A special hog hunt would make for the most memorable hunting trip our crew would ever experience. It would involve preparation, manipulation, tons of luck, pure joy and eventually unexpected devastation. These events would be implanted in our minds and engraved in our hearts forever.
In February 2006, I was sitting on a rusted, red 4-wheeler that belonged to my boyfriend’s father, Keith, when I heard the sound of a cell phone. It was coming from the pocket of Mr. Keith’s jeans. Before the call, we were in deep thought about where we could go hunting the upcoming weekend. From what I could understand, an enormous wild boar had been found, and we were being recruited to catch it.
Brandon, my boyfriend, and his dad were the perfect hog hunting pair. Hunting was their passion, and finding out about where big hogs were was music to their ears. They were always up for the challenge. After ending the conversation, we would find out that our plans for the weekend had been made. However, the hog we were going after was going to be different than any other. He was extremely large, and his track record was crazy. He had already been run twice, and both times he had come out on top. Because of that, he was labeled the “uncatchable hog.”
I was raised like a princess. My daddy and mama always dressed me in the finest clothes, and I got most anything I wanted. I was the only girl, so I was showered in all things pink and frilly. I played with My Little Ponies and Barbie Dolls all the time but had a huge love for animals. My father didn’t hunt, so we never had firearms in the house, and the thought of shooting an innocent animal was insane. My brother once shot a bird with his BB gun… and killed it. It shocked him and I both. He panicked, and I burst into tears. Needless to say, we did not continue a career in hunting. He became a golfer, and I focused on playing softball. I never thought I would be able to shoot at an animal much less kill it, but I guess young love makes you do crazy things.
I loved Brandon so much. I knew if I didn’t give this hunting thing a try, we might not make it. Hunting was what he and his family lived to do. If it wasn’t deer, it was turkeys. If it wasn’t turkeys, it was hogs. I had friends who deer hunted and had seen turkey hunting on TV, but I had no clue about hunting hogs. If I had known those things were living around here, I would have been more petrified of the woods than I already was. Especially at night! After going several times, I eventually learned the ropes, sucked it up and became a hunter.
I honestly believed Mr. Keith had a sixth sense of thinking like a hog. He studied their patterns and spent restless hours searching for tracks and sign. It was very rare that he didn’t come up with a spot. I would just sit back and wait to find out where we were going next and what time we would need to be ready. We would sometimes drive hours, and other times we would be right around the corner. We would leave at 9 that night and not get back until 9 the next morning. It all depended on how many hogs were there, how far they were willing to run, and how much stamina our dogs had in chasing them.
We were finishing up the month of February when we got the phone call about the uncatchable hog, as previously mentioned. The days prior had been filled with thunderstorms and abnormal amounts of rain for south Georgia. The temperature was in the mid 40s, and the last thing you wanted to do in that type of weather was to get wet. However, knowing where we were going and knowing how much rain there had been, we were definitely preparing for the worst. We got up early Sunday morning and headed out.
The morning of the hunt was super exciting. I hadn’t slept all night thinking of the hopes of possibly catching this mega hog. The man who was taking us had already said if we caught the hog, he would mount the whole thing. It was too big to just have a shoulder mount. I couldn’t wait to see if the tracks would be hot. When we reached the other side of Ryan, located in Dodge County, it was about 7 a.m.
All the forces had been called in. Todd was the man who had heard of the hog and got permission to hunt on the land. Our friends from Twin City had also come, Jay and Reid Webb. They hunted with us many times, and I was so excited to see Reid because we were about the same age, and we always stuck together when the times got rough. I called him “Dierks Bentley” because his hair was long, and his beautiful face was so similar to the big country music star. The last to show was a man named “Littlin.” That would be the country contraction for “Little One.” Once he was unloaded, the hunt began.
Brandon was so eager to ride on Littlin’s fancy 4-wheeler, so he volunteered to go check the wallowing holes for fresh signs. Might I add these holes could fit a small size truck in them, so they weren’t too difficult to find. We all stood there, collaring up dogs and putting on briar britches. After a few minutes had passed, I heard a loud roaring sound. I looked at Keith and said that Brandon was either testing out the power of the Kawasaki or he had seen some hogs.
Brandon had jumped off the 4-wheeler before it even came to a complete stop. He was out of breath and could hardly talk. He said he was on his way back to say there was fresh sign, when a whole drove of hogs ran across the path in front of him. The enormous hog was the leader of the pack, and that meant it was go time! Everyone hopped on their rides and sped to the place where the hogs had crossed. We dumped the whole pack of curs and hounds out on the spot. You couldn’t hear yourself think as they all let out their howls on the super hot tracks. In a second they were gone, and that meant the race was on!
I got more and more excited each time we would come to a place where you could decipher tracks and see that they were still on him. The dogs ran and ran. They kept up with the boar through thick branches and over flooded creeks. They went through clearcuts and thinned pines. Who knew where this hog would finally decide he’d had enough and begin to fight?
It was hours later, and we had been keeping up with the dogs on our 4-wheelers for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the sound every hog hunter yearns to hear went off. Instead of occasional barks and yelps, we heard repetitive roars and chops. They were barking every breath, which meant they were bayed! Everyone rushed to his or her 4-wheelers, and we sped away. I grabbed my leash, straightened my coveralls, ran straight to where Reid was, and we took off. I knew Brandon and Keith would be the leaders of the pack, so I could count on Reid to stick with me and make sure I didn’t get lost in the chaos.
