We were hog hunting her a while back and it turned into a very unusual hunt.
A Buddy from Texas came up to hunt with us. It might seem kinda weird that a guy that hunts in Texas, where hogs are over running them, would come up and hunt hogs with us where the population is much, much smaller. I think Robert likes to see our dogs work. In Texas they can, for the most part, dump dogs out on hogs and the dogs don’t really have to ‘hunt’ up the hogs.
The places we hunt there might be, I don’t know … 20 – 40 hogs … in 5,000 to 10,000 acres of rough timber country. We have to use dogs that’ll go out and ‘strike’ a hog track (where a hog has "been") and follow the scent trail (made sometime the night before or older) until it finds the hog. As such it takes a different kind of dog for us to hunt than it does for guys that hunt where the hog population is much bigger. We use a lot of different kinds of dogs. Black mouth curs, Catahoulas, Plotts, and crossed up variations. The best strike dog we have right now is Loren’s ‘Smoke’ that is a Catahoula / Redbone cross. I have ‘Jake’, a registered Plott that’s coming along good and Jason has ‘Austin’ that we think is a Cur / Catahoula cross of some kind that’s workin good. Jiggs sent us down ‘Dixie’ a ¾ Plott / ¼ Redbone pup, 10 months old out of cat / bear dogs in NE Iowa or Wisconsin that is really starting out great. The rest of our dogs, catch dogs and ‘help’ dogs are curs, catahoulas, pit bulls, and crossed up dogs.
Anyway, Robert came up to hunt with us, and we took off at 6:00 AM when Loren, Jason and Wesley got to our place and headed for one of our ‘good’ places. It was 28 degrees and clear. We met up with Randy, his boy Hunter and Bob along the way and off we went. Three trucks and trailers, 8 mules, and maybe 11 or 12 dogs. I don’t remember for sure but I think we got away from the trucks about 8:30 or so and headed off. Robert commented how he thought it was cool to be in the ‘mountains’. It’s very flat where he lives and he thinks it’s mountains here. We were in some pretty rough country.
We had ridden for 20 or 30 minutes when we heard Jake and Smoke. We headed towards them at a long trot through the woods. We had somethin’ goin’! When we caught up with them the dogs had 2 nice young sows caught! It was a GOOD day!
We headed off in another direction and after a while we hear the dogs again! After 1000 yards or so of ‘keeping up’, they are bayed again! We get there, another young sow along the edge of the lake! It was a GREAT day!
We got everything gathered up and head back towards the trucks talking and laughing about how much fun we’d had. We were all in great spirits. Nice hunt! Great hunt! Did you see how good my dog did? My dog did great, too! Your dog is really comin’ along!
We got to the road and had a mile or 2 back to the truck. All the dogs were just running along with us down the road. The wind was blowing up a holler’ off the lake to the road. The lake is probably 200 – 300 feet below the road and 400 – 500 yards out with thick timber between. We could see the lake since the leaves have fallen here. We are riding along and we see part of the dogs drop of the road. "They are just smellin’ something" bla, bla, bla. We get back to the truck. "Where’s Smoke and Jake?" We look at our Garmin trackers. We use their GPS tracking Systems and mine has the Birdseye Satellite Imaging. "They are right along the lake out on that point" In a couple of minutes we can hear them. They are bayed!
Loren and I get back on our mules and lope off back down the road, Robert and Wesley coming behind to the closest spot we can get to them. They had moved back closer to the road! We have one catch dog with us, ‘Gator’ and he bails off over the side to help them, but when he gets there the hog breaks and heads back to the lake. We are flying down over this steep drop off, well .. going probably too fast .. and get down there and they are 400 yards away. We can hear them baying again along the lake. By the time we got there they had stopped baying and we get to this bluff at the edge of the lake and Loren goes, "Oh No!" I look and see the hog, Jake and Smoke out in the lake! They are quite a ways out and the hog is headed across the dang lake! Dogs right behind him!
What do we do? It’s 50 or 60 feet down to the water over this bluff! We try calling them, but there is no way they would give up. We sat there and watched them. Jake swimming behind the hog close enough that we could see him kinda stand up on it’s back once in a while and Smoke following along behind. Jake was still barking at it! I yelled at him "Stop barking you big dummy! Use your energy to swim!" Ya … you know that didn’t do any good, but I was trying to help him. We don’t use vests or cut collars on Smoke or Jake, as they aren’t ‘catchy’ at all and I think that was a good thing right then.
I don’t know, but would guess the lake was 600 – 700 yards wide at this point, not a mile, but pretty dang wide and we could see this was a big hog. Across the lake was the Marina and boat dock. We watched as the hog, dogs behind swam right to the Marina, but there was a wall a couple of feet tall to the docks all the way around. The hog swam into kind of a corner and was trapped, still swimming and the dogs still trying to bay him!
We heard something and looked up. Here came a couple of fishermen in a boat coming down the lake! We started yelling, but they couldn’t hear us over the motor. We watched as they saw the hog and dogs and rode over towards them to have a look. When they cut the motor we started yelling again and they finally heard us!
They came over by us and said "What is that out there?" "A hog and 2 dogs" "We thought it was an Angus cow!" "No, a big hog!" "If we can get off this bluff will you give us a boat ride to get our dogs?" "Sure!"
Loren and I climbed, slid, skidded down off the bluff and got in the boat. These guys were excited! "That’s a hog?" "Yep" "I never heard of anything like this!" "I know!" When we got down on the water we couldn’t see them anymore, but I heard Jake barking. We headed that direction and saw they were headed back across the lake! … all 3 of them swimming back!
At this point I’m guessing they had been swimming for …. 20 minutes maybe! I’ve had dogs my whole life, and I’m 60, but had no idea a dog could swim that far and long!
We motor-boated over, past the hog, he was HUGE but didn’t have big cutters, and grabbed the dogs outta’ the water! They were safe!
We kinda "herded" the hog back to the shore by where we had started and yelled to Robert and Wesley to bring our mules over to where we were going. We have pistols with us when we hunt, but in our haste to get down the bluff we had forgotten to take one with us. We followed, herded, the hog back to the shore and decided to turn Smoke and Jake loose as we got there. They were baying the hog, from the boat, all the while!
We thanked the guys in the boat and tried to pay them but they wouldn’t hear of it. Nice guys! (it’s at least 3 hours to get around the lake to that spot!) The hog took off up the hill where this all had started with Smoke and Jake on his tail and it was the 1st time we could see how BIG he really was!! We got to our mules and took off after them! 350 yards! Wesley had a head start and we were closing fast. They had him bayed again! We got to where the bluff got too steep to ride, got off our mules and started down. The hog was back in the lake! The fishermen were right there in the boat, but the dogs didn’t want any part of the lake this time! I don’t blame them! We caught the dogs. One of the guys in the boat said "I think that hog has earned the right to live" We didn’t argue with them as were all … dogs and us … worn to a frazzle! The boaters stopped following the hog and we watched as he swam down the shore, staying out about 10’ from the edge until he went out of sight. Robert, in true Texas style said "I tip my hat to that hog and bid him good day." We all did! He had won! It was a GREAT, GREAT and WEIRD day!
Now I do have to tell you all that exactly 1 year before, to the day, Loren and his son, Cole had taken a boat ride across the same lake when Smoke had followed a hog across some 400 yards of water! We said then that a thing like that would never happen again …. We were REALLY wrong! We just can’t figure out how to take a boat along with us on our dang mules!!!