Jan 06 2015
By Clay Newcomb
Bear hunting is a great hunting venue for being able to pursue your passion in two separate seasons throughout the year – spring and fall. However, bears are sleeping right now and the sows are rearing cubs that have just been born. It’s a magical time with the vast majority of black bear cubs being born in January weighing less than one pound. Bears have a 60-day gestation period that usually begins in early November.
River and Shepherd Newcomb with 'Red' the catch dog near Fouke, Arkansas on January 4th, 2015.
That being said, few hunts are as exciting in the off-season as a southern Arkansas hog hunt. A good friend of mine, Samuel Bumgardner, is a serious hogman and has some topnotch dogs. The hog problems across the south are significant and these guys do their part every year to help. A small percentage of hog hunters have given the sport a bad name by catching and releasing feral hogs into new areas. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has passed new legislation in attempt to stop the catch-and-release issue in Arkansas. Hopefully, it will help.
The 'Hog Whisperer' himself, Samuel Bumgardner, getting ready to go after a hog.
The intent of the trip was to try to shoot a boar with my traditional bow. However, many variables exist in a bowhunt for hogs using dogs. The first variable is if you even catch a hog. Sometimes it seems like using dogs makes the hunt a gimme, however, hogs are smart, fast and tough. A recent three-day rain had the river bottoms full of standing water making for difficult trailing conditions. As well, if the dogs bust a big group of hogs they often will split up, each dog chasing a different hog. Without several hounds on its trail it’s much harder to bay.
A Bald Eagle's nest along the Red River.
The second variable should you bay a hog, is the vegetative cover. The hogs love to run in the nastiest thickets they can find and sometimes you just can’t get a shot with a bow.
Eleven-year-old, River Newcomb, with her 175-lb dry sow that she harvested with a bowie knife. A knife is a safe and effecient tool for dispatching caught hogs.
The third variable is if the hog is caught or if it’s bayed. In most situations, they turn our their catch dogs at the last minute that dive-bomb hog, latching onto its ear. If the hog is bayed in open terrain, you may not have to use the catch dogs. This situation would be perfect for the bowhunter. With a catch dog on the hog, an arrow runs the risk of hurting the moving hound.
All the guys that were on the hunt.
We hunted all day Saturday and had two good races, but no hogs. We actually saw two big boars that we never caught. One of the pigs was lost in the flooded timber, as the dogs just couldn’t work out the track. The second pig ran like the wind and was extremely difficult to bay. Samuel ended up catching the dog long after dark, still on the track of the hog.
On Sunday morning, we didn’t have long to hunt, but went to a 2,100-acre cattle farm in Miller County, Arkansas near Fouke. We didn’t see the famed Fouke Monster, but we did catch a good hog (www.foukemonster.net). I brought with me on the hunt my 11-year-old daughter, River, and my six-year-old son, Shep. When we got to the bay it was clear that a bowshot was out of the question because the catch dog was on the hog. The action is intense and quick when a hog is bayed. The longer the dogs are on the hog the better chance they’ll get hurt or the pig will get away. Samuel, knowing I couldn’t use the bow, hollered for River to “get in there with that knife”. We had brought along a 10-inch custom-made “pig sticker” bowie knife just in case this happened (www.schultzcustomknives.com). We hadn’t prepped her and she thought she was just a spectator until her name was called!
She jumped in there like a pro and made quick work of the hog while Samuel and his good buddy, Cole, secured the hog. Later she told me, “Daddy, my legs started to shake before I jumped down there with the hog!” Samuel calling her out made her season. It was a short, but fun hunt and we’ve got some great, organic pork for the rest of the winter.
Thanks to the ‘Hog Whisperer’ Samuel Bumgardner for having us down to hunt.
Now back to planning for spring bear season.