Southern End Strutters helped me go hog wild

by Matt Geyer

Wild Hog in fieldI would have never thought that little me, from central Pennsylvania with a form of muscular dystrophy, would ever shoot a wild hog. Shooting rabbits in the backyard is hard enough.

Although I was raised around and worked with domestic hogs, harvesting a wild hog was a dream I never expected to come true. An individual with my condition just doesn’t expect to travel for a hunt, as hunting in my own neighborhood is already very challenging.

The fantastic folks from the Southern End Strutters Chapter of the NWTF in south-central Pennsylvania turned a dream into a reality when they told me I was going on a hog hunt in the Carolinas. To say I was excited is an understatement. Opportunities like this are few for someone with a disability.

This same group has taken me deer hunting and sent me to Maine for a bear hunt. They work tirelessly to raise funds and provide hunting and outdoor opportunities for people with disabilities.

When I got the call from Mike Paterson asking if I wanted to go on a hog hunt, I thought he was joking. He said they had a last-minute cancellation, and I was their choice for a replacement.

On the morning of February 19, I met my escorts. Jay Shenberger and Keith Kerchner were my drivers, guides and liaisons for the trip. Trust me, these poor guys had no idea what they were signing up for when they volunteered to assist me. They probably thought they were going to have a quiet, relaxing trip.

My mind was ready for the 8½-hour drive from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Polkton, North Carolina, but my body was not prepared. I never know when cramps or pain will set in from sitting still for long periods, but nothing was going to stop me from trying to shoot a wild hog.

We arrived at Cribs Creek Outfitters — a beautiful lodge perched on a hillside with a beautiful view across the valley — and I knew from the fantastic supper the first night, we were in for a great time.

I really didn’t need a wakeup call. I was ready to hunt. While looking at the hog mounts in the lodge, I’d secretly hoped I could harvest a hog just half that size.

On the first morning we saw squirrels and plenty of birds, but no hogs.

The following evening, I was in a blind that overlooked a field, and hog rooting sign was everywhere. There was just one inconvenience: spring peeper frogs were singing so loudly in the 80-plus degree weather, I couldn’t have heard a jet land. Thank God I had a clear view.

At around 9 p.m., my guide Buck, along with Jay and Keith, picked me up to hunt fields. I was not really sure what field hunting entailed, but I was excited to see what the night had in store for me. I was also glad night hunting for hogs is legal in North Carolina, so I could have more opportunities.

We drove and checked field after field, but didn’t see any hogs. I enjoyed the countryside and listening to hunting stories Buck shared.

After driving around for several hours, Buck suggested we recheck the field where we started the night. With Jay using a thermal-imaging night scope, we spotted hogs several hundred yards away. The hunt was on.

We closed the distance, and Buck and Jay kept me from falling in the rooted, swampy field. When we got to within about 60 yards, Buck told me to shoot. I sighted-in on the closest hog and squeezed the trigger, and then swung on another hog and fired. By this time, the hogs were running away. I’d harvested two hogs, and I was overwhelmed with emotion.

This whole experience would never have been successful without help from others. The Southern End Strutters Chapter made it a reality.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The individuals from the Southern End Strutters’ Wheelin’ Sportsmen program all give selflessly of their time and talents.

Members like Jay, Mike, Tracy and Tim truly demonstrate the importance of outreach.

I speak from experience when I say they are helping disabled hunters in central Pennsylvania.

The Southern End Strutters are heroes in the outdoors. The opportunity to spend several days with great people chasing one of my dream game animals made me forget that I have a disease and am in pain.



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