Friends, family and dogs gather for annual hunt that's equal parts fellowship and competition
Story and Photos by Richard Ledbetter
Following weeks of winter weather in south Arkansas, Saturday, March 7, 2015, finally ushered in the first hint of spring with warmer temps and clear skies. Remaining snow accumulations and wet, muddy conditions did little to dampen attendance at the Arkansas Dog Hunters Association Second Annual Razorback Roundup. It proved a perfect day to get out and enjoy the sunshine with a large turnout at the former National Guard Armory in downtown Fordyce. Pant legs tucked inside their rubber boots, some 500 hog wranglers and interested onlookers watched the culmination of a 63-hour hunt that began at midnight Wednesday ranging over the woodlands of south central Arkansas.
Much in the same manner as a fishing tournament, 3:00 p.m., Saturday marked the deadline for 45 competing teams to bring their variety of field-dressed wild sow, boar and barr hogs to the weigh-in. The final tally saw 100 hogs delivered to the scales. The event was conducted in coordination with Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. According to AHFH executive director Ronnie Ritter, the harvested hogs were divided between two meat processors, Randall’s of Fordyce and Starr Processing of Eagle Mills, who produced one ton of finished, ground pork sausage. The unseasonably cool conditions during the hunt helped keep the harvest from spoilage.
Fordyce Mayor John MacNichol said all the meat went to several Fordyce and Sparkman food pantries to be distributed among deserving families. “This is an outstanding, well-run event with an important purpose—helping feed those in need,” he said. “We hope to keep it going for many years to come.”
The hunt included five categories of competition. The five largest hogs went to the Porkin’ Ain’t Easy team, with a total of 669 pounds weight. Outlaw Hog Dogs took second place with 659 pounds, while third went to Southern Hog Dogs with 612 pounds. Largest tusks category at three-inches was awarded to Little River Combine, who also carried the day for biggest single hog at 214 pounds. Porkin’ Ain’t Easy had the largest sow at 163 pounds. The final category of biggest barr (a male hog who was previously caught, castrated and returned to the wild, causing the animal to grow larger with less wild flavor to the meat) was awarded to Backwoods Boar Busting for a 311-pound specimen. A total of $6,200 was given out to the winners. Arkansas State Police were invited to participate by providing polygraph tests to all finalists ensuring contest rules were strictly adhered to.
“The funnest part for us is getting to hunt with our wives and they’re as woods-wise as we are.
They catch and stick pigs right along beside us.”
In addition to hog categories, there were also raccoon treeing competitions, as well as largest coon and most coons taken for the same 63-hours period. The day included pig-catching events for youngsters that provided rousing entertainment for all. “My only disappointment with the weather was that we had to cancel our hunting dog field trials,” said organizer and ADHA president Jeromy Sullivent. “That would have brought at least another 300 attendees for the accompanying awards ceremony originally set for Saturday afternoon.”
Despite this year’s dog field trial cancellation, Sullivent is confident that the event as a whole can only continue to grow. “This competition is only going to grow bigger. Next year we’ll be including fox hunting field trials on a 600-acre hunting facility near Grapevine.” He pointed out how hunting programs focus attention on feed plots, high-tech gear, guns, ammo and all other commercially marketable forms of hunting. Taking game the old fashion way with dogs and a knife doesn’t generate near as great of profit margins for TV sponsors.
“Nowadays people in our society don’t understand dog hunting to a very great degree. We’re trying to put the sport out there in a positive light and show how ours is a family oriented, Christian-based endeavor that brings people together in good fellowship,” Sullivent said. “Its great for kids because they’re not as prone to sit quiet and still in a tree-stand for hours on end. With dogs, there’s conversation, interaction and camaraderie. Its a very social sport.”
“Back in the day when dogs were regularly employed to gather game, folks didn’t have a lot of money. They wore everyday clothes to hunt in and counted on their dogs for more than just sport. They used them to put meat on the table. Traditional dog hunting is definitely a huge part of our shared heritage. Dog hunters today are a dying breed. We’re trying to keep the sport alive and get young people involved to pass along the tradition.”
Christian James of Saline County has a day job as maintenance and operations supervisor for multi-national Saint-Gobain Corp. He and his Porkin’ Ain’t Easy team members—wife Tony James, Randy Holloway and Michelle Logan—were the overall winners, pocketing $2,200 in combined prize money. They each additionally received commemorative brass belt buckles, trophies and Southern Cross dog gear gift certificates. “My wife and I are dog people. She’s been raising bulldogs for the past 16 years. We go to all the shows and find its something we enjoy doing together,” James said. “Tony’s dad was a big coon hunter and she grew up knowing more about dogs than most men. She’s also a registered nurse, so that’s very handy for keeping our animals in tip-top shape and treating any injuries they encounter.”
Asked about the three-day hunt leading up to their final success, James said, “We started looking for sign at midnight Wednesday. It was sleeting heavy and then turned to snow. I don’t know if we’d have done as good if not for the weather. The bottoms flooding with rain and snowmelt worked to our advantage, pushing hogs on to the higher ground of our lease (Carder Deer Camp). Once we figured out how to work with conditions, the snow made it real easy to find fresh tracks. We’ve got great dogs, so when we put them on fresh sign, they’re going to bay a pig. We wouldn’t put them on the ground until we found hog tracks because the snow and ice is so hard on dogs’ feet. That kept them fresh and allowed them to hunt throughout the entire 63 hours. When the chase hounds bayed a pig, we’d send in the bulldogs and they grabbed it by its ears while we went in and stuck it.” As with any good hunter or fisherman, he couldn’t help but add, “You should have seen the one that got away!”
Regarding the family friendly nature of the sport, he added, “The funnest part for us is getting to hunt with our wives and they’re as woods-wise as we are. They catch and stick pigs right along beside us.” James concluded his remarks saying, “I don’t think people understand what all goes into a long weekend like this. We started packing three days prior to feed and house our dogs properly in winter and it takes at least a day to unpack. But its not for the money, we do it for love of the dogs, how much they enjoy doing it and for the chance to display all the talent they possess. And it’s a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family out in the woods. Like I said, we love it!”
It’s a symbiotic relationship, providing benefits to either party. When the dogs do well, people likewise benefit. And on top of everything else, together they provide a vital service helping keep habitat destroying, exploding feral hog populations in check.
Razorback Roundup is scheduled for the first weekend in March each year.
For more information check out arkansasdoghuntersassociation.com or call Jeromy Sullivent at 870-484-1775.