Photos and words by Chris Funk
Every once in a while we dream up something so wild we just have to try it. That was the case when I first laid eyes on my new Jackson SUPerFISHal. While my original vision for the paddleboard involved a fly rod, the hunter in me felt an irresistible itch.
On a Friday afternoon my son Ethan, 16, and I loaded the SUP and our Big Tuna tandem and headed south to meet up with a friend in the Alabama delta. Rob Kyle was raised there and knows every twist and turn. He was going to guide us to the wild pigs that call that massive swamp home.
Early Saturday we loaded the frost-covered kayaks onto flat-bottomed aluminum boats. We used them like motherships. I followed Rob through twisting palmetto-lined canals looking like the perfect set for a dinosaur movie. Our plan was to run the boats as far as the navigable water would take us then launch the kayak and paddleboard for a silent approach.
We had paddled just over a mile when Rob rounded a bend and spotted the first group of feral porkers. I stayed a few yards back and watched Rob skillfully and silently maneuver the tandem into shooting range using the brush on the bank for cover. My son sat expectantly up front holding his 30-30 ready. I watched intently as Rob silently threaded the big kayak between stumps and around logs toward the slowly feeding pigs.
The rifle cracked and the pigs broke and ran. One lay still where moments before it had stood. When I eased up to them, Ethan turned, eyes wide, mouthed a "wow" and flashed a huge smile. He had shot his first wild pig. I felt a surge of pride; his hunt had unfolded in front of my eyes.
After pictures and congratulations, we paddled back to our motherships to plan another assault. The next creek split in several directions so we divided our efforts. As Rob and Ethan paddled away I turned the bow of the SUPerFISHal into the wind and began my stalk.
As I paddled the creek, every sense was on full alert. I was trying to smell a pig or spot one in the thick brush. I listened intently, hoping some small noise would betray a pig. There it was! A muffled snap to my right. I turned the paddleboard toward the sound. Easing the paddle to the deck, I picked up my rifle and scanned the palmettos. A set of black legs shuffled through the shadows and then stopped in a small opening in the brush. At the shot, the pig dropped. The unseen herd thundered off breaking limbs in their path.
After loading the pig on the standup, I paddled out to meet my crew. Rob was calling a pig through the brush and Ethan was waiting on the gun. The palmettos parted and a nice pig stepped right into Ethan's ready aim. He made good on the opportunity and once again I saw that smile.
We boned the pigs out and kept the backstraps whole to slice and fry later—some of the best little pork chops you will ever taste. A little citrus marinade makes them sing. The hams we left whole to slow smoke like brisket. The rest I cubed later; floured and fried with marinara and mozzarella, it tastes so good it'll make you smack somebody.