Thursday, March 22, 2012

Florida Boar Hunt 2012 - Omega Ranch

Before I go into the details of our Florida wild boar hunt this year at the Omega Ranch in Volusia County, I want to get on my soap box and go off on a little rant on how hog hunting has become so commercialized in the state of Florida. Years ago, when I was first introduced to hog hunting in Florida by my dad, you could find a land owner anywhere in the state that would charge you around $50 to hunt hogs on their land. If you shot one, they would charge you another $100. The deal was simple; it included them dropping you off at your stand, which typically sat on a feeder of some sort, and if you got one, you would call them up on your cell phone, and they would track it, bring it back to your vehicle, skin it, and quarter it up. Seems like a fair deal, right? I thought so; even after a $20 to $50 tip, it still seemed worth it to me.
Finding a Florida Boar hunt like the ones back in the good old days is almost impossible now. I know because I searched long and hard. I’ve got some Dutch in me so I’m always looking for the best deal, but it’s not all about the deal. I also want a good hunt that is the real deal, unlike last year’s buggy hunt disaster. Most hog hunts I found during my search were anywhere from $200 to $500 dollars for meat hogs and small boars. If you got anything with tusks over 1 ½ inches, plan on paying $150 to $200 dollars in trophy fees. Plus, it is virtually impossible to find a hunt that is not a fenced in 40 acre lot. We used to hunt pieces of land that were 1,000 or more acres. The problem is that people found out that there was money to be made, so just like anything that is a money maker, they wrapped it up, put it in a pretty package and put a big price tag on it. Now we are stuck with guides that buy pigs by the truck load, put them in a forty acre pen, and follow you around during your entire hunt telling you which way the wind is going (as if it isn’t obvious), how careful you need to be because the pigs are so dangerous, and guiding you as to which pigs you can shoot and which ones are off limits because they are “bait hogs” (I’ll explain this further later on in the post). Is it too much to ask, to just let me sit in a tree overlooking a feeder (with feed in it), enjoying the scenery and waiting for a nice hog to wander in? I don’t want to spend my hunt with some guy I don’t even know who is over exaggerating every detail in an attempt to sell me on the authenticity of the hunt that I am paying way too much for.

Alright, now that I got that off my chest, on with the story of our 2012 Florida Boar Hunt.  We stayed in Titusville, Fl this year and I wanted to try and find a place less than an hour’s drive away.  I found Omega Ranch in an add on Craigslist.  It is located in Volusia County between Daytona and Orlando about 45 minutes from the cottage we stayed in.  They were asking $225 and $100 extra for anything with tusks over 2 inches.  It seemed a little pricey to me, but it was close and like I said earlier it doesn’t get much cheaper than this anymore. 
We arrived at the ranch at 4:45am.  The guide greeted us and gave us instructions on being very quiet while entering our stands and informed us of the importance of being scent free, all the while, he was smoking a cigarette.   He also mentioned that when he opened the gate we shouldn’t be alarmed if there are hogs there to greet us.  We were told that these are “bait hogs”.   In other words, they are tame hogs used as decoys to lure in the wild hogs.  You will notice on the video of my dad’s hunt that after the shot is taken only one hog takes off.  The others stick around as if nothing happened.

The morning was a beautiful one and I was taking it all in from a tree stand overlooking a feeder, just as I hoped for.  At about 7:00am the silence was broken by a gunshot coming from the direction my dad was hunting in.  It was so close that I almost fell out of my stand from being startled.  I prepared for spooked hogs to come running in, but after ten minutes of nothing I gave up on that hope.  My new hope was resting on the feeder that was supposedly set to go off at 7:30am.  I knew the pigs would come running as soon as they heard the corn flying, but that hope soon fading as well when 7:30am came and past and the feeder never went off.
We also had to gut our own pigs.  The guide didn't want blood on his hands.
A little after 8:00am the guide came and got me out of my stand and we tried a couple more stands with empty, non-functional feeders.  We also tried “spot and stalk” hunting.  Finally, around 2:00pm I stood in some thick brush while the guide pushed through a swamp in hopes of putting a hog in front of me, and it worked.   I had one come walking in out of range so I stalked up to about twenty yards, drew my bow and waited for a clear shot.  It stepped into an opening and I let the arrow fly.  Whack!!  I was sure it was a good shot.  I found the arrow and it was full of bowel, but I wasn’t concerned because it was quartering at me when I shot so I figured I caught some vitals and it passed through the guts on the exit. 

Unfortunately, after much effort, we never found the pig or even a trace of blood.  It was the first shot at an animal with my new bow, and it was a failure.  To add insult to injury, I now owed $10 into the fishing gas fund because of a bet I made with my brothers.  And, if you thought that was the worst of it, you’re wrong.  I also found out that skinning and quartering the hogs we take was not including in our package so I tied the hog up under the blind and went to town.  The best way to learn is by doing it, right?   The good news is that we got both hunts for a total of $400 instead of $450 and my dad got to take a nice boar home with the satisfaction of knowing he had a perfectly placed shot.
Hunched over under the blind trying to cut up a hog.  I can't tell you how many times I hit my head.  Very enjoyable!

Mom cleaning the pork

Moms camera work of dad taking his boar.  Nice work mom.

My self filmed video of the only opportunity I had at a shot from a stand.  Looking back, I should have taken the shot, but I was certain once the feeder went off bigger hogs would have shown up.  It could have made great video.

If this sounds like your type of hunt, give Brian at Omega Ranch a call.  (386)479-3266.


Anonymous said...

congrats Rick. Gotta love that short tracking job.

Chad and Amber Kraker said...

Best krak boy post to date. Pictures, video, and an easy to read story, keep it up. I also love that after the rant, you felt it was a good idea to give the ranch a plug and shared their phone number.

Chad and Amber Kraker said...

Can't decide which photo of the "Guide" I like the best. The helpful hand he is giving while you gut the hog, or the one where he looks disgusted while you are both hunched under the "Hog Pole". I think we should start a poll....

Bryan and Katy Kraker said...

That's a tuffy. They both depict his helpfulness with the task at hand very nicely.

The Velderman's said...

I'm sorry...but this post made me laugh. I like your rant and some of this stuff sounds like typical Bryan luck. I do like the plug you gave the ranch. I'm sure it's just the sort of plug they were looking for :-)

Anonymous said...

You were hunting a 40 acre fenced area we lease next to those clowns and have seen several hunters shooting big boars they bought in the night before hate to see the the pigs in there off season looked like they were starving. Glad you had a good time

Bryan and Katy Kraker said...

You're saying that I wasn't actually hunting on Omega Ranch? I just assumed that this is what it was called since the signs and road name were "Omega Ranch". What is the name of the guide/ranch of the 40 acres I was hunting on then? I would like to give credit to where credit is due.

Anonymous said...

Pine Island Florida, Land owner will pay you $50.00 for each pig you kill. NO FEE HUNTING

Anonymous said...

I live in Matlacha and I'm looking for a place to bow hunt hogs. If you have an area on pine island you would like to take some pigs from.

Anonymous said...

id rather go to tiger island same dell 225 three pigs or go to wma for a real hunt