When he was a younger man, Danny SantAngelo would follow his hounds anywhere they pursued a wild Everglades hog. These days, SantAngelo, who runs Okeechobee Outfitters in Lorida, Florida, waits for company before he wades into the fracas of slashing tusks and gnashing canines.
“High school kids go with their dogs and some string, catch up the hog, tie it and remove it from the property,” says SantAngelo. “As a first-timer, or if you’re young, that’s exciting. To take anybody who has hunted all his life, and you go in with a knife, and the dogs and hog are slinging each other around and someone’s yelling to cut the hog’s throat with the knife–it can get pretty hairy. You never know whose blood is going to get spilled.”
If you like your pork with a little less excitement, but with an extra helping of availability, consider these wild-hog destinations.
Lake Okeechobee, in south Florida, is famous for largemouth bass fishing, but hog hunters can get their fill in the vast Everglades marshlands. Danny SantAngelo has been hunting in the area for more than 40 years, and can put hunters on big boars in exciting stalks on the 2,000-acre Brady Ranch. Hunts are conducted from tree stands, swamp buggies or on foot, and include the option of using a knife and hounds in close-quarters action. (okeechobee outfitters.com)
Tejon Ranch, California
Weekends are for hunting hogs at the sprawling 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch in central California, where management strategies include persistent and focused efforts to reduce the population. Non-guided hunts are offered from December through June. ATVs are not permitted, but hunters can use vehicles on the Tejon’s extensive road system to spot and stalk. Private hunts for smaller groups and archery hunts also are available. Hunters can use Tejon’s campsites or nearby lodging off I-5. (hunttejon.com)
Nail Ranch, Texas
One of my best hog hunts was on the Nail Ranch in Albany, Texas, where we saw only a portion of the 30,000 acres of ruggedly beautiful terrain. After being awakened by about 80 gobblers roosted above the bunkhouse, we hiked after big pigs. Binoculars are vital to pick apart the cactus-covered washes and mesquite. My hunt ended with a mad boar scrambling from one scrubby thicket to another before I managed to anchor the 200-pounder with a shotgun slug. (nailranch.com)
Alabama Public Land
Southern Alabama is dotted with great hog habitat, and several state Wildlife Management Areas offer public access for do-it-yourself hunts. One of the best is Lowndes WMA, thousands of acres of hardwood bottoms located between Montgomery and Selma and bordered by the Alabama River. Hunters may be within 25 yards of hogs in the palmetto and never see them until they flush. Also consider the Mobile-Tensaw Delta-Holland WMA and Upper Delta WMA north of Mobile. (outdooralabama.com)
South Carolina Plantation
Bostick Plantation, in South Carolina, has been providing hunters the chance to pursue descendants of Russian boars since 1977. Palmetto swamps hide 400-pounders. The plantation has 10,000 acres and numerous stands for spotting, or if you’re inclined to get in tighter, hounds may be used to pursue a snapping, snarling, bristle-backed European boar. (bostick-plantation.com)
View page 2 to see our Wild Boar recipe provided by Chef David Bush, executive chef at St. Francis (California) Winery & Vineyards.
RECIPE: Wild Boar With Dried Cherries
By Chef David Bush, executive chef at St. Francis (California) Winery & Vineyards (Serves 4)
Wild boar are abundant in the hills of Sonoma wine country. I like this recipe for its simplicity, and the bold flavors of the balsamic vinegar and tart cherries help to mellow out the strong flavors of older boars. This dish pairs perfectly with a 2005 St. Francis Sonoma County Merlot.
1 8-bone rack of wild hog, cut into 4 pieces, each with 2 bones
Salt and black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1⁄2 cup chicken broth
1⁄2 cup tart dried cherries
3⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Preheat a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat.
3. Season both sides of the cut racks with salt and black pepper.
4. Add the olive oil to the preheated saute pan. Place the racks in the hot oil and sear one side until dark and caramelized. Flip the racks over and place the pan with the racks in the preheated oven. Cook the racks for 8-10 minutes for medium, or until desired doneness. Remove the pan from the oven and place the racks on a serving platter to rest.
5. Return the saute pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the chicken broth and dried cherries to the pan and reduce by half. Add the balsamic
vinegar and the honey to the reduced chicken broth and reduce by half again. Finish the sauce by adding the butter while sauce is boiling and whisking until the butter is fully incorporated.
6. Spoon the sauce with cherries over the racks and serve immediately.