Hemi- by Krystal Campbell
As a huntress who runs dogs, I often see many things that just tickle me pink. One of the many joys of owning so many dogs is that they each have a unique personality and in some way or another, always find a way to make me laugh. It has taken a great amount of time to get my pack to where I want it and even though I think there’s always room for improvement, I finally feel like I have the best pack I’ve ever had.
When I was still living with my dad, I very much wanted my own dog in the pack; however I was wanting to stray away from open dogs and find a style unique to me. The only problem with that is the fact my dad is a hellbent Walker man and doesn’t take kindly to suggestion. One Christmas an old family friend, stopped by to say hello. The conversation turned to hog hunting, as almost all of them do, and our friend brought up a dog he had. He said he was part Catahoula and he wasn’t sure what he was mixed with but he needed to find a new home for him since he now had a young child and this dog was way too hyper. Of course my dad said no, but I jumped on the chance to have my own dog. Dad has softened up a bit in his old age so I was able to talk him into letting me try this dog out. A week later our friend dropped him off and I was immediately in love. He was a beautiful brindle with yellow eyes and a natural bob. He weighed about 65 pounds and had a strong, very broad chest. He was beautiful and every bit as hyper as was described. Upon finding out he was already 3 years old, my dad wanted nothing to do with him because he thought he was too old to learn anything. This dog, who I named Hemi because of his speed and power, had only ever known a backyard with a privacy fence and dad told me the chances of him making a hog dog were slim. Of course that did nothing but make me more determined to make a dog out of him.
On the hunt, he did exactly what dad expected him to: nothing. He would run back to the jeep and load up or lay down under it. After seeing that, dad demanded I get rid of him because he’d never be anything more than a feed bill. I spent a lot of alone time with Hemi trying to earn his trust and I can’t even explain it but when I looked into those big yellow eyes I knew he had what it took and something told me not to give up.
It got to the point where most hunts dad wouldn’t even let me put Hemi on the ground, he would post up on top of the jeep never getting a chance run. I had had Hemi about 8 months when dad had enough and said Hemi was no longer welcome on his place. Lucky for Hemi, I was reaching my breaking point with living there too so I packed up my things and took my one not-so-much-of-a-hog-dog with me to south Texas. It didn’t take long before I got in with the local hog hunters who were fine with me bringing a dog of my own.
My new running buddy ran Black Mouth Curs and Catahoulas, the two breeds I had always wanted my own pack to consist of. To date, this guy has one of the best packs I’ve ever seen, he would drop the tailgate and they’d be caught in 5 minutes so I was very nervous to run Hemi around him. We went most of the night without running him when my buddy finally asked if I would drop him with his dogs and sure enough, within a few minutes they were caught. Hemi wasn’t at the truck so I held onto hope that he wasn’t making a fool of me somewhere. We tore through the thick brush to find that there were three catches; his dogs had two nice boars and my Hemi had about a 70 ponder by himself! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but at the same time I knew that just because he caught his own out of a sounder that other dogs started didn’t necessarily mean he was going to be a good hog dog but my buddy was so impressed that he asked if I’d keep him on the ground. All night he hung with the pack and was in on every catch like he’d been doing it his whole life.
It occurred to me that when running with my dad’s pack Hemi would quit and come back because he couldn’t keep up with the Walkers. When he was hunting with other dogs of his caliber, he shined. He had been on enough hunts that he was familiar with the scent and I decided I just needed to get a catch dog and I could run him on my own so I did exactly that. Once I got him trash broke, Hemi had no choice but to find hogs on his own and he had Ringo there to back him if he got into a bind. I finally had a jam up dog, it just took a year to get him going but I’m so glad I never gave up on him.
