Hogs run wild
Maybe if the hog knew he was going to have his picture taken, he would have been sure to bathe.
But as it was, 14-year-old Michael Moore’s porcine prize was muddy in all its post-hunt photo-ops. Not that Michael minded: After all, he had just bagged the big, sooty boar as part of Saturday’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission youth hog hunt.
“It came out, 15 to 20 feet away. It smelled us and came back around us. I took the shot and I got it,” he said, happily described the action of the morning hunt.
Michael wasn’t the only lucky marksman. The event, held at Pepper Ranch in Immokalee, drew 15 youths aged 12 to 17, all of whom completed an application and paid a fee to attend. Each youth was required to bring a parent or guardian as well.
Participants spent Friday night camping at the ranch, then rose early on Saturday to head out to 15 blind stations. Youth and parent teams were accompanied by volunteer guides who lent their expertise – as well as their knowledge of FFWC hunting regulations – to the adventure.
Brian McMahon, a Golden Gates Estates resident, was one such guide.
The veteran hunter said his role as guide included helping the parents and children with spotting their quarry, as well as reinforcing the rules, including the importance of not having a round in your weapon until you’re ready to shoot.
The 2,500-acre Pepper Ranch was purchased by the Conservation Collier land preservation program from private landowners in 2009. As an alternative to hiring trappers to handle the ranch’s invasive hog population, the county recently decided to allow managed, permitted hunting on the property – including the youth hunt.
“It’s a non-native species,” McMahon said of the hogs. “They need to be kept under control if they get out of hand.”
While in the blinds, the parents handled the ammunition until the hunters were ready to shoot. Most of the hunters used rifles, although a few chose to hunt with bow and arrow.
The mom-and-son team of Cathy and Jake Lund, 13, also brought a hog back to camp on Saturday morning. Pepper Ranch was his first time hunting, and Jake didn’t even have his own rifle; it was supplied by FFWC. He did, however, recently complete the agency’s education safety course, which includes classroom work and time on the rifle range.
His shot was perfect, Jake recalled – even in the ideal spot, just behind the shiny black sow’s shoulder.
“I nailed it right there, and it just dropped dead,” he said.
For Tom Taylor, one of the landowners who elected to sell Pepper Ranch to the county last year, the hunt was an example of the kind of preservation he and the other owners hoped to achieve when they parted with property.
Also, it gave the young hunters a chance to learn the proper and ethical way to hunt, complete with instruction and oversight.
“If they get started off the wrong way,” Taylor noted, “they can go the wrong way for a lifetime.”
Other parent-and-child pairs took the hunt as a chance to be together in the great outdoors. Thirteen-year-old Hope Hamm, the hunt’s only young lady, brought her father, Tony, to the event. While on their morning hunt, Hope and her father said they spotted turkey, deer, a snake, possums, cardinals, woodpeckers, doves and great blue herons.
No hogs, though. But no matter, Tony Hamm said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said of the hunt. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This is the kind of stuff we live for.”
Contact Elizabeth Kellar at firstname.lastname@example.org.