As we came to the edge of the clearcut, I was already out of breath. It was a lot farther than it actually looked. “Come on Steph,” said Reid, and I trudged on little by little. My feet got heavier as I had to pick them up, left then right. At this point I said I was worried I would topple over and get soaked. Needless to say, that worry was about to become a reality. All of a sudden, I heard the shrillest scream come from up ahead.
Apparently, there was a deep slough standing in the way of us and the dogs, so the only choice we had was to cross it. The shrill scream came from Jay as he hit the water below his waist. It was frigid temperatures, and no amount of clothing could hide the feeling of ice-cold water seeping in. It was a joke to Reid and I until it came time for us to cross. As my body hit the icy water, it took my breath, but what took my breath even more was that I couldn’t touch the bottom once I got in the middle. I thought we would never make it through this flooded, marshy pine hill, but we did.
As Keith, Brandon and the rest of us approached the thicket of pines and vines, we began to tip toe to get as close as possible. It would take a perfect storm to end this unforgettable adventure.
“Release the bulldogs,” Keith said.
Barging in like two bullets from a gun, the bulldogs ran through every vine and thorn in their path toward the commotion.
The first bulldog that made it there was struck by the hog’s snout and thrown right back to where it was released. The second dog was able to get a better grip but also couldn’t hold on for long. It was like a game of boomerangs. This hog’s oversized weight made no difference to the quickness it had with its body.
Once the hog had shed all of the dogs trying to catch it, it began to rush Brandon. Brandon began to back pedal all the way until he hit his back against one of the tall trees silently witnessing this miraculous event. He had nowhere to go. He threw his hands out and pressed them between the hog’s eyes. Nothing good would come out of the situation he was in if someone didn’t help.
No man would be strong enough to handle a hog this size alone. Out of the corner of Brandon’s eye, he saw one of the bay dogs make another run into the fire. Keith, Littlin, Jay and Todd came bursting in and landed on top of the hog. Reid and I stood close by trying to leash up the dogs. We knew that was our job going into it. The guys pushed and pushed as Brandon snatched the back two legs out from under it. The tie rope was pulled out to bond its legs together. As long as they could keep him down, the tying would be a breeze. We all stood back and watched in astonishment as they worked. The uncatchable hog had been caught! We all stood around feeling an overflowing feeling of pride and accomplishment. High-fives were flying!
In order to get it out of the woods, we needed a 4-wheeler. Knowing how far we had come from the clearcut, I knew that was going to be a difficult task. Todd volunteered his ride, after all, he was the one who got us into this… thankfully so. They winched the hog off the ground enough to flop him on the front rack. However, since he was such a beast, one wiggle caused the entire front end of Todd’s 4-wheeler to crack apart. He just shouted out a few choice words, laughed and then started it up.
Reid and I had gone back to the clearcut with Todd and decided to wait there for them to return. There was no need for us to make the horrendous trip back in. We sat there drenched in our muddy, wet clothes. I had all of my clothes ready to change into, but I had forgotten a change of shoes. With it being freezing cold, my feet felt like ice cubes. Reid offered up his old pair of tennis shoes, five sizes too big. I took them happily, and flopped around the rest of the time wearing them. Of course, he thought it was hilarious. I was surely making a fashion statement.
As we stood there talking about how crazy things had just been, we could hear the muffled sounds of the 4-wheelers coming. When everyone drove up, all we could do was laugh at the sight of Todd barely making it to the trailer. By the time he got to us, his poor 4-wheeler was demolished. After they unloaded the hog, he just rammed it up behind his truck and threw up his hands. He could care less, being we had our trophy hog right there in front of us.
Now, remember in the beginning, Todd said if we caught him, he’d mount the whole thing. Well, he stood up to his word. While the hog was getting caped out and cleaned, everyone started packing up and saying his or her goodbyes. Reid came over to me and said for me to keep his shoes until the next hunt. I gave him a big hug and assured him that I would.
All the way home, I talked up a storm to Keith and Brandon. I was so honored to have been welcomed and involved in such a hunt. I got to hear exactly what happened as Brandon was pinned against the tree with Keith stumbling around to try and help. I couldn’t stop smiling. I got to tell them from my perspective about crossing the creek, wading through all of the water, seeing Todd fighting with his crazy bulldog and coming around the corner to have my first glance of the hog. I, little miss princess, marked that day down in history as one of the most wonderful, adrenaline rushing, joyous days of my life, the day we caught the uncatchable hog! I truly felt like I was in hog heaven!
Sadly, only three months later, before we had any more hunts with our Twin City friends, Jay and Reid, we were told that Reid had been in a horrible truck accident. He was instantly killed. I can remember hearing the news, and for a moment, it didn’t make sense. I felt nothing. Only after coming to the realization that I would never see this wonderful spirit again, my heart ached. I cried uncontrollably, and all I could think about was I would never get the chance to return those shoes to him. Keith and Brandon were asked to be pallbearers at Reid’s funeral. It was such an honor to know his family had as much love for us, just as we did for Reid.
Brandon and I would get married one year later. We’ve now been married for eight years and have two beautiful daughters, Gracie and Claira, who also love the woods, camouflage and hunting. We have been on many hunts since this one, but none of them ever seem to top the excitement in this story. It will always be a special memory for my family and close friends.
Reid Webb: December 29, 1988 – June 3, 2006
Luke 4:10 “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;”