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GRANT: My friend, Andy Andrews, and his sons, Austin and Adam, invited us down to hunt hogs with them. They hunt a property about ten miles from the Alabama River in lower Alabama.
GRANT: I love hog hunting and was eager to spend some time in the woods with my friends; so I had two days, we loaded up the truck and headed south.
GRANT: It’s about a 12-hour drive from The Proving Grounds to Andy’s camp, so when we got there, I was eager to get outside and stretch. Even though it was dark, I wanted to shoot my bow and make sure it traveled well before we went hunting the next morning.
GRANT: We put a Morrell Target in front of their equipment shed so we’d have some lights and I took a few shots. And after that, I was confident if a hog got in range, we’d be bringing some pork back to Missouri.
GRANT: Shoot in front of Austin; put a little pressure just like there’s a pig out there; put a little peer pressure.
GRANT: We put a couple Reconyx cameras out just to see if we could get a quick pattern on hogs and see if they were moving in the daylight or at night.
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GRANT: The next morning we headed out before daylight to a small pine plantation just above the swamp. And in this pine plantation, there’s some narrow food plots. It was ideal for stalking around and trying to spot a hog.
CLAY: (Whispering) Hey, hey, hey. Pssst. Hog. There’s a hog right there. It’s going this way.
GRANT: (Whispering) February 22nd and I’m in south Alabama with my friend, Austin. And I gotta tell you, it feels good. I’m kinda hot — may be sweating a little bit. It’s been a cold winter at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: (Whispering) We’re chasing hogs today; seeing a lot of hog sign, so we’re gonna use a technique Austin really likes to use called stalking and then spotting. We’re just constantly moving really slow — listening, looking, trying to catch up with the sound of hogs. Then, we’ll close in for the shot.
GRANT: As we started sneaking around the pine plantation, I was super excited at all the hog tracks.
GRANT: (Whispering) Just trying to keep the wind in our face and watch this a little bit.
GRANT: It’s easy to tell a hog track from a deer track because the front of their hooves are much blunter. It’s kind of rounded where a deer track is narrow and sharp.
GRANT: Another observation that’s easy to tell we were seeing a lot of hog sign is a bunch of itty-bitty tracks and they’re not small fawn tracks this time of year in Alabama.
GRANT: Hogs are not synchronous breeders like deer. Deer all become receptive at about the same time, where hogs can breed throughout the year.
GRANT: A lot of sows reach sexual maturity at about six months of age and can have two litters every 15 months or so. And each litter, well, it can average six, seven, eight hogs. So, it’s easy to see how hog populations can build rapidly.
GRANT: In most areas, feral hogs are extremely nocturnal and mature boars tend to be solitary except when tending a receptive sow.
GRANT: As we were standing there peering down the trail and making plans, we spotted a hog at the other end.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s coming to us.
GRANT: Hogs have an excellent sense of smell and it was fairly still that morning but just a slight crosswind. So, we got on the side of the road where the wind was in our favor; put some vegetation between us and the hog and started making our way closer.
GRANT: (Whispering) That log straight across is 23.
GRANT: At this point, I couldn’t feel any wind. It certainly wasn’t a constant breeze. And I was afraid our scent was just swirling in the area.
GRANT: (Whispering) No. Don’t do that.
GRANT: Even though we stood motionless, it was obvious the hog detected danger and slid into the palmettos on the opposite side of the trail.
GRANT: I’ve used similar techniques stalking hogs successfully in the past. But usually there’s a strong enough breeze that you know the direction your scent is going. When the wind is still, you’re probably just developing a scent cone and it’s tough to get a hog within bow range.
GRANT: Going through the swampy area, I was glad I was wearing snake boots. We were going in and out of water, and through mucky areas, and stalking through brush. And we were in a big swamp and the Andrews had told us about several encounters they had had with snakes.
GRANT: The cover was perfect for stalking. Enough cover to keep a visual screen, but just enough space between the cover so we could move through without making much noise.
GRANT: This was beautiful, southern swamp habitat and I was enjoying every minute.
GRANT: (Whispering) There’s a (Inaudible). Yeah.
UNKNOWN: Aww, shoot.
GRANT: Hunting all game animals is challenging. But one of the reasons I like the challenge is because of the nutritious, quality meat I can bring home and share with my family.
GRANT: Wild hogs, like most wild game, have an extremely wide variety in their diet. Hogs eat insects and even small snakes; all kinds of vegetation; nuts and berries. And given this very diverse diet, they get a full complement of all the minerals and nutrients to make their meat extremely rich and nutritious.
GRANT: Think about domestic hogs. Most of them are raised in confinement and eat whatever is poured out of a bag. I’m not saying that’s bad. But compared to a wild hog, there’s some big differences. For example, domestic pork has about 14% fat in the meat; where wild hogs are 1.4% or 10x less fat.
