"Bow-wow-wow yippee oh yippee yay, bow-wow yippee oh yippee yay".
The bass beat of Atomic Dog rattled our windows as the truck gobbled up a freeway lined with oil well pumps and cattle on this road trip to Oklahoma. Deb did the Cabbage Patch to the down beat and I had laughed myself hoarse. We were both getting slappy from the long drive, but totally stoked to be heading to our first wild hog hunt. The 14 hour trip had gone quickly and so was our sanity at this point. At a recent stop for gas, the clerks Southern drawl was as difficult for me to understand, as my Minnesota twang was for her. "Were not in Kansas anymore, Toto" I quipped, once back at my truck.
Navigating the country back roads and arriving at our destination, we unlocked the gate to the Shiloh Ranch and inched down the picturesque road. A gent in an outback coat, cowboy hat and sunglasses came galloping up the dirt road on horseback to greet us. Stepping out of our reality and into this setting was a blast to the senses. For a precious few days, we would forget about everything and zone in on the experience of the hunt. I was pumped. This was an all womens hunt and we werent sure what to expect. As the four other members of the entourage arrived, it was exciting to discover we were in a group of our peers, not only as experienced and independent hunting junkies, but as peer professionals as well.
As the morning progressed, our focus began to shift from social banter, to the predators we each were. I have always marveled at the contrast that women present in this regard, with our ability to transform from femme to killer. After flinging arrows on the 3D course, we each emerged from the bunkhouse in our respective camo uniforms, replete with bows and tackle. Some shot compounds, others shot primitive. The day was a perfect 55 degrees, and soon we were each on stands near feeders and game trails. On the walk to my stand, I jumped two groups of hogs, who first sized me up and then sprayed in all directions. I didnt have much knowledge of pig psychology and mistakenly thought "Just like whitetails". I pictured a pig or two coming through the woods, just like whitetails. Wrong!
My particular ladder stand was about mile from the housing compound. Once settled, I had no idea what to expect, and when the spin feeder released corn two hours later, I startled with such vigor that I nearly fell off my stand. "Thats all I need", I thought to myself "theyll find me hanging by my safety strap like a Christmas tree ornament". A moment later, I heard the crunching of leaves in the distance. Their many hooves walking in a straight line, I spotted the caravan of hogs 100 yards out. I eased my release onto the bowstring and slowly torqued around for a shot. The hogs split into three groups as I was turning. Suddenly, they all halted as if in the stop action frame of an instant replay. I froze in my twisted position as my left inner thigh muscle decided to go into a full blown charlie horse. Sweat beading on my temples now, I ignored the pain and sat motionless. The pigs resumed their march and I again positioned myself for the shot. From three directions, the lead animals entered the clearing before me, all abruptly stopping again. I froze, now positioned to draw. My leg muscle was screaming but I didnt care. The entire group startled me as they dove for the corn like crows on carrion.
Too much adrenalin! Too much adrenalin! Calm down Linda! I started to go to full draw on the largest hog but my peep tubing snapped mid draw. DANG! These hogs were going to be gone in two minutes and I was running out of time. In slow motion, I let down my draw, re-affixed the tubing, snapped my release back on the string and went to full draw again. I put my pin site on the biggest hog, let out a breathe and timed the arrow launch between the beats of my now pounding heart. Zap! The arrow connected with a lung shot and passed through. The animal did a zig zag run, dropped at seventy yards, flip flopped and was done in two minutes. The sweat poured off me and my knees were shaking. Not wanting to spoil the hunts of the others, I sat tight till dark, tracked the hog, and then radioed for an ATV to help bring it back to camp.
Deb had arrowed a small boar that evening, and with one of the owners, we tracked the animal through several hundred yards of thick spiny brambles. Deb got her Leafy Lite Suit hung up on the thorns so many times its a wonder she made it out of there dressed. With the help of the owner Matt, we found the hog and struggled to get it out without getting completely lost in the thickets. Matt lacerated his eye on a thorn and one point, and had to go to the emergency room the next day for repairs. Back at camp, I field dressed my hog and spent the rest of the evening around the campfire with our group, sharing our respective hunting stories, past and present.
The owners of Shiloh Ranch had an overabundance of pigs this year, and allowed each hunter to shoot another small pig the next day for no charge. I decided to sit on the same stand, and was fortunate enough to arrow a small orange colored pig (named Twinkie) the second evening. Several of the other ladies had success with larger pigs, so I decided to drag my little boar back to camp in the dark until the ATVs caught up with me. I had forgotten rope, and used my camo bandana as a drag, looped on my wrist and around the pigs two front hooves. 100 yards from my stand, I had the uneasy realization that I was being followed. I stopped in my tracks. The sounds of number of animals in the dark woods also stopped. I started again, going quickly and then slowly, as my followers kept pace with me, their sounds getting closer. The bandana slipped off the pigs hooves, and I stooped to fixed the tether, fumbling with my flashlight. The sounds in the woods were now all around me, and I was suddenly struck with the thought that I might be the prey instead of the predator. Now, I am not afraid of the dark and in fact like it. However, being alone and surrounded by who-knows-what, while dragging a bloody dead animal in the pitch dark just didnt seem very smart at that moment. Not wishing to be the unwitting meal of whatever was following me, I let out several loud primal growling noises and waved my flashlight about wildly. That scared them back a few yards. I radioed our hosts about my situation, and within minutes ATVs were speeding up the trail. The mystery critters zoomed off.
I have been on hunts many times with many groups, but this was by far one of the more unique hunts of my life. This was in part because of the hogs we were hunting, but also because of the hunters in the group and our hosts. I have been a serious lady hunter for many years. In my social and business circles, I am regarded as a bit of an oddity, not only because I hunt, but because I pursue it mostly alone, independent of other hunters. I have to, because of my personal requirement to hunt a LOT! I had hunted with other groups of ladies, but this group was patently unique. These were not only hunters, but serious, experienced, passionate, addicted, focused, and accomplished women hunters. I have sat around a camp fire with hunting chums many times over the years, but here I was sitting around a campfire with women, sharing our stories, our histories and the inexplicable hunting addiction that linked us all. No offense to my favorite male hunting buddies, but this experience was in a totally different class.
My friend Deb arrowed two hogs and in fact each member of our group except one, arrowed two hogs as well. The drive home from a hunting trip always seems to take twice as long as the drive there, and by the time we hit Iowa, we had demoted our thinking to playing a game of "count the road kills". A blizzard greeted us upon arriving in the Twin Cities. Yes, this had been a most enjoyable hunt, both from the standpoint of being with other experienced and avid hunters, but also because of how well prepared and hospitable our hosts were to each member of the group. I will definitely go back.