Maybe the wildest archery hunt in North America.
It was February in Central Florida and I was standing on a 15-inch steel grate 30 feet above a tannin-stained swamp. Trees smothered in Spanish moss surrounded me and a tightly woven cypress canopy obscured the sky. In the distance, I could hear boars sloshing their way through the slough. Wild boars live in some of the most inhospitable locations in the South-remote areas infested with alligators, water moccasins and mosquitoes, places where you can almost hear “Dueling Banjos” playing on the wind.
The swamp doesn’t welcome the faint-hearted. My hunt led me 12 miles due south of the nearest dirt road. (I have no idea how far the nearest blacktop was.) Professional turkey guide Dennis Floyd and I drove in on a swamp buggy, a vehicle with tires big enough to crush cars. The buggy inched through thigh-deep ruts filled with sloppy black muck that eventually gave way to murky water.
When the buggy could go no farther, we launched a canoe. A gator as long as our boat chose this moment to slide beneath the slough’s surface. I was certain we looked like floating finger food on an oddly shaped serving tray. Floyd put his hand on his 9mm-a gesture meant to calm me, I’m sure.
We continued on deeper into the swamp, gliding under a cypress bough where a water moccasin was sunning itself lazily. I put down my canoe paddle and checked my fanny pack for my lucky snakebite kit (“lucky” because I’ve never had to use it).
Soon it became too thick to continue in the canoe. We tied it off and pulled on our waders, then trudged through the dank water to our stands. Our destination was an oak hammock that rose above the high-water mark. The island provided the boars with both food and relief from the water at high tide. It was the perfect place for an ambush.
After about an hour on stand, the boars began moving. I glassed a group of seven. A black boar with an impressive set of wetters and cutters came last. I waited until he passed by my stand for the quartering-away shot.
I drew and fired. The shaft hit with a smack that sounded like a canoe paddle slapping water. The arrow penetrated behind the boar’s shoulder, exited the other side and skipped twice across the water.
The pig ran with a shrieking squeal and vanished into the swamp’s shadows, leaving a crimson trail behind.
Floyd and I waited a half hour before descending to retrieve my boar, which piled up 40 yards away. During that time I replayed the hunt in my mind, from scouting to the twang of my bowstring. I thought about how rare it is when everything comes together.