Massive Florida Hog Meets Spear
Russ Chastain 11.28.17
Three men and a woman ran across the grassy field, the darkness around them complete but for the moving beams of their headlamps and spotlight. On they ran, towards the sound of barking dogs and grunting hogs. The woman carried a spear with a long wooden handle and a mean-looking black steel blade. Two of the men directed the hunt and shouted directions at the dogs, which had zeroed in on an incredibly huge hog on this moonless night. One man stopped whenever possible, steadying the tiny video camera to capture what action he could, before again sprinting to catch up with the fight.
I was that man.
The other two–the ones running the show–were Kenny Banaciski and Clint Wood. The woman was Brigid O’Donoghue, a wild gal from Wisconsin come south to sample some Florida hog hunting in the heat of the night.
Brigid is the founder and CEO of United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA), which “specializes in sending critically-ill and disabled youth and disabled veterans on FREE outdoor adventure of their dreams.” Those hunts would begin the next morning; this night it was simply woman vs. wild.
The hunt had started more quickly than expected. Brigid and I had been accompanied by my father, and we sat in my truck Ezmerelda as Kenny and Clint headed down the road in Clint’s truck to see what hogs were out and about at this time of night. Minutes after they’d left us, they called on the radio with an urgent message. They had seen a hog that had to go four hundred pounds or more!
As I drove us down the bumpy dirt road, Kenny’s voice crackled from the radio, telling us to hurry the heck up! I stomped the pedal and Ezzie surged forward, jacking up my heartbeat at the same time. We rattled down the road and soon slid to a stop next to Clint’s truck, where he and Kenny were hurriedly readying the dogs for the fight to come.
We had expected a swamp brawl, but it was starting to look as if we might catch the big porker out in the open, and we needed to get ourselves in gear to get that done. Brigid quickly donned a sweatshirt as I powered up the video camera and checked the settings. There would be no time for that in the thick of the fight.
Soon we were trotting down the dirt road into a grassy field, loping through tasselled bahia grass, fresh adrenaline filling our veins. The dogs spotted their quarry and were loosed, racing past some smaller (but still-large) hogs as they zeroed in on the immense one ahead. One hog, weighing more than two hundred pounds, stood uncertainly near the dirt road as we galloped past, earning a glance from me and an excited comment from Brigid. But the dogs beckoned us forward and there was no time to waste. The activity ahead was rapidly becoming more intense.
Suddenly I paused to aim the camera, catching a spotlight-illuminated tangle of hog and dogs on video as the canines momentarily stopped the big hog near a cluster of oaks. Then they were off again, and so was I. A few seconds later a loud squealing bawl announced that the hog was caught, its loud protests echoing across the nearby swamps and threatening to drown out even the excited snarls of the dogs as they did their jobs with gusto.
Clint dove right into the fray, grabbing the hog’s huge hind legs and lifting them off the ground, “wheelbarrowing” it. The dogs hauled the swine’s front end around as Clint held on firmly, and Brigid quickly approached under Kenny’s direction and plunged the spear deep into the big hog’s side. Kenny reached a hand out to help guide her on the next thrust, which was placed through the ribs just behind the right shoulder. She removed the spear and stepped back as the hog twisted and then fell to the ground.
The spotlight turned elsewhere for a moment, and all that was visible to me was a black, twisting, noisy mass of hog and dogs. I sensed a sudden upward movement on the dark screen of the camera, and called for a light. Kenny turned the light back onto the brawl, only to find that the big hog was back on its feet! Four dogs fought the behemoth as it swayed, and it was clear that this fight was almost over.
The hog was losing too much blood to stay standing, and the dogs pulled it down for the last time. Blood glistened on the grass between me and the big beast as Clint began calling off the dogs. The huge sow was down for the count.
After securing the canines, we hunters stood around the kill, a primitive exultation of sorts settling upon us as we panted and sweated and grinned in the night. After examining the respectable teeth on the big sow, we headed back to the trucks to drive them up and load the big hog. It took three men three tries to get the beast up onto the tailgate, but we got ‘er done.
Back at the skinning shed, a crowd gathered to see the huge animal and the hunters who had taken it down. The tremendous sow was considerably longer than Brigid is tall, and she’s not exactly a small woman. Photos and more video were taken, then Clint began the job of skinning and quartering. The pork was donated to some local folks with a need for fresh meat.
One by one, the hunters began to wind down and the adrenaline high of the hunt was lost, to be replaced by fond memories deeply etched into their minds. Each pondered his or her role in the grim and exhilarating business of taking down a huge wild hog–with dogs–at night, and each knew the memories would be good ones. I had to smile at the images that danced before my tired eyes, and then smile again when I thought of Kenny’s slogan: “Come and getcha some!” It certainly seemed appropriate that night.