Like many areas in the South, Alabama has experienced a rapidly increasing feral hog population that has wreaked havoc on commercial agriculture. Terry Garrett with Rack Nine Outdoors knows first-hand what kind of damage these hogs can do. Since feral hogs are crepuscular or nocturnal they are hard to hunt under normal means. Armed with a Wildlife Damage Permit/Depredation Permit allowing hunters to help control the increasing population of hogs by hunting these animals by any means, this group of all female hunters was going to have the opportunity to hunt hogs when they were most active; in the twilight hours and pitch-black of night.
I have been blessed with meeting some fantastic women since I have taken up the sport of hunting. Jennifer McKinney is definitely no exception. I knew immediately when I met her that we had a common bond. Jennifer had a phenomenal hunt during the hog hunt at Rack Nine Outdoors…a story I wanted her to share with all my blog readers.
Jennifer’s story from the Ladies Hog Hunt at Rack Nine Outdoors: June 24-26, 2011
-Why would you want to do that?
-You’re going to go shoot a (insert any animal here)?
-Are you crazy?
These are all common responses I receive when attempting to share my enthusiasm of hunting and my outdoor adventures with coworkers, family, my stylist, basically anyone who will listen. You see, apparently since I am a woman I’m not supposed to get my hands dirty, I’m not supposed to get all decked out in camouflage, and I’m not supposed to shoot stuff. So when I first found out about a “Ladies Only” hog hunt in Alabama, I was stoked but pretty much expecting the same response as always from everyone. My own mother even posted on my Facebook page, “I just keep trying to figure out who stole my little girl and replaced her with this redneck!!”
Despite the stunned, sometimes even grotesque responses, I immediately contacted Nancy Jo Adams, the Guru Huntress and columnist of Shenanigans from the Field, to book my first ever hog hunt. For the next two months I did everything I could think of to prepare for my trip to Rack Nine Outdoors in Clio, AL. I started watching more hunting shows where guests went after massive wild boar on foot during spot and stalks, from stands over feeders, and with hog flushing leather shielded dogs. Out behind my house, I practiced taking vital shots with my bow from the ground and up in tree stands, at various distances until I felt confident in my abilities. I spent several afternoons at the rifle and pistol ranges polishing up my shot and zeroing in my scope. Since we would be hunting at night, I even practiced obtaining targets in my sights using a scope mounted Streamlight in the dark of night. Pack lists were made and revised at least 20 times and my bags were packed and repacked a couple times, ok more like 5 times. (I tend to get a little OCD when I’m excited.)
It was now the week of my hunt; boy was it going to be some long 12 hour shifts in the critical care unit this week. I’m sure my coworkers were tired of hearing me going over my pack lists over and over again; but my patients enjoyed hearing about my upcoming trip as it helped take their minds off being in the hospital. One even shared his stories and experiences hunting hogs when he was a young man. As June 24th neared, I became increasingly excited and then anxious and even a little nervous.
It was now THE day, that night I would be in the woods hopefully having a showdown at the Big Pig Corral. When the alarm clock went off at 0400, my nerves were on high alert. Sometime during the night, the butterflies in my stomach had gone from around a hundred in number to somewhere around 1 million. I moved at record breaking speed that morning: showered, dressed, breakfast cooked and ate, travel mug of coffee topped off, teeth brushed, even put a little makeup on all in about 35 minutes. All that was left to do was remind my husband that it was a “Ladies Only” hunt, that he could go next time and get my “see you in a few days” hug and kiss. By 0445 I was Alabama bound.
First of all, I had never been to Alabama and really had no idea what to expect along the way. For anyone who has never been, Alabama is absolutely beautiful. So much history was made there. I was imagining what it must have been like for all the soldiers during the Civil War that passed through these wooded rolling hills. As I drove through Birmingham I was reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights movement. Twisted and mangled light poles and splintered trees along the ridges surrounding the city were solemn reminders of the deadly tornadoes that hit the area this past spring. Despite the destruction that was still present, I could feel an energy that was calming and uplifting and I knew that Birmingham would continue to progress and make history as it overcame this obstacle.
