A Dark, COLD Evening In The Woods

NAH Staff Writer Luke Clayton hunts boar during the Polar Vortex

I think many of you might recall me mentioning that I have a little hunter’s cabin on my property, nestled in the oaks behind our house. This small cabin serves as a headquarters or “camp” for my close to home hunting adventures as well as a quiet spot to write. When getting ready to hunt the little piece of property I have leased a mile from the house, I head out to the cabin, suit up in camp, grab my hunting tool for the day, jump on my converted golf cart which serves as my off road “buggy” and head out. I’ve spend a good bit of time in the woods this past week. The weather was frosty, perfect for hog hunting. It’s the kind of weather when a hunter doesn’t have to worry about keep the meat cold or butchering it immediately.

My trail cameras evidenced hogs moving a bit earlier than normal each night. I keep a spot back in the woods baited with corn and native pecans that are not of table fare quality. The hogs love them and could care less if some of them are dried out or have bad spots.

After monitoring the camera a couple of days, I noted the hogs were showing up anywhere from 7:30 pm until 9. Finally hogs that were keeping my kind of hours!

You will remember the cold blast of Arctic air that blew in last Saturday, just about at sunset. I dressed warmly late that afternoon, loaded my Mossberg .223  bolt action topped with a Photon XT night vision scope, my hunting pack with all the tools necessary to field dress game, an electric lantern and made the 15 minute drive to my hunting area. The weatherman’s report assured me the area was about to experience a blast of very cold air and sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph.  I felt confident that If I could stay in my blind a few hours, the hogs would surely be up and moving. I needed some fresh wild pork for sausage, ham and smoked pulled pork. I was on a quest. I had a check list of what to bring along on the hunt and checked it three times! 

There is a feeling of exhilaration when spending time deep in the woods in total darkness, a good mile from the nearest human, especially when hunt is timed to coincide with a blue northern whistling in right out of the prairies of Canada. I was hunting from my Snap Lock Hunting Blind that I assembled at this spot about 3 years ago. It was good to have four walls around me and and a roof over my head. I closed all the windows except the one in the front, which gave me a good view of the baited area about 25 yards in front of the blind. Hunting here is an “up close and personal” experience. The farthest shot is about 45 yards. 

Without night vision, this hunt would obviously be impossible. I literally could not see my hand held up in front of my face but I COULD see everything with the Photon XT mounted atop my rifle. About every five minutes, I would set the rifle/scope up in the window and scan the woods. Darkness fell about 6 pm and from then on, the Photon was worth its weight in gold! It’s usually possible to hear hogs approaching through the brush and leaves but on this night, the steady wind and limbs of close by trees was the only sound that fell on my ears way, way back in the woods.

At precisely 7:35, it was time to once again scan the woods via my Photon. I set the little rifle in the front window of the blind and from left to right, began looking the woods over closely. Right in the middle of my view, about 40 yards out suddenly walked a jet black boar that I later learned weighed about 150 pounds. Some boars this size can be rank in flavor and you never know until you get him on the ground but I was ready to take my chances. I flipped the safety off the Mossberg MVP Patrol rifle and centered the red crosshairs on the boar’s neck, about 6 inches behind his head.

Some, probably most hog hunters would consider the .223 to be too light for hunting hogs and in many circumstances they would be right. But half the fun of hunting hogs to me is watching them. I hunt heavy cover and bait them in close. Where I hunt, it’s impossible to shoot very far so I have the opportunity to precisely place my shots. I also shoot Hornady .223 Full Boar ammo which I have found to be absolutely lethal.

At the report of the rifle, the boar dropped, kicked a couple of times and I had my pork on the ground.

At this point I was thankful for my check list. I made the 300 yard hike back to my ATV and packed in an electric lantern and my field dressing knife and saw. It took maybe ten minutes to field dress the hog. Now, I was presented with the challenge of getting the meat out. Had the porker been smaller, I had a drag rope and could have tied a loop on his snout and skidded him out but, this boar was a bit too big for me to drag. I resorted to plan B. I was going to leave him in the woods and come back at in the morning and quarter the meat and pack it out! We have an over abundance of coyotes in my area and they have an uncanny way of locating and EATING field dressed hogs left in the woods. I marked a circle around the hog with “human scent” and set the electric lantern on the boar and turned it on. This should deter any coyote that picked up on the scent of fresh meat.

The next morning, I found my hog perfectly intact and went to work quartering up the meat. Back at the cabin, I transformed the boar into what would become some tasty pork. I’ll share some wild pork cooking tips in next week’s column!

Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.



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