Predator Bonus: On a Sweltering Summer Hunt, Lil’ Brother Makes a Crack Shot

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My brother and I are different, not unlike many other brothers who have different careers and interests. He’s a high school math teacher and excelled in school. I hated math and muddled through. He’s thin and eats well. I’m bigger and don’t discriminate about food. He’s balding prematurely, like our father. I have a wonderfully thick mane when I let it grow.

Randy Clemons nailed this big boar with one shot — right through the eye! — while hunting with Barry Estes, right, of Alabama Hog Control in summer 2015.

Randy Clemons nailed this big boar with one shot — right through the eye! — while hunting with Barry Estes, right, of Alabama Hog Control in summer 2015.

We do have common interests, though. We have great wives, love good food, are planning a guys’ road trip to Louisiana for food and fish- ing, follow college football, appreciate good adult beverages and a few other things. We play golf. Did I mention I have a head of lush, hand- some hair? I think I did.

But I hunt, whenever and for whatever. Frog gigging in the summer. Deer, ducks and small game during winter. Turkeys in spring. Hogs whenever. Coyotes when I get the chance. I don’t discriminate about the critter or it’s ability to fly, crawl or run. Same with fish. If it bites a jig, slams a topwater or eats live bait, I don’t mind if it’s a redfish in South Texas, smallmouth in Buffalo or bluegill in Alabama. I love fishing. Hunting, too.

My brother doesn’t hunt or fish. He has done both, and has enjoyed them, but it’s been only here and there, and mostly fishing. He lives about 50 miles from one of the country’s biggest cities. He’s busy during the school year when hunting seasons are open. Summer is downtime. I kid him about being able to shoot deer off the back deck of his house. (He doesn’t do this, and if I did I’m pretty sure his wife would smack me with a frying pan.)

Dad always said I’d catch a bug in the house and think about putting it on a hook to catch a fish while my brother would take it outside to let it crawl away. Pretty spot-on assessment. But years ago, after our mother died and our father remarried, Dad put hunting on the back burner. People change, situations change, lives change. My brother didn’t see him hunting and fishing as often as I did growing up, or go with him like I did. Things happen and that’s how it is. And by that time, with me being 11 years older, my life was going in different directions, too.

After the hunt, it was back to the side-by-side for more action.

After the hunt, it was back to the side-by-side for more action. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

ALABAMA-STYLE HOG CONTROL
For the past few years my brother and I have talked about going hog hunting. He, and his students and fellow hoops coaches, have been somewhat enthralled by my tales of pursuing hogs, alligators and deer. They’re not far-out tales by any stretch. I always figured a good hog hunt with him would be fun.

Summer can be pretty tough for stalking hogs. It’s incredibly hot and humid in south Alabama. Vegetation is thick. Skeeters and spiders and wasps and ticks and such are out. Honey locust thorns make you scream words Mama would slap you for saying. Shady creek-bottoms are sultry sticky hot and home to snakes.

So, of course, that was the perfect time to take my brother on his first hog hunt.

Hogs create incredible problems for hunters and landowners. Hunting them is just one way, and a fun one, of helping manage their numbers. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

Hogs create incredible problems for hunters and landowners. Hunting them is just one way, and a fun one, of helping manage their numbers. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

I contacted Barry Estes, owner of Alabama Hog Control, to line up a nighttime hunt. Estes has been helping control feral hog populations for a few years now through trapping and hunting. He’s good at it, too. For his nighttime hunts he has used different rifles in an attempt to find the one he likes best and works best with his clients; when we hunted, we used DPMS AR-platform rifles chambered in .308 Win. with thermal optics. They’re legal and he’s fully permitted. Suffice to say, they’re badass for hunting. It’s a blast. Combine an evening stalk with a nighttime thermal hunt and it’s a cool deal.

If you live where feral hogs might invade your property, you don’t want them. If you have any nearby, you don’t want them. If you have them, well, bless your hearts. Feral hogs are the spawn of Satan. They’re smart, incredibly adaptable, breed like crazy, can be dangerous when cornered or surprised, destroy property and agriculture, and wreak havoc on deer hunters’ food plots. Did I mention they breed prolifically? Sows might have two or three litters a year of eight to a dozen shoats, and the females could be ready to breed at six or seven months old. The potential for serious problems is real and many landowners want them gone.