Around 1400, Rack Nine Outdoors’ sign came into view and my heart skipped a few beats then took off flying. I pulled up to the lodge and Terry Garrett greeted me at the door with a warm Southern smile and “come on in”. A bit tired from my 7 hour drive, the loveseats and recliners of the lodge’s living area beckoned me to snuggle up in them. There I also was introduced to Michelle, she would be my bunk buddy during our stay. As the three of us shared hunting stories, the other ladies started rolling in along with Greg Louvoin of Rack Nine Outdoors. It was a relaxing afternoon, and as everyone settled in Nancy Jo Adams and her husband, Richard, arrived. It was party time now! Terry and Greg prepared a delicious dinner of pork loin, green beans with potatoes, and buttered corn as us girls watched storms roll in from the far off distance.
Somewhat worried that our first night’s hunt was going to be a wash out, we finished dinner and began getting ready to head to the woods. The storms lifted and left in their wake two beautiful rainbows that arched over the lodge, absolutely magical. It was on: we were quickly assigned a guide and loaded ourselves and our gear into their trucks. Terry carried me and three of the other ladies to our stands as the sun was in its last few minutes of setting. Knowing that we were all a bit anxious about traipsing through foreign hog infested woods; Terry took the time to walk each lady to their stands ensuring they made it safely. As we approached the third stand location (more like slid down the slick red clay hill drive towards the third location), we spooked a huge hog which Terry informed us of being a 300+ pound boar. As our jaws dropped at the size of the beast, all we saw was its huge black rear end heading at a high rate of speed directly into the woods where the third tree stand was located. Needless to say, Krissy was pretty hesitant to get out and go in to her stand at that point; but Terry helped her out and reassured her that it was okay as they walked towards her stand. I was next.
Terry returned to the truck with his big cheese eating grin and asked if I was ready. I immediately answered, “Heck yeah” but inside I was so nervous yet excited yet not really sure really. Did I really want to take on a 300+ pounder? All the stories of hogs attacking people, dogs getting sliced and diced flushing out hogs, and how can you forget the scene from Old Yeller: all these stories and pictures were flashing through my mind as we drove towards my destination. The butterflies in my belly now felt like a hornets nest buzzing with anticipation. I was ready for this. I had prepared for this for weeks. It was going to be just like any other hunting expedition: walk in to the stand, get up in the tree, settle in, and wait. But was I really ready? These are hogs, they have teeth, some really big teeth.
The truck came to a stop and Terry opened his door. I took a deep breath, grabbed up my gun, inserted a loaded magazine into my Thompson Center Icon 30TC, and cycled a round into the chamber as I set my feet on the ground outside the jacked up truck. I could feel all my senses going into overdrive. Terry flashed me a look that said “here we go” and we entered into the darkest woods I have ever set foot in. Surprisingly, my eyes adjusted to the darkness rather quickly. We walked slowly along the glow-dotted path towards my stand. We were about 20 yards into the woods when I began hearing snapping of small tree branches and crunching of leaves ahead and to the left and right. Terry briefly stopped and asked if I heard that. Yes, I definitely heard that and was so glad to know that he did too. Again that smile, I believe I saw every tooth in that man’s head this time as I answered him. “Get ready.” He then turned back ahead of us and shone his flashlight on the biggest bunch of pigs I do believe I ever have seen only 15-20 yards away from us. I was so revved up it looked to be an army of them with a big sow as their general standing right in the middle, but it could have also been just 5 of them. I quickly turned my Streamlight on, shouldered my Icon, and acquired my target in my Leupold VXIII scope: the big sow in the middle.
