Big Hogs In The Carolina Backwoods

If taking a trophy wild pig is on your hunting agenda, take note of these stories of humongous hogs. (January 2007)

Photo by Polly Dean

It is only natural that a hog hunter gets excited when he has a wild boar in his sights. Wild hogs are dangerous game, and the degree of excitement is often proportional to the size of the hog.

The sight of a 150-pound porker gets you keyed up and focused on making a good shot. An encounter with a 350-pound wild hog can make you lose your cool. If you happen to have a 400- or even a 500-pound boar hog standing in front of you with gleaming white 4-inch tusks sticking out the sides of his snout, it may rattle your nerves to the point that you might wish you had decided to go fishing.

Now try to imagine the effect that standing up close and personal to a monster wild hog that stands waist high, with 6-inch tusks, and weighing in the range of 800 to 1,000 pounds has on a hunter. That's exactly what happened to Terry Anderson, a Pickens County hog hunter who ended up taking a hog that honestly defies all logic and description.

Here's the story. Anderson, who hunts wild hogs all over the upstate from the Musterground area in the mountains to "down around Calhoun Falls," makes at least one trip up to a Tennessee hunting reserve each year to take a crack at the Volunteer State's wild hogs. "I had been wanting for several years to kill a real trophy hog," Anderson said. "I had hunted this place before and we knew there was a big hog in there. The guys that I was hunting with had seen him and figured him to be around 600 pounds."

"We were hunting with dogs and when we got to the place where we were going to hunt, there were seven hogs in there that we could see. Then we looked up on the ridge above those hogs and there were two more real big hogs standing around up there. I went up on the ridge to see if I could get a shot at one of those big hogs."

It was at that point that Anderson realized that this hog was much bigger than anything he had ever seen. Hunting with a short 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun loaded with slugs, Anderson wondered if he was under-gunned.

"I went from tree to tree to line up a shot," Anderson said. "He was out about 45 to 50 yards and I took the shot. The hog went down and floundered around on the ground, and then he got up. I shot him again and he went down a second time, and then he got up again. I shot again and he went down for a third time. This time he started bleeding pretty good out of the snout, so I knew he was done for."

After having the hog mounted by a taxidermist, he let his hunting buddy, John Garner, who happens to own a hunting and fishing store in the town of Liberty in Pickens County, hang the hog head on the wall for all to see. Garner said that since the monster hog, estimated to weigh 900 pounds, has been on the wall, "About 3,000 people have come by to see it. Surprisingly, most of them have been non-hunters," Garner said.

The mega-hog has created quite a stir around Pickens County, but not as much as "Hogzilla," the now-famous monster hog killed in Alapaha, Georgia, in 2004.

That behemoth wild boar, rumored to weigh half a ton, has become an Internet sensation and even drew the attention of the folks at National Geographic magazine, who came down after the hog had been buried for six weeks and exhumed the body. Their post-mortem measurements indicate that "Hogzilla," initially estimated to weigh 1,000 pounds, probably weighed somewhere closer to 800 pounds, still a wild boar of unheard of proportions. That is until Terry Anderson brought home his own version of "Hogzilla."

So, we know there are super-sized trophy hogs in Tennessee and Georgia, but how about South Carolina? Do we have any of these big-bodied mega-hogs in the Carolina woods, swamps and rills? The answer is, yes, we definitely have some big hogs and a few very big, whopper-sized hogs.

Charles Ruth, the DNR's deer and turkey biologist, and also the de facto wild hog biologist, said he regularly hears stories of huge hogs taken in the South Carolina woods and wild places.

"Hogs in the 300-pound range are relatively common," Ruth said. "However, hogs in the 500-pound range are not that common, but accounts of these mega-hogs in the 500-pound range do not surprise me when you hear them anecdotally."

One story that has particularly impressed Ruth is that of Thomas Foy, a Blythewood bowhunter, who killed a mega-hog several years ago in the Wateree Swamp near Sumter. Foy recounts the story in chilling detail. He and a hunting buddy from Florence decided to squeeze in an evening bowhunt for hogs at their hunt club in Wedgefield in Sumter County.

"We decided to hunt this little place on the other side of an oxbow and had to take a boat to get in there. There are only two stands in there, and I took one and my friend took the other one. About 30 minutes before dark, seven smallish hogs came in, but I didn't want to shoot any of them. Then, in the last few minutes before dark, I heard something like I had never heard before. It was sort of like a deep, dark grunting sound, and I was thinking, What the heck is that? When it got closer, I starting thinking that maybe it was a bear. Bears sometimes come up the Wateree River. Who knows, it could happen. I got my pistol out and laid it on the seat of the ladder stand just in case.

"When it finally showed up, it's fair to say that I was in shock. It was the biggest hog I had ever seen. It had to weigh 500 pounds, and I really wasn't sure I wanted to shoot a big hog like that with a bow. However, when he presented a shot, I drew back the bow. I decided not to shoot, and then it occurred to me that I would probably never get a chance at a hog that big again, so I went ahead and took the shot. It was almost dark now, but I knew I had hit him because I could hear the arrow tinkling on trees as he ran through the nearly black swamp."

Foy got down out of the stand and found blood sign right away. He decided to go get his buddy to help track the big hog through the swamp. He turned on his flashlight and discovered a big cottonmouth lying right beside him, which only served to kick his pulse rate up another notch -- as if he needed that. He quickly dispatched the snake with his handgun and met up with his friend.

They tracked the hog some 150 yards into the thick woods, jumping other hogs all along the way. They finally got to a point in the thick reeds where they could hear the hog breathing. They parted the reeds and saw the huge hog lying on the ground, down but not out.

