|Your Next Meal From the Wild Side|
|Start the New Year with Wild Hog|
Even people who don’t live near the woods
know about the nationwide prevalence of wild hogs. If you have cable or satellite television, you have probably seen the television show American Hoggers. Men and women are hunting, capturing and killing wild hogs more than ever before because these nuisance animals have overpopulated hunting and farm lands in droves.
My first encounter with wild hogs was during a nature walk with my husband Jason. We had gone out to the hunting camp, parked the truck, took the four-wheeler further into the woods, then set off on foot to make the loop through the Big Swamp Creek bottom. Unlike the average nature walk at Chewacla State Park or on Monte Sano Mountain, toting guns is a good idea when you go walking at the camp. Encountering coyotes or hogs can be extremely dangerous and there are even rumors of wildcats in the area.
We were almost to the end of the loop through the swamp when Jason quickly handed me one of his rifles and took off running. He had spotted a small pack of hogs, jumped the ditch and some bushes, and disappeared. I stood very still listening for any sound. Wild hogs can be very unpredictable and aggressive, so you may not know which way to jump or run until they are right in front of you. Finally, there was a shot from quite a ways down the ditch, but I still waited to move until I heard from Jason.
Back then, there weren’t that many hogs out there, but now after several seasons of excessive breeding some areas are overrun with them. Besides tearing up land and property, their extreme aggression when cornered or when they have babies makes them much more than a nuisance. For example, a couple of years ago, my dad was hunting with Jason when dad shot a hog in a pack. Rather than running away into the woods, the hog that had been shot turned and ran straight for my dad. Within seconds the hog was too close for a rifle shot. Luckily, Jason had his pistol and hit it again.
Although wild hogs are plentiful and readily available, we usually don’t eat a lot of them. Wild hogs have a very different diet and lifestyle than farm-raised hogs. They do wallow in mud holes like domestic pigs, but rather than sitting around waiting for their next meal to be delivered, they have to forage daily. That means wild hogs are a lot more muscular and the meat is tougher. Wild hog can be barbequed or you can make a roast just like a farm-raised pig, but it probably won’t be the tender texture you are used to. Jason uses the meat for sausage and will also make a Boston butt with wild hog. He takes the Boston butt, smokes it, chips it and then either adds barbeque sauce or mixes the meat into baked beans.
There are so many feral hogs in the woods now it would be impossible to depopulate them through hunting alone. Jason and his Grandfather Willie have put out hog traps and at times they have caught as many as eight in one trap. Such a capture can be an abundant blessing of food for many families rather than just our own, and Jason often shares hogs with our neighbors.
While growing up, Jason and his family spent their Christmas break at the family hunting camp. Jason and I have chosen to continue the tradition of spending winter holidays in the woods with the kids. I have always heard that however you spend New Year’s Day is how you will spend the rest of the year. So, we make sure our New Year’s Day is family-oriented, special and fun. We know the kids love staying and playing at the camp, and we hope one day they realize it is a special place for so many reasons. Not only is this camp where Jason spent so much of his time growing up, it is where Jason and I took our first nature walk and where a lot of our food comes from.
As life hands us challenges, we know there is a place we can come together as a family away from any troubles in the real world. At the camp, we can get back to basics and our children can grow up knowing they can rely on us and each other. For our next New Year’s Day meal at the camp, we will have lucky black-eyed peas with wild hog neck bones, grilled deer steak, cabbage with onions and cracklin’ cornbread. For your next meal, start your New Year with something wild and see where the year takes you.
2 cups pork cracklings
Preheat oven to 400°. Put butter into an iron skillet and place in pre-heating oven to melt. Mix all the other ingredients together and pour into skillet. Bake until golden brown.
Frozen black-eyed peas
Boil peas and then reduce to a simmer. Boil neck bones in a separate pot until tender. Add neck bones to peas and simmer together for at least an hour, the longer the better. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.