There’s nothing as tasty as bringing home a hog or two for a family get-together or a feast with friends at a mud event. Now, we’re not talking a store-bought hog but rather a wild one that we stalked, shot, and butchered in the field with our own two hands. We are sure we don’t have to tell you about the thrill of the hunt because just about everyone we know or meet isn’t just a mud fanatic but an outdoorsman or -woman too.
Combine the sports of muddin’ and huntin’ with a top-of-the-line swamp buggy and you are in for one hell of a time. Man has been stalking his prey on foot for thousands of years, but around the ranches, farms, swamps, and Everglades in Florida it can be downright difficult and dangerous to search out game. It’s not everywhere a hunter has to dodge gators and pythons!
We featured Pat Taylor’s swamp hunting buggy in the April/May ’13 issue (“Sunday in the South”). So now that you know all about the buggy we thought we would show you what it is used for. We followed along with Pat and his crew as they hunted hogs on the 66,000-plus-acre Blue Head Ranch in central Florida. The private ranch is productive with citrus groves, strawberries, blueberries, and pasturelands. The property is so large the hogs can easily hide and overpopulate, which can be devastating to the crops and pastures.
Three basic types of feral hogs can be found in Florida: domestic stock that has escaped, Eurasian wild boar, and hybrids of the two after they hook up! The animals on average can reach 150 pounds in weight, but we’re sure a few oddball male pigs (boars) out there can weigh much more.
Cruising the fields and swamps in a custom-built swamp buggy makes getting to the feral hogs easier, especially with its 454ci big-block Chevy engine and 23.1x26 Titan tires. In locations where a hunter on foot would be left up to his neck in muck the buggy will transport him to the game’s location high and dry and on a great stand for spotting game.
Although shooting from the buggy during the hunt is legal, according to Florida regulations the engine must be off. To quote the regulation: “Non-migratory animals can be taken from a vehicle. Prohibited methods and equipment for taking game: Shooting from vehicles, powerboats or sailboats moving under power. Motors must be shut off or sails furled, and the vessel’s progress must cease from such motor or sail before hunters may take wildlife.” More information on Florida’s hunting regulations can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission website (www.myfwc.com/hunting/regulations/taking-game).
The two hogs that were taken on this hunt yielded a good amount of pork. Most grown feral pigs will carry about 75 pounds of edible meat. At the average market value of $4 a pound, that’s about $300 worth of almost-free meat—a heck of a deal! For the price of some fuel and ammo, you can bag your own free-range hogs and they won’t be filled with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and massive amounts of salt. (Wait, we love the store-bought pork too and all the salt and some of the other stuff that goes along with it, but shopping isn’t nearly as fun as hunting.) Anyway, it is open season on the hogs year-round on private land, no hunting license required (in wildlife management areas, permits are required and there are some seasonal and weapons restrictions). Bag a few of these critters a few times a year and—dang it, we have to say it—you and your family and friends will be eatin’ high on the hog all year long.
While shooting rifles and shotguns from the buggy is literally a blast, a slew of other weapons can be used to hunt hog too. Pistols, bows, and muzzleloaders are popular ways of taking hogs. Some folks are even hunting the animals with spears and knives.
The pigs were gutted in the field and then cooked at our next mud run. Pat and the guys cooked one of the pigs in an underground wooden smoke box all day over hot coals insulated with sand. After the animal was pulled out of the smoker we have to say it was some of the best damn hog our crew has eaten. Keep your eyes peeled because we’re going to show you other critters along with some great recipes and ways to cook them.