After quickly

dispatching the big boar, they began to contemplate the prospects for getting the hog out of the woods in the middle of the night.

"I measured him with my boots and he was right at 7 feet long," Foy said. "We decided to cut a tree and carry him out on a pole like the Indians used to do. We cut a tree as big around as your arm and strapped the hog to the pole. We lifted him up and the pole snapped like a twig."

Foy realized they couldn't drag the quarter-ton hog out of the woods and they couldn't get any heavy equipment in there because of the oxbow creek. Therefore, he decided to just cut the head off the huge beast so that he could at least get a taxidermy mount. To make a long story short, after picking their way through the dark woods -- after no less than three flashlights had failed them -- dragging the hog head all the way, they finally got home thoroughly exhausted at 5:30 a.m. After all that, the taxidermist announced several days later that the hide had deteriorated to the point that it was ruined. Oh well, they have their memories of a once-in-a-lifetime hog hunt, and a story to tell.

Just upstream from Wedgefield, at Beech Creek Hunt Club on the Wateree River, Tom Baldwin also killed a mega-hog, but under somewhat more controlled conditions.

"I was sitting in a stand deer hunting when I heard a big hog squealing and grunting in the woods behind me," Baldwin said. "There was such a commotion in there that it sounded like there had to be several hogs. I was watching a food plot, but I could tell that they were going to cross an access road about 60 to 70 yards away.

"I knew that would be the only shot that I would get, so I got ready, and the hogs stepped into the road. It was a big sow and several small pigs. I put the sights on her and pulled the trigger. She dropped like a rock right there. It was the biggest hog I had ever seen. It bottomed out our scales, but I estimate that it weighed right at 450 pounds."

Fortunately, the hog was in easy reach of the club's front-end loader and there were several folks back at the clubhouse to help hoist the hog onto the tractor and back to the skinning shed. There is a lesson to be learned here. If you're going after big hogs, spend a few minutes trying to figure out how you might actually get the hog out of the woods.

Wild hogs were the last things on Hallam Cottingham's mind when he had his mega-hog encounter. As a matter of fact, he had never seen a wild hog in the woods. He was hunting a big deer that he had scouted out on his family's land down near Gallivant's Ferry when he heard "the most god-awful sound I had ever heard. It sounded like a hog squealing into a coffee can, sort of a tinny, blood-curdling sound. I had never heard anything like it," Cottingham said.

"It was getting dark and I had left my flashlight back at the truck about 1,000 yards away. The road back to the truck was lined with river canes, and you couldn't see 2 feet off the road, so I really didn't know what to do. I either had to get down and go through the area where the hog sounds were coming from or stay up there until about 11 o'clock when somebody would come looking for me.

"I could see two dark figures out near the road, so I knew generally where they were. I decided that I would get down and take my chances. When I got near a corn field, I could hear the hogs running around squealing in the field. I slipped around and got into position and I could see a huge boar hog chasing a sow round and round in the field. I had always heard that wild hogs have a thick leather shield on the shoulder, so I waited until he was quartering away and took the shot with my .30/06. He dropped like a rock.

"I was hunting with a friend of mine and I knew he would hear the shot. When he got there, he said that he had heard that awful racket, too. He had already come down out of his stand, but decided it would be, 'more prudent' to get back up in his stand. As we approached the big hog, I was thinking, OK, it's time for a big barbeque. That's a quarter-ton of hog meat. However, when we got close, we got a whiff of the most horrible foul, rank smelling thing you could think of. Needless to say, there was no barbeque celebration."

It's a shame the meat was so foul. The hog weighed in at 601 pounds. That's quite a bit of pulled pork and wild hog hash. But anyone who has ever scent-tracked a big boar hog through the woods can attest that older, big-bodied boar hogs emit a scent that can turn even a strong stomach sour.

Cottingham said that when they looked the hog over, they noticed that his tusks were broken off and that he had several wounds from fighting. "Some of the wounds looked so fresh that they may have actually been from that evening while he was chasing the sow," Cottingham said. "He also had a big bulge on his shoulder, which turned out to be somebody's bullet from a long time ago."

Even though Cottingham's mega-hog was, at that time, the biggest hog that had ever been killed on the property, an even bigger hog was killed the following year.

"My dad invited some bear hunters from North Carolina to come down and hunt hogs on the property. They showed up with some pit bulls in Kevlar vests and took off out in the swamp. They brought back a hog that weighed an incredible 706 pounds," Cottingham said.

Well, that settles that. Yes, we do have some incredible mega-hogs in South Carolina. Let's say, just for the sake of argument that you have read these big boar tales and you still want to go after a big hog. Here are some hog-hunting tips gleaned from many, many years of chasing hogs from the Carolina Lowcountry swamps to the high mountains of the Jocassee Gorges.

First, don't take a knife to a gunfight. Make sure that you have a weapon suited to the task. Wild hogs, both boars and sows, have a tough leather shield about the shoulder area and it takes a heavy .30-caliber bullet, at least, to penetrate the hide deep enough to create a mortal wound.

Secondly, you can waste a lot of time looking for big hogs in places where there are only small and medium-sized hogs. You will encounter 100 run-of-the-mill hogs for every mega-hog.

Big boar hogs and big sows with piglets tend to be loners. Sort out the sign until you're sure the tracks and mud rubbings on trees indicate "big hog." Then start following that sign back to the big hog's hideout.

Finally, and this cannot be stressed enough, make a plan for how you are going to get the hog out of the woods. When you are scouting, try to find a place to take a stand near a four-wheeler trail or an old logging road. And if you didn't learn anything else from these harrowing hog tales, bring a good flashlight, or two or three -- and some backup batteries.

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