There were so many smaller pigs around her that it was impossible to take a typical shoulder shot; I was going for a head shot. Now I have to fill you in on a little problem of mine. I am a nurse. I have seen some gosh awful things in my life, but I can not handle anything that involves head injuries. Now here I am aiming at this big sow’s head, nice. Terry tells me to take my time on my shot, that I have plenty of time. I didn’t need time; I just needed a stronger stomach for what was to come so I thought. I had a rock steady sight on my hog and I was squeezing a round off into her head. Well much to my surprise and apparently Terry’s too, as I squeezed off that shot a smaller pig step right in front of my shot. Both the small pig and the big sow dropped.
What?! I just harvested two hogs with one shot! Pigs scatter in every direction. I immediately and instinctively dropped to one knee, cycled another round into the chamber, and started looking for the next target. Terry was still standing there trying to high five me and I was tracking another pig that was moving on my left. Fortunately for the pig that was now in my sights, it stopped behind two small trees. It must have felt my cross hairs beating down on him, so it turned a perfect 90 degree right face and high tailed it out of there. As I stood back up, Terry was back at my side and the loud ruckus of the evading pigs had settled. Alright, now we could celebrate and go see my first and second hogs ever.
As we walked up to my silent pigs, I could not believe just how big they were. I have heard of ground shrinkage with hunting deer, but these jokers got bigger. So many emotions were stirring throughout my body. I just encountered a pack of hogs, shot two with one shot off hand in the head, almost had another one, and best of all I didn’t get attacked on my way to the stand. I knew right then and there I was addicted. I didn’t know what to say or do or anything, so I just gave Terry a high five and I’m sure I was grinning to where he could now see every tooth in my head. He then asked if I wanted to stay and see if they came back or head back to the lodge. Since the chance of hogs showing back up was slim and I was highly anxious to get back for pictures, I decided to ride back with Terry and boy am I glad I did.
As we made our way back to the truck, Terry radioed to Greg that I had two hogs down and for him to bring the four-wheeler to retrieve them. We were heading back to the lodge on the now mucked up, slippery clay roads when we met up with Greg and Richard heading towards my stand on the HuntV. Terry was quick on the draw to announce that I had two hogs that I had harvested with one shot. “Dang this girl can shoot”, I heard one of them say. Greg and Richard both congratulated me and continued down the trail.
Giddy and still doing the happy dance in my head, Terry drove us slowly towards the lodge. We had made it only 200 yards when we both spotted another pack of smaller hogs standing in and to the left of the road ahead of us. Immediately, I reached for my rifle with my left hand and the door handle with my right; I was committed to shooting another hog. At that moment, Terry was putting the truck in park and asked me, “Do you wanna shoot another one?” My memory is a bit blurry about what exactly I replied but Terry claims it was, “that’s a stupid question!”
Before the truck was in park, my feet had hit the ground and I was propping my rifle on the passenger door’s sideview mirror. Since they were standing in the beam of the truck’s headlights, I didn’t even worry with the Streamlight. I quickly acquired my first target and squeezed off a round of my 30TC behind the right ear of a little black pig. He dropped to the ground as the other pigs scattered. I found another pig running slightly towards the truck and to the right and set my cross hairs behind his right ear also. Fortunately for this little piggy, I was not going to sacrifice Terry’s side view mirror for a pig as it got in my way. This little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home to live another day.
I’m not sure who was squealing more, Terry or the running pigs as we approached my third harvested hog. Again, this little dude grew about 20 pounds as I got closer. I could not believe it, it had only been 4 minutes since I had taken my last shot and I have just put another hog on the ground. I was no longer doing the happy dance in my head but a full out forbidden running-man-sprinkler-Mr. Roboto combo in my head. All Terry saw was my all-teeth grin again as we high-fived over my third hog, “Mrs. Tennessee has put another hog down!” Terry loaded the small boar into the bed of his truck and again we were off to the lodge.
