This story by member Ed Noonan originally appeared in the Daily Gazette.
Besides being able to fish every day in shorts, T-shirt and no shoes just 10 steps from the back of our rented condo on the Inter Coastal Waterway for 59 days (February and March), I also manage to squeeze in a few days hunting, including squirrels and rabbits in February and hogs and turkeys (Osceola) in March.
Last Thursday, I went hog hunting with West Shore Outfitters in central Florida. They offer a number of outdoor adventures. In addition to hog hunting, they guide for freshwater and saltwater bowfishing (equipment furnished).
No license is required when hog hunting with West Shore, and the hunter has a choice of how to hunt — ground blind, tree stand or spot-n-stalk — and they have a 99 percent success rate.
Fees are always a factor, and having hog hunted on many preserves, West Shore prices are definitely impressive. For one to three hunters, the cost is $225 each; four or more, $200 each. Veterans and children have special rates.
There are no trophy fees, size or weight restrictions or cleaning fees (www.westshoreoutfitters.com).
It was above 80 degrees and very humid when I met my guides, Bill Ransom and Chris Lewis, at the gate of the ranch and followed them down a dirt road where we would park.
My choice of gun for this hunt was a Henry 30-30 topped off with a VX-3 Leopold 2.5-8x36mm scope and 170-grain Fusion ammunition.
I chose the spot-n-stalk, which I believe to be the most fun. Bill said he would enter the swamp at one point, and Chris and I would go in a hundred yards or so from him while he tried to get the hogs moving.
“In this afternoon heat, they’ll lie in the water,” he said.
He also said he would point where he expected the hogs to go through, and that I shouldn’t be surprised if I had to take a running shot.
It was exciting waiting in this dense swamp not really knowing when or where they would appear. Bill did move some hogs on the first drive, but not out where we could see them. For the next half-hour, we did a lot of sneaking and peeking, hearing, but not seeing them.
This hog hunt was actually my first in a real swamp, and obviously, my shot would be close and at a moving target. There were times the hogs were within 10 yards of us, but we couldn’t see them.
It was about 45 minutes or so after we began the hunt that I got my first chance. Bill called to us that they were headed our way. When they did come out, they were moving and too close together for a shot, but just before they disappeared, I was able to take a snap shot — too high, and I missed.
Chris smiled when I said, “Fast, aren’t they.”
For the next half-hour, Bill continued to sneak-and-peek through the dense cover moving hogs, but none offered me a shot. It was while we were slowly walking that Chris stopped and pointed into the brush.
Standing perfectly still behind some bushes was the outline of a hog. I quickly shouldered the Henry and cocked the hammer.
The adrenaline was flowing when he stepped into a small opening and I squeezed the Henry’s trigger, ending a successful West Shore Outfitters hunt with a nice 150-pound hog.
I have to admit I’ve enjoyed hunting hogs over baited sites many times, but the excitement of the hunt with Bill and Chris was the best.
Today, I’ll be joining some of my snowbird friends for a very tasty outdoor hog roast.