Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Hog Hunt, Spirituality, Religion, and Barbecue

Last week I traveled south with my uncle and father to the Sipsey Wilderness Area where my cousin Jeremy and I had such a horrendous time on a camping trip years ago. This time we didn't go to camp; instead we went to hunt. They have special weeks and such where they allow hunting with black powder guns, archery, or regular firearms. Last week was one where you could hunt with regular guns, and you could hunt pretty much any kind of large to medium size game. The last time my father and I went it was to hunt deer last year with muzzle-loaders and we didn't see a thing. This time was a little different.

Uncle David and JD had been a time or two before to scout out a few places for us to hunt with the intention of hunting the feral hogs that tear up the forest there. They actually want you to kill as many as you can during the weeks they open things up. No bag limit on hogs, 2 deer per day, 1 fox, etc.

We each picked our spots for the day before noon and sat down to wait out the rest of the day. All of us picked a separate section. JD set up looking across a swath of wilderness that had either been hit by a tornado or a logging operation. David chose an area around a green food-plot I believe, and I chose a holler with a semi-dry stream bed running down the center that intersected with another holler. I chose a spot on the side of one of the hills leaning into the creek bed where I could still get a view of the intersection as well. I leaned up against a tree amongst the leaves and commenced waiting.

It had been a while since I just sat out in the woods observing nature and such. It seemed like the temperature was fluctuating some, but I can't be sure. It might have just been the wind picking up and dying down. It was chilly though, but warm enough that the drizzle of rain wouldn't freeze.

I borrowed one of my brother's guns: a 12 gauge single barrel shotgun with a scope and rifled barrel. Let's just say it is about the heaviest gun anyone I know has picked up; the barrel is thick to say the least. I had nine shells with me, that was really more than adequate considering the fact that I had a single shot.

Our plan was to hunt deer and/or hogs, whichever we saw. Honestly I really didn't figure I would see either one since we never seem to have much luck most of the times we go hunting. I was hopeful however that I might get a chance to add something to the new freezer I got for Christmas.

On a side note, I don't know if I have ever talked about religion or spirituality on this site at all, but in regards to what I believe or practice I will say a few words. I don't really define my religious or spiritual beliefs as falling into any one category. I don't suppose I rule anything out all together, but neither do I buy into anything much either. I would say that you could probably most closely identify my beliefs as lining up with some Native American views on the universe. Gabriel Horn, a Native American author whom I admire, has explained some basic pre-Columbian views of God and the universe in a couple of his books: Native Heart and Contemplations of the Primal Mind. He writes of "the Great Holy Mystery" of which the natives revered that quickly became anglicanized into "Great Father" or "Grand Father" and monotheized rather than representing the numinous uncertain creator(s) of the universe. More or less the "Great Holy Mystery" is what I speak to when I "pray" or talk of God, etc. I can't know what/who is up there in my opinion; it might be Jesus, Buddha, etc.; so I think the "Great Mystery" pretty much sums it up for me.

That being said, I do lean towards a more nature oriented theism. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say Pagan, but maybe... who knows. I am interested in the Celtic aspects of religion: Cernunnos and all that, but I have a hard time delving into such a polytheistic view of religion, just as I would have a hard time believing in all the Greco-Roman gods as well (probably due to my traditional American upbringing).

So I would say my spirituality reveres nature and the unknown mystery of the universe. When I hunt or walk in the forest or work the earth of my land I always pay a mental homage to God (or The Great Mystery). Sometimes I talk to or pray for the forest to send me a chance to provide for my family if I am hunting. The first deer I killed was the first time I asked/prayed to be blessed with the chance. But just as asking for something like this might give me the chance or opportunity to take a piece of nature and provide for my family, I never take the asking lightly. I respect the saying: Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. And that is one of the reasons I went into this little sidebar on religion etc.

I think the universe was illustrating that for me the other day when we went hunting and I asked for the chance to be a hunter in the primal sense and provide for my family with meat through the winter. I wasn't really thinking of any kind of quarry in particular, just deer or boar or whatever we could preserve. I knew that the area did have some feral hogs in and around it since David and JD scouted it earlier and found sign and such. So when I heard something rumbling through the leaves towards my holler I was surprised to say the least.

