If you’re looking for a good way to prepare for deer season, an archery hog hunt might the perfect substitute. Hog hunting in the South has really gained momentum in recent years, as states like Florida and Texas grapple with ways to deal with invasive feral swine. Archery hog hunting is open year-round, and it makes for some really good live-game practice, especially in the off months of spring and early summer.
I just returned from an archery hog hunt in central Florida, where I enjoyed a quick hunt at my friend Hoppy Kempfer’s Osceola Outfitters near Melbourne (about an hour from Orlando). It is a small, family-run business, but one of the best archery-hog hunting operations in North America. The land is comprised of about 25,000 acres of real Florida cypress swamps, meadows and free-range cattle ground. It’s as real as a hunt as you will find — mostly spot-and-stalk hunting for free-ranging porkers with some of the best hunting guides in the business (including Hoppy himself).
These are not the plump porkers you see at your local county fair. It’s more “Lord of the Flies” fair, with truly wild hogs literally overrunning the landscape. They are believed to be long-lost relatives of the 13 hogs brought over to the mainland (Tampa, to be exact) by Hernando de Soto in 1539. They are lean, keen and extraordinary tough to kill.
I experienced my first hog hunt in Florida in 1995 and have notched about a dozen bow-kills over the years. That hunt and those that followed have taught me and reaffirmed the unbelievable sense of smell that wild hogs possess. Stalking these forest phantoms has not only made me a better deer hunter, it has made me a much better blood trailer and student of wild game anatomy.
Admittedly, hog hunting is NOT deer hunting in that you can approach the hunt in a much more relaxed fashion. Although hogs are not blind (as some folks claim), camouflage clothing is not necessary, as the animals have very poor long-distance sight. They can see movement quite well, but that’s only a concern when you are closing in for a bow-shot.
The No. 1 key to stalking hogs is paying utmost attention to the wind. Wind direction is everything, and it takes barely one molecule…