(Editor’s note: Part one of a two-part series.)
It was an icy February night, ice crystals coated the nest of cattail reeds that Tusker’s mother had prepared. She was a big, red feral sow, obviously with strong DNA ties to the domestic strain of Durock hog but with just enough “Russian” blood to demand respect from the other hogs in the sounder she ran with.
She was a sow, yes but few of the other hogs dared “mess” with her. She demanded respect and got it. But right now, she was about to become a mother and all her protective instincts had kicked into high gear.
A few days earlier, she sought out the protection of Parson’s Slough to build her birthing nest. The warmer waters of the slough heated soil close to the bank a few degrees warmer than up on higher elevations and with the above average intelligence of all wild critters, she instinctively sought out the best place available to bring her litter into the world.
Precisely 3 months, 3 weeks and three days earlier, Tusker was conceived on a full moon in November. It was one of those bright moonlit nights without a cloud in the sky; Indian Summer weather that foretold of the bone chilling cold ahead.
The ghost boar stirred from his bed a good two hours after the sun set on this night. He was far too smart to venture out to feed during daylight hours. A couple of hunters in the area had got a glimpse of the big, long tusk boar with heavy front shoulders, a thick wooly coat and long nose. Some estimated his weight at 300 pounds, others 450. It’s hard to accurately guess the weight of such a wild boar when most hunters are accustomed to calling a 200-pound boar “big.”
If the big hog was ever outsmarted and hung on the meat pole, he would probably weigh a solid 400 pounds but with his track record of being elusive, it’s a good bet he will die of old age. The big hog obviously carried a great deal of European Boar ancestral traits. He was built like a huge wedge, wide in the front end and body that tapered to the hindquarters. This fall night his highly refined nose carried the faint scent of a sow in estrus but, the scent was coming from a long way off, possibly a good mile away, carried by a chill slight north breeze.
Rather than going straight to the faint scent, his inbred intelligence coupled with years of ranging the creek and river bottoms caused him to plot a “safe” route that would eventually carry him to the tantalizing scent that was drawing him like metal shavings to a magnet.
Skirting through the thickest of cover when he came to farmhouses but never venturing far from the slough and the thick protection of the water plants growing there, the Ghost Boar drove on through the still fall evening. He trusted his nose to lead him to the tantalizing scent of the sow and once he began his journey, he never slowed his pace. A trotting hog can cover a lot of distance, and this old boar never stopped until he was within a few hundred yards of the sounder of hogs that was feeding on acorns about 50 yards from the slough.
The air currents told the tale, the sow he was seeking out was in this sounder but so were two other boars and several other sows and their piglets. His nose also detected the scent of a coyote that was slinking ahead, just downwind from the sounder. He read the yote’s intentions in the wind; he was hoping to run into the sounder and snatch up a piglet for an evening meal. The Ghost Boar didn’t really care what the coyote did, just as long as it didn’t come close to him. The wise old boar was a loner and the only time he had interest in other hogs was during breeding season. Coyotes were no threat to the Ghost Boar. He had killed several that dared to challenge him through the year and if necessary he would kill this one should it prove unwise enough to attack as he approached the sounder containing the big red sow.
The old battle scarred boar was not afraid of anything in the woods except man and through the years he had become very adept at avoiding man and his guns and traps. Closing the distance to the feeding sounder of hogs from downwind, the Ghost Boar approached quietly. His nose told him the coyote was only 50 yards ahead but running to his right. The yote was also woods wise and instinctively knew that the Ghost Boar was not a hog to fool with.
When the Ghost Boar made his move, he made it quickly. Rushing in at full speed, he knocked one of the smaller boars off his feet, sending him scampering into the night. The other boar made a feeble attempt at fighting the giant hog but one rake of the old boar’s right cutter opened an eight-inch wound on the smaller boar’s neck and he soon disappeared into the night.
In the grove of oaks on this chilly fall evening, Tusker was conceived. The old boar stayed with the receptive sow until she went out of season and then, as all dominate boars do, chose the solo life once again. Older boars are certainly not family orientated and instinctively know their chances for survival is much better on their own rather than joining a sounder of younger, more na´ve hogs.
Tusker’s mother left the sounder a full day before giving birth to Tusker and his 3 brothers and one sister and settled into the nest she had prepared. She instinctively knew to distance herself for others of her sounder until her litter of piglets was big enough to keep up with the traveling band of hogs. Tusker was the biggest of the litter and striped like most wild piglets. He was also the most curious and aggressive. When the mother hog lay down and it was time to nurse, Tusker’s aggressive nature became quite apparent. Even as a newborn, he was first to the best feeding position and would use his little snout to root the other pigs out of his way.
Tusker and the others of his litter grew fast and in a few days, were following their mother on her nightly forays to feed. Baby wild hogs quickly become fast on their feet, it seems everything in the wild enjoys and easy meal of tender young pork. It was on one of these nightly forays to feed when Tusker got his first real lesson in survival. While in route to a lone post oak tree that had dropped a plentiful acorn crop that year with his mother and siblings, Tusker heard one of his brothers emit one sharp squeal and saw a blur of red as his mother turned to face the enemy, a big 25-pound tom bobcat.
(To be continued next week)
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org.