Hunting, fishing, and rambling along Florida’s Withlacoochee River

Rick Bramwell finds deer, hogs, snakes and good company in the Florida jungle.

Last deer season I was asked to help some folks from Florida find a place to hunt. We arranged to meet at Lanes Motel, West Baden. I drove them around just before dark and introduced them to a local who let them hunt. Unfortunately, one got called back to work the next day, after their morning hunt.

In appreciation, Clint Schweer invited me to Northwest Florida for some wild hog hunting and fishing on the Withlacoochee River. I had visions of a 250-wild boar, an 11-pound bass, and a three-pound crappie. Yes, I still think big.

They put me up in a fifth-wheel at a Bluegrass campground on the river. Clint got held up at work in south Alabama. His brother Todd met me at Donnellen which is about 12-miles from the Gulf.

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Friday morning I fished from shore catching one small bass. Late morning, I was a tourist sightseeing all the way to the Gulf.

Late afternoon, Steve Rogers took me to a thousand-acre leased hunting property. We rode separate ATVs deep into the palmettos and live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The ride was exciting going through water-filled ruts and occasionally making new trails around dangerous spots in the trail.

Steve was going to show me my tree stand for the next morning. It was a small opening where the hogs had been rooting. On the way, we saw a wild boar that Steve shot. It weighed about 150-pounds. We also saw a cottonmouth water moccasin.

It was unique to watch the sun come up in a Florida jungle. I heard wild turkeys and saw a lot of wildlife, including two whitetail deer but no hogs.

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These folks use Thermosels to ward off the hundreds of mosquitos that will surely find you.

The temperature quickly rose to the upper 80s. We gave up the hunt before noon.

The hunt club of about 20 members was having an annual meeting/pitch-in dinner. These were down-home country folks who knew how to cook.

Things went south after that. Someone was supposed to lend Clint a fishing boat, but the prop was busted. Sunday morning, we rented a boat on the river for four hours. It didn’t have a trolling motor. We caught three small bass. I did see big largemouth photos on the bait shop wall and one mounted that weighed 14 pounds.

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We ate at a mom-and-pop restaurant called “The Front Porch.” The chicken was fried in peanut oil and the coconut cream pie, the best ever.

Sunday afternoon, Clint and I fished from a dock on the river. We were after bluegill, but my Muey jig found a school of big redear at the edge of the channel marker. I only caught a dozen, it was slow going.

We tried the same Monday morning with no luck.

Todd was supposed to take me to a private, 20-acre lake Monday evening after work and maybe I could fish that lake by myself on Tuesday, or another guy might take me to another honey hole. I was left with a lot of maybes and a whole bunch of free time at the campground.

My son’s mother and step-father Bobbie and Joe Jones live 130-miles to the south on Pierce Lake, near Lake Wales. My son Greg suggested I give them a call. Bobbie said, “Sure, come on down.”

I will let you know if my fortunes improved next week.

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Rick Bramwell
Rick L. Bramwell is 74 years old and began writing for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in 1972. He likes to hunt small game, deer, turkey and morel mushrooms. Bramwell’s 174-7/8 typical whitetail is the largest ever taken in Madison County. He used to compete in Red Man and BASS Federation tournaments, but is now content to fish ponds and small lakes for bass and panfish. For most of 43 years Bramwell has coached Baseball and softball. He has three grown children and resides in Madison County, near Pendleton.

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