Editor's Note: For a complete recap of Brian's Florida hog hunt, click here.
Osceola Outfitters operates on the working cattle ranch owned by the family of Hoppy Kempfer, who runs the outfitter side of the business. The 25,000 acres the ranch encompasses include huge cattle pastures surrounded by brush and swamps.
The second morning of my hunt found Kempfer and me in a pickup driving these pastures, the fog so thick it looked like we were driving into walls of white. Hogs, Kempfer said, like to root up the pastures in the early morning. But even when the fog burned off, not a hog was to be seen. We were just about ready to give up when we spotted a small black dot moving down a long fence line. Binoculars up, we saw it was a boar.
We got out of the truck and I cocked and loaded my crossbow. The boar got to the end of the fence line then made a sharp right turn in our general direction.
Bent at the middle, Kempfer and I hustled across the pasture to try to cut off the hog. The boar was moving fast, head down and still a couple hundred yards away. Our advantage was a line of thistle plants between us and the hog, some of the thistles more than 6 feet tall and providing good cover. The hog got to the line of thistle, and he swung alongside it and kept moving … closer … closer. Kempfer opened a set of shooting sticks and I set the crossbow atop them.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured the life-sized hog target back at camp. I could hear Kempfer’s advice from our practice sessions: “Put the bolt right in the crease behind the hog’s front leg, and low, right into the lung and heart area.” The TenPoint’s scope is calibrated so that the center crosshair is dead-on at 20 yards. But this boar got so close I could see the lines of hair across his broad back. I could hear him “gunt-gunt-gunting” as he trotted over the pasture, unaware of our presence.
Kempfer put a hog grunt call to his mouth and blew once. The boar stopped.
But the boar stood behind a thistle plant stalk as big around as my arm that shielded his front leg. I waited, told myself to breathe, while the hog glanced from side to side, wondering about that grunt. He took a single, unsure step, and I was sure he was just a moment or two from running. But that step took him past the thistle stalk.
I had the scope’s center dot low and behind his front leg and squeezed the trigger.
The boar screamed like he’d had hot water dumped on him, lunged forward, stumbled and hit the ground not 20 feet from where the bolt struck him.
Kempfer and I would high-five and let out a few yells of joy. But first I had to take a deep breath while a shiver went through my body, and I had to swallow several times, because my heart felt like it was in my throat.