"Big Game Hunt" by John L. Meadows

I was stationed at Kagnew Station from January 1970 - January 1972. I had the opportunity to go on a hunting trip to Mekele, Ethiopia, which is about 100 miles south of Asmara. From Mekele, five Americans and one Ethiopian houseboy, who served as our guide, translator and cook, went about thirty miles by jeep and 3/4 ton into the bush country. We passed through two native villages. At the second village we picked up two natives who served as our guides.

We were hunting wart hogs, baboons, dik-diks, hyenas, and jackals. The big kill was the wart hog. Sgt. Jim Branton who was my hunting buddy and good friend, which he still is today, organized the trip. Jim had been on many of these hunts, but this was my first experience at hunting big game.

By the third day of our trip everyone except me had killed their wart hog. Jim told me not to shoot the first one I saw so I had let several go by. On the fourth morning Jim told me that we were going to walk the ridge line at the river bed and get my hog that day. If you can imagine the Chattahoochee River drying up and being approximately one foot wide, that is what the river looked like at that time. As we walked the ridge we looked down into the reeds which lined the sides of the river. The reeds were thick and about ten feet high. As we came to a clearing which was about the size of a Chevy pickup truck, Jim said, “There it is!”. The hog was sunning in a clearing at the edge of the reeds. At that time we were approximately 100 yards uphill from the wart hog. I dropped down on one knee and put the cross hairs of my 308 Winchester Rifle on the hog. At about the same time the hog picked up our scent and jumped up and stood broadside to me. I put the cross hairs on the hog’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger. The hog hit the ground like a ton of bricks. Jim said, “What a shot!” Jim told me to go down to it and he would stay on the ridge and keep his rifle on the hog, just in case it got up or if another hog came up while I was in the reeds. As I stepped into the clearing, I unknowingly had stepped in Jim’s line of fire. When I reached the hog’s side the hog rolled over into the reeds. Jim shouted that he could not see the hog and for me to watch out. I said that I could still see the hog in the edge of the reeds. As I was getting ready to shoot the second time one of the other hunters came across the riverbed hollering “Did you get him?” I was afraid to shoot because he was on the other side of the reeds and sounded as if he was directly across from the hog. About that time the hog got up and ran into the reeds and I lost sight of him. I could hear him moving through the reeds. It would move a few feet and stop. In the meantime Jim had worked his way down to where I thought it had gone.

Here is where we made our big mistake. We knew the hog was wounded, so we decided to push it to make it die faster. We were afraid that if we didn’t we would lose it in the reeds. We started throwing rocks in the direction we had heard it. The hog would move and fall. We did this for approximately 30 minutes. We then decided to go in after it but decided against going in with scoped rifles. I went back to the camp to get the shotguns and the Ethiopians who were our guides.

I got back to the camp and the Ethiopian house boy was the only one there. I told him to tell the others to get to the river as soon as possible.

I took two shotguns, both of which were 12 gauge full choke, one pump and the other single barrel. I also grabbed a box of .00 buck shot.

The trip to and from camp took about one hour. Jim and the other hunter were sitting on a log in the river bed waiting for me. I gave Jim his pump shotgun and I kept the other. Jim took the plug out of his gun and loaded five .00 buck shot. I loaded the single barrel and also put one shell in my left fatigue shirt pocket.

Jim said that he thought the hog was straight up the game trail which was leading into the reeds away from the river bed. As we headed out Jim was one step in front of me. We walked 10 - 15 yards into the reeds on the trail. As we walked a little further we heard the hog coming straight toward us. When the hog got about 5 yards from us we still could not see it but we could hear the reeds crashing as it came toward us. Jim started shooting into the reeds in the direction of the noise. He said later the reason he started shooting was to turn the direction of the hog. He shot four times and his gun jammed on the fifth round. He was right about turning the hog. I turned and saw the hog coming up the trail behind us. When the hog was approximately five feet from me I shot it in the nose and head area. It never broke stride. It just kept coming toward us. I hollered, “There it is, Jim.” I fell to the ground as the hog ran under us. I was hit in the left leg and Jim was pinned up in the reeds. I was laying flat on my back with the hog under my left leg. Jim was punching the hog in the right hind quarter with the barrel of his gun. The hog was trying to turn and come at us again. I saw a red spot on the right shoulder of the hog. I kicked it as hard as I could with my right foot. The hog rolled over at my feet and got up and ran into the reeds again. Jim reached down and asked, “Are you alright?” I answered, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” I got up and we both ran out of the reeds into the river bed. We sat down on a log and checked ourselves for cuts. We were both okay.

About five minutes later, the other hunters and the Ethiopian guides came up. Of course, we had to tell our story. The Ethiopians could not understand a word of English and we could not understand their language, but we were finally able to get across to them what was happening.

We decided to try one more time and get the hog, because of the size of it and the story we would have to tell when we got home. We all went around to the side where all the action had taken place. Jim and I were leading a group of five men into the reeds to get the hog. Jim was once again about one step in front of me. As we closed in the hog once again picked up our scent and charged us. We ran back to the river bed and waited for it to come out. If it had come out at that exact moment there would not have been much left of it. We were all ready and waiting to fire. We attempted to go after the hog four other times, but every time we got close he would get up and run. Jim said he thought it had our scent and that our scent was causing it to run every time we got close. Finally the Ethiopians went in without us. The hog never even moved when they approached it. One of the Ethiopians finished it off with my knife. When we got where they were, there lay the hog that had nearly put an end to Jim and I. My first shot had hit it in the right shoulder just between the spine and ball socket. It passed through and ran down the left leg. Where I had also shot it with the shot gun there were three places in the head which the taxidermist had to patch. It was an old sow hog and we estimated her weight to be approximately 350 - 400 pounds. It’s upper tusks are seven inches and it’s lower tusks are four inches. She is hanging on my wall along with the three baboons and a dik-dik.

Jim and I have gone hunting many times since then. We had another great experience hunting wild hogs in South Georgia when I got another hog, a Pineywoods Rooter, which was a little easier, and another great story.