My son Hunter made a great 35-yard shot on an Oklahoma Rio in April, and that was technically his first kill, but I put hogs into the big-game category. You may not, especially those of you who have regular access to them, but this is my story and to me, hogs are big game. Hailing from the Centennial State, my son can’t hunt big game until he is 12 years of age, so this was his first quest to drop a big-game animal.

It was the final evening hunt, and though Hunter had a couple of close hogs-over-water calls, he’d yet to put one on the dirt. I could see the want and desperation in his face as we rolled down the dusty dirt road on that final evening. It made me hurt for him, and knowing first-hand what he was feeling, I wanted more than anything to see him walk up on a downed oinker.

Todd, our awesome guide, had a plan to creep into different waterholes and check them for pigs. Eventually, we all hoped, we would run into at least one pig looking to quench his thirst. As luck would have it, we spied a pair of sizeable hogs at the very first waterhole we came to. The problem was the pigs had already watered and were making their way up a steep embankment and back into the thick cover. We had to move fast. After getting the wind right, we closed a couple hundred yards and Todd spotted the swine doing what they do best – rooting up the ground inside a thick stand of young oaks.

Hunter was breathing hard, but we got him a solid rest on an overhanging oak branch and he quickly found the hogs in the scope of his Savage (www.savagearms.com) .223. Todd grunted to get the feeding pair to stop and the shot rang out. No thwap made by an impacting bullet. No squeal from the pig. No stumble. No nothing.

Though Hunter was sure he hit his mark, Todd and I had our doubts as we watched the hogs scramble toward safer pasture. We scoured the area but found no blood. All we could do was follow the tiny pieces of dislodged earth created by the fleeing pigs. We had followed the tracks for 60 yards … nothing. I could see tears welling in my little man’s eyes. I felt helpless.

I told Hunter we would follow the tracks another 30 yards, but all signs pointed to a clean miss. He agreed, trying to keep the tears from trickling down his red cheeks. I turned to get back on the trail and didn’t take another five steps when I saw it – a tiny droplet of red blood. Everyone was standing close to me but I hollered out, “I’ve got blood here!” I was so excited. One drop turned to more drops and those drops gave way to more sizeable blotches. It wasn’t great blood, but it was good. Then it stopped.

Todd and I tromped around the area for 15 minutes trying to get back on the blood, a track, something. No luck. Hunter stayed put on the last blood while Todd and I expanded our search. I was probably 20 yards to Hunter’s left and Todd was 20 yards to his right when I heard it. Hunter started screaming, “There he is! There he is!” I turned to look. His feet were coming off the ground and he was pointing with both hands into a stand of thick oak, mesquite and cactus less than 10 yards away. We’d been walking around it for the better part of 20 minutes. I took off toward Hunter and immediately saw the pig. She had bedded in the thicket and finally decided to stand. I racked in a round and handed Hunter the gun, and he put the pig down for good.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my son so excited in his life, and to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever (side of getting married and watching my three babies be born) been so thrilled. It was an amazing experience and capped off an incredible three days in the Lone Star State.

It’s my hope that everyone gets their kids into the woods, and for those that don’t have kids, become an in-the-woods mentor to someone. These little guys and gals really are the future of this great heritag