Mid-December, 2006, muzzleloader deer season, Ogemaw County – Scott Maxon sits in the dim interior of his camouflage pop-up blind, waiting. It’s nearly 10 a.m. He’s been perched atop this hill since sunrise. Except for the nasal laugh of nuthatches and the occasional creak of his camp chair, the woods are quiet. No deer crunching through the knee-deep snow. No shots fired.
A commotion on the fringe of the swamp below catches Maxon’s eye. He squints out his blind’s front window. Two big, dark shapes are charging across the white landscape. His first thought: Dogs. Then, watching the pair hurtle up the deer-run toward his blind … coyotes? As they come crashing through the trees, grunting, snorting, thundering into view, he realizes, no. Not coyotes. Wild pigs.
Maxon raises his CVA Hawken, a classic side-hammer muzzleloader he built from a $100 kit back in ’84. He points the barrel out the window, following the pigs’ diagonal trajectory. Because muzzleloaders require reloading after each firing, Maxon has just one shot. Trickier still, his moving quarry boasts a plate of skin over its vitals so tough that the best – and likely only – chance he’s got at felling one is if he nails it in front of the shoulder, behind the ear.
When the pair gets within 75 yards, Maxon whistles sharply – whitetails, he knows, sometimes hit the skids at the sound. But the pigs don’t even slow. As they pass, he pivots to the side window, takes aim at one ragged, hairy shoulder bouncing by, then cocks back the gun’s hammer, trips the hair trigger and fires.
The hollow point erupts from the barrel. A plume of gunpowder smoke fills the tent. Maxon scrambles through the haze into the white glare of daylight, racing through the trees to where he last saw his target. There, sinking into the snow, is a thick pool of blood – and running off into the distance, a telltale scarlet trail marking its path, is one pissed-off hog.
No pig is indigenous to the United States. The first came over with Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who brought some here from Cuba so he’d have a sustainable food source. Early colonists brought the first domestic breeds. More recently, hunting preserves have been importing Eurasian wild boars.
Like many states, Michigan has swine farms. It also has boar-hunting preserves. And, like an estimated 34 other states in the nation, it also has a wild pig problem.
Nobody can pinpoint exactly where. Or when. Or how. But sometime, in some places around Michigan, these pigs – domestic hogs and wild boars – escaped. Met up in the wild. Mated. Multiplied. And began wreaking havoc.