When I was a kid my Dad was always trying to get me to go hunting. I loved going to the range and shooting, but never got into the idea of shooting an animal. I remember a story He told me one time about the sound of a bear when it draws it's last breath. He appreciated the animal, made sure that it's life wasn't wasted. I was more of a pacifist, I didn't like the idea of killing anything so I always kind of brushed him off.
Now a days I wish I hadn't. When I decided to get into survival skills I realized that I needed to get comfortable with hunting. All those lessons I could have learned about outdoors skills, hunting, and cleaning game that I missed as a kid...
So, when an opportunity presented itself to go for a hunt I jumped at the chance. This is the story of what happened, it's not all flattering, some of it is funny, but it's all true.
We were headed to Florida to visit the grandparents. Grandpa wanted to take my daughter with him on a Hog hunt and I basically invited myself along too. Grandpa had always been big into hunting, I'd gone moose hunting with him once before but we hadn't even seen one. This hunt was a guided one on ranch land that pretty much guaranteed we would get something. We would start out at dawn in stands near feeders, then if we didn't get one we could go hunting with the dogs afterwards.
There was a surprising cold streak in Florida that week. Temperatures in the mornings were down to 25-30 degrees. The plan was to get up really early, drive halfway across the state, and get set up before dawn.
My daughter, seven years old, was all psyched to go. She sat right up as soon as I said her name at 3 a.m., which is pretty amazing since she hates getting up early. We bundled up in layers, grabbed the guns, some food and water, and set out.
We made it about a mile before we got pulled over.
Grandpa looked at me, I looked at him. We hadn't been speeding. I expected a fairly hyped up cop, hand on his gun, to walk up. It was a little after three am, we were a couple of guys in full camo in a big truck... we were either headed out hunting (so we were armed) or we were drunks on our way home.
Instead, an incredibly attractive young female cop walked up, totally nonchalant, and told us we had a tail light out. She gave us a verbal warning and let us go. I'm not sure how wise it is to be an attractive cop, apparently alone, working the graveyard shift, but she seemed pretty comfortable.
We made it to the guide's store a little early so we took a little nap in the truck. We left it running, it was about 33 degrees out. The hunt was supposed to start at 6 am, about 10 minutes before 6 a truck pulled in behind us. The driver walked up, asked us how we were doing, and said to follow him. We went down the road a ways, onto a dirt track, and down further to the camp. We didn't know it but the store had been bought out and we were supposed to meet at the camp in the first place. As such, we missed the informational portion of the pre-hunt, we tossed on our jackets, loaded the rifles, and with barely a word we loaded up on the swamp buggy.
I messed around with the rifle a bit. I'd wanted to bring one of my rifles, probably the Ruger Scout, but didn't want the hassle of traveling with a fire arm. The rifle Grandpa lent me was an ancient Browning pump action 300 mag. He'd zeroed the scope for me (we were supposed to go to the range the day before but everyone had been sick so we didn't get the chance). It was a pretty nice little rifle, though I didn't like the location of the pump lock. To rack a second round you had to find the lock next to the trigger, hold it down, and pump the rifle. I'm sure if it was mine it would be second nature, but on a borrowed rifle I really hoped a fast follow up shot was not going to be needed.
It was at this point that my daughter asked where her rifle was (she'd been practicing a lot with her BB gun and has been getting pretty good). She was very disappointed when we told her that she wasn't shooting this time, that this was just to show her how it went and see what she was comfortable with. She'd never seen anything shot before so we weren't sure how she would deal with hunting. When we first brought up the hunt she seemed fine, but who knew how she would actually do?
The swamp buggy thing was pretty cool, like a suped up truck. Big tires, the bed was up about five feet and had all the seats up there for spotting game. We BSed with a couple of guys that were in from out of state, bow hunting.
It was pitch black and freezing cold. All we could see was the area illuminated by the head lights. Calling it a road would be an insult to roads, it was basically two ruts worn through the forest from the constant buggy trips. Branches whipped at our faces, a cold wind seeped through our layers.
We pulled in to our first stop. The guide pointed at Grandpa and my Daughter. He took them over to a stand and we set off again. I was a little disappointed, I was kind of hoping to hang out with them, but I guess they wanted the shooters spread out.
I was next up. We stopped and the guide pointed out a small tree stand.
"Feeders about a hundred yards that way", he said, pointing toward the dark woods.
I climbed the stand, the guide handed up my borrowed rifle. Then they left me, alone in the dark.
It was only about 20 minutes later that I started to hear the sounds of Hogs sniffing around in the dark.