What was supposed to be a non-typical deer hunt quickly turned into something completely different. Non-typical because we were hunting with handguns in the pursuit of a bit more challenge than the usual shoulder-mounted deer rifle and big-end scope. Turns out for a few minutes another quarry in the woods may have been stalking us.

I was out of my tree stand walking an old river road along the Chickasawhay River in George County north of Leakesville on land owned by the family of Charlie Garretson, then of Hattiesburg and now of Ellisville. Charlie neglected to brief me on the other wild game prowling this spooky river swampland.

A noisy ruckus came beside the road off to the right in a thicket. Then a small animal with a long snout busted out of the cover. Then another and another came out until eight were standing there in the road 20 yards from me doing the stare down. Some were brown, black, mottled, spotted and rust colored. They were piglets. Cute I thought at just that moment. I dropped to one knee to get a better look on their level.

Then a low guttural moan ushered from the bushes, coming from the same cover where the small pigs had just exited. Every hair on the nape of my neck was standing at full attention. The bushes moved apart as the coal-black shadow evolved into view. All I thought at the sight of it was "wow." It was the first mega wild hog I had ever seen in the woods. It must have gone 300 pounds.

I drew my S&W 29 with the intention of sending a 240-grain jacketed soft point into the vitals of that sow hog. Funny thing was that momma sow had not yet discovered my presence, though I was knee down right in the middle of the same road where she stood.

I fixated on the sow but my peripheral vision detected the little ones moving off to my left. They walked right into my scent trail that was blowing that direction. When the two met, all heck broke loose. The piglets scattered like ants when their hill is stepped on. The hackles on that sow's back went up about the time I thumbed back the hammer on my Dirty Harry Special.

She bolted, and I blasted. Both her hide and my bullet vanished into thin air. There is no adequate way to describe how quickly all this transpired. I only wish I could have seen the look on my own face. When I relayed to whole story to Charlie, he bust out laughing. I've kept that hog encounter episode alive in my memory bank for a very long time.


Big delta hogs

Everything grows better and bigger in the Mississippi Delta. That includes cotton, soybeans, corn, other row crops, snakes and catfish. The fertile black gumbo soil also grows tremendous deer, big-bodied turkeys and hulk hogs. In fact, now there are way too many hogs roaming farmlands in the Delta.

Their destructive rooting behavior is wrecking havoc on farming land and wildlife habitat all across the Delta. Besides putting their plow snouts into the ground tearing up the soil leaving rutted trails everywhere, they can also devour crops at a fast pace. Area farmers are not the least bit happy about any of it. Thus an increase in the interest to hunt hogs in the Delta is ever expanding.

Some hunting businesses have even started booking pay hunts for hogs. If interested in going that route, give Alton Norris a call at 662-873-4400 or check their web site at www.outfitters.org/norrisoutfitters.html.

Charles Ezelle, his brother Josh and Jason Pope of the Jackson area have gotten into the Delta hog-hunting scene.

"I hunt with Charles and his brother on their place south of Rolling Fork," Pope said. "During deer season, we might just take an errant hog that strays by a deer stand or get down stalking them for a shot.

"When we actively hog hunt, we walk the roads listening for squealing up in the woods or out on CRP land, then we put the stalk on them. On these hunts, we may use a bow or 12-gauge shotgun. When deer hunting, we opt for a .270 or .308."

Wild hogs are classified as nuisance animals by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Hogs are lumped in with beaver, coyotes, fox, nutria and skunks. What a group to keep company with! The operative term, though, is nuisance, and this is what they have become on our state's public hunting lands as well.

A few years ago, I was interviewing Billy Endris, area manager of the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area north of Jackson, about deer hunting that public land. During the interview, Endris incidentally mentioned the increasing number of hogs observed on the property when deer hunters were out in the area.

He said that several of the deer hunters had also harvested hogs as sort of targets of opportunity. He pulled out a couple photos of hogs taken the past year. He also commented that several other WMAs across the state were experiencing an upsurge in hog observations. This was the first clue I had that another type of hunting opportunity was opening up across the state.

Pearl River WMA has the type of wet, swamp-like habitat that hogs like. The woods are dense and so is the underbrush in certain areas, which is ideal for hiding hogs.

Pigs are not exclusive to this WMA, so if a public land hunt for hogs is of interest contact the MDWFP to inquire about other public lands where hog hunting is an option.