As spring draws near, here is a little flashback story about my first hog hunting trip in South Carolina.
Josh and I had been planning our trip to South Carolina for months. I had a countdown going and would email him almost daily with the amount of days we had left. About two weeks before our hunt we went to Cabela’s to make sure that we had everything that we would need for our trip. For Josh that included things like turkey calls and anti-scent spray; for me it was five bags of green apple licorice. We were primarily hunting turkey, but there were some hogs that had not left the area yet that I was particularly excited to see. My philosophy was that I can hunt turkeys at home, but this was my only chance to harvest a hog.
I am normally one of those people who five minutes into a car ride I am fast asleep, catching flies, as Josh kindly puts it. I did not sleep at all during the twelve-hour drive. I was so excited that Josh agreed to play the ABC game with me to keep me quiet. For those of you who don’t know, the ABC game is where you try to find signs that begin with the letters in the alphabet in order. After we finished our game (I won) and we made our way into North Carolina, Josh finally agreed to let me drive for a little bit. We stopped at a rest stop for a quick break, and then I got behind the wheel with strict instructions to get back onto the highway and just go straight. It was about 2AM at this point and I hate driving in the dark, but somehow I managed to pull it off. We pulled into the property at around 3AM and lay down to catch a quick catnap.
Before I knew it we were getting back up and heading out to hunt. Our plan was to hunt turkeys in the morning and hogs at night. The tricky thing about South Carolina was that it would be 40 degrees before the sun comes up and quickly turn to 80 degrees once the sun came out. This lead to lots of layers to start out with and a “quick change” behind a tree once the sun came up. Josh had bought me new snake boots before our trip and I eagerly strapped them on that first morning. The fact that they even have to make a boot specifically to protect you against snakes makes me incredibly nervous, but if they were going to save my life then I was going to wear them. The boots were great, but one tip for people everywhere: DO NOT BREAK IN NEW BOOTS ON A HUNT. Plan ahead, because after about three hours my feet were killing me. I was pretty sure that the boots had severed my foot from my ankle, but I didn’t dare say anything to Josh. I was bound and determined to never be a woman hunter who complains to the man she is with while they are in the woods. I sucked it up and tried to focus on anything else to get my mind of my poor feet. We heard a few turkeys that morning, but nothing that Josh was able to call in. Exhausted, we headed back to the cabin for a nap. (This is my absolute favorite part of any hunting trip…well it is definitely a close second to my licorice).
That night we headed out in search of hogs. Josh told me that we were going to be sitting in stands, but that I would not need my safety harness. I was doubtful and petrified that I was going to fall out of a tree, but I decided to trust him. (If this isn't foreshadowing then I don't know what is). He took me to the stand and I began the slow climb to the top. This stand was different then the stands we had at home. It was a platform stand, which is much roomier and not dependent on a tree to support it.
As we were getting dressed and gathering our things, I was dreading putting my snake boots back on. The battle wounds I had gotten that morning were still raw and I couldn’t bear the thought of putting them back on. Josh must have sensed my reluctance and asked me what was wrong. Through tear-filled eyes, I told him how badly my feet hurt. He said it was fine and told me to put on my Ariats. They were well worn in and easily my favorite pair of boots. Do you think I brought them with me to South Carolina? Nope, all I had were a pair of pink plaid Muck boots that his dad had gotten me for Christmas that year. Yep, pink plaid. Bless Josh’s heart, he let me wear them explaining that with the netting around the base of the stand nothing would be able to see my feet.
Anyway, we got settled in the stand, and I loaded my gun. Josh showed me the different points where the hogs might come from. We were sitting in front of a large field. There were woods behind us and to our left and right. There were small patches of trees with two small lanes in front of us. Josh said that the hogs would probably come from the woods to the left of us. Now it was time to sit and wait. I had heard stories from his dad and stepmother about seeing up to thirty hogs in one night, and I was hoping that I would see just as many. One of the things that I love about hunting is having uninterrupted time with Josh. We spent the next couple of hours enjoying the nature around us. We were talking about life, friends, and family when suddenly a small little body emerged from the woods to my left.
HOGS! Millions and millions of hogs!!!!!! (ok well maybe only 20)
They poured out of the woods like ants out of an anthill. Piglets, boars, and sows all clumped together and munching on their dinner. Trembling with excitement and nerves, I slowly pulled my gun up and rested it on the bar in front of me. I was relying on Josh to help me choose which one to shoot. As he would describe one for me I tried to get my sights on them. It was very difficult because they kept moving all over the place and continuously stepping in front of one another. (Side note: the piglets are adorable and I wanted to take one home. Josh refused.) Finally a large black sow emerged from the group. I lined up my crosshairs right behind her ear and steadied my hand to shoot. All the while Josh is sitting next to me videotaping the hogs and whispering things like:
“That one! Wait! Now, she stepped out! Take the shot! Shoot! Shoot!Whenever you’re ready! She’s clear! When that one steps out from the group take it!”
I tried to block him out, but it is a little difficult when he is literally in my ear, whispering this. The sow stepped forward, and with Josh whispering loudly in my ear, I pulled the trigger. BOOM! I quickly kicked the shell out of the chamber and loaded another bullet. Josh had warned me that hogs were tough and if the first shot doesn’t take them down you may need to shoot again. Josh had just shot a monster hog (over 300 pounds) on an earlier trip and it had needed another, and another, and yet another shot. I was also fearful of it running into the thicket, which would make it nearly impossible to track. As I lined up my scope for the second shot, I realized that my hog was on the ground! OH MY GOD I GOT MY FIRST HOG!
I was ecstatic! Josh turned the camera on me so that I could talk about the shot. I don’t remember what I said, but I know that the excitement was written all over my face. If it was possible, I believe I was more excited about getting my hog then my first deer. I have such a passion for hog hunting, not to mention how tasty they are!
As the sun started to set, Josh went loaded up his things to go and grab the ranger so that we could take my hog back to camp. He placed his foot on the steps of the stand and as he was throwing his bag over his shoulder, he lost his balance and fell out of the stand. The whole thing happened in slow motion and I was paralyzed holding two rifles to do anything to help him. In that split second I realized that if anything happened to him I had no clue what to do. We were twelve hours away from home and family, I had not idea where I even was in the state of South Carolina, I had no clue where I was on the property to give anyone directions on where to find us, I couldn’t remember where we parked the ranger, there was no way I could drag him or lift him into it to get help, cell phones do not work out here and it is getting dark. We would die out here in this field. I may be slightly melodramatic, but it was a frightening though to realize that I had absolutely no idea where I was.
There was silence.
I stared at Josh on the ground and waited for him to move, which thank God he did. To this day he claims that he “jumped” out of the stand, but I was there and there was no jumping happening.
We got the ranger, loaded my hog onto it, and went to take some pictures. She was a pretty good meat hog, weighing around 150 pounds. I would like to say that I helped him skin her out and get the meat, but really I watched and handed him things when needed. I was standing by my agreement that I needed a full year of hunting before I would be able to help skin anything.
That night as we were getting into bed, I noticed that I was itchy. Not just bug bite itchy, really really itchy. Not on my leg, or arm, or back, on my bottom. I begged Josh to check and he confirmed my fear: poison ivy all over my upper thigh and bottom. It itched so badly that I barely slept that night. I tried not to scratch it, I really did, but have you ever had poison ivy? It is impossible to leave it alone. It also didn’t help that it was in a completely inappropriate place to be scratching. Very ladylike.