GRANT: There are many other values of wild pork compared to domestic pork that’s favorable — a little bit higher protein level; much wider compliment of mineral content. All in all, wild game is extremely healthy because of their varied diet.
GRANT: We noticed a lot of water rushing into the sloughs. Clearly, the water level was rising.
GRANT: We had seen a hog and had a lot of action in a relatively small area. So we decided to return that afternoon and put a ground blind up not far from the water’s edge.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s the first afternoon of our hog hunt in lower Alabama. We’re set up thinking they’re gonna come out of the swamp; feed up into the highlands. There’s a lot of rain; the water is rising in swamps. Hopefully, they’re gonna come on out; hit this high road as a travel route to go feed up in the highlands.
GRANT: Before dark we spotted two hogs near the water’s edge on the left side of the trail.
GRANT: Large groups of sows and pigs are called sounders. And when a sounder is going through the woods, many of them are simultaneously very alert to any source of danger. They’re trying to detect predators early on. And this makes it extremely difficult to hunt a sounder of hogs, especially at close range with a bow.
GRANT: Soon, they were joined by several others. There was a sounder of hogs about 120 yards from our blind.
CLAY: (Whispering) That’s a good group, too.
GRANT: One of the larger ones suddenly leaped a small ditch of water. I was surprised at how far that hog broad jumped. I’ve seen hogs jump out of a hog trap before and clear a three-foot fence, but I had never seen a hog broad jump so far.
GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible) Oh my gosh. You should have seen that thing jump. He got it on camera. It was amazing. It was like an eight-foot broad jump. There’s one getting ready to launch.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) What’s he up to?
GRANT: (Whispering) There you go. That one didn’t jump very much like the others. The others really jumped it. (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) We need him to come up here. Yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) That’s it. Be a good leader.
GRANT: A time or two a few hogs veered into the palmettos on the opposite side of the trail and I was afraid the whole sounder would depart and go that way. But after a few minutes, those hogs would come back and join the sounder.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) Thought that one would get here. (Inaudible) dark.
GRANT: Once again, it’s very still. There wasn’t enough wind to keep the mosquitos down. And when the hogs got about 50 yards away, I could tell they sensed danger.
CLAY: (Whispering) I’m good.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) You sure?
GRANT: It was a thrilling hunt, but we were going to return to The Proving Grounds without fresh Alabama pork.
GRANT: During a portion of the hunt, Clay, Austin and I were standing behind some big trees not far off the trail. There was a ladder stand right in front of me, but we opted not to climb it even though there was a safe line. But we didn’t have our harnesses. And I’m a big believer that no one should ever climb a tree stand or ladder stand without being tethered to a safe line.
GRANT: No single hunt; no hunting opportunity is worth risking falling from a stand.
GRANT: Remember — the biggest trophy you can bring back from any hunt is returning safely to your family.
GRANT: While standing behind a large tree, there was some bark that was leaning off and I wedged my phone in there and took a time lapse of the netting on that ladder stand.
GRANT: I noticed the netting would blow one way, be still and then go the opposite way. And it’s a perfect illustration of swirling winds.
GRANT: When the wind is light, especially when you’re in a bottom and gets a little gust, it certainly goes one way. But it seems (Inaudible) structure like a wall of trees or some land and almost bounced back the other way.
GRANT: And you’re standing there hunting, breathing the whole time. And I believe that scent is just washing back and forth across the whole area.
GRANT: But it doesn’t leave when it goes back one way or the other. Scent molecules are being deposited on vegetation and the ground the whole time, effectively making a scent cone all around you that can alert critters as they approach within bow range.
GRANT: While watching this video, imagine you’re a hunter sitting in a stand. This video is about 20 minutes long. And think about how many times the wind whips back and forth.
GRANT: Now, you’ve cleaned your clothes and you’ve taken the appropriate hygiene, but you’re breathing the whole time. And the scent from your breath is washing around the whole area.
GRANT: I’ve shared a similar video from The Proving Grounds, but on a larger scale, watching fog wash back and forth across the valley.
GRANT: These illustrations are why I always recommend landowners make food plots on ridgetops where possible.
GRANT: I make this recommendation because the wind direction is much more stable. No matter the wind speed on a ridgetop versus anywhere below that because it’s not deflecting off trees or other land.
GRANT: I didn’t bring any Alabama pork back to The Proving Grounds, but I had a good hunt. I had a great time visiting with Andy, Austin and Adam and I hope the lessons we shared about swirling winds helps you be more successful when you’re in the field.
GRANT: For more techniques and observations that will help you have a successful hunt, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: Whether you’re by yourself or with family and friends, I hope you take time this week to get outside and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.