HAWG HUNTIN' FLORIDA STYLE
by Mark James
Hog hunting with dogs is a sport enjoyed by many people all across the country. The most popular way seems to be with the use of Cur dogs. One or two dogs will "wind" the hog and silent trail it until they jump it. Then they will quickly bring him to bay. At this point, a catch dog is used to catch and hold the hog until the hunter can get there to tie him up. All this is going on while the dogs are doing their best to not get cut to pieces by the razor sharp cutters that the hog is equipped with.
Myself and the group I hunt with, here in Florida, like to do it a little differently. We use open mouth trailing dogs and start the dogs on a track rather then free casting them. We usually start with a cold-nosed dog or two, to get the track started since we really have no way of knowing just how old the track may be. After the strike dogs have heated the track up a bit or jumped the hog, we then add a couple more dogs to the race. And let me tell you, those big mean hogs are a lot smarter and faster than most people give them credit for!
What usually happens at this point is the hog will decide if he should change zip codes or if he should stand and fight. If he should decide to blow out of the country then we make a decision to either add more dogs to the race to try and bring him to bay, or to try and cut him off somewhere and stop him ourselves (if we can!). Cutting him off is only a small problem, and part of the fun in the sport.
One of the biggest problems hunters in Florida face is the over-crowding of people and the development of once great hunting land. It seems that everyday a new shopping center or a new subdivision is popping up somewhere you least expect it, and usually it's in the middle of a great place to cast your hounds. That can create a real problem as you will soon see!
This hunt took place in an area near Orlando (Mickey Land) Florida. Bob, a friend from Orlando, invited Shawn and myself to go hunting with him early one Sunday morning. Bob decided to try the usual spots to see if we could locate some hog sign. The first three places didn't turn up any tracks or sign at all. The fourth spot was a subdivision in it's early stages of construction, basically just clearing land and getting ready to lay the sewer lines.
Bob had heard from a guy that was running some heavy equipment out there that he had seen a hog a couple of times on the far side of the property, coming out and rooting around, but he could not tell if it was a boar or sow. We decided to give a look around and see if it was still hanging around. Bob and I walked as far back into the woods as we could to try and locate some sign, but no luck.
After a little chat we decided to free cast the dogs and see what would happen. It's not generally a good idea though because of the large deer population we have in Florida, but in this case we really had no other choice. So we turned out Bob's Blueticks, "Droopy" and "Little Foot", his Walkers, "Casey" and "Sally", Shawn's Redbone "Charlie", and my Bluetick, "Blue".
Much to our surprise the dogs jumped after only about three minutes, and before we could say anything were already barking bayed! Bob decided to stay at his truck, and Shawn and I would go to them in our truck. The wind was blowing pretty damn hard and we seemed to have over shot them, so we had to back track a little. Once we were sure where they were we went the rest of the way on foot. Shawn was running ahead of me for awhile, when I noticed that he seemed to be slowing down pretty fast. He slowed down all right, right into a muck hole, and was already up to his waist in it! After getting him out (which was no easy task!) I decided that I would go the rest of the way myself. We appeared to be in a small swamp that you could not move in without sinking up to your neck.
The dogs were very close and seemed as if they were not baying as hard as they were earlier. In fact the only dog that I could hear was my "Blue" dog. Once I did get to them I realized why they sounded so quite. There must have been a few hogs there because they had already caught and killed on hog about 125 lbs. and the only dog left baying it was "Blue", the others had left for parts unknown. After floating this hog across a small creek and getting back to Bob's truck we informed him that the others had gone on after the other hogs. We headed out to the hard road and tried to locate which direction they had headed in, while Bob stayed behind to see if they would circle back.
Shawn and I had gone about a mile or so and could not seem to pick up where they had gone, so we decided to work our way back. Just as we slowed down to turn around we could hear the dogs baying there hearts out about 75 yards off of the road. Just as I jumped off of the truck to go to them an Orange County Sheriff pulled up and asked if those were our dogs. Now here we are, dog leads around our necks, hog ties around our waist, dog box in the back of the truck, "Oh no......those aren't our dogs!". We told him yes, and said to catch up as many as we could and then meet him around the next corner.
Well I caught two of them and proceeded to meet the officer where he said , which, much to our surprise, was a housing subdivision. UH-OH! We promptly called Bob on the CB and said he better get over here quick! Shawn and I drove to the end of a cul-de-sac where all the action seemed to be going on. There stood just about every person that lived in the place, and four Sheriff's Deputies with loaded 12 gauge shotguns aimed at our hounds and what seemed to be a 200 lb. sow. It seems that a lady was hanging laundry out to dry when this hog busted out of the woods into her backyard with hounds in hot pursuit!
The hog decided to run right down the middle of this subdivision! Everybody out washing their cars, mowing their lawns, and here come a freight train of hog and dogs. They ran the hog to the other side of the neighborhood until they came upon a fence, at which point they turned and went right back the way they came, only this time they stopped it in the lady's backyard that was hanging the laundry. She had already went inside to call the police and tell them that a pack of wild dogs had chased a wild hog into her backyard!
So over to the Sheriff we went, to find out how much trouble we were in! He told us to catch up the other dogs and then get the hog into the back of the truck and drive back around the corner and wait for him. Well pretty soon here he comes, he asked for our hunting licenses and asked if we had any guns in the truck, which we didn't. He said he told the neighbors we had permission from the county to catch wild hogs (which we didn't), and that we would not be bothering them again.
He then asked if we planned to hunt anymore that day? We already had two hogs in the truck and didn't want to push our luck with this Sheriff, so we said no we were going to call it a day. He said that was to bad because if we were he would post some of his deputies along the power lines and if the hogs tried to cross again that they would shoot the hog for us! Hell I couldn't believe this guy, this is my kinda' Sheriff! But we declined again and thanked him for all the help. That was a day of Hawg Huntin' Florida Style!