Band of Brothers - from June / July 2019

The morning started out like most Saturdays do during the crisp, cool, frosty days of fall in central Missouri. After a long, hard, blue collar forty hour work week, Justin and Eric are right on time pulling into the driveway. The sun has yet had a chance to crest over the rolling hills of the Ozarks. The truck stops and Eric exits with his typical “Whats up shorty?” referring to my short statute, while Justin is rummaging through his gear trying to figure out what he left at the house. The dogs are already raising cain from their kennels upon their arrival, they are well aware what’s about to happen this morning. Their excitement and impatience is displayed through sharp barks and howls, similar to a pack of coyotes during a midnight serenade. After the collars are in place and cut vests strapped snug to bodies, we load the crew of misfits and culls into their respected boxes and head out into the night. The sun is beginning its ascend over the horizon en route to a few promising places we have always had success at. Upon arriving Justin takes one route and Eric on another. We all split up looking for fresh sign the tumultuous tillers had made during the night. It doesn’t take long for Eric to get on the 2-way radio with excitement in his voice. “Here we go boys, found some right here.” Justin and I quickly follow to his location through our Garmin Astros. Once we get there we take a short walk around the area trying to decipher which direction the sounder may have taken in an effort to cast the dogs. Justin unsnaps the bungee holding the door to Ole Jake, the 6 year old Black Mouth Cur from the Downey gang in Warsaw. If there is a pig to be found, Jake will find it. Without hesitation he leaps from the truck with his black, wet, noise immediately to the ground in search of our prey. It doesn’t take Jake long to zig zag through the freshly tumbled leaves and soil to stop dead in his tracks, raise his head taking in the wind and storm down the ridge out of sight. “Oh hell guys, you know what that means” Justin says I can already begin to feel my heart rate increase. We are all watching Jakes every move through our GPS trackers as he moves briskly down the point towards the bottom of the draw. I throw the medi-pack over my shoulders not just for the first aid of the dogs but even ourselves. As I check that my side arm has one in the chamber and the safety “on,” it doesn’t take long for the steep hillsides of Missouri’s beautiful White Oaks to erupt with the echoes of a stand-off. The distinct deep bellows from Jake gets everyone excited, even the other dogs still in the truck. There is just something about a hunting hounds call to action that can’t be substituted by any vice out there. Kain and Penny, the catch team duo are chopping at the bit to get turned out. Kain is a 4 year old Bully mix while Penny is 5 year old Mastador (Mastiff/Lab) They begin to whine and cry because they too know what’s in store for them now when they hear the bay. After a short discussion we decide just to cut the catch dogs loose from the truck. I know this isn’t always a great idea but being only a few hundred yards from the action Kain and Pennys door bursts open. Like two Gladiators dressed to fight to the death they dive from the truck, equipped with their cut gear, they bolt though the forest like a deer running from a hunter. If they reach Jake before the pig breaks its game over for the swine. Its almost like they have gotten to where they can orchestrate the catch together. Justin, Eric and I are right behind them, dodging limbs and vines trying to keep our footing as we head down the sloping hillside that could easily roll your ankle. We are still watching our Garmins as Kain and Penny get closer and closer, anticipating a squeal indicating a caught hog. Nothing happens. That can only mean one thing. Big Boar! It just seems for us in the past, the bigger the boar the less they scream. As we hit the bottom of the hollow we start jogging in the direction of the dogs. Looking ahead through the maze of trees, Kains white body can be seen doing somersaults above the underbrush. “Holy S***” Justin yells Kain and Penny were being tossed around like two rags dolls, but their jaws never came unclenched. Like a bull trying to buck off a cowboy during a PBR final the lack of fear and determination in these two “mutts” is enough to make any houndsman proud. Eric is one of the most fearless people I know and he jumps right in grabbing the muddy beast by the rear legs. Like a 200lb wheel barrow withan engine he struggles to keep control until Justin can make a nice clean cut right behind the shoulder. Eric and the dogs continue to hold on while the boar slowly starts to lose energy and eventually collapses. The chase is over. The dogs prevailed once again. We begin to high five one another while trying to catch our breath. There is a lot of adrenaline pumping through our veins at this moment as we sit back and start retelling the story from our own point of view. We tie the team up to small saplings with leads, start giving them praise and inspect them for any injuries. Thankfully nothing serious on this pig. Now the fun starts. Trying to figure out how to get this bruiser back to the truck. This is defiantly one worthy of a scale and European mount. The pig ended up being 262 pounds, biggest to date, and his skull is resting on an old whiskey barrel in my shop where we usually gather on weekends in the evenings to toss back a few cold ones. We still continue to relive that day occasionally. That pig was a trophy no doubt, but hunting hogs with dogs is a lot more than stabbing big boars with cutters. Its about comradery. I can’t begin to tell how many great times have been made while out in the field running these dogs. How many times we have laughed so hard, or how many “dumb stories” Justin, Eric and myself have on one another. Who the hell would want to sit in a tree stand anymore? Hound hunting is a family sport, everyone can get involved, even the wife and kids. In the hunting world it is without a doubt the best type of hunting possible for unlimited reasons. It’s sad the state of Missouri has already banned it from Conservation property and currently working on Federal Land. The government can be tyrants at times but I guess until then we will hunt as often as possible until we have to become rebels, because it’s now in our blood. And that my friends is something you can’t drain. – Antonin Bohac Heartland Hoggers