The night was quiet.
Other than a couple of barred owls trading barbs in the distance, I had literally heard nothing but the chirping of crickets in seven hours of sitting a climbing tree stand, 30 feet up a pine.
Just as I was fighting the urge to close my eyes, a guttural “woof” sounded in the thicket in front of my position.
Focusing the Generation 3 Night Vision Goggles, a large black form appeared out of the green filter of the device.
The beast sounded off again but this time much louder and now it was out of the brush and standing on the trail.
It was a monster hog.
The huge boar cautiously walked down the trail and gave me a good look at its form. It had the classic razorback ridge on its back, was as broad as a young steer and was in my estimation a legitimate 500 plus pounder.
The wind was light and swirling and as soon as I felt the breeze at my back, the hog stood at attention.
It cleared its nostrils to get a whiff and then bolted into the brush.
It did not get this big by being making many mistakes.
I had walked that same trail literally dozens of times and only saw faint tracks and a couple of large mud rubs on trees that indicated a large hog was in the area.
This natural game trail lead to a large grove of oak trees and was the only way in and out as both sides were 10-year-old clear cuts that had grown so thick a hog such as this one could stand a few feet inside and no one could see it.
But things happen after dark.
Creatures of the night come out to prowl.
I truly believe a wildlife lover cannot fully understand the woods unless they spend team there after dark. What may seem like an area devoid of animal life can turn into an energetic juncture of wild happenings as soon as the sun sets.
Or it can prove to be the lair of something large and dangerous.
There was little sign of deer and other hogs along this trail and it is likely due to this animal showing dominance. This was its domain. It claimed this territory and it took spending some very uncomfortable time up a tree to get a glimpse of it.
Throughout 2017 we will be venturing into the woods at night often to bring you a deeper understanding of the mysterious lives of nocturnal wildlife. The goal is to create a deep appreciation for animals and their habitat and the only way to accomplish that is go where they live and when they are on the prowl.
And we will bring back reports, video and photos.
This will be a year of discovery, inspiration and wild encounters.
Get ready. Anything could happen.
Chester Moore, Jr.