What a FANTASTIC weekend! I am truly blessed–I had the opportunity to share hunting camp with some really great women. Ten women from near and far hunted for hogs with Rack Nine Outdoors in Barbour County, Alabama.Back Row (L-R) Shannon Markley (AL), Michele Branning (FL), Christine “Chris” Anderson (PA), Dawn Gribbs (PA), Kristin “Krissy” Herman (PA), and Michelle Harmes (AL). Front Row (L-R) Jennifer McKinney (TN), Nancy Jo Adams (AL), Amber Markley (AL), and Nancy Carpenter (PA). Not shown in the photo is Jeanne Peebles (AL).
Memories were made and hogs were harvested. Every hunter had the opportunity to see hogs, some where even fortunate to make a shot at them and some were lucky enough to harvest hogs. Several great companies sent some goodies for the ladies: THY Enterprises sent $25 gift certificates, reusable gift bags and branded Koozies, Buck Girl sent 40% off certificates and branded Koozies, Girls with Guns sent some really cool ball caps, Doeville sent some awesome shirts, Camp Wild Girl sent some neat shirts, HerCamo sent a gift certificate, Northern Whitetail Scents sent a certificate for the ladies to use to order some products for the rut, and Strut & Rut included a sample of its great product.
I have always believed in Karma and that a person gets back ten-fold what they delve out in life. I remember being told by a very wise man “to pay your luck forward, it will find you in abundance” and “always sow good seed to reap bountiful harvests.” So paying my luck forward I made lucky charms out of some of my Osceola turkey feathers that I recently harvested and used those for the tag hangers on the gift bags for all the ladies. I hope that the luck pays off for them in the coming seasons.
Shannon Markley surprised her daughter, Amber Markley, by bringing her to this hog hunt as a 13th Birthday gift. I told Amber that she had a pretty cool Mom. Shannon even brought a 14 layer chocolate cake and Blue Bell ice cream.
The hunt started off on Friday afternoon with everyone getting acquainted with each other in the great room of the lodge followed by a delicious dinner of baked pork loin, green beans and potatoes, corn and rolls. The skies were threatening our afternoon hunt with thunderstorms that you could see in the distance with rain, thunder and lightning. We watched the lightning show from high on the hill that the lodge was on. Fortunately the storm skirted our immediate area and we were told to get ready to hunt. We made plans to go to our stands around 6-6:30 p.m. and stay out for several hours after dark.
As each hunter gathered to leave with their guides, you could tell some were a little intimidated with the thought of being in a ladder stand, by themselves, in the middle of the woods in the pitch-black dark. Nearly everyone hunting had never experienced hunted at night before and some had not ever hog hunted. Some mentioned how exciting it was and that the anxiety made it an adrenaline rush. Armed with ThermoCells, rifles and spotlights we headed to the stand.
Greg was my guide and I loaded up in the truck with Nancy Carpenter, Michelle Harmes and Dawn Gribb. Greg dropped each of us off at our stands. My stand had about a 100-150 yard walk into it. When I was let off, I quickly got out and wished everyone luck and the truck backed out and was driving away in a matter of seconds. I set my backpack down, loaded my rifle, sprayed down with scent destroying spray, got out my flashlight and put it in my right pocket and my cell phone in my left pocket. I swung my backpack on and forged forward toward my stand. The first trail was a two-rut, grassy road for about 30 yards and then I had to make a left onto a small trail into the woods that had thick cover but the floor of the woods wasn’t bad at all. The thick canopy of limbs and leaves made it dark in the woods.
I had to use my flashlight intermittently to find bright eyes but the trail was well-marked and I could tell exactly which direction I need to travel. I was about 75 yards down the trail when I thought I saw the ladder portion of the stand. Still walking forward and without using the flashlight in the dim woods, I was struggling to try to make out if what I seen was the ladder to my stand or not. All of the sudden, like a lightning strike, I heard a grunt. A guttural deep grunt and a quick movement not more than 3-4 feet on my left. A SOW!! A BLACK SOW sitting on her rump like a dog. She was just the other side of an old rotten stump and what I figure is she must have been lying there when I walked up on her and in her efforts to get up quickly she was in the sitting position momentarily. It was a sight…but not one I chuckled about until I was safely sitting in my ladder stand.
