Hog Rally - by Stuart Joslin
From the February 2016 issue of Tuskers magazine
It started like any other day, well any other day that you get to go hunting. Get up early, get the gear together, load the dogs, the buggy and decide where to go. It wasn't supposed to get too warm so it should be a nice day to bay a pig. I was going by myself, not expecting alot but if nothing else I could exercize the dogs a lil.
I arrived at the spot I was hunting that day, it's a mix of creek bottom surrounded by mountains. Having everything from blackberry to pine thickets along with open hardwoods and pine stands. I unloaded a couple of dogs and they did what all hog dogs do, after being in the pen and not hunting for a couple weeks. They took off in a dead run for about 30 yards and then stopped to take a short break. After taking care of business they continued on up the South side of the creek. Sometimes there are a few hogs laying up here and sometimes they just pass through so there's always a chance of baying one here. Unfortunately today they weren't doing either one so me and the dogs continued on up the creek to the crossing and headed toward the hills that layed North of the Creek.
Going around the end of the hill I hit a dozed out fencerow going the direction I wanted to go. I was just enjoying being outside in the good weather and the dogs sure seemed like they were too. We had went a few hundred yards up the fencerow when we came across a red clay waller that some hogs had recently vacated. I turned out a couple more dogs and they all took off on the tracks. Luckily they decided to go the direction that the mud splatters showed the hogs to have went. I don't know about other folks dogflesh but sometimes mine go the wrong way when the tracks are pretty fresh.
My old blue cat gyp Jessi and the half walker Luceus were opening about every 5-6th step, so I knew they had to be pretty close. They had went about 300 yards when I heard Luceus bawl a locate and the others fell bayed. I could tell it was a pretty good bunch of hogs from all the woofing and popping that was going on. I eased up close enough to see what was going on and watched as the dogs were baying and circling about 8 sows, that were all facing out with 6 or 7 shoats in the middle. I could tell that the dogs had found them in their bed and that they seemed to be pretty settled in. I decided to go back to the buggy and turn out some pups so they could get a lil workout. Just as I turned to go one of the shoats couldn't stand it and busted out. The lil red Hoot dog was on that side and she turned him at about 75 yards out and made him decide that the middle was alot safer place to be. When she had put him back she went back to circling and baying.
I went back to the buggy and turned out the pups. A 7 month old blue cat pup named Belle and a bluetick named Caney. They went to the bay and barked a lil then looked at me, as to ask if it was okay. Deciding it was, they got closer and made some noise. One of the bigger sows ran out on Jessi's side and they made a short circle and the sow went back where she belonged.
When I was growing up in Southeast Oklahoma, just about everybody ran some hogs in the mountains. These were "wild hogs," ones that we had turned loose to fatten on nature's best hog fattener, acorns and hickory (hicker) nuts. It wasn't uncommon to be able to bunch these hogs and drive them to a pen to be worked. With the introduction of russian and european blooded hogs and more folks with running catch dogs or just straight catch dogs, it has become hard if not impossible to do this. We called this bunching of hogs a rally which was usually sows, shoats and barrs that we had turned back to fatten.
This was the first hog rally I had seen in several years. I'm not talking about 2-3 hogs bayed, I mean a bunch of big hogs and shoats, with all the big hogs circled facing out and the shoats protected in the middle. With all the big hogs a woofing and popping their jaws. It sure was pretty and I set back and enjoyed a sight that brought back fond memories. Memories of my Dad, my old bay horse and the mountains I rode as a young man.
This herd of hogs was in a spot were I'm not required to kill every hog bayed so I just enjoyed it for as long as I could. I had started catching dogs so I could leave this lil sounder where they were, hopefully to find em again to let the pups work, when all of a sudden a sow decided to bust out. Unfortunately for her, she came out on the side by Luceus and he had decided he wanted a pork snack. He caught her at about 20 yards. The other dogs couldn't stand it and had come to see what was going on. This left a hole on one side and the sows decided they had stayed long enough and started their lil pig trot escape. I tied the sow Luceous had caught, leashed him and Jessi to a tree. Hollered at Hoot and Kat getting them off and back to me and leashed them up too. I didn't want the hogs getting chased out of this lil out-of-the-way spot. So I left them to go about their pig business.
Like I said, it had been a few years since I've had the opportunity to see a good hog rally, it just doesn't happen very often anymore. There are probably some hog hunters out there who have NEVER seen one. If you ever do have the chance to see one it will be a sight you won't soon forget. The big hogs all circled up, facing out, woofing and popping their jaws. The shoats and little pigs in the middle hiding. The dogs circling in opposite directions making the woods ring with the sounds of their, here they are, look at me gettin' em barks. There is nothing like it and I highly recommend it.
Some might make fun of me for just catching one old sow. Others would have turned the catch dogs loose at first bay bark and never got sight of the rally. Several would have continued after the rest of the herd catching as many as possible. Me, I was satisfied with watching my dogs work on a pretty day. I've got past the need to catch every hog in the woods. I now enjoy it more for the work of the dogs. I tend to take it alot easier than I once did. I have more of a tendency now to say "Dogs first and hogs are a bonus".
Yall get out in the woods and enjoy hog hunting however you like to do it. There's just something about being outside with a hogdog, breathing that clean air that's good for your soul.