I had to have been glowing enough to see from space as we pulled up to the skinning shed just down the hill from the lodge. Shortly after unloading the boar, Greg and Richard showed up with my first two hogs. Both saw my third hog and were wondering where it came from since they hadn’t been radioed to pick it up. Seeing the puzzled look on their faces, I told them about encountering the pack in the area that they had literally just come through on the HuntVe. Terry again bragged about my well placed shot and I finished telling them the story of the hogs they retrieved. I now knew what it was like: the “after a successful hunt brag session” that you always see on all the hunting shows. I felt like I was living out a dream. I stood there and soaked it all in as Terry and Greg weighed each one: 142 pounds, 59 pounds, and 31 pounds. Oh my gosh! They then cleaned the mud off and prepared them for their close ups. All three men took pictures and then it was time to get down to business skinning and quartering.
As Terry started on the first hog, another Alabama thunderstorm started rolling in. These are short lived storms that have more bark than bite, but to us out-of-towners they’re menacing enough to come in from the stands. It wasn’t long when the first round of ladies came in. Everyone was very congratulatory of my harvest and equally excited about the hunt so far. No one else had the opportunity to take a shot yet, but many had seen their first hogs ever and were stoked about going back out in the morning. As the rest of the ladies ventured in from the woods, we gathered back at the lodge. Stories were shared of everyone’s experience that evening and plans were being made for when everyone wanted to head out the next day.
Excitement had me up until the wee hours of the morning Saturday, so I decided to stay back and try to catch up on some sleep that morning. It must have been a good morning for it, because as the ladies made their ways back in no one had seen any hogs. “Good I didn’t miss anything.” We had a young lady hunter with us, Amber, who’s 13th birthday was that day, so for breakfast we had the most sinfully awesome tasting 14 layer chocolate cake and good ole Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. We have all decided that any future “Ladies Only” hunts must include this cake regardless of whether it is someone’s birthday.
After “breakfast”, several of us headed back out to the woods to try a brunch-to-lunch hunt. So I loaded back up in Terry’s truck and off we went. This time I actually made it to and into the ladder stand. I didn’t see any hogs this time or that night for that matter, but I did have a wonderful time relaxing, clearing my mind, and having a guide try to get me riled up.
Sitting up there in the stand that morning, I encountered some kind of lizard that apparently really liked me because later I found out the show he was putting on was their mating ritual. Sweet, at least he wasn’t trying to eat me which eased my mind. I also had a very “manly” squirrel trying to have a chat with me. Greg informed me that the wildlife here are “used to seeing ugly old guys”, so it was a real treat for them to see women out here for a change.
Saturday night was an interesting hunt. Even though I didn’t encounter any hogs, it was a whole new experience sitting in pitch black darkness and depending on your other senses to hunt. To hunt at night, you sit in the stand and listen for the hogs to come in. As they draw closer, you turn on a spot light, and shine them. It is amazing the clarity in your scope; its like hunting in broad daylight.
Armadillos, I can report, don’t sound any different from state to state. They still sound like a heard of elephants in the Alabama woods. First an armadillo passed under my stand. Then an odd coupling of a raccoon (biggest raccoon I had ever seen and I’ve seen some BIG raccoons while out bowfishing) and an opossum. I believe they were trying to have a “who could chew the loudest” contest as they chowed down on the corn that had been scattered around my stand. The rest of the hunt produced another handful of opossums and one more raccoon. There is nothing like being just a few feet away from wild animals and observing them in their own element.
Even though I didn’t see anymore hogs during my time at Rack Nine Outdoors, I definitely chalk it up as a highly successful hunt. The guides were awesome, the lodge was very accommodating, relaxed, and comfortable, the food was great, and the company could not be beat. I met some outstanding outdoors women, gained many new friends, and shared in making many amazing memories that weekend. I would be honored and look forward to sharing a lodge with any of them again in the near future. I would like to thank the guides of Rack Nine Outdoors: Terry Garrett and Greg Louvoin and Nancy Jo Adams and Richard Holt for all of your hard work in organizing and coordinating this amazing hog hunt.
I would also like to thank the many companies who provided items for the Swag Bag: THY Enterprises, Inc., Shewee USA, Buck Girl, Doeville: the Female Huntress, Girls with Guns Clothing, HerCAMOshop.com, and Strut & Rut Energy Shot. Every one of you made this a trip I will never forget. ~Jennifer McKinney