Change In Latitude Changes AttitudeBy Ted Peck - January 26, 2016
The sun had just set in the frigid upper Midwest.The only activity on this food plot was a lone doe, which was rapidly fading from view as another mid-winter night silently reclaimed the landscape.
I was quietly cursing myself for not wearing a couple more layers of clothes. A Polarfleece vest and flannel shirt weren't quite enough to cut the evening chill. But I was on a mission, determined to stick it out.
The doe suddenly bolted into the pines, quickly disappearing into the darkness. For a few minutes all was silent. Suddenly, a primal grunting, snorting cadence echoed through the woods. Hair stood up on the back of my neck.
I shouldered the .308, hoping the scope would reveal the source of this malevolent locomotive chugging out there in the growing gloom. I was thankful for the rifle and a safe perch a dozen feet off the ground.
The chill was gone, stifled by adrenaline. Honestly the temperature wasn't cold at all. It was in the single digits back home-but tickling 60 degrees in that tripod stand near the Appalachicola River in Florida's panhandle.
El Nino weather has cursed Florida's northern Gulf of Mexico with frequent "red tides" making fishing generally tough. But there's much to be said about welcoming a winter sunset in the great outdoors wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. Buffet is on target. A change in latitude can have a wonderful impact on your attitude.
There is no closed season on wild hogs in Florida. You don't even need a hunting license to go after them on private lands and they can be hunted 24/7 with essentially any weapon you choose.
Local folks all say guide Paul Stokes is the Panhandle's wild pig guru, specializing in night hunts with night vision scoped AR platforms. Any hunter who tells you chasing hogs in the jungle at night with a thermal-scoped AR rifle isn't an escapade they would like to experience is a boar-faced liar.
Stokes' Muddy River Outfitters gets $400 per gun for a midnight romp in the Florida pines. Now that the hogs are hangin' and my butt is secure in a cottage within shotgun range of the Gulf of Mexico I can tell you the experience was worth that much and more -truly the hunt of a lifetime.
After more than a half-century of hunting hair- raising experiences are rare. The fact that there's not much hair to raise anymore has nothing to do with it.
With that alpha hog out there snorting in the darkness, I was thankful Stokes was tucked in below the tripod with his thermal-scoped AR.
The gun I was using on our first "sit" didn't have night optics. With considerable squinting through the scope I could finally make out the shapes of a half dozen hogs foraging in the dark and sent a Hornady "Full Boar" .308 round at the biggest one.
Stokes said she was a big sow at 130 lbs as we eased across the food plot to behold this prize. The shot hit her right in the heart. It felt great to hit a black pig at 100 plus yards in near total darkness.
But the fun was just beginning! We drove to a different food plot in the pines where Stokes' $8500 thermal scope revealed a half dozen hogs foraging in the night.
This time Stokes' handed me an AR with a night vision scope and a shooting sticks.
We light-footed up an old logging road to the edge of the field. Hogs could be heard snorting and grunting somewhere out there in the blackness.
We put our ARs on the shooting sticks and panned the field, looking through the eerie green light of the optics. The hogs were clearly visible about 80 yards away.
Stokes whispered he would count down from three and we would shoot simultaneously at the silent count of zero. I was to start on the right; he would shoot on the left.
The shooting sticks made it easy to put the red glowing crosshairs of the night vision scope right behind the shoulders of a big hog.
Muzzles spit fire into the night. Two more hogs down! It was like playing a virtual reality video game-with recoil.
Pulled pork is a long-time southern favorite. Wild hog tenderloin is on the menu tonight, after my wife and I savor another sunset across the Florida gulf. Bass fishing is on the agenda in a couple of days.
Too soon back to the land of snow and cheese. Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes-nothing remains quite the same.