Some places are inextricably linked to hunting a given quarry. You travel to Alaska to hunt Dall, Wyoming for pronghorn and South Texas for whitetail. But other places, like South Florida’s Lake Okeechobee region, harbor an ark’s worth of wildlife. Here, hunters from both near and far pursue prey year-round, moving from one species to the next as regulations and time permit. While the bounty is ripe for any sportsman, sometimes your skills must be used for the greater good. In South Florida, this means hunting out one of the most insidious threats on four legs: the wild hog.
Most native species play a valuable role in the ever-rebalancing ecosystems in which they live. Alligators and bears help regulate the populations of other species, while turkeys, ducks and deer help replenish plants through their seed-dispersing habits. These natives take from the land, but they also contribute to it. They live in harmony with the other plants and animals. Most of these species withstand a reasonable annual harvest at the hands of scrupulous hunters, but it is important that such activities remain well-managed and sustainable, so your sons and daughters can become Nomads too.
But wild hogs are a different story. These invasive animals hail from half-way around the world and take from the habitat without contributing much in return. Their invasion has become a real issue for many hardworking business owners and families in the area, not to mention the balance of the ecosystem in general. Beyond providing mere sport or food for one’s own family, hunting wild hogs in South Florida can be a way to contribute to the greater good of the community.
Wild pigs of one variety or another—they’re all the same muddled species, known to biologists as Sus scrofa—have only been living in Florida for a couple hundred years. A handful were released for sport, while others escaped before finding themselves on a butcher’s block. Within a short time, they had established a thriving population. Nearly 500,000 hogs roam the region today.
The invasive hogs spread across the land, feasting on everything from acorns and agricultural crops to the eggs of several rare birds and reptiles. But it’s not just their feeding activities that harm the land. Their rooting behavior kills young plants that the hogs don’t even eat, while their demonstrative mating behaviors wreak havoc on young trees, condemning them to an early death.
Wild hogs do not create this damage out of malice. They are simply trying to survive each day and see the following sunrise. But the fact remains, they utterly destroy many habitats, and it is incumbent upon the world’s most successful apex predator to step in.
But to hunt South Florida hogs, you must first find them. Though they’re prevalent in the area, this often requires searching near and far. In the marshlands, a flat-bottomed airboat is essential to travel across the unending miles of deep water, grass and reeds.
Perched high atop the surface, shotgun at the ready, you scan the monotonous landscape while the pilot maneuvers to give you the best view possible. Your eyes sweep left to right across the horizon, looking for the faintest movement, the partial silhouette of a hog or bushes moving against the push of the breeze.
Before long, you spot one—a large female, trying to hide in a patch of brush. She flees, but the airboat quickly catches up, and the pilot swings right to give you a broadside shot. Confident in your skills, you squeeze off one slug, then the next, eventually sending four down range. It takes a well-placed shot to penetrate the pig’s thick hide, but seeing the pig stumble, you know success has been achieved.
Other hunters leverage the skills of well-trained dogs to help track down these feral beasts. This usually means trading the airboat for an all-terrain swamp buggee, which is better suited for the dogs. They’re they’ll wait, ready to leap into action. You just have to know when to let them get to work.
Once down on the ground, the dogs quickly pick up a scent. A moment later, they are running after a hog at full speed, barking and howling the whole way. Eventually you catch up, just as the dogs knew you would. They’ve got the hog cornered, and are ready for your next move. At this point, the catch dog is released to help subdue the quarry. Unlike the hounds that are used to find, track and bay hogs, a catch hound has a different job: He must grab hold of the beast, refuse to let go and avoid getting gored in the process. From this point, he’ll wait as long as need be for you to come and finish the job.
Despite the damage they cause across wide swaths of the country, hogs do not cripple every habitat and region like they do in Lake Okeechobee. Some of these places have the resources to spare, and others have the predators to keep the hog’s population in check. Accordingly, wild hogs can actually be relocated to such areas, where they provide food for predators and people alike. This means that hog hunting does not always end in a kill. Instead, the hog may be simply restrained—usually with the help of the dogs. From there, the pig can be placed in an appropriate cage and transported safely to far away lands. In this conservationist method, hunters can train their skills for when they need to collect food for their families while benefiting the environment and preserving the life of the animal that they may not need.
And while some would find this disappointing, a Nomad must disagree. For when you are a Nomad, you do not hunt for the kill. You hunt for what is needed. You hunt because you love the land and your place in it.
South Florida is well known for being hot and wet. Especially if you’re venturing into the marshes, you’ll want to ensure you’re equipped to take on these hogs in the habitat where they thrive. Gear up with a full range of performance hunting clothing from Nomad Outdoor, featuring water resistance, scent protection, moisture-wicking and cooling properties.