The 'Sweetest' of Blood Trails
(Jeff Phillips photo)
Retired Oklahoma Game Warden Rome Ingle completed a great wildlife career a few years back, but he continues to serve his fellow man as a minister in his retirement years. As I've said before in other columns, wardens are people too and can sometimes get themselves into funny situations as well. Al Harper, one of Rome's good hunting buddies, recently shared this story of a very “colorful” deer and hog hunt.
Rome, Al and a third friend, named Dave, had teamed up for a late-season deer hunt. Group trips are usually accomplished by good friends, each contributing something to the common goal, but just like in-laws, that can sometimes come with its own complications. This complication happened to be a weak battery on Dave’s 4-wheeler.
From inside their cabin, Rome and Al could hear Dave removing tie-downs, mounting the 4-wheeler, and hit the starter button only to hear the 700cc-size engine make a single turn. Then, there was a final grunt from the starter and it was over.
Al went out to check on the situation to see Dave pressing the starter button and pulling the starter rope at the same time. It was noticeably obvious that Dave was still recovering from a recent treestand accident that had banged him up pretty good.
Al joined forces with him to get the 4-wheeler cranking. While Dave mashed the button, Al gave one manly pull on the starter rope and the engine began to hum with life. They let it run for a while in hopes of charging the battery for whatever duties awaited the deer hauler.
The 4-wheeler continued to idle while the truck was unloaded, killing its engine for only a moment to give it a test start. It sounded a little anemic but did start again. Dave announced he wasn’t going out for the first evening’s hunt, deciding he would stay, relax and continue setting up camp.
In line with all the latest, high-tech devices of today's modern outdoorsman, he also set up an array of high-tech motion detectors around a pond that lay just 25 yards from the front of their cabin. Hogs had been watering there during odd hours and the plan was this could help alert anyone in the cabin of any sneaky swine coming to visit. Dave also laced the area with copious amounts of apple-flavor corn, dusted with his own “secret, magical powder.”
Al got camo’d up, mounted ole Bessie – the 4-wheeler – and headed into the woods for what would be a long, boring four hours.
Al didn’t hunt until the end of legal shooting light because he knew there was a possibility he could have trouble getting the 4-wheeler started and didn’t want to get stuck in the woods. It would be a long trek back to the cabin on foot if that occurred. There also was a 60-foot climb out of a small canyon and the senior hunter knew he would need an oxygen mask after a walk out.
Al got to the 4-wheeler and was quite relieved to hear it kick off. When he arrived back at camp, he saw that Rome also had just come out of the woods from the evening hunt. Al declared, "We really need a battery charger!” A vote was taken and off to town they went to buy one. They found a charger, feasted at a local diner and headed back to camp.
Upon arriving back to the camp area, the three amigos drove slowly on the gravel road leading up to where the cabin came into view. All of a sudden, Dave lit up when the pond came into view because there, on the edge of that pond stood a 200-plus-pound sow hog surrounded by a throng of piglets.
The now twitching hunters briefly debated, should one of them put on a sneak to the cabin, load up a big gun and cap some fresh bacon? They decided it was too risky, so Rome un-holstered his 9mm pistol, took as solid of an aim as he could at the massive pork chop and squeezed off a round. A brief squeal was heard before the 200-pounder went from zero to 60 in milliseconds, disappearing into the woods behind the pond.
Feeling pretty good about his shot, they anxiously parked the truck, fetched flashlights and proceeded to track down their fresh camp meat.
They immediately headed for the scene of the shooting and quickly became excited because they found ample evidence of “what appeared to be” a well-placed shot.
Signs of bright-red blood could be found everywhere. You would have thought Rome shot the hog with a perfect pass-through shot from a mortar. For about an hour they tracked through the dark woods looking for what would have been their only prize of the weekend. But, the trio finally conceded to give it up for the night and get some sleep for their morning hunt.
Later the next morning, after reconvening at the pond, they picked up where they'd left off the night before. That morning’s hunt had been totally unproductive. Nobody had seen anything and these carnivores were more desperate to find their misplaced pork than ever. They just knew their prize was waiting for them somewhere close in the vicinity of the cabin.
Another hour was spent desperately tracking for any further signs of blood, constantly returning to the scene of the shot in an attempt to revalidate their slipping confidence gained from the previous evening’s events. Each time, one of them would observe and comment, "Look how light-colored this blood appears to be!" They repeatedly dismissed the observation, deciding Rome might have shot the hog in its bladder.
Rome and Dave went around the back side of the pond once again to try and pick up any fresh sign of where their wild sow had gone. Then, as Al stared down at the massive amounts of red-looking evidence on the ground, he suddenly started developing a sick feeling in his gut. The “lights began to come on” and he came to the realization of what he was really staring at.
Al yelled over at Dave, “Hey, Dave! Did you dust that apple-corn down thoroughly ... with strawberry Kool-Aid like I told you to?”
Dave looked up at Al and each could see expressions on their faces slowly change from hopefulness, to embarrassment. Rome quickly followed in suit. The three senior woodsmen had been tracking a trail of wet, strawberry Kool-Aid now for nearly three hours.
A deathly silence suddenly fell over them for several minutes. Rome finally spoke, blurting out, “Are you suggesting that I missed?”
Al responded, “I’m not suggesting anything.” Al's next inclination was to reach down, drag his finger through the red, muddy substance and take a taste, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
For the next few minutes, the three seasoned hunters began to re-evaluate their tracking skills and make numerous excuses on how a kid’s drink would "stump the chumps."
Editor’s note: Want more Game Warden stories? Watch “Wardens presented by Streamlight” on Outdoor Channel. Click here to visit the show page and air times.