I had just decided to stand up and only been on my feet for a few minutes with my back to the tree scanning the hills when I heard the loud rustling. It was coming from over the hill opposite from me down towards where my holler intersected with the other creek bed. I figured it was just the wind but at the same time it seemed way too much noise for the wind alone to be making since I had already been sitting in the woods for a while and hadn't heard anything that loud yet. I scanned the ridge line and the small open patch where the two hollers intersected looking for some movement. I heard a grunt and then out of seemingly nowhere burst a pig. It was more of a hog I suppose, and was large, black, moving fast but not running... and being trailed by a train of piglets.

(This picture is from ACES and is pretty close to what I saw, except the sow was fatter and blacker)

I tried quickly to train the scope on the sow as it crossed the brushy ground. I was unused to the scope and couldn't get a bead on her before she passed on through the open patch and out of my sight. I could still hear her moving and waited to see if she'd turn and head up the creek bed of my holler. The leaves stopped rustling and then the normal sounds of the forest resumed. Only then did I really have a chance to think what I would have done if she had come up my holler. Shoot at the sow then the piglets if I was successful? The gun was too big. Would they scatter if I shot the sow or would they wait for her to keep leading them? Would the humane thing be to kill them all since they might not survive if she were gone? Would it be wrong to shoot her and/or all of them or some of them? Not to mention what if I shot and missed and she came after me and my single-shot gun, could I get another shell loaded in time? If I couldn't what would I do? Hit her with the gun? It was a monster almost as heavy as a sledgehammer. Pull my knife and attack her Bear Grylls style? (He actually tackled a feral pig on his trip to Alabama and killed it with his knife.)

I sat and waited for a while thinking about all these questions and more; then I remembered the fact that I had asked for some game to be sent to me for feeding my people. Would it be ungrateful to not try to harvest this bounty of the forest? Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. It might just not come in the form you were assuming. Was this a test to see how bad I wanted the game and trusted the forest to provide? So I mulled these things over for a few minutes and looked at the time. It was about 2pm, cold, rainy, windy, overcast, and I was keyed-up. I decided that for good or ill I would try and put my amateur tracker skills to use and examine the spoor and follow the animals. At the very least I figured I would get a hike in the woods, or a chance to glimpse these creatures from afar and appreciate the naturalness of it. At the best I might discover that the piglets weren't as young as I thought, or there were only a couple or something that would sway me one way or the other. Besides, it would give me something to do (since most who know me would probably say I am short on patience anyway).

In hindsight this was probably a bad idea for a number of reasons too plentiful to speculate about. As it turned out I found their trail and started the "stalk." Soon I ran into swaths of fallen trees and deadfalls, not to mention all the torn up ground and intersecting pig tracks. I followed a few and came to dead ends. I came upon a bluff where I thought I heard some pigs below but it turned out to be a minor waterfall... I finally circled back to the road and hiked back up to where I started and went back in to the woods where I had been before. I was more than content to find a spot and sit then so I found where I had been and moved closer the the holler intersection. I found a flat spot on the side of the hill behind two trees and set up a "sniper" spot where I could lay down with the gun laid over my satchel and have a better shot at the crossing in case anything came by. Nothing else came by. It turned dark. I hiked back to the vehicles and met up with my father and uncle.

David had seen a small deer right after we set up, but couldn't get a shot. My father didn't see anything again. JD headed back towards Cullman. David and I headed back up the road to Moulton, ate at a local barbecue spot; I believe it was called John's Barbecue. I liked their "jail-house slaw" which was hot mustard slaw, and their sauce was pretty good. David and I then headed back towards Highway 101 and on to Elgin where we split ways.

I enjoyed the day and think I had a successful time contemplating nature, life, hunting, religion, spirituality, and all that good stuff. I guess not every hunting trip has to end in a kill to be a good one. Hog season opens up again there in March and I think we are all excited about trying again. Maybe by then those piglets will be grown and scattered where I can just get a shot at their fat mom and not have to worry about spiritual or karmic repercussions. If not I guess I should take a gun with more shots and hope for a freezer full of suckling pigs AND a fat sow.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate the input and will do my best to respond quickly if need be. Thanks again for reading!

Yours Truly,
The Crowsons