It’s mid August and the rifles are getting sighted in. There is a growing excitement about upcoming hunting season for the beginner hunter I am. It is time to learn more about the process of ethical hunting. I consider myself more of a management hunter at this moment. I believe in gaining experience first before I try for the big trophy, but if the right buck comes across my crosshairs,it will be go time.
I made plans to go to Florida at the end of August to check on our farm in north-central Florida. Couple weeks before I went I approached a friend who is an avid shooter about possible wild hog hunt. He is a very good long distance shooter. I know for a fact he had killed a coyote in just over 600 yards. Not a hog hunter.He has friends who are much more familiar with wild hogs in the area.
Florida has the second largest wild pig population in the U.S. after Texas. There is approximately 500 thousand pigs in the state. You can find them from the Everglades in the south all the way to northern panhandle. Pigs were brought to Florida by the Spanish explorers in the 1500’s. They are not native to the north American continent. Couple hundred years of free ranging and introduction of Eurasian wild boar to some eastern states in early 1900’s created today’s hybrid wild hog. The introduction of the Eurasian wild boar was initially in controlled fenced areas, but as we’ve learned throughout decades, it rarely stays that way. Many boars escaped and mated with free ranging domesticated pigs over last hundred years. Their reproduction habits and mild climate with plenty of food available all year around caused overpopulation in the southern part of the country. They wreaking havoc especially in rural,farming areas. There is no season for hunting wild hogs in Florida,it is all year around. We spent a wonderful day on a private hunting club land tracking and trying to find some hogs.
We met early in the morning at a local country restaurant near the land we were going to hunt for a hearty breakfast and went over the plan for the day. It was a beautiful day after very stormy week. We thought the weather is cooperating so we hit the road. Once we got to the property we started walking first to check all the spots where my friend left corn and other feed to bait the hogs. All we found was up to two feet of water. From what I have read and heard it happens quite often that your plan is altered by mother nature. The hogs like wet ground, muddy, softened up by water but not to swim around in it. The areas of wet and muddy turned into standing water and the trickling water turned into creeks too wide to cross on foot or in the truck. It got so bad so fast we had to drive several miles to pull other friend out of the mud. He got his small truck stuck scouting for hogs and coyote himself. It is a must to have the right truck and the tools to get around safely. It’s not as rugged as Wyoming but it has its challenges too. No problem, we have the time and the desire to spend a long day in the woods so we moved to different areas, some of them higher and dryer. No luck spotting any pigs in the morning. We decided to go to their private range and wait for the evening there. It was a great relaxed time with a friend and making new friends. Truly great outdoorsmen who knew the land and nature here extremely well.
I took the range time as another opportunity to hone my rifle skills with my two CZ 550 .308 Win. As a beginner rifle shooter I am trying to master one caliber at a time and .308 gives me the flexibility to hunt for hogs in Florida or elk and deer out West. One of the rifles is sighted in for lighter grain bullets and the other for heavier.
I would also appreciate if readers have recommendations for my improvements to submit their tips via the contact form on my website. CZ 550 is a great line of rifles offering many caliber choices in an American stock models,Varmint or carbines. My favorite is quickly becoming the full stock model. I have one in .22 LR. Holding it or shooting it, you feel like a hunter from year’s past. There something romantic about the old fashioned,classic look.( I know what it is,it is the feel and the quality of these rifles) People get very specific with the rifles they use for each and every animal they hunt. I am not there yet but the 550 line is a good start for me. When looking through CZ-USA catalog you can not but dream of all the exciting hunts you’ll have accompanied by one of their rifles.
With evening approaching we set out and drove through many parts of the property to look for hogs or signs of them being around. North-central Florida or also called “Heart of Florida” by many is gorgeous, mostly forested gently rolling land. Beautiful creeks,small lakes and magnificent oaks are sprinkled throughout the rich, fertile land.We drove, we hiked or just hung out at some spots. We did not see any hogs but evening brought the local whitetail deer out to feed. They are not big, they are small lean beautiful creatures. If you hunt for size do not go to Florida. If you hunt for interesting environment and local species you’ll have a great time. The Florida whitetail gets plenty of quality feed and water that makes their hair shine. I’ve seen pictures but to watch them gracefully move through thick growth was amazing. They are very lean to be able to deal with the heat and humidity for good part of the year. We also watched an owl doing it’s own kind of hunting, in their case feeding. Hawks flew by several times and other birds gave us the background music during the sunset. We did not see any hogs that day, but became very familiar with the layout of these hunting grounds for next time. And there will be next time, all of us had just too good of a time. We headed back to my new friends house and could not stop talking how nice of a day we all had without firing a shot, other than the range practice. That is why they call it hunting, not killing, somebody said. Could not be articulated better.
Plans were made to do it again upon my return to Florida in the fall or early winter.