Hog Hunting in Florida with Jon and Rod

Hog Wild for Florida
By Jon Lee
We all have hunting dreams. Mine seem to be concentrated higher around deer hunting time. I usually dream about a massive buck that I have conquered in proper fashion while proclaiming myself master of my domain. I usually awaken at this point.
Another long-time hunting dream of mine, has involved hog hunting. Never thinking that it would become a reality, I always ranked a hog hunt near the top of hunts that I would like to do.
The possibility of a hog hunt came due to a connection that Rod Ofte had. His brother, living in Florida, set it up with his friend, Bob. While Rod and I were on a business trip in Florida, we were hoping that we would have time to do this. After the trade show, we headed to Arcadia, Florida to meet our guide Bob and 12,000 acres of hunting paradise.
At this point, we would have been happy at the prospect of just seeing some wild hogs-not knowing what we were in store for. But, the first scene that greeted us were wild hogs hanging from the rafters of the camp. Other hunters were in the process of skinning them out from the days hunt.
Bob's helper was a local guide named, Bobby. The closest I could come to describing Bobby would have to include some association with the movie Deliverance. But, he was a good old boy and had a heart of gold, as we discovered. Despite his appearance, he knew the country well. Having just inserted a large chew, Bobby even led us to a wild grapefruit tree in the back bush that only he knew about. We feasted on some of the sweetest grapefruit we had ever tasted.
Bob cautioned us to the dangers of hunting wild hogs too. He told one story of a boar that charged him (tusks and all). He barely got his gun up to make the shot-as the hog landed at his feet below.
The landscape of the ranch was nothing like we had ever seen before. It was a mix of moss-covered swamp oak, lichen and palm trees in open savanna and dense forest.  Rarely did we see the same spot twice, it was so expansive. The property was also host to grazing Brahman cattle and other breeds.
On this particular property, it was legal to drive fully loaded and uncased-which was a new concept. They had special mounts and racks, all over the vehicle for this purpose. We always disembarked from the vehicle to do any shooting however. The hogs were usually several hundred yards away or more at any given time. The hogs were also vehicle wary.
We both were able to spot deer and hogs (most often) before our guides did. The tall grasses gently swayed in the wind, and hiding below, were the barely visible black backs of hogs rooting around. On one occasion, I spotted the top of a back and climbed off my Mad Max vehicle with my 270 strapped on my back. As I crept the 300 plus yards to my quarry, I was directed either right, left or straight according to common bird dog commands from my hunting partners standing on the vehicle. I would glance back, get my direction and then continue to crawl through the grass. When I got to within 50 yards, I stood up slowly, popped one shot off and watched the hog drop. I felt just like Carlos Hathcock, the famed Marine sniper. Hunters from the Mad Max vehicle described that they saw the hog drop before they heard the shot-which must have been cool to see from their vantage point. Generally, the first person/persons to see hogs were the ones that were allowed to disembark, stalk and shoot. So, Rod and I were busy.
Next to the hunt itself, camp is always treasured for food, drink and fellowship.  The camp we stayed at was exceptional.  Hunters all had their own trailers fitted with all the comforts of life despite us being in the middle of nowhere.   Each trailer had a small lean to and was cover for the Mad Max vehicles.  The camp kitchen was a large building about the size of the CVCC clubhouse and kitchen.   It had one large long table down the middle, and everyone ate and drank together at night.  They had shelves of spices, rubs and mixes and like other camps, plenty of beer.  Cooking and cleaning duties were all shared by everyone and the place was always left in perfect condition.  On our first night we were treated to an original Caribbean island pulled pork recipe from a member whose father came from Cuba.
Bob caught us both off guard one afternoon as he stopped the vehicle, got out and shot. In the grass laying dead was a bobcat that had been creeping along as it was hunting. 
Rod had spotted a sow and some juicy looking piglets one afternoon, so we devised a hog drive. I circled around the family and drove the hogs to him. Waiting in ambush, he ended up taking out the sow and several piglets-much to the delight of our guides.
Toward dusk one evening we opened up on several hogs. We all got cracks at the group and called this the last stand-as we were leaving the next morning. We realized that we should not be too piggy with all the hog meat; we took only what we knew we would eat. So, we had three coolers filled with our prized pigs ready to drive back to Wisconsin.
A pit dug into the earth with inclines at both ends was described to us as cattle watering holes. There were gators that were wading in some of them, hoping to take a calf that would come to drink. But, Bobby explained to us that he tried to keep them fed by shooting coon and possum from hog camp and throwing the carcasses into the watering holes. However, they still would lose a few calves due to crocs-now and then.
I asked if they had ever seen panthers on the property to which they exclaimed that they had several. This explained (partially) why we found so many cow bones in the dense forest. Although our guides explained that some of these cows died from natural causes. I thought… natural causes as in panthers and crocs?
When we found out that there were panthers around, and we were in the very thick parts of the forest, our eyes were in the trees as much as they were on the ground. Oh, how did he die? A panther jumped on him from a swamp oak. A very large boar gored him. One of those large crocs in the watering hole grabbed him-he said that he was just going to get one quick photo. We just found pieces of him. I guess we can all think of worse ways to go.
Unfortunately for us, the owners of this property ended up selling the entire parcel to the Florida government for $17 million. The state may have realized the value of this particular property as to the diversity of wildlife and the fact that there were several rare panthers there apparently. I read that the total wild panther population in Florida is only 100. So, we both feel blessed to have done this hunting trip at least once. A trip that we ranked as one of the best we had ever experienced.
*Check out the Hog Hunt Pictures in the Photo Gallery