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Michele Branning was the first person to sign up for this hunt and was someone I felt I had a connection with before the hog hunt–however, that connection was that she lives in my childhood hometown, Panama City, Florida. Matter of fact, just around the corner from where I grew up. I was introduced to Michele through Facebook when a childhood friend, Sharon Pearman Moses from Panama City linked us together. I had spoken with Michele often through Facebook correspondence, but I had never met her in person.
This was Michele’s first hunt out-of-state and her first experience of hunting at night–I assured her that she was in for a treat. Spending time with Michele was like spending time with an old friend; we were familiar with the same area we called home and even many of the same friends. I kind of laughed when I thought “I finally found someone who is very similar to me.” By this I mean–the last to go to bed and usually the first one up. Michele was actually up for a straight 36 hours on this hunt. Her excitement kept her up, let see what she experienced in the blind.
What to write about?
It was my first time hunting hogs at night, hunting out of my state, and my first guided hunt.
I thought about how nervous I was when I first got to the lodge, but that only lasted for a few minutes.
I reminisced about my first thoughts when I walked up to the ground blind and saw there was no door or floor and here it was getting dark.
I looked for snakes inside the blind (thanks to Richard for that tip) and I was thinking what if one decides to come in while I am sitting here.
Hmmm, what have I got myself into? Thankfully that did not happen and I only worried for a couple of minutes about it.
I decided to write about a few of my experiences while sitting in the stand.
On Saturday morning, we were on our way to the stand before daylight. When I reached my stand, I unpacked everything, relaxed and listened for the hogs. I had not heard anything by the time it finally was getting where I could see the area around me just a bit. Sitting there enjoying the most peaceful time of day for me, I watched the shadows closely. I thought I saw one of the shadows move, but I was not sure.
I waited just a second and took another look–Oh yeah! That is a hog! Here we go. I shouldered my gun and turned on the scope. I still could not see clear enough for a shot so I turned on the flashlight. The hog turned at the same time, not good–it is now walking straight toward me. Thinking to myself, this is not good. But then I thought to myself, how many deer have you shot successfully this way? I was confident that I could drop it right there. But I did not want to mess this up and miss it. I told myself just to wait and it will turn. The hog took a few more steps toward me and started to turn. Okay, here we go and I was ready.
Oh no!! The hog turned!! It turned right into the tall grass. I could only see the very top of its back. So here I was, waiting again, hoping that it would turn and come out of that grass. It seemed like forever but it finally turned, as soon as it stepped out where I thought I had a perfect shot–I took the shot. It did a 360 degree turn and went back the other way. I thought to myself, okay this is not good. I had a bad feeling that I did not hit it, but then a piglet came running in and ran back and forth several times.
I ended up sending a text to my guide, Richard, and told him I was not sure if I had made contact with my shot but I wanted to look for blood. He told me he was on his way. Thankfully he helped me as we looked and looked, but no sign that I made a hit. I sure did hate that I missed the first hog that I have ever shot at, but I was so thankful that I did not wound it.
Saturday night, I went back out to the same stand. Right before dark I saw movement outside the doorway of the stand just inside of the treeline. I picked up my rifle hoping that it was a hog. It turned out to be a young deer and it was about 20 feet from the stand. There was a large doe behind it and I was busted. They stomped and blew at me for about 20 minutes. They never came out of the woods and finally they took off.
When I was too tired to sit any longer, I sent a text out that I was ready to be picked up. That was at 9:07 pm, I got a text back 10 minutes later that Richard was on his way. This is the about the time I heard coyotes; a very large pack of them too. Of course I had heard them in the past while walking out of my stands but not this close; they were within a 50yd radius of me; remember no door on my blind.
I thought to myself, I do not like this at all and I did the only thing I could think of; I pointed the rifle toward the door with the light on. Yes, I was scared. Then I was wondering if I was getting picked up by truck because I would have to walk out to the vehicle. There is NO WAY that I am walking out by myself like I did on Friday night. Why am I not seeing headlights yet? Why did I not bring my pistol on this trip? Yes, all of this was running through my head at the same time.
At 9:38 pm I sent a text asking my guide if he was driving in and thankfully a text was sent right back stating he was on the HuntVe on the way in now. Okay, this is good news; he will be driving in. By the time I saw headlights coming toward my stand, I was so happy and ready to get out of that shooting house and out of those woods.
I really enjoyed myself on this hunt and I am looking forward to doing it again. I met some wonderful people, made new friendships, and learned some new things.
