Boar’d to Death
Hog hunting in Gilchrist County is anything but boring.
Story and photo by DAINA WOODMAN
It didn’t take long in the South to meet some true-blue, hard-hunting guys who probably know more about the outdoors than a whole troop of Boy Scouts.
Forty-five minutes west of Gainesville lies Trenton, a town that owns the only stoplight in Gilchrist County. Just across the Alachua County line, the place looks like a cross between Little House on the Prairie and Cheers. It’s almost impossible to grab a soda in a store and leave before someone knows your name.
If you’ve lived in the region for any period of time, you probably know a few people from there, and there’s a fair chance you’ve heard a story or two about hunting in these parts.
This here is hog country, where locals hunt hogs for back-woods dinner parties. Throw out the china and wine glasses, girls, and grab some camouflage and boots.
Jeremy Jones, 34, and his cousin Grady Jones, 30, grew up in the country and wouldn’t leave it even if their lives depended on it. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and nearby shopping aren’t part of their ideal lifestyles.
These guys not only like being in the woods but enjoy it like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Their freezers are full of critters you would learn about during a nature walk at summer camp — squirrels, doves, deer, turkeys, fish and pigs.
“I didn’t get to the top of the food chain by eating rabbit food,” Grady says.
These fellers began mastering their sport about seven years ago. In their time off from their labor-intensive careers — Jeremy is a licensed plumber and Grady is a technician at an electrical sub-station — they voyage off to the woods for some fun in the wild.
So these good ‘ole boys stepped up to the plate and offered to take this city girl hog-hunting, promising to serve her some fried pig by the end of the night.
It was just before dusk on one of those warmer-than-expected February evenings when I had my true introduction to hog-hunting.
We jump in the green Chevrolet, which looks like a John Deere tractor after working the farm on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The interior is no better; I’m squished between a 12-gauge shoot gun, a 1-foot long Maglite flash light and two guys singing Hank Williams at the top of their lungs. We arrive at the woods 15 minutes and three Hank songs later.
We start getting the hunting equipment ready. Grady brushes aside the gun and hands me the flashlight.
“We threw corn out to bait the hogs a week ago,” Grady says. “The hogs should be out there feeding now.”
“Umm, well, what is the flashlight for?” I ask sheepishly.
“Just in case you need it,” Grady says with a big grin.
Three hunting dogs accompany us on the expedition: Jake, a reddish-brown bulldog; Gator, a brown-and tan-spotted bulldog; and T-bone, a long haired Jack Russell Terrier.
The men had trained these dogs to smell out and chase down a hog after it is spotted. The Jack Russell is the quickest and will get to a hog first. He stops a hog by biting its testicles. The other dogs soon catch up and use a technique called “baying,” which involves circling the hog and loudly barking, prompting the hunter to the area.
“The dogs get cut up quite a bit by the hogs,” Jeremy says. “There are nights we spent sewing up the dogs.” Jeremy says a hog’s teeth can be up to 2 inches long and sharp as razor blades.
We travel down a path about 50 yards into the woods.
Jeremy suddenly yells, “There’s one!”
“There’s one what?” I yell. But at that time the guys were already out of the truck, releasing T-Bone and Jake.
A little taken back, I hear, “Get ready. We’re ‘bout to put a little red on your neck!”
“Wait and listen for them dog to bark,” one of the boys says.
By this time, it’s really dark. In the middle of the woods, after what seems like an hour, I hear something.
“Shhh, hear that?” Jeremy asks.
“She’s got one,” Grady yells.
“Yee-haw!” I yell. “What do we do now?”
Before I know it, the boys are off, rummaging in the wilderness in search of the dog. I set off right behind them with my flashlight in hand.
But, after tripping over a log and bumping into a tree, I realize I should probably stay with the truck.
“Listen for my call and release the other dogs,” Grady says while his light fades into the cold, wet darkness.
Roughly a half-hour later, I hear the distant command.
“Let’em dogs out,” Grady shouts.
Another hour later, I hear the guys trudging back though the woods to the truck.
“The dog released the hog,” Jeremy says, disappointed.
Sometimes if the hogs are too big — 250 pounds or more — the hogs “break,” which means the dogs can’t hold a hog in one place before the men get there to wrestle it, Jeremy says.
“Still it doesn’t get better than this out here in these woods,” Jeremy says.
Jeremy continues telling the story of how he, Grady, and five other guys wrestled a 379 pound hog in November. Jeremy says this was the biggest one he’d ever seen. It took all the guys to get the hog out of the woods.
“And did it stink,” Grady says.
They gutted, fried and “grubbed on” the hog the following weekend, Jeremy says.
On our hunt, after a campfire, a case of beer, and a few “the fish that got away” stories, the dog takes off again.
Grady says that one hunting technique is for a dog to get “wind,” or smell a hog while roaming through the woods. This time, Jake bays up close to the truck. The hog squeals with anger. The guys run into the woods and I follow with my flashlight.
“There he is,” Jeremy says. “See him?”
“Grab the dogs, grab the dogs,” Grady says.
Grady wrestles the pig down. With one knee on the back of the hog’s neck, he wraps a rope around one leg, makes it into a figure eight and then wraps it around the other leg. He muscles the pig like when the police hog-tie someone. Considering the sharp teeth on these hogs, the main safety strategy is to keep the face of the hog down and away from the dogs and the hunters. The dogs keep barking fiercely as Jeremy pulls them away from the hog’s face. Jeremy says that the hog laying there is only about 150 pounds.
The two guys trench the hog through the woods back to the pick-up truck and wrap the rope around the Chevy’s hitch. We all stand around the hog and talk about the hunt.
Since this is a boar, a male hog, the meat is gamey tasting and not quite fat enough to eat, Jeremy explains.
“We cut the testicles off the boar to fatten up the hog,” Grady says, “then butcher it a month later when it’s nice and fat.”
We load up and set off again, this time looking for a place to keep the boar.
They trap the boar in a pen at Grady’s house to prime it for the feast a month later. Add some fried sweet potatoes and onions seasoned with salt and you can call it a Southern-fried meal.