Thoughts about Hogs.....by Flip Pallot
You wouldn’t think I’d even be having thoughts about hogs, period…but lately, I seem to be thinking about them often…’Guess ‘cause I’m seeing fewer of them all the time.
Growing up in the Everglades south of Alligator Alley (S.R. 87) and east of the 40 mile bend in the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) , we NEVER saw a hog…EVER! I, and friends, airboated all of that country all the way south to the Everglades National Park boundry. We hunted it hard during season for marsh hens, snipe, ducks and deer, rode it during the rest of the year, explored the tree islands, and frogged it at night all year long. There was not a single hog!
Then one day, at the Airboat Club landing, a story was told of running up on a boar hog south of the Loop Road. “Did you kill it”, someone asked ? “No”, came the answer, “Thought it was a bear at first but as I got closer saw it was a huge boar hog. He splashed up into a long hammock near the Crack Up Camp.”
Some believed the story as it circulated about among hunters in the Glades. Most did not…and because I spent so much time in those woods without seeing a hog or sign, I doubted the tale.
A year later, during an early season, archery hunt for deer, south of the Loop Road, I poled my canoe away from the road before light…pushing for a string of small islands where I had seen three bucks a week earlier. It was coming day as I approached the islands and I heard heavy splashing in the shallow needle grass glade to the southwest. I let the canoe glide, looking toward the splashing sound, I could see a giant, reddish boar hog running across the glade, heading to the next small island to the east.
I poled hard to head the hog off and got to a custard apple tree thirty yards before the hog did and jumped out of the canoe, took up my bow and stepped up to the tree…waiting as the hog came almost straight in my direction. He came past me at ten steps, completely unaware. I left an arrow behind his shoulder…he huffed and continued his trot to the island and I marked the exact spot where he left the water.
Back in the canoe, I poled the 75 yards to the tree island and could see the water droplets and tracks where the hog had crashed his way through the cocoplum fringe around the small, cap rock outcropping of an island. I could hear him growling a few steps beyond the thick bushes. As I stood in the water, making a plan, the hogs growling become softer and suddenly I could hear the kicking that often accompanies the dying of an animal.
It had all happened so much faster than the telling that now, for the first time, I had a chance to shake from the adrenalin rush and exertion or poling the canoe and wading to the island…the WONDER of killing a hog in the Everglades closing around me for the very first time.
I sat for ten minutes or so and watched the sun getting up above the sawgrass prairie to the southeast…the feeling at that moment understood only by hunters. I made my way through the cocoplums following an ample and short blood trail to the hog, only then realizing how very big he was! I touched his still warm side and examined the enormous cutters and whetters sticking out of his jaws. He had no scars on his body, neck or head and I could tell he had lead a solitary life without contact with other mature boar hogs.
Greatfully, the drag back to the canoe was a short one and once there, the hog being so big, I had to submerge one gunnel of the boat and float him aboard…then bail the water out of the canoe. His weight in the bow leveled the canoe and made the polling back to the Loop Road very easy. When I got back to my truck I loaded the canoe but could not begin to load the heavy hog into the bed of the pick up so left the hog in bushes beside the road and drove back to the game check station at Tamiami Trail and got Dave Balman to return with me and load the hog.
Back at the check station my hog was the central focus of the morning as it was the first hog that many of the other hunters had seen!
Within a very few years, hogs were no longer uncommon in the southern Everglades and became a GAME ANIMAL in the minds of hunters throughout the Glades. An animal that was wonderful table fare and could be hunted the year ‘round.
Sadly, The deer and hogs are gone from the southern Glades (another very sad story for a later time) and as each year goes by, fewer folks remain who remember those shining times in the Glades when it was a free marsh. Thoughtless water management and ridiculous Government regulation of the entire Everglades having reduced a treasure to a limited access wasteland!