Day two at Rack Nine Outdoors really had no start at all since several never went to bed in the wee hours of the morning or at daybreak, some rose early, some were just coming in from the stand and others slept in. The ladies that went out early were back at lodge by 9:00 a.m. There were several ladies that went out and sat in the stand until after lunch. Hogs were seen but no shots made.
Dawn Gribb, Michele Branning, Nancy Carpenter and I rode Hank the HuntVe over to the front pond to watch Dawn fish. I don’t fish, so I took some photos and stood around and talked with everyone.
It was a beautiful blue bird sky day and even though it was pretty hot and sunny–we were still comfortable. Dawn caught a nice Bass that twisted off her barbless hook but later redeemed herself by landing a smaller Bass. We dropped Nancy off at the lodge so she could get her some sleep. The three of us rode Hank around the property, staying on the road system. We started out looking for the back ponds–but we were lost and enjoying the scenery. We shared stories, talked about products, and just enjoyed some sunshine and friendship. We met up with Terry and Chris, who had checked stands and scouting–but mostly riding the ATV in the mud.
When we returned to the lodge it was time for lunch; grilled hamburgers and potato chips. While we ate, Shannon was preparing a cobbler with some fresh blueberries that she brought and Terry was preparing stuff for supper that night. We would be eating an early supper since we all had plans to return to the field early this evening and sit until several hours into the night.
Jeanne, Krissy and a couple other women that had braved the heat were still coming in well after lunch. A few had seen piglets or smaller hogs but no shots were taken. Jeanne was going to have to leave early so Richard and I spent some time chatting with her at the table as she ate lunch. I hated to see her leave early from the hunt but I definitely understood that it was important that she leave.
We sat down for an early supper of baked chicken breast, HOME-MADE mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls and sweet tea that made you want to purr when you drank it. The “good stuff” made in a boiler on the stove…oh yeah…we felt pretty spoiled.
Shortly after supper, every one was gearing up to go into the field for some hog hunting. We loaded up in trucks, on ATVs and Hank and driving in different directions departing to carry hunters to their stands. The humidity was horrible and I broke a sweat just getting to and in my stand. Whew..I could already hear the mosquitoes calling in their friends and family. I had my ThermoCell lit as soon as my feet hit the platform of my ladder stand. Shortly after I was in my stand I heard the first shot. I pumped my fist in the air…and thought WOOO HOOO!!
After about 45 minutes I text Richard to find out who shot and if a hog was down. The reply was that a hog was down. Krissy Herman from Pennsylvania shot a sow going into the same stand that I had almost walked on a sow the night before; I just knew someone was going to have an opportunity to shoot one there if they went in early than I did on Friday night. I was ecstatic for her!! Richard said she came in with her hog harvest but went right back out to her stand after photos.
Dawn Gribb took a shot at a hog and Amber Markley took a shot at a trophy boar sometime before I came in from my stand, I remember hearing the shots and getting excited. I just couldn’t stand it any longer–I was hearing all these shots and I thought I was missing a party at the lodge so about 9 p.m., I text Richard to come get me on Hank. When I got back to the lodge there were still several ladies out. Michele Branning text and asked Richard to come pick her up. She was hunting out of a ground blind and had coyotes all around her howling. What an experience in the pitch black of night and on the ground, none the less.
I rode with Richard to pick them her up, but as we were going to the stand we got a flash of the spotlight from Shannon and Amber’s stand so we text them to see if they wanted to come in as well. They were ready. On our way in we drove around the huge corn field staying on the look out for hogs. There were signs every where but we were not fortunate enough to see any hogs.
Once back at the lodge we all visited a while before turning in for a good night’s sleep. Plans were made to go out between 3:30-4:00 a.m. A few ladies were still in their stands when I retired and my roommate Chris was going to try to stay on stand all night long. Poor Krissy stayed in her stand an extra hour longer than she had wished after the two guides and myself got her number mixed up with Nancy Carpenter’s number…who probably was picked up earlier than she had wished. Future note to self: ALWAYS put names with the telephone numbers to keep this from happening.
Sometime before my alarm went off, Chris came in. She had not seen any hogs; other wildlife but no hogs. I quickly fell back asleep and it couldn’t have been an hour before my alarm went off. It was time to wake folks up and have them get ready to go out to their stands. Slowly but surely there was movement in the lodge and by 4:00 a.m. hunters were filing out the door headed for vehicles to take them to their stands.
Sunday mornings hunt was a very slow hunt. I am not sure if anyone actually seen hogs–I think they heard them. I know Michele Branning and Michelle Harmes were in good spots for morning and day hunting because they had hog wallows close by. I rode with Richard to pick Michele up and we were able to scout around the area she hunted. Amazing at all the signs.
