The Wedding Pig -Matt Schuster


COVID aside, 2020, at least hunting-wise, was the best of times and the worst of times for me. After a feverish and nightmare filled nights, I woke up with a terrible case of vertigo and lost two elk (hunts) and a boatload of money due to it. I have but a vague memory of August and half of September and those memories I do have are of a debilitating brain-fog, constant nausea, and frustrating and worthless visits to various doctors. I figured it all out just in time for an outstanding deer season, but hogs mysteriously (Well, not really – the

club down river from us was pouring out two tons of peanuts a week and we don’t bait so there is no mystery) disappeared from my stomping grounds along the Ocmulgee River in South Georgia, and I saw hogs only twice and managed to kill only one of those. After deer season, I started chasing them on unfamiliar public ground and had a lot of fun, a few close calls, but brought home no pork, so I was excited when hog killer extraordinaire Buck Ernst called and asked if I wanted to chase some pork the last weekend of small game season on a WMA where he supposedly had a hotspot. Although he had a freezer full of pork, he badly needed a whole hog to cook for his upcoming nuptials and providing a beast for a feast was our goal. And we hunted them hard. At least we tried to, but they did not cooperate even a little bit. Like a lot of hunting stories this one started out with disappointment.


After a lengthy boat ride up a narrow river late on a calm and clear Friday

afternoon, Buck dropped me off on a sandbar to look around one side of the

water while he motored over to the other side to check it out. I had strict

instructions. We needed a pig of at least 120 pounds to feed his wedding party.

Although I put a few miles on and enjoyed walking through the thick cane along

the river, and saw some fine looking white oak ridges, there was little fresh sign

other than a little rooting in leaf piles on the high ground. Buck, who has a

reputation as a hog magnet, seemed to have his usual attraction and had some

action almost immediately. He climbed up the bank into a thicket of small trees

and river cane that was rooted up from one end to the other. Heading upstream

and upwind, the distinct smell of pigs hit his nose within a hundred yards so he


paused to listen and was soon rewarded with some soft grunts in the cane right

along the river. When he eased up and took a knee so he could see underneath

the bowering brush, the perfect hog for his BBQ, a 130 pounder, lay just fifteen

yards away nursing a couple of her progeny. All she had to do was what nursing

sows usually do when finished feeding– roll up to her belly before standing -

and he would have a perfect broadside shot. As anyone who has hunted

flatlands in the south knows, time spent close to game with noses as sensitive

as a hog’s is always limited, and Buck prayed for something to happen quickly as

the minutes ticked off. Other pigs were rooting nearby but only one offered a

shot. He was a nice black boar, but under a hundred pounds, who came by

rooting obliviously in the soft sand but if Buck shot one that small, he would

have to cut his bride Katie’s family off the wedding guest list – not a good way

to start a marriage, so he wisely passed. Finally, the little ones moved off the

sow but instead of rolling up the sow jumped straight to her feet putting her

vitals behind some arrow-deflecting brush. At the same time just a whisper of a

breeze hit Buck in the back of the head, and all the pigs disappeared off the

menu.


On Saturday, we put in twenty-plus miles between us, hopping in and out of the boat to check all over the WMA and just did not find anything where Buck says there are usually a bunch of hogs. I would be happy to tell you exactly where we were but I would hate for you to take the time, effort and expense to go all the

way back there just to be disappointed because there are no hogs there. That and the fact that Buck swore me to absolute secrecy. Anyway, late Saturday afternoon Buck, who really wanted a hog to cook looked at me and said, “Dang,

there is just nothing going on here. I wish we had some other place we could go try where we might feel like we have a prayer of finding a hog.”


“We do” was my reply, “It’s a long shot but there has been a big group of hogs

on a long skinny piece of property that I hunt. We might get lucky and catch

them there but honestly there has only been one pig killed there in the last

twenty years but that was one a guy who I took over there a month ago had

shot. But it is less than an hour away and nobody has been over there since I

was.” I said this in spite of the fact that my feet and back were killing me and I

really just wanted to go sit on the couch and swap hunting stories with Buck,

but being a big fan of marriage – at least other people’s marriages – I felt like

had to help Buck any way that I could. We decided that any spot with fresh hog

sign had to be better than where we were so we hauled our tired butts over to a

spot we call the The Barred Feather. Shaped like a spatula, the handle runs

along a creek that is thick, flood-prone, and skinny but leads to the paddle

which is covered with white oak and other mast trees but still has a lot of

understory for cover. The border on the back side is 30-acre beaver swamp and

on the west is a monster clear cut. Perfect pig habitat although hogs only

showed up in the last couple of years and finding them on the property is a hit

and miss exercise. As we walked the half-mile along the creek leading toward

the swamp, I could feel Buck behind me looking around and seeing very little pig

sign on either side of the old dim road. I breathed a sigh of relief when we hit

high leafy ground because fresh rooting was everywhere. We slowed down a bit

as we moved toward a large food plot that is also the highest point on the

property from which we could hear anything feeding in the immediate area.

We paused on the east edge of the plot, and instantly heard a soft grunt. We

simultaneously threw our hands up and pointed southwest. Ten seconds later, a

big sow followed by a couple thirty-pounders walked across the corner of the

food plot and entered the woods on the other side. We were in business!


Because the edge of the food plot is grown up, and we had the wind, we went

right at them. I was slightly in front of Buck and could just see into the edge of

the woods when Buck whispered, “Shoot that one right there.” Just to my left

was a sow laying down but I either didn’t like the angle or maybe I just thought I

could save Buck from getting married (Just kidding Katie!) if I didn’t shoot, but I

didn’t. I don’t know how many pigs were in front of me but there was a bunch

but there was also a dirt mound and a bunch of small trees, and in the poor light

I saw no shot at a BBQ hog– I will blame that on that my old-man eyes or maybe I was just trying to save Buck from ruining his life and getting married (Just kidding Katie!) but Buck needed a hog and said again, “Shoot.” I still didn’t but Buck got lucky. An even bigger sow than the one laying ten yards to my left

sensed some danger, turned toward us, and stepped right in to the open to see

what all the whispering was about. This time Buck was not going to wait for me

and as I heard an arrow drawing across a rest, I drew too. The pig killer’s arrow

smacked home and as the sow whirled mine did too and the woods became a

chaos of running pigs. Buck said, “I drilled her.” And he did.


We gave her a few minutes then eased over to find blood right at the impact

site and good blood it was. We could still hear pigs ahead of us so stood for

more than a few minutes then slowly followed steady blood, and it was pitch

black when we heard a pig doing a death moan just ahead of us. We stopped

again and the sow, a good 170 pounds, was dead from a perfect double lung

shot when we reached her. Well, Buck’s shot, in spite of slicing through both

lungs, was not perfect because unlike me, he had not instinctively avoided a

small tree on the other side of his quarry that bent to tip of a perfectly good

Bear Razorhead. My arrow took the hog as she was wheeling away and my

broadhead came through perfectly fine, thank you very much. Had Buck’s

arrow been a quarter of inch to the right, then it would have been a truly

perfect shot but I am giving him full credit anyway, after all, he will soon be

married and may never get to kill another hog.





A long night followed, and I hope it leads to long marriage because Buck got his wedding pig, just in time, and I got a good story, and even an invite to the wedding. And if Buck is as good a husband as he is a cooker of pork, he won’t need another wedding pig.

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