and the whistle came quickly. Other times I began a stalk that ended, as stalks usually do, in failure.
On one occasion, the only useful concealment was 15 yards from a group of hogs that included two boars. I circled to put the cover between the boars and myself and began a long, painstaking crawl that eventually brought me to a patch of cabbage palms seemingly right on top of the boars.
Heart pounding and lungs struggling for air, I rose slowly to my knees and came to full draw. Call me a wimp, but from 15 yards away on my knees, those ordinary boars looked like giants.
One of them spotted my movement, turned to look in my direction, and froze. I swung my bow a few inches to the left to take aim at the other boar, still offering a broadside shot. They began milling around nervously; in a second they would bolt. I rushed the shot, punching the release, and watched in disbelief as the arrow sailed over the boar’s back.
But that was history now. I had scored at last—not a giant boar, perhaps, but a boar. The guide rolled in high atop his perch on the swamp buggy, squinting into the distance as he waited for me to hop into the passenger seat. I held the bloody arrow aloft; that got his attention.
A few minutes later we swung the boar into the buggy, fished cold drinks from the cooler and started the long, bumpy ride back to camp.
“It’s a good meat hog,” was my guide’s comment about the boar. That was his tactful way of letting me know the boar had not quite reached trophy status. I nodded in acknowledgement, but couldn’t suppress a grin. That meat hog had given me a thrill I’ll never forget.
Next: Rattlesnake, Anyone?