Florida Slugfest

We’ve been through this drill a hundred times before, but it never seems to lose its excitement.  We were off to our favorite wild boar hunting spot in central Florida, making last minute preparations, buying food and drink, and quadruple checking our gear. This time around we were bringing a veritable arsenal of weaponry, including my old Ruger M77 .338 win mag, and Ruger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull.  My brother-in-law, Vincent, was toting his Remington M700 in .30-06 (a veteran of the hog wars), and a yet untried Marlin Guide Gun in .45/70. Of course he, too, was packing a sidearm for finishing shots and emergency situations, his trusty Model 629 Smith & Wesson .44 magnum.

We drove our bright yellow rental into camp where forms were signed and last minute instructions were given. We knew the drill. We then followed the guide out to the camp we call home for the weekend. Home is a trailer with battery power that sleeps four and a dedicated skinning area.  Arriving around noon on Friday gives visiting hunters enough time for an early evening hunt.  The spot we were hunting features five feeders (referred to as one through five) that sound the dinner bell three times a day (twice in the morning, and once in the late afternoon). But, this isn’t just a hunt over feeders.  If one chooses, one can elect spotting and stalking. Generally, we like to mix it up to keep things interesting.  The weekend package also gives you all day Saturday to hunt, as well as Sunday morning.  One can also choose to hunt with dogs.  If you’ve never hunted with dogs, you are missing out on shear excitement.  If this doesn’t get your blood pumping, make sure you have a pulse.

We unpacked the rental, changed into our hunting duds, and checked weapons.  We decided to give feeders one and two a try this first evening.  I strapped on my .454 and grabbed my trusty .338.  Vincent grabbed his .45/70 and .44 magnum, and got into our respective stands early enough to get settled in, a fat hour before the feeders were scheduled to chime.  When the feeders spread their corn, nothing happened. Unusual. Highly unusual.  A half hour passed by, and still no activity.  I heard no shots fired, so I knew my brother-in-law was equally underwhelmed, or he’d fallen asleep. The wind was in my favor, so they hadn’t winded me.  It was time to take a walk to check out the area for hog activity.  I quietly stalked up to feeder three and noticed corn on the ground.  Something was wrong.  So, I continued my investigation and got within 100 yards of feeder four when I noticed movement.  I dropped to a knee, cranked my scope up to nine and had a look.  I saw three hogs taking their morning meal.  Now we were in business!  I picked one, settled the cross hairs right behind his shoulder, and let fly a 250 grain Partition Gold.  The shot was true and the result was a terminal.  He was a young boar around 100-lbs on the hoof — in other words, good table fare. I called Vincent on his cell, rounded him up and we proceeded to drag the carcass back to camp. By the time we skinned and quartered him, night had set. We ate and turned in early as we had a 4:00 AM wake-up call.

4 o’clock came around quickly (and early I might add!), but I never seem to have any trouble getting up before sunlight when I’m not heading into the office. We decided to give the feeders another try this morning, but this time I went to three, and Vincent went to feeder two. This morning would prove to be more lucrative. At first light, after being made a meal of by hungry mosquitoes, the breakfast bell sounded and a troop of hogs made an appearance, rooting around the feeder eating that sweet corn.  I picked the biggest of the bunch, a black boar with some ivory showing, and again put the cross hairs on his shoulder (he was quartering away from me), held my breath, and squeezed.  The morning’s peace was shattered

The author took this 175-lb boar with his .338 win mag from a stand over a feeder.

by the report of the .338 sending a chunk of lead down range over 2,700 fps. The shot was true and another hog was sent to his maker!  I heard no shots from feeder two and assumed correctly that Vincent hadn’t any breakfast guests.  So, I called him and enlisted his help in dragging my hog back to camp (Do you see a pattern here?).  This one came in right around 175-lbs.

We pow-wow’d back at camp and decided to try a buggy and dog hunt. We were given the number of the guide for the buggy hunt when we got into camp and quickly made the arrangements. A couple of hours later and the swamp buggy pulled into camp. The dog boxes were teaming with eager hunting dogs of various pedigrees. We met the guide, a personable fellow named Chris Jolly and discussed the ensuing hunt. We all enjoyed a cold can of soda, and loaded the weapons on the buggy. If you’re not familiar with a Florida swamp buggy, it’s a go-everywhere 4×4 that you just point, squeeze the throttle and it goes straight no matter what lies in its way.  Vincent was eager to blood his .45/70 and I decided to hunt with my hand cannon as the dogs would ensure a close shot.  I brought the .338 just in case……

This is what a Florida Swamp Buggy looks like. A Chevy Suburban chassis makes a great foundation for these go-anywhere hunting vehicles. Just point it and step on the gas and it goes straight no matter what gets in its path. Dog boxes enable us to bring a pack of hounds on the hunt.

We set a course through (or rather, over) some heavy palmetto, with two dogs running at a time. We had to limit the dogs’ time on the ground to no more than a half-hour at a spell due to the heat and humidity. We got to a particularly heavy set of brush when the dogs jumped a big sow which immediately took off running away from the buggy, with the dogs in hot pursuit. Vincent just had the time to raise his Marlin and squeeze off a 300 grain hollow-point.  The bullet met its mark, flipping the hog end over end.  Vincent finally blooded the Marlin!

We kept trawling when we jumped a big red boar with the buggy and the dogs took off after it, with Vincent and two of the guides in hot pursuit.  The hog managed to evade them.  Guide, Chris Jolly, who had been sitting behind the wheel of the buggy, jumped up and announced excitedly that the red hog was heading our way, having escaped his pursuers.  So, I did what any self respecting hunter would do, and jumped off the buggy with sixgun in hand, and watched for the boar to make an appearance.  He shortly thereafter came busting out of the brush and set a course away from us in high gear.  He was roughly 25 yards away and determined to leave the state, offering a quartering away shot.  I let loose a 400 grain bullet that caught him in the back of the rib cage.  I was now three for three.  We threw the 200 pound carcass on the buggy and made our way towards camp.  

Just down the road from camp when we stumbled upon a group of pigs rooting under a grove of trees.  We were about 100 yards (actually we paced off 111-yards) away when we stopped the buggy and shut it off so as not to scare the hogs.  Vincent was looking intently at them through his binoculars when I handed him my .338 off of the buggy’s rack.  He smiled, racked a round into the chamber, and used the steering wheel as a rest.  Sight picture, sight alignment, sqeeeeeeeeeze, BANG!  Two hogs drop!  That’s right; the last shot taken resulted in a twofer!  What a way to end the perfect weekend hunt!  

That night, we treated ourselves to a couple thick rib-eyes, and some malted beverages and reflected on the weekend.  It was obvious to the both of us why we made this trek a couple times a year.  It just doesn’t get much better than this.