Die Hard Hunter

My first boar during an electrifying hunt.

Essay by David W. Gray, February 25, 2007

The 2006/2007 hunting season was my first time to hunt in five years. The last time I hunted before this season was Labor Day in 2001. On that day my heart condition changed after killing my first Mule Deer on Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

To give you a little background about myself, you should know I was medically retired from the Army in 1988. I am now a 100% disAbled veteran because of a heart infection from surgeries while in service. In 1997 I had surgery to implant a small defibrillator in my chest to control any arrhythmias that could result in sudden death. This device has saved my life at least once.

In January 2006 I began a self regulated exercise program. Over time, I was able to achieve 3-4 mile hikes three days a week. I was feeling really good and my two cardiologists where very pleased with my progress and felt it was safe for me to hunt again within certain guidelines.

The start of the 2006 hunting season was great. I began deer hunting again. I started dove and quail hunting, something I hadn’t done in over 30 years. I even took up duck hunting which I have only done once before 29 years ago. I took a two week trip to North Carolina to hunt with my Dad which I hadn’t done in 28 years. My new hunting life has been going great and I loved every minute of it. One thing I learned from my late wife was to live every day to the fullest, like there would be no tomorrow.

On Thursday, February 22, 2007, I decided it was time to fill my pig tag. Pig hunting was another new experience for me. I hunted both in the morning and evening. I didn’t see any, but I still had good time trying out my new 4X4 truck in the rain softened jeep trails.

I went back out Friday evening in hopes to see a pig. I drove to top of a ridge where I could see a lot of territory. It was a cool 47 degrees and the wind was blowing at least 30 MPH. I decided to sit in the comfort of my truck to search for a pig through my binoculars.

The first couple of hours I was seeing all kinds of wildlife but no pigs. About 300 yards away I watched 5 deer feeding. Right after sunset, I spotted what appeared to be a pig on a hillside about 500 yards away. I grabbed my spotting scope and confirmed it was a pig. I then started up my truck and drove to the next hill top to get me about 200 yards from the pig. From there got out to walk closer.

As I was making my way down the jeep trail in a crouched position, I felt my heart racing a bit. Obviously, I was getting excited about my first opportunity to bag a pig. I didn't realize how shockingly excited I was. I stopped and told myself to slow down and take my time. After a minute, I continued down the trail. I finally got to a spot where I could sit for a good clear shot.

Just as soon as I sat down off the edge of the jeep trail, BLAM! I got shocked from my defibrillator. I saw a flash of light in my eyes and I realized what had happen. Most of you don't know what that internal shock would feel like, so I'll describe it like this: Think of it as a horse kicking you hard from the inside out. I new immediately what I needed to do. 10 seconds later, BLAM again, I received another shock. That was 4th and 5th shock I've ever received and the first time I received a double whammy. I quickly laid down on my back after tossing my rifle aside. I also had another chat with God; I have frequent chats with God daily so this was nothing new.

After 5 minutes or so I began to feel better and could tell my heart rate was less. I rolled over to the prone position and turned to see the pig was still there. I gave some thought about my situation and then grabbed my rifle. I waited for what seemed forever for the pig to turn broadside. It was feeding and coming straight toward me from about 125 yards away and about 75 yards down hill from my level. He finally turned giving me a quartering shot. I decided that when he raised his head, I would shoot for the neck which should place to bullet right through the vitals. The moment finally came and I fired off a shot at about 6:12 P.M.

I saw the muzzle flash and moved the rifle to the side. I looked and could not see the pig. I didn’t hear it make any sound at all. I wasn't sure I hit it or not. I figured under circumstances I’d be lucky to hit it. I just laid my head down into my crossed arms.

After a few minutes I sat up to look again for the pig. It was getting dark by this time. I still didn’t see the pig anywhere. I stood up and still couldn’t see him. I decided it was time to make some phone calls. I called my friends Alan and left a message on his phone and Ben. Ben got in his car immediately to come to my aide. Two other hunters showed up after hearing my shot. I told them what happened. They had me sit in their truck while they went out to look for my pig. A little while later, Ben showed up.

While they were out looking for the pig, we all noticed about a dozen vehicles coming down the highway in the valley with flashing lights on. We wondered what that was all about.

We give up on finding the pig and decided to come back in the morning to look for it. We drove our vehicles back down the mountain and when we got to road we saw flashing lights coming toward us. I soon learned they were looking for me. It seemed like half the base came out to find me. Many of my friends from the base fish and wildlife department were there, the fire department, base security police and the paramedics were there. As it turned out, Alan called the base officials and well, the posse came out to find me. I also learned that the base rescue helicopter was placed on standby.

I attempted to explain that I’m now fine and I just need to go home to rest. That wasn’t good enough and they insisted on transporting me to the hospital. I spent a few hours at the hospital and had some good laughs with the staff.

Saturday morning arrived after a good night sleep and I felt fine. I drove out to the base of the mountain and Ben met me there. Ben got in my truck and we drove to the area where I shot at the pig. I pointed toward the direction I shot and Ben took off. He looked for about 10 minutes and then moved further down hill. A few minutes latter, Ben waved and pointed down in the waist high green weeds. He also called me on the cell phone to confirm that he found my pig. No wonder I couldn't see that pig after I shot. As it turns out, that pig dropped right in his tacks, he never knew what hit him.

I grabbed my backpack and started down hill. When I got to the pig I realized we needed help. I called one of my game warden friends that works at the base fish and wildlife and he came out to help. Ben gutted the pig and started pulling it up hill about 10 yards at a time. After the game warden arrived, the decision was made to pull it down hill to an old corral down below. I went back to my truck and drove to the corral to meet them there.

The field dressed weight of the pig was 152 pounds and the estimated live weight is 180 pounds. After taking the pig to the Rod & Gun Club to skin the hide off, I discovered that I actually shot the pig between the eyes. That's a pig farmer's shot. I either pulled the shot off a bit or the pig turned his head just as I squeezed the trigger. I want to believe the latter.

Well I have from now until September to learn somehow to control my excitement. I'm going on my first Elk hunt at Heartland Wildlife Ranches in Missouri. Heartland... that has a new meaning for me.

I guess by now you have come to realize I truly am a die hard hunter!

A few days later I saw my Arrhythmia Cardiologist. He gave me great news. The arrhythmia I had was not life threatening. Because of my excited state and my adrenaline was elevated, I had Atrial Fibrillation. That is a very fast heart rate in the left atrium. To be specific, the atrium was beating 240 bpm. My doctor prescribed Cardizem and I will take it only before I go hunting.

1/23/09 - I am also taking another medication that has change my life. This past year has been the best health I've had in years. I'm not going to waste one minute of time while in good heath. None of us are guaranteed life tomorrow, so live today like it may be your last. Don't put off your dreams until whenever, because whenever may never happen.

Copyright © 2007-2016, All rights reserved, David W. Gray