When we returned to the lodge, Terry had warmed up the pork loin, hamburgers and chicken breast and we had a feast on leftovers. Dawn called and Richard and I went to get her from her stand.
Shortly after lunch we took a few pictures, sorted through some Rack Nine Outdoors logo wear to take home as a souvenir (thank you Terry) and we started packing are gear and loading it in our vehicles.
Packing up and loading the vehicles is always the saddest part of the hunt for me. These hunts are never long enough–just about the time everyone gets comfortable with each other to the point they are cracking jokes, coining pet names and making plans for future hunts…it is time to pack up an depart. I never feel like I have enough time to spend individually with each person. I absolutely love the camaraderie at these events and I am so thankful to the Good Lord that He has blessed me not only with the means and health to be able to experience these hunts but also that He has blessed me immensely with good friends that are good people. I learn new things and I am enriched every time I am together with a new group.
A big heartfelt thank you to Terry Garrett for allowing me the opportunity to put this hunt together and to Greg Lovvorn for taking care of us ladies, getting us to our stands, catering to us when we needed something. Thank you to Richard for, yet again, being my everything at this hunt from my bell boy, mule, driver, guide, photographer…you name it and for guiding the ladies. My gratitude and a shout out to all the companies that sent promo items, gift certificates and information for the ladies that attended–it is your companies that cater to these lady hunters and I feel it is important that they know you exist and they spread the word.
And thank you to all the ladies who attended this hunt. I am always humbled that the ladies that attend my hunts have placed their trust in me for the experience and quality of time they will spend away from home. I know that it is not only a financial investment for them, it is also time that they spend away from their families and other responsibilities in life. I would hope that each one leave with good memories and a special enrichment from time spent in the great outdoors with good friends. For these bonds are what enrich our souls and make us appreciate this journey we call life.
Dawn Gribb with SheeWee USA, LLC attended the Rack Nine Outdoors hog hunt over the weekend and although I have field-tested and published a product review on her company’s product, the SheWee, I have never had the opportunity to speak to her. Dawn was our only hunter that came with a fishing pole to wet a hook. Dawn was also thoughtful and brought each one of the ladies a SheWee. Thank you so much Dawn for sharing your company’s outstanding product with this group of women.
Dawn has only been hunting about 3-3.5 years and everything is still new and exciting to her as she has tackled new adventures. She is also going through what many of us ladies experience when we started hunting; confidence tampering thoughts that make you measure your bravery. Dawn did very well and you would have never know she was a new hunter. Here is her story about this new experience and conquering the fear that came with the experience.
Conquering my fears
I heard about the trip to Alabama about two weeks before our departure. Wow! An opportunity to get away and go hunting for wild boar with my girlfriends. I am a novice hunter and I am a perpetual planner and like to think every situation through. I imagine how I will react to different situations. But what I experienced on the Boar hunt with Rack Nine Outdoors would open my eyes and force me to address some of my fears.
The first night was ladder stands and lightning – I’ve never been much for heights and had only been in a (large) tree stand one time before our hunt. As I climbed up the ladder and reached the top, I realized quickly that I was “white knuckled”. You know where you are afraid to let go for fear of toppling to the ground, rifle, backpack and all. The tree was rather large and as I tried to throw the safety harness around the tree, I felt a fuzzy vine going up the backside of the tree. My stomach sunk, I tried again to throw the belt around the tree, and finally decided to just turn around and sit down. I strapped myself to the ladder, and tried to look to see if there were any leaves of three coming from the vine above or below me. Hmmmm, it was too hard to tell. So I sat there sweating, and worrying about poison, falling out of the tree and (now realizing the lightning storm was much closer), getting struck by lightning. I knew my girlfriends would write a nice obituary about how I died doing what I wanted to do, but what about the poison all over my face. All of a sudden I heard distant squealing and grunting and my thoughts turned to hog hunting.
The second night was different dilemmas: spiders, getting lost, and total darkness. I was now in a narrower ladder stand and was far away from everyone. They told me I would have to walk in quite far. That wasn’t a problem, I asked my guide to walk with me to the stand. I had my reasons, I was afraid, but I didn’t want to show it. As we walked I had noticed the spider webs but the excitement overcame my fear and I quickly proceeded to the stand. About an hour after I was in the stand, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind me. I turned to see a large boar approaching and my heart started pounding.
