Two things you need to know about the giant, probably 400-pound-plus hog that Michael Nichols of Brandon killed back in early December near Raymond in Hinds County.
First, it’s a sow. Yep, that’s right. That pig in that picture is not a boar hog. It’s a sow, a fact that wasn’t discovered until it was dead.
Second, the best part of the story is not the killing, but the recovery and retrieval of the big porcine hulk.
“It was a chore, now, I’m telling you,” said Nichols, a Captain with the Brandon Fire Department and owner of a landscaping company. It is his fire-fighting training that plays a role in the retrieval.
“It took us five hours and it was five tough, torturous hours. It was raining and it was miserable and cold, and you can’t image how heavy that thing was.”
Nichols’ tale begins back in June when he earned hunting privileges to a private parcel of land in the big-buck country that is western Hinds County.
“The landowner and I were looking around the property and we saw some obvious signs of rooting,” Nichols said. “There were several areas rooted and destroyed in a field near a small cattle problem. I am no hog expert by any means, and to be honest had never even seen a wild hog in Mississippi, but I knew enough to know we had a problem.”
That problem intensified in August when Nichols and friends began bush-hogging and other preparations for deer food plots.
“The ominous signs of the hog problems had made its presence known, and we immediately put up trail cams expecting to find a large herd of hogs,” Nichols said. “We were very surprised to find there was but one hog. Not just a hog, but an enormous hog. The landowner and I named it ‘The Beast.’
“The Beast was also a camera hog, too, because we had a lot of pictures of it. All of the photos were at night and we tried to kill it but we never saw it hunting. It was destroying our food plots and we had to do something and do it quickly to salvage any hopes of providing grass for deer that winter.”
The hog was still alive when deer season started. Then primitive weapon season, too. Nichols was still getting plenty of photos of the giant hog, but always at night.
“We were hunting this one afternoon during primitive weapon season in early December, and I decided to go to an adjacent field to where all the trail cam pics had come from,” he said. “As darkness started settling in, I decided to climb out of my climber a little early and head in. As I was walking out and entered the field where all the destruction was, I noticed this large dark object in front of me standing on the road leading out of the field.
“I wasn’t sure what it was but then it started rooting around and I realized I was staring face to face at 50 yards with The Beast, head on. My heart starting pounding and I knew I had to act quick.”
With a single-shot .35 Whelen rifle, Nichols knew he would have only one shot, and it better be a good one. The thought of tangling with a 400-pound boar hog, especially one that was irate after being shot, did not sit well with the hunter.
“I got the gun up, but, honestly, as late as it was and with the dark clouds and no moon, looking through the scope I couldn’t tell the head from the rump,” he said. “It took me a minute to figure that out. Finally, I got a broadside shot and I pulled the trigger. That hog took off like nothing had ever touched it. I decided not to go look for The Beast without help.”
Can’t blame Nichols for that, eh?
He went and picked up his friend and fire-fighting boss, Brandon Chief Rob Martin, who was his guest and was hunting in a nearby stand.
“I told him I had shot The Beast,” Nichols said, “but since I had never told him the nickname of the hog, in his mind he thought I had shot a big buck. As we drove back to the spot, the bottom fell out and it started pouring. I pulled the truck up where I had shot the hog and we found blood, but in the rain, it was going away fast.”
The pair was following the blood the 60 yards it lasted until it reached the tree line, when they heard something that stopped them dead in their tracks.
“It was a noise I can’t begin to describe, one of those sounds that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Nichols said. “The Chief looked at me and said ‘what was that?’ I told him that I didn’t know but I hoped that that hog was dead.
“The look on Chief’s face was priceless. It was one of those looks you might get at work when you’ve done something wrong. He had that look on his face when he said ‘are you telling me you shot the hog that you showed me in the pictures?’ I told him ‘yeah, I told you it was the beast.’”
The Chief immediately broke and ran back toward the truck. Nichols asked why, and the answer he got made him laugh:
“Don’t you think we need a gun.”
Nichols said that in the heavy rain, they had left all their firearms in the truck when they began their search. Chief Martin knew that was a bad idea.
