The Great Christmas Place Blizzard and Hog Death 2013

March 4, 2013

Hog Death“Come on up to Mississippi,” Rex told me.  “The springtime weather is great.  The dogwoods will be blooming, the magnolias will be in blossom.  The bluebirds will be singing and the fairies will be dancing!”

I should have paid closer attention to the evil laughter as he hung up the phone, but I never notice stuff like that… until it’s too late.

Rex and the team really took pains to make it look like there were hogs in the area.

Rex and the team really took pains to make it look like there were hogs in the area.

Nevertheless, and before I go on, I have to offer a huge thank you to Rex, the whole Howell gang, as well as cousins and family friends who made the whole trip a real blast.

Rex and Camo worked awful hard to make sure everything was ready when we got there too.  I can only imagine the hours of backbreaking work with pick and rake to simulate all those acres of hog rooting around the place.  To the untrained eye, it sure looked like a place on the verge of being overrun by feral hogs… hell, he even put little hog track booties on Camo and let the dog make tracks all over the property!

So, well done, Rex!  Well done indeed.

On a more serious note, though, Rex and the folks at The Christmas Place definitely made me feel right at home.  From the family patriarch, Hershel right on down to the new generation, Austin, and all the good people in between, I was treated more like a friend than just a guest, and I felt completely welcome from the moment I arrived.  The other newer arrivals were treated equally well, and by the end of the first evening it was really hard to figure out who was new in camp, and who had been coming for a lifetime!

Just look at the eyes.  You'll see a pair of stone cold, hate-filled killers. Hogs, coyotes, deer, unsuccessful hunters... don't want to get on this pair's bad side!

Just look at the eyes. Is that not a pair of stone cold, hate-filled killers?

And then there’s Camo.

Camo is Rex’s “dog”.  She’s a hate-filled, spiteful beast who simply can’t abide hogs, deer, coyotes, or unsuccessful hunters.  In fact, after coming back to camp empty-handed the first night, it was only through great, personal strength of will and the judicious application of a ball-peen hammer that I was able to keep that animal from chewing my leg off.  I was also lucky to have come in just after she’d devoured one of the newer guys who’d missed a coyote.  Camo was a little sluggish after that meal.  If she’d been hungry, I’m pretty  sure Rex would have been writing up my obituary this morning instead of making excuses for not killing any hogs.

Gonzo takes a look at Tim's nice sow, while Tim cleans out the truck.

Gonzo takes a look at Tim’s nice sow, while Tim cleans out the truck.

Not that the hogs got away completely unscathed.  In fact, it was quite the productive weekend with a total (including seven in the trap!) of 15 hogs removed from the habitat.  Nevermind that one hunter accounted for a big part of that count in one bloody fusillade.  In the quest to recover his stack of pigs, the group encountered another small sounder and added two more small ones to the tally.

Over the weekend, three other lucky hunters were able to knock over some good-sized hogs rooting through the cotton fields.  I was fortunate enough to witness one of these, as we’d ridden out together and spotted the hogs in the field.  Of course, I was just along for the ride and had left my rifle back at the camp, so all I could do was observe as the guys moved into position and opened fire.

But for my part, I was utterly impressed at Rex’s skill in finding spots for me that had seen hogs at one time (back in the Pleistocene era, I think), without ever putting me in an area that was currently active.  I thought my little brother was the master at taking me to a game-rich environment and putting me on a stand where I wouldn’t see a bloody thing… but this weekend, Rex gave him a run for his money.

And then there was the blizzard.  It started slowly, with a few flakes drifting harmlessly down on Saturday morning.  I sat in my stand, intent on the trails around the big greenfield I was watching, and barely noticed at first.  But in no time it had gone from a gentle sprinkling to a polar whiteout!  It was the coming of another ice age!  How could anyone hunt hogs, when we were shivering under a blanket of dense, wet snow?

