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A Bird in Hand; Sow in the Brush

SwartzfagerBy George K. Swartzfager

-- I was hunting turkeys at Fisheating Creek Hunting Camp near Lake Okeechobee in Florida on Friday, March 7, 2003. It was pretty wet that year, so before daylight, I had to wade through about 200 yards of knee-deep mud and water to get to the area of the Long Cypress head where I wanted to set up.

Using a box call, I was able to coax the first bird to sound off at 6:05. That one started it off; at least seven gobblers were talking. They must have gobbled at least 100 times.

In a matter of moments, a big bird was coming in to my left. I could catch a glimpse of him once in a while through the palmettos but couldn't get a shot. He strutted to within 10 yards of me and stopped behind an oak. All he had to do was take one step and game over. He took began to step forward, and I could see his front but still no shot. He then turned around and walked behind me.

Less than 30 minutes later, another gobbler joined in. I could tell he was the "Big Boss" of the woods due to his real deep, raspy gobble -- the sound ending like a can of rocks being shaken. I couldn't even finish a call before he hammered back at me.

About 5 minutes later, he started coming in from the right. I was able to slowly turn my head and see that big white head just a gettin' it along the tree line. He started strutting, gobbling, spitting & drumming and really putting on a show. It was the BBOW (Big Boss of the Woods). I almost forgot I was supposed to shoot him.

Every time this tom passed behind a bush or tree, I moved a little until I was in a shooting position. He strutted to within 35 yards before he saw something he didn't like. Suddenly, he turned to leave. I was able to harvest him before he got out of range at 6:52. The Big Boss had an 11-inch beard, 1 1/2-inch spurs, and weighed in at 19 1/2 pounds. This was probably my most exciting hunt ever.

To top the day off, I took a 155-pound dry sow at 6:45 that night. I got on stand at 3:10 p.m. Twenty minutes later, two sows and 20 or more piglets came in. The wind was really gusting and swirling around so they were a little nervous. Wet sows or sows with piglets can't be shot, so I let these walk.

They hung around for about 10 minutes and took off. An hour later, they returned but quickly left. At 6 a.m., a large sow, another huge sow, and about eight fair-sized pigs came in. I had easy shots on both sows but passed again because the large one had piglets and the huge one was very pregnant and would probably give birth soon. The other pigs were smaller than I wanted.

A huge boar, at least 250 pounds, also came in. I was 12 feet up in a ladder stand and couldn't get a clear shot at his neck because of some small oak branches. I think the 180-grain .30-06 probably would have made a solid hit but why take a chance? I didn't want to be chasing around a wounded 250-plus-pound boar in the palmettos after dark. Not a real fun or smart thing to do. I hoped he would step forward enough for a good shot.

The boar moved back to the edge of the woods for about 5 minutes before they all wandered off. I could hear them squealing and making noise for about 15 minutes. I thought one of them might step out, so I kept watch to my left. I turned back to my right and a small pig was standing in the clearing. I got ready in case a bigger hog was with it. Soon a large sow came in headed straight toward me. I had to decide whether to take a headshot or wait to see if she would turn broadside when she turned to my left and gave me a perfect neck shot at 30 yards. The sow dropped in her tracks.

So ends another great and memorable hunt at Fisheating Creek Hunting Camp.

George K. Swartzfager
Bloomville, Ohio

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