“He came back fully loaded,” Nichols said, laughing. “He came back with our rifles and my pistol strapped on his side. He looked at me and said, ‘are you trying to get us killed.’”
By then, heavy rain had erased all signs of a blood trail, and a half hour of searching had given them both time to calm down.
“But, he was still on edge,” Nichols said of the Captain. “We could barely see in the rain so I told him we ought to head home and come back the next morning. I didn’t want to stop and I was disappointed that we had not recovered The Beast, but it was miserable.
“The Chief was more determined. He said we’d make one more circle and then we would leave. I went left and he went right, and suddenly I heard him holler. I approached him and he was drawn down on the hog with his gun. I walked up and asked Chief if it was dead. He said, ‘I hope so.’”
It was, and the two men stared at the pig and then at each other in awe. The pictures had not done it justice.
“I knew it was big but I had no idea it was that big,” Nichols said. “I walked over to its mouth to look at its tusks and was shocked so see it didn’t have any like you see on those big boars. It was a sow.”
After a couple of high 5s and handshakes, the two firemen knew it was time to drag it out and get home.
“Wrong,” said Nichols. “We each grabbed a rear leg and started to pull and it didn’t budge. I said ‘pull’ and he said ‘I am.’ We sat down in the rain, scratched our heads and tried to figure it out. The Chief suggested that if we field dressed it, it would lighten the load.
“I didn’t really want to do that because I wanted to take it and get some good pictures of it made, but we didn’t have any choice so I went about field dressing The Beast. That’s another story.”
Nichols grabbed his Gerber knife and went to work.
“I cut it from neck to back legs and removed everything, and let me tell you, I must have pulled about a mile of intestines out of that pig,” Nichols said. “I don’t know that much about how much all that stuff weighs but let me tell you it had to be a lot. There was a pile of it, not counting all the blood that poured out. I finally got it cleaned until there was nothing left in it, just like a big old cavity. Then we started trying to drag it.”
The two moved The Beast this time, but it was tough. After a few minutes, they were exhausted. Nichols said he looked back, and they had made it only 10 feet and had about 100 yards to go. They’d drag and rest and drag and rest. It took several hours, but they finally got it to a point that Nichols could fetch the truck and get close enough to get straps on it and drag it into the field.
“Then all we had to do was load it in the back of the truck and leave,” he said. “We couldn’t get it more than an inch or two off the ground. So, we went to Plan B.
“After discussing our options we found a big oak tree with a low limb and came up with the bright idea of throwing the tow strap over the limb, hooking the other end to the jog and use the truck to pull the hog into the air. Then someone could hold the strap and the other guy would back the truck under the hog, and, bam, we’d be in business. That was a good plan right up to the part when Chief was holding the strap and I backed up the truck. The only thing I backed under was the Chief, hanging in the air, with the hog laying on the ground.”
Time for Plan C.
“We did what most people do when they need help, I called my dad,” Nichols said. “I told him I was on my way to the house and needed every chain and rope he had. We arrived and Dad loaded us up with all his ropes and chain and himself. Back to the woods we went.
“We got back to the tree and started rigging up. Dad was in awe of what we were doing. Chief and I both have undergone rope rescue training with the Fire Department and we put that to good use. In a matter of minutes, we had the hog raised in the air, and had used another rope and chain combo attached to another tree to hold the hog in the air while we backed the truck under it. We cut the rope and it fell perfectly into the back of the truck.”
Nichols shot the pig at 5:15 that afternoon, and at 11:30 that night, soaking wet and chilled to the bone, he arrived home in Brandon.
“The next morning I took it to the house of a friend of mine, Danny Willoughby, and he took some pictures and we put it on scales,” Nichols said. “It was field dressed and the scales had a 300-pound limit and it quickly bottomed out that scale. Our best guess, over 400 pounds. Easy.”
It was all turned into sausage, for which the processor charged nearly $500.
“Shoot, we split that thing up five ways,” Nichols said laughing. “There was so much of it and it was so expensive, we had to. I ended up with a freezer full of sausage and a great experience.”
And, of course, a heck of a story.