Of course, since the ground temperature was well above freezing, and the air was probably in the mid-30s, the “blizzard” was really more like a couple of good, heavy flurries of tiny, cyrstalline ice flakes.  The heaviest outburst lasted about five minutes (if that), and accumulation was exactly zero-point-zero inches.  But to those Mississippi boys, that was close enough to count as a blizzard… and for Rex, it was as good an excuse for not shooting a hog as he could come up with.

And there it is.  My cooler was empty on the 13 hour drive back to Texas, but that didn’t really matter.  I’m not even sure there’s room in the freezer for a hog anyway.   But that wasn’t really the point of the trip.  I spent the weekend hunting in the land of Faulkner with a family whose roots in Mississippi are pretty deeply sunk.  I got to meet some excellent people (even Rex) and one cool dog (Camo).  We imbibed and ate good food, told tales (some taller than others), had a great time, and even managed to put a few hogs on the skinning pole.

I can’t wait to go back!




7 Responses to “The Great Christmas Place Blizzard and Hog Death 2013”

  1. Dave B on March 5th, 2013 15:14

    Dang it if those dogs don’t have an attitude when you come up empty. I have had a couple of missed shots on pigs. Whenever I return to the truck or home base empty the dogs know it. They hear that shot and expect to have a treat (going after a hog). When they don’t get it, they get downright mean. I am more afraid/embarrased/ashamed to face the dogs than I am my friends or hunting guides when I miss a shot.

    After reading your story, I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has had this experience.

  2. Phillip on March 5th, 2013 15:36

    Hell, Dave… I didn’t even miss! I can’t imagine Camo’s ire if I’d missed a hog. That dog hates a hog, ask Rex!

    Seriously, though, it was big fun and one of the most beautiful pieces of country I’ve had the pleasure of hunting.

  3. Marian on March 5th, 2013 18:13

    So glad you had a great time Phillip…I knew you would. 🙂 It’s like paradise for my husband and I to go there. The family welcomes you with open arms and I knew you would have a blast. The blizzard was a nice cold happy! 🙂 Next time you come to MS, I hope we get to meet you. We live in Vicksburg right off on I-20 and not far from the River. If you come through going to Georgia or Alabama give a call and would be happy to meet you at our Mississippi Visitors Center or better yet at the camp. 🙂

  4. Rex on March 5th, 2013 22:12

    It was a great time and the best part was I think I made a new and very good friend. You will always be welcome here and next time i will put you on one of the real good stands. Thanks for coming and hope to see you again soon. Rex

  5. Phillip on March 6th, 2013 13:43

    Rex, some folks have wondered why I drove 13 hours from Texas to hunt hogs in another state. I have to explain that it wasn’t just the hog hunt, but a chance to meet you in person. After all these years of chatting back and forth over the Interweb, I really looked forward to actually chatting face to face… as well as the chance to spend some time in the field. I think we accomplished both, and cemented a friendship at the same time. I look forward to our next opportunity to meet in person, whether it’s in Mississippi, down here in Texas, or someplace else.

    And Marian, we’ll definitely have to try to meet up next time too. I drove right through Vicksburg twice on this trip, although neither time did I really have the luxury of stopping off. However, I think Kat might enjoy visiting the riverfront and maybe hitting a casino or three, so maybe we’ll be back up that way with a little more time to spend.

  6. Dan on March 7th, 2013 01:48

    I hunt a couple of blocks that look like that one and while having noticed the picks and rakes and the sheep-dog-sized-trotter-booties in the shed I never for a minute suspected the truth… making me drive sixteen hours to hunt some turn dirt… those bastards…

    Driving home with an empty cooler can be disappointing, but some times I put on quite a long face when I empty the mountain of meat and scratch my head wondering where it’s all gonna’ fit and who I might share it with and how it’s gonna’ get packed and what time I’m going to bed!

    Time away hunting is great. Bringing home the bacon has its good and bad points!

  7. Phillip on March 7th, 2013 07:20

    Dan, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s experienced this chicanery. It is a path to madness, no?

    As far as the drive home empty-handed, it’s not always as bad as we’d make it out to be. There is a certain relief to the knowledge that you’re not going to have to spend the next three or four hours cutting and processing, and then have to find room in a very full freezer to stow it all.