Holy crap is this pig going to come to a place where I could shoot it? Forgetting that I was up in a tree stand I tried to whip around to where I could get a shot. But this time (the tree was smaller) I was able to tether myself to the tree and apparently didn’t do it high enough. It seemed like forever till he walked into my view. I took the twisted, turned-around shot and he jumped and ran away. Damn, how could I have missed? I turned around and silently hoped that he would come back, maybe farther away. Then I started to wonder if I shot him and didn’t put him down.
I sat with myself for a while and pictured how he ran a few hundred feet and fell over. Then, my phone started to ring.
Was that you who shot? Came the texts.
Did you get one?
I don’t know, I replied.
Did you look for blood?
Oh, it never occurred to me to get down and look. Holy crap, it’s getting really dark and I have to get down from the “safety” of my tree? What kind of hunter am I? The guide offered to come with a four-wheeler but to me that isn’t hunting. If I shot, I need to get my butt down there and check it out. And so I did. Leaving the comforts of my ThermoCell on the tree stand, I climbed down and slowly walked back to where I thought I shot it. Thinking this was going to be easy and quick, I had not planned on running into large, spiders along the way. As I spun and tried to elude their webs, I got myself all turned around. “Okay, where is the tree that I am supposed to be looking for?” They all look-alike. I turned around to get my bearings and find the tree stand but I couldn’t see it. I started to gingerly walk around looking and realized that I was lost.
Panic started to kick in. I could no longer hear all the bugs making noises. The only sound was my heart pounding in my ears. Anxiety started to kick in and I realized how vulnerable I was. It was now very dark and I held the only light in the forest. Every critter was looking at me. What about the blood? Was there a wounded boar waiting to run me down? All things flashed through my head, until I realized that I needed to calm down, get my bearings, take my time (all the while watching for spiders) and find the ledge that the tree stand was near. After about 15 minutes I was able to find my way back, and the tree stand never looked so good. I had conquered another milestone.
Later, as I sat in the tree stand, the darkness came. There was so much cover where I was that it was pitch black. I couldn’t see my hand right in front of my face. I had never experienced anything like this; sitting alone in the middle of the woods in total darkness. With the heat and humidity the air was thick, and there was the constant high-pitched sound of the mosquitoes and bugs. I tried to focus on listening for footsteps but my mind wandered. I had never been cut-off in total darkness. This was a new experience. It must be like being in solitary confinement, but it was my choice and I was not going to be fearful anymore. I was conquering my fears.
I can’t wait to get back out there and try it again. With every hunt comes knowledge. And next time I will be better prepared.
Michelle Harmes sent me an email requesting information about the ladies hog hunt at Rack Nine Outdoors after it posted on Women’s Outdoor News. I don’t think I had the chance to reply before I got a second email that read “Sign me up. Where do I need to mail my deposit?”
Michelle was probably the most quiet in the entire bunch, yet the most observant. You could tell she was a little nervous, yet excited and pumped-up about being at the hunt, without her saying a word. Michelle had one of the most exciting hunts–shy of Jennifer’s triple–where she had a close encounter with a boar hog while hunting out of a GROUND blind. YEP…eye to eye with the beast with nothing but a sheet of material between them–sends chills down my spine.
Here is Michelle’s incredible story:
It was a short drive from my house to Rack Nine Outdoors, down past Lake Eufaula and then through farming country with rolling hills. It was very beautiful. When I got to the entrance, I turned in to the dirt drive I was struck by the sight of a house on a grass island in the middle of a sea of corn.
The inside of the lodge was beautiful, there were very impressive deer mounted on the walls and sheds by the fireplace. The living room had windows on three walls so you could look out to the corn fields and down to the forest. Even though I had never met the guides before, it felt like I was in the home of a friend. Slowly the other ladies arrived and we all introduced ourselves. Everyone was excited about going hunting that night. When Nancy Jo arrived she had goody bags filled with t-shirts, hats and koozies from some companies that cater to women hunters.
There were some thunderstorms brewing out in the distance but they were supposed to go around us. We all went outside to watch the lightning and the wind started whipping the corn into waves. It started to sprinkle and then pour down rain as we went inside for dinner. It was amazing pork chops, potatoes with green beans and corn. A great hot meal to prepare us for the night out in stands.
When the storm had past the ladies all switched from casual to camo with our guns ready and game faces on. We loaded up into separate trucks and drove off to the drop off points. My stand was up first, a little wooden ground blind set between the corn field and the woods. A perfect location since the field was being dug up by the hogs. On my walk out I saw three little piglets that just stared at me as I walked up. They were big enough to look like mini hogs but no bigger than 20 pounds. I knelt and pulled my magazine out and snapped it into the AK-47. They just kept watching me. I was hoping Mama Pig was going to be right in the corn field behind them. I charged the gun but the click made them turn and walk into the tall stalks. Methinks they have heard that noise before. I tried to find them but they were always a step ahead of me so I continued on to my blind.
