Hog Wild on Mushroom Hill

by Dave Wagner

It was Monday, December 15th, two days after the beginning of the annual deer hunt, which my two brothers, Joe, Tom and I look forward to all year. The buck pole on our southern Indiana cattle/wildlife ranch usually has a nice buck or two hanging by this time; however, we’d come up empty-handed so far and I had promised my wife that I’d have a least a doe hanging by now. So I decided to head up the Mushroom Hill, a steep-grade hill with a slope exceeding 30%. Joe had been sitting here and said he’d seen several does in the past couple of days. The haul-out would be simple because the steep grade ended at the end of my hay field, which we could easily drive up to. This was a productive area which had yielded me several bucks over the years, but I had moved my stand last year and Joe had moved in to try his luck on the old Mushroom Hill. He had put up a quickie stand with a ladder strapped to the tree. In sneaking up the hill, I spooked a young doe, which had been watching me from right underneath the stand. It was still early, about 4:00 P.M. and I figured "Well, just my luck" but I still had plenty of time for some does to wander by. This stand was at the break at the top of the ridge, and as I snuck the last 20 yards to the stand, I heard some rustling in the leaves about 40 yards over the break and behind a large greenbrier patch. I thought maybe it could be a nice buck, so I quietly crawled up into the stand with my Thompson muzzleloader, which had just barely been broken in last year on a nice 9-pointer.

As I settled into the stand, my attention focused more intently on the rustling behind the greenbriers. They were so thick that Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Charming would have had trouble hacking through them to steal a kiss. Now I was getting really curious, as I’d heard a few twigs snap, so I knew it was larger than a squirrel, but I’d seen nothing to this point. Another twenty minutes went by with continued rustling…now it came from different spots around the greenbriers. I quickly came to the conclusion that it was a band of turkeys. But just as I sat down and began to ignore them, I heard an unexpected grunt/squeal coming from where the rustling was. Immediately the mystery was resolved…there were wild pigs in the vicinity and they were close!

I stood up in the stand and watched in their direction, listening to try to determine how many were there. The one I heard grunt sounded heavy-voiced, which I figured had to be an adult, but then, coming from the 3:00 position from the adult, it sounded like two smaller animals rustling. I concluded it was probably a mother with a couple of pigs, but still I could not spot them. Joe had screwed a couple of steps about arm level behind the seat for something to hang his gun on, so I grabbed a hold and stood on the seat, hoping to get a higher vantage. Looking toward the area where I had heard the smaller pigs, I got a glimpse of one, and then within the minute, I saw it again. It seemed very intent on heading down the trail away from me. I figured they had winded me and might be heading out of the area, so when the second pig showed himself, I dropped him with a heart shot in the middle of the trail. That’s when the forest came alive!

Still standing on my seat 25 ft. up, the greenbriers erupted with wild hogs. As I was trying to reload my muzzleloader, I saw three head up to the high hay field to the west, turn and go south. Three more large ones hit the hayfield and went north. Three ran under my stand and headed down to the low hayfield. Off through the woods, heading towards the big train tunnel, was a single large hog that looked to be the size of one of my 500 lb. Angus weanlings. Must‘ve been the boar. Meanwhile, the rest of the herd was in a state of total confusion, circling the area around my tree. By this time I got my senses back and climbed off the seat and got my muzzleloader reloaded. No sooner had I got my ramrod in place, a large sow showed herself about 20 yards from my stand. -- Click-- Forgot to load the primer. By the time I got the primer in, the sow had disappeared into the greenbriers. Then suddenly I saw her at the side of the dead pig. She was heading away on the trail; I didn’t want to let her get away, so I chanced a shot through her loin into her lung. When I shot, she squealed loud enough to be heard for over a mile. This must have been the matriarch of the clan, because when she squealed, the whole herd went into a worse state of confusion than they already were. Some that had run off had circled back around, and there were still about twenty pigs of all sizes milling around through the greenbriers and underneath my tree stand, wondering where to go. As I looked down, I noticed the stand and the seat had come loose in all the excitement. I figured I’d better give them a quick tightening before I reloaded, so I hung my gun on the screw step and knelt down to ratchet the strap tight.

Much to my surprise, this old stand was not the ratchet type…. it was the old seat belt type, that when you pull on that buckle, it comes loose! I don’t remember much except grabbing for that tree like a scairt bear cub and hanging on for dear life. The stand didn’t come completely off and I managed to swing my foot around onto the ladder and tighten it up properly. I finally got back in the stand, reloaded my gun and surveyed the area. It appeared that all the hogs had left during my fumbling, but even after fifteen minutes, I could still hear the sow behind the briers in her final death throes. I felt it was safe enough to go down and finish her off. As I crept down, and carefully walked toward the area where she had dropped, I was startled by some rustling. I took a few more steps and out hopped two more small pigs (about 75 lbs.).

As I raised my gun to take even one more pig, the sow, which I had not seen and was 5 ft. from me, made one last twitch before expiring. As you can imagine, I very nearly wet my pants. And the little pigs got away. At that point, I decided I’d better keep my gun loaded just in case.

The final episode involved the retrieval. Since I’d shot the hogs uphill, towards the high hay field I figured I’d better go back and get help and the truck and come in from the top. It was getting dark and one shot didn’t seem enough for thirty hogs. My entourage to the top included Joe, Tom and Dave Melloh, Nancy, Joe’s wife and my wife, Jan. We were all equipped either with shotguns, 06’s or spotlights, and walking through the woods in the thick greenbrier patch, in the dark, wondering if pigs would coming charging out at us, was like a combination of Schwartzenneger in "The Predator" and "The Blair Witch Project". Anyway, we got the pigs out without incident, the sow weighing in at 210 lbs. and the smaller pig at 75 lbs. Considering the close calls, we felt lucky to be two up on the pigs.

Dave Wagner is a farmer and woodland owner in southern Indiana.