In some 30 years of bowhunting, I’d been exposed to plenty of unique and exciting strategies chasing a wide variety of game, but this was definitely a new one: sneaking in on a group of feral hogs through 10 inches of standing water as the potbellied gray- and black-haired “tanks” rooted amidst scattered high points dotting the flooded, densely vegetated Florida swampland.
Ten minutes later, hog guide Sage Kempfer and I had inched in almost too close, as suddenly evidenced by a shaking palmetto branch—just 3 yards in front of us! What now? We held our ground—and our collective breath—as the shaking suddenly ceased. Brief flashes of the hungry hog signaled it was on the move, looping slowly around through the thick undergrowth to my right. With no signs of the hog sensing us, I looked hard for a clear shot. Two tense minutes later it was time. Crouching into a low squat that greatly improved my shooting lanes, I came to full draw as the gray blob again came into focus some 5 yards away.
At the shot all hell broke loose. The solid hit triggered a piercing squeal that spooked an unseen hog right toward me! Following on its heels was the 100-pounder I’d shot. Both veered off a mere three feet in front of me. Two seconds later some familiar staccato huffing signaled Sage to shout “Dead pig!” The double-lunged hog had covered just 10 yards and collapsed. Dead pig, indeed.
Off-Season Bowhunting Fun
Can you think of anything better than a wildly successful bowhunt undertaken in the typical “off season” stretch of late spring? How about if you were using a bunch of new bow gear that ended up performing even better than expected?
Such was the case recently in hot-as-Hades Florida, where I was among a select (and extremely fortunate) group of archery industry writers to “test-drive” the amazing new Deep Six arrow/broadhead technology—currently available from several companies including Easton, Rage, Muzzy, Flying Arrow, and more.
The goal of our eager group of eight was to wade into the lush palmetto-, mosquito-, and gator-filled swampland of central Florida and test the effectiveness of Easton’s new ultra-thin-diameter Deep Six technology arrows fitted with several different broadheads, custom designed to fit the new shafts. The results were eye-opening. Just over two days later, a total of 14 burly feral hogs had fallen to the unique cutting-edge weaponry (pun intended) that all bowhunters need to know about. This unique system offers some serious advances for increased penetration and long-range accuracy.
More of a Good Thing
Our hunt unfolded on the sprawling 25,000-acre central Florida property owned by Osceola Outfitters, land that we found literally crawling with whitetails, Osceola turkeys, alligators, and, of course, plenty of rangy feral hogs.
“We actually wanted to do this for a while; we’ve had this arrow in mind for a long time—basically since we introduced the [Easton] Axis to the market in 2004,” said Gary Cornum, Easton marketing director. “We saw the benefits of a small-diameter arrow, how this has changed the way guys hunt, and how guys wanted to take it to the next level. We feel like Deep Six is the next wave, the cutting edge of what’s going to be available to bowhunters.”
How tough are Deep Six broadheads and their thin-diameter ferrules? During our hunt not one broadhead shot at a feral hog broke at the ferrule. And in the case of the three hogs I arrowed, all three arrows not only produced pass-through shots, but in the two one-shot kills the recovered broadheads were virtually unscathed. With a simple touch-up, they could have been shot again. Amazing!
Some Eye-Opening Results
Osceola Outfitters owner Hoppy Kempfer knows a lot about the toughness of Florida hogs, and he also was impressed with our experimental hunt results. Over the past 16 years, Kempfer’s hunters have taken an average of “well over 300 hogs” per year (hunting all 12 months), with plenty of groups shooting a total of 15 hogs. Although many use bows, most use guns of some type, but very few groups approach the 14 hogs recovered versus 16 hogs shot ratio [88 percent recovered] of our group, which used only Deep Six arrows.
“That’s phenomenal actually, that’s really good considering how tough these things are to actually kill,” Kempfer said. “I have a lot of groups come in, and if they shoot 15 hogs, typically there are four to five that are unrecovered; some are mortally wounded and some maybe have survived. They don’t bleed well because of their high fat content, much like a bear, and unless you hit them perfectly you’re going to have problems. And of the two hogs that were wounded [and unrecovered during the experimental hunt], you’ve got to consider that we were hunting in water that was about 8 inches deep. We got just an amazing amount of rain before you guys arrived, and one of the main reasons we couldn’t find those hogs is we couldn’t follow a bloodtrail.
“I do know that after shooting a lot of deer, and 10 times as many hogs, that if [the equipment] will work for a hog, it will definitely work on a deer. I would recommend [the Deep Six system] to my hunters wholeheartedly.”
Consider Kempfer’s numbers closely and you find that his hog hunters average about a 70 percent recovery rate, or about 10.5 hogs recovered for every 15 shot. Compare that to our group’s 88 percent recovery rate—an 18 percent increase—and you have some very exciting news.
Looking for a great feral hog, gator, Osceola turkey, or deer hunt? Do yourself a favor and check out Hoppy Kempfer and his fine staff at Osceola Outfitters near St. Cloud, Florida—about a 1.5-hour drive from Orlando. A more skilled and professional team would be hard to find.
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