Hog Hunting in Hell (aka North Carolina in July)
It was one of those grueling hot July summer days in North Carolina, where even the mosquitoes are loathe to move about. The evenings, when the sun had made its retreat to the west, offered no measurable relief from the thick, still, oppressive humidity and heat. Only fools hunt in this weather, so what does that say about me? The hogs had all gone nocturnal (who says they aren’t smart?), forcing us as hunters to go nocturnal as well.
I don’t like hunting in the summer in the south, but deadlines are deadlines, so I found myself in a familiar surrounding at Hog Heaven Outfitters, of Johnston County, North Carolina. I test year round at Hog Heaven (save for deer season), but I try to steer clear in the summer months.
This month I was testing an Ultradot 30, red dot-type sight, on one of my favorite custom revolvers, a Ruger Super Redhawk in .475 Linebaugh. The Ruger Super Redhawk was fitted with a custom-built, five-shot cylinder by Northern California gunsmith Jack Huntington of JRH Advanced Gunsmithing. The load of choice consisted of a 420 grain wide flat-nosed hardcast bullet over a stiff charge of Winchester 296 for a chronograph verified 1,350 fps at the muzzle. This load has proven extremely accurate and has delivered groups that many rifles would be envious of.
We had extensively abused this sight system in the past, and found it to be worth its weight in gold, but I had never used one at night before, and wanted to see just how well it performed. It is legal to hunt hogs in North Carolina at night – which is not the case in every state, so make sure you check the regulations before you try it.
Like any optic, it requires a light source on the animal to work optimally. Hog Heaven proprietor Milt Turnage had set up lights in strategic areas on the property just for such occasions, and was putting me in a spot where the hogs regularly root, sweetening the temptation with some rotting sweet potatoes. Never mind the smell! The shot would be around 50 yards if the hogs decided to even move in the suppressing heat.
I made my way out to a ladder stand before dusk, to settle in and start sweating. Did I mention that it was hot? It was a long night. Some time around 4:00 in the morning – it may have been earlier or later, I’m not sure as I was delirious by then – I heard the tell-tale grunting that announces the arrival of wild boar. Finally!
All of my senses came alive and were working at peak efficiency now. The group of hogs cautiously approached the light while I patiently waited and watched. A number of small hogs began rooting around the area, when finally a rather large sow caught my attention. Word of advice – if small hogs show up to eat, there are often bigger ones coming. Large hogs tend to exercise caution more than their younger counterparts and may therefore hang back until satisfied that it is safe to break cover. That’s how they get big. So be patient and don’t shoot the first animal that shows up. I watched her awhile and waited to see what else might show.
When satisfied that no other hogs were en route, I slowly yet deliberately turned my Ultradot on, pulled the hammer back, leveled the red dot on the chosen pig’s shoulder and let 420 grains of lead fly. The shot was true; the hog reared up and took off like it had seen a ghost. When the dust had settled, I slowly made my way down the ladder, flashlight in one hand, revolver on standby in the other, and found blood on the ground. That’s always a good sign. I followed the trail into the heavy briar-laden brush (why do they always head into the thickest brush?), and found her piled up about 25 yards from where I had hit her. It was a clean kill. Now the fun part, getting her out. Fortunately, she didn’t go far, so I didn’t have far to drag.
COOL THE CARCASS QUICKLY
When the weather gets this hot, it is imperative to get the animal skinned and the meat on ice as quickly as possible to avoid spoiling it, unlike hunting deer in the winter where you have the luxury of hanging the deer outside for a couple of days to age the meat. I generally don’t gut hogs unless I have a long distance to move them and can benefit from the reduction in weight, so I simply dragged her out to the road. I made the call to Milt and requested a pick up. By the time Milt showed up, the sun was starting to make its appearance and the promise of another sweltering hot day was on the horizon. We loaded her up in the bed of Milt’s truck and headed back to camp. She was pretty large and weighed in at just over 175-lbs. She would greatly enhance my barbeque.
USING A HAVALON TO SKIN THE HOG
After hanging her up, and replenishing some lost fluids, guide, Brad Easly and I set out to skin the sow. Anyone who has skinned a wild hog knows that there are few animals that will dull a knife as quickly and efficiently. Having said that, Brad, an experienced skinner, grabbed his knives (yes, plural), and I brought out my one knife, a Havalon Piranta Edge. I have two no-name cheap skinning knives of unknown origin that I have used for a very long time that hold their edge reasonably well….on deer.
Hogs are a different story. I decided to give my new Havalon a go and handed it to Brad. He looked at the bright orange handled knife with a bit of obvious skepticism, but made the decision to humor me. Silly gun writers, what do they know?
If what I had heard about these knives was true, we were on to something good. The lightweight, plastic handled skinning knife comes with a box of replaceable blades and a handy carrying case that you can affix to your belt. The logic behind this knife system is sound. The idea is to use the blade until it dulls, pop it out, and put in a new one without missing a beat. You never have to sharpen a knife again for skinning.
How many times have you had to change knives in the middle of a hog skinning job, with yet another couple of sharpened knives on standby? If you only have one knife, maybe you have to stop and sharpen it before finishing the job. That has happened to me more times than I care to remember. It becomes particularly tedious when you kill multiple hogs and have them lined up for skinning. Makes me tired just thinking about it.
The first couple of cuts proved effortless, and Brad paused to give me a look of surprise and then a grin formed on his face. He then got to work, his pace increased as did the smile on his face. He accelerated as if to prove how fast he could skin a hog with the right tools. I usually help out to speed the process up, but soon found that it wasn’t necessary and that I would only get in the way, and impede progress. The Havalon Piranta proved to be the right tool for the job. The only “problem” we ran into is that we skinned out the hog expecting to change blades and we never got to the point where it was necessary.
What’s not to like about the Havalon Piranta? I have to warn the uninitiated that this is one very sharp implement that will remove a digit with minimal effort. As with every knife, exercise extreme caution, but exercise a bit more with a Havalon knife. The guide liked it so much I gave it to him.
We got the meat on ice on time, but I had to add ice a couple of hours later. I would have to stop on the way home a couple of times to dump water and add ice. In this weather, meat is subject to spoiling in short order, so you’ve got to keep checking your ice and add as necessary.
The next few hours were spent in a coma while the day quickly heated up. At least the hunt was a success. All I can say is that I am grateful that deer and bear seasons are in the fall!
What’s your experience hog hunting? Have you used a Piranta to field dress and skin a hog? Tell us about it here.
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