It was enough for two people with two chairs inside, one for me and one for my gear. I set up my tripod with my spotlight on top and waited for night fall. I heard three gunshots and that made me happy and hopeful that there was lots of pigs to be had. Later I learned that my roommate Jennifer decimated three pigs before she even got to her stand! She has never hunted hogs before this trip, I was so happy for her, what a rush that must have been!
I didn’t see any more pigs that night and sent out the call to be picked up about fifteen minutes past 1 am. Greg, one of the guides came and he had Chris and Nancy Jo in the truck picking them up from their stands. We took the back road around the corn field and it was a great ride in the fresh mud, gotta love off roading!
We were all tired back at the lodge and chatted a bit and then went to bed so we could be up and out again before sunrise. We left the lodge again at 4am and that morning I heard pigs chomping in the woods but didn’t see anything. I was visited by a toad, a hawk and many crows. When the sun started getting hot I called to get picked up and Terry, the main guide, came on the atv and we rode back to the lodge. I haven’t been on an ATV in forever!
I got back and was just in time to have some 14 layer birthday cake for Amber’s birthday. That’s right, I said 14 layers. I crashed into bed for a much-needed nap and woke up for lunch of delicious burgers and chips. We all decided we wanted to get out early so we could set up long before sunset. We visited and then ate an early dinner.
I was switched to a different ground blind after not seeing anything in the last blind. When the truck dropped me off I could just see a glimpse of the stand. It was sitting in a dried up swamp, the grass was so thick and green it looked like the swamp was full of green water. My blind was next to a big tree and about 20 yards from a very popular wallow.
I settled in, excited that there was so much sign. After half an hour a doe walked in at the far side of the swamp, she was a very large red doe but so far away I could only tell she was looking my way when I could see the white of her ears. Two more does joined her and they wandered around eating.
At almost exactly 8pm one of the shadows in the woods came to life. He had made no noise walking out of the forest, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and looked just in time to see him shove an offending branch out of his way. His massive head was held high in the air, he knew he was king of the forest. He started a slow jog in front of me, almost prancing in the soft ground. His very round body floated over his stubby legs as he got further out into the open .
The blind I was in had mesh over the windows that I was watching him from, I had to wait until he got to an open window. I reached for the gun in my lap, ready and nearly drooling that this moment was more perfect than I could have imagined. He was going to prance in front of me to the wallow and I was going to have a huge hog!
My heart sank and time crawled in slow motion as just before the open window the boar turned 90 degrees and jogged straight at me in my flimsy fabric ground blind. My chair is so low that he disappeared behind the fabric wall when he came within 10 feet of me. I must have sat up when I couldn’t see him anymore because he stopped in his tracks, dropped his head and jumped to the side, snorting.
He was going to charge! Is what my brain told me. But I just startled the beast. He ran back towards the woods but he was still looking my way. He was perfectly quartered away from me but hidden behind a stretch of fabric next to the window. I leaned forward trembling and I aimed for his head.
I knew I missed, I knew I should have aimed for the body. I knew I failed as he turned and ran. Had I not been in a ground blind I would have shot every bullet I had as he ran away. I couldn’t stop shaking as panic and paranoia set in. Eventually I calmed down but didn’t see anything else that night, except the baby alligator that lived in the wallow. He wasn’t more than a foot long. It was a great learning experience and something I will never forget. I am pretty disappointed that I failed so hard but I guess that this is why they call hunting the relentless pursuit.
Another day Prancer, another day.
It was a slow morning waking up, every one planned on leaving at 3:30am but not a creature stirred till 4am. I was back out at my swamp blind just as dusk was breaking. I stayed out later in the morning thinking that the heat would make them come out to the wallow but the only thing that I saw was an increasing number of bees and wasps inspecting my blind so I called to be picked up. Terry came by with Chris on the ATV and I hopped on the back and all three of us rode up to the lodge. It was a bumpy ride and a little scary because I thought my back would act up but once I relaxed it never did.
Everyone was getting ready to go and we had a quick lunch of pork chops and bread. Then we took some group pictures and said our good byes. It was an amazing trip and I had so much fun and made some great friends that I can’t wait to hunt with this fall! I cannot wait to go again next year and get that Prancer!