I started slowly adding to my pack over the years but one thing that always remained consistent was Hemi’s ranking at the top. Although he is older, he’s still in great shape and just as fast as he’s always been; however, being as gritty as he is, he has had way too many close calls for comfort. I decided I wanted to raise a pup out of him and carry on his legacy. I bred him to one of my top Black Mouth Curs, Dixie, very eager to see what would come of the mix. There was one beautiful blue leopard colored female in the litter that Dixie kept rejecting. The little pup would often be separated from the rest and I would always put her back with them. One day I went out to the kennel and she was gone! Since the pen is lined with chicken wire, I had no hope that she got out but I looked around anyway. I never did find her so I assumed that Dixie had finished her. Two days later I was feeding everybody when I heard a whimper coming from the grass. To this day I have no idea how she got out but I knew right then she was my keeper because she was a survivor. I ended up having to bottle raise her and I named her Jezzy.
One of the proudest moments in my life came as I watched the second generation of my hog dogs get on her first hog. Jezzy is 5 months old and she can pack a punch so much that rather than starting her in a bay pen I decided I would just throw her in with the other young dogs and see what came of it.
On her first hunt, Jezzy roaded with the others for a while but when they cut to the brush she hesitated, unsure of what to do but ultimately making the right choice and ducking in after them. It wasn’t long before I heard a squeal and I couldn’t wait to see what Jezzy was doing. When I caught up to them, my two young curs had caught a little 40 pound shoat and Jezzy was circling them barking. Although I’d much rather catch a big hog, I was glad that the first one Jezzy ever saw was small. I let the dogs work it for a little while and kept an eye on her and eventually Jezzy locked on too.
The next night I brought out my 2 old dogs, Hemi and Ruger, my 2 young Black Mouths, Jezzy, and my catch dog Ringo. We hit the 1,000 acre farm field and within minutes we hit a sounder of about 40 pigs. There were hogs going everywhere, it was like kicking the top off of an ant hill. I heard 4 separate squeals and I knew each dog had caught but the problem was Jezzy was nowhere in sight. It was a stroke of luck that I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Jezzy had singled out the biggest sow of the group and was hot on her hoofs. Since the only hog she had ever seen was a little 40 pounder and she had two grown dogs with her at the time, she didn’t yet know that a hog can hurt her and seeings how she only weighs 25 pounds and the sow she was in hot pursuit of was about 175, it could easily have turned into a wreck. With all of the other dogs locked onto their own hogs, my only shot was dropping the catch dog. Ringo bailed off of the dog box and headed to Jezzy’s rescue. I thought for sure she would be out of harm’s way in no time but then the sow finally ran out of steam and spun around. Afraid that at any second she would charge Jezzy, I kept running to her trying to call her off.
Thankfully the sow was so winded from having just had piglets that she didn’t have much fight in her. Ringo came plowing in with 88 pounds of fury and put that sow on lock down. By then, Hemi had killed his pig and was on to the next. It was a bad night to carry only a six-shooter. Before I could even catch up to Jezzy and Ringo, Hemi had another catch right in front of me. Hemi is the type that has no use for a caught hog and as soon as I flipped it, he rolled out. At that point, Hemi was in earshot of Jezzy and heard her barking for help. Even though Ringo had everything under control, Hemi blazed in and grabbed on. It wasn’t until there were two dogs securing the hog that Jezzy gritted up but I wasn’t at all mad at her, she’d seen two hogs in her life and both times she stepped up to bat.
It was so cool to see the very dog that started my pack backing up his own pup on one of her first hunts. As long as I live I will never forget the sight of that little puppy chasing that big sow with her floppy ears flapping and her tongue hanging out. It must’ve been hilarious watching my expression once I realized she was by herself after a big hog and I took off limp-running after her trying to call her off and there she was without a care in the world, completely oblivious to her panicked mama chasing after her. She may not yet know why she’s supposed to chase hogs or how to find them on her own but she saw the big dogs do it and by golly she was going to do it too! I absolutely love that attitude, it reminds me so much of myself. I can’t wait to see what she becomes and watch her learn how to use her nose. She gets her fierceness and fearlessness from Hemi and I’m confident that I have a future top dog on my hands.