Its an unlikely spot along the trail, a palmetto head passed many many times on the way into the swamp or back to the hard road. Sometimes real wet, but almost never real dry, the buggy trail is at a cross roads here. Those coming into the Swamp may have come off "airplane prairie", and some may have just come up "lower dog track" and a few, but not many, may have come from the east, the "road up the middle". If you are going the other way, to the hard road, these are your choices of trails to take here. This is the point that people are joining "dog track" or leaving it, a cross roads in the swamp. At this well worn place, game is seldom seen, but that is not to be today.
Its the last day of our weekend hunting trip, two buggies traveling to the hard road carrying six tired guys. Its been a good weekend, ending too soon for most of us, but its back to work on Monday and we are traveling down "dog track", about mid day. As we pass the cross roads, one of the guys looks down the trail to the east and shouts "LOOK TWO HOGS". Sure enough, standing right in the middle of the buggy trail are two wild hogs. Now the timing of two hogs looking at two swamp buggies is not going to last very long. Both hogs spun around and took off for that palmetto head. They ran about a hundred yards, through a prairie area of short thin bamboo reeds. They hit the palmetto head with a crash and disappeared, while six hunters tried to find their guns packed away on the buggies.
Like most of our early trips into the swamp, this trip so far has been unsuccessful in getting any game. Young and desperate to prove our hunting skills, any opportunity was not to be lost. The two buggies pulled up near the palmetto head, but not two close for fear of spooking the hogs. Hogs reaching thick cover, will almost always freeze in hiding. As we found and loaded our guns a plan was formulated. Three of the guys would circle around the other side of the head, two would stay on this side and they would watch for the hogs to come out. Now, why would the hogs come out? Well, guy number six was going to go into the head and flush them out. Guy number six was me! So before we went to our areas I said " no one shoots, unless they clearly see a hog and all shots are to be downward or don't take a shot, we don't want anyone hurt, especially me".
As we scattered out, I went about half way down the palmetto head and started in. Now a palmetto head is very thick and almost impossible to push through, but I had a plan. I wedged by foot in the top of a lower palmetto plant and stood up on it. I then stepped in the top of the next one, using my long barrel 12 gage shotgun for balance. Now I am three feet off the ground and can slowly travel across the palmetto head. Taking a step at a time. wedging each foot, I travel directly out to the middle and turn to go toward where the hogs had run into the palmetto head. Each step is precarious and more time is spent trying to keep my balance then is spent looking for hogs. After a time I am about forty feet from the end. I am now wondering if the hogs had kept on going, rather then freeze or had slipped past me as I have done my balancing act on the palmetto tops. My wondering was soon answered, I saw a palmetto clump, about twenty feet in front of me move, like something heavy had brushed against it. I shouted ' Get ready, they are starting to move", and took another step into the top of the next palmetto plant. Then I took another, now two palmetto clumps are moving like something brushed against them. One close to me and the other away to the right. I am trying to look down into the thick palmettos to see what is moving. I get a glimpse of grey fur in a small opening and the palmetto plant right there shakes. I take my long barreled shotgun and trying to balance while pointing the gun down. The hog moves again, not sure where I am, but sure I am close, it doesn't know what to do. I see a patch of fur in an opening and point my shotgun. Not sure if it is heads or tails or something in between, I fire.
A squeal tells me I hit, as palmetto after palmetto shakes as the hog runs away. It is past me and going toward the direction I have come. Just as I start thinking it is getting away, I see the shaking palmettos start following the way I have come in. As though the hog was following a scent trail, it is coming directly toward me. My feet wedged in the palmetto plants, I am trying to twist around 180 degrees and get my gun barrel down into the palmettos again for another shot. Before I can do that, the hog passes right under me. The palmetto plants shaking as it runs into them as it goes by, almost knocks me off them. As I gain my balance, the hog circles to the right and heads toward the edge of the palmetto head. I shout "Its coming out, get ready". Expecting to hear shots, I hear " there it is, there it is" and then they shout "its down". The other guys run over to it and someone shouts "its dead". I slowly work my way to the palmetto head edge and get down on the ground. When I see the hog, I can see I had hit it right in the heart area. All that running it did was on pure adrenalin. Soon we are back on the trail, a successful trip with a harvest of meat for more then a few meals, six tired guys looking forward to home.
Over the years, I have been asked if wild hogs charge people, when they are hunted. Some hunters say they do. Of the many hogs I have taken, some as close as ten feet away, this is the only hog that may have been charging me. When it crossed my scent trail, it turned and came directly to me and if I had been on the ground, it surely would have got me..................... But, maybe it is just a coincidence that it turned and ran toward me, I just don't know.
Story by Steve
January 4, 2004