She got up quickly and grunted loudly taking off toward the trail as her back hooves slung dirt and leaves on my lower shin. I instantly caught glimpse of her huge milk bags and I immediately scanned around me. No babies…thank goodness. As she started putting distance between her and I, I raised my gun and at that exact moment a 15-20 pound piglet went trotting off from some bushes to the left of me and ended up in front of the trail the sow was on. Then they were in to thick of cover for me to place an ethical shot. I had chills, I felt I was about to tinkle down my legs filling my snake boots, I was instantly out of breath and then I heard it! The feeding grunts of other hogs–close–VERY CLOSE. It is amazing how quickly thoughts can run through your mind in a situation like this. But the main one was that I either had to make it to at least the second step of the ladder to my stand….which was still about 25-30 yards in the direction the sounds were coming from. Or I could try to scale one of these smaller pines just like I had remembered Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island did. Alright…Gilligan was 1/4th my size so that is not going to be a choice.
I stepped forward trying to make as little sound as possible. I could see the ladder of my stand. I crept forward about another 3 feet when the sow grunted again and started running, followed closely by the piglet, toward the grunting sounds I was hearing. She was about 10 yards to my left and on a trail with two thick shrub bushes and some vines between us. I took two more large, ground covering steps and at this point I noticed I could not only hear my heartbeat in my ears but I could feel it at my pressure points where my backpack was strapped across my shoulders close to my neck. Whew!! One very intense moment. It was at that moment that I thought “If I ever get out of this alive…!” I had my gun in front of me but still had the safety on. As I paused a moment thinking that the stand was not getting any closer and debating that I probably would not be in the right state of mind to disengage my safety.
I heard the pigs flush, some squealing, some brush and leaves rustling that all sounded like the hogs were going in the opposite direction. I took the opportunity to take the last 7 LARGE-ground-covering steps to the base of my stand as quietly as I could and quickly scaled to the fourth step. I glanced over my left shoulder just in time to see the sow, two 60-70 pound hogs and four 20 pound piglets turn and take off in the opposite direction.As I stood on that rung, I honestly believe I was seeing stars for a moment as I let out a huge breath of air…did I hold my breath those last few intense moments? I must have. As composure crept over me, I started up the ladder.
Once I was sitting safely in my stand and had my backpack hung on the side rail, I had to chuckle. I kind of hated that I was the only one that experienced those few intense moments but then again, I might have been the subject of a good tale if you could have seen it unfold in front of you.
About 15 minutes after being settled in, I heard two shots, one right after the other. I pumped my fist in the air and hoped that it was one of the ladies on the hunt had scored. The darkness crept slowly and the lightning bugs took over with a light show in the canopy of leaves and limbs. It progressively got dark and it even sprinkled some. At one point the lightning from a storm way off was lighting the sky casting eerie shadows across the woods in front of me. Not too long after it turned pitch-black I heard another shot. Wow! I sure hope the ladies are scoring on these hogs. Woo Hoo!
Richard sent me a text around 9 p.m. to tell me that Jennifer McKinney from Tennessee had shot 3 pigs and they were already back at the barn with them and some ladies were already in. I told him to send someone to get me because I had not heard anything since I had run off the hogs coming into stand. I packed up, climbed down and started the walk out with the high-powered flashlight on and my gun in hand. I made it safely to the road where I only had to wait about 5 minutes for my ride back in. What an exciting first hunt I had.
When I got back to the lodge, I had found out that Jennifer shot two of her hogs on her way into the stand; shooting two with one shot. She had to use the second shot as reassurance that one of the hogs were finished off. She proceeded to her stand and later shot the third hog. What a fantastic first hunt she experienced at Rack Nine Outdoors. I was so happy for her. Unfortunately I had the wrong lens on the camera and Richard was unable to get a decent photo in the dark so I am waiting for a better photo from the outfitter and will post it as soon as possible. Congratulations Jennifer, way to go!!
Some of the ladies were still out on stand, some were in bed, some were congregated around the kitchen table talking about their hunt. We were going back out on stand around 3:30-4:00 a.m. and the excitement kept many of us from getting some quality sleep. Michele Branning and I just decided to stay up. Stay tuned for DAY TWO of this hunt and for more photos and stories straight from camp at Rack Nine Outdoors.