Most states with feral hogs have pretty liberal hunting seasons, which is nice. Hunters can take advantage of this for stalking, getting kids or newbies into hunting, running hog hounds — a great way to get some big, smart boars — and for some folks to open businesses. State wildlife agencies are dealing with problem hogs on public land.

Finding tracks and poop helps you locate travel areas and places to target when hunting hogs.

Finding tracks and poop helps you locate travel areas and places to target when hunting hogs.

It’s a mess, to be honest, and it’s getting worse. Possibly even more crazy is some landowners are intentionally moving hogs onto their properties so they can be hunted. That’s crazy because the potential long-term problems far outweigh the short-term fun of a hunt. But they do it.

We met Estes in south-central Alabama on a large, gorgeous tract with open fields, a winding creek, old hardwoods and vegetation in some areas 15 feet high. Any hogs in there could stay in there. We got changed into hunting duds, shot the rifle to check the scope and lit out to do some stalking.

Estes talked with us about how devastating hogs can be, especially in crop fields. On another west Alabama tract where he and I hunted in 2013, a couple of fields were so rooted up that I thought a tractor had been stuck and those were the tire ruts. I know of a landowner who planted more than a thousand pine seedlings in neat rows. He returned a week or so later to find them uprooted and the tender roots nipped off. The top of the seedlings remained. Money down the drain, due to hogs.

AIM FOR THE NOSE, PULL THE TRIGGER
“They compete with deer because they like the same kinds of food and don’t dis- criminate,” Estes said. “They’re not afraid of anything and the biggest predator they have is man, the hunter.”

Hearing protection helps, as does having a ThermaCell to ward off skeeters.

Hearing protection helps, as does having a ThermaCell to ward off skeeters.

We talked some more about trying to shoot as many in the sounder before it got away and where on the hog’s body to shoot. My brother listened intently. “If it’s moving quickly, put the riflescope on its nose and pull the trigger,” Estes said.

We checked a trap — no prints, no sign of intrusion — and a couple of other areas before pulling to a stop in the utility vehicle. Ahead was a good creek bend with good sign. We hit the woods, creeping in quietly, me behind my brother and looking ahead. Estes stopped, pointing at a group of hogs.

“Shoot the one on the left of the group, a boar,” he told my brother. By now the hogs were getting restless across the creek. Just hogs being hogs, I think, but they were moving, eating, starting to seem itchy. My brother aimed, looked back, aimed again and I told him to just relax … take a breath.

You know how athletes sometimes say everything slowed down as the ball came toward the plate or the pass spiraled over the defender’s hands? It seemed that way now. Everything seemed to be moving in slow-motion. I was watching my brother to make sure he wasn’t going to hyperventilate or something. I could see the hog ahead of him, taking a step, another step, another step. I’m thinking that he better take the damned shot or there wouldn’t be anything to shoot at, but didn’t want to rush him.

Just about when I wanted to say, “Shoot that ugly $*(@#$ now!” he pulled the trigger.

Bang, flop. Literally. Bang. Flop. Dead hog.

I’ve not seen that often with hogs, a true bang-flop dying right there, but he did it. The other hogs started running like Olympic sprinters and Estes was slinging lead. My brother was stunned. “Safety,” I said, even though it was a bolt action. “Safety, safety … .”

“I hit it,” my brother said. “I hit it.” I’d kept my eye on his hog, which, by now, had stopped kicking. Blood-trailing a hog in a hot swampy area isn’t my idea of fun. Fortunately it was dead. Dead right there. Damn. Lil’ brother put that hog in the dirt.

But there was no blood on the body, no bullet hole. He’d shot it right in the eyeball, about as perfectly as you could do it. A one-in-a-million shot for a newbie. “Y’all said if it was moving to put it on his nose and shoot,” he said. “Running, we said, not walking,” we laughed. Didn’t matter. The hog was dead. Lil’ brother had first blood on his hands.

I’d told Estes I didn’t care if it was one or 100, I just wanted my brother to get a good opportunity. He did. I was happy, proud, ready to stalk some more. He was, too, and we did after some photos. We saw more hogs, took a few more shots. We sweated and laughed and ate like beasts at a fried chicken joint and then went back to the woods for more. It was a grand evening and we’re going to do again.

— For more information about Barry Estes and Alabama Hog Control, visit www.AlabamaHogControl.com.

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