Wilbur
I guess, I should start at the beginning of the story to explain Wilbur. The beginning of the story starts in September 1999. I decided that after over 25 years of visiting the Big Cypress Swamp that I would put up a feeder at Camp. I figured that a feeder on a timer to throw a little corn each day, would soon attract a few animals, making camp a little more interesting to visit. I expected to see birds, an occasional raccoon and maybe over time, a deer or two might wander by. What I didn't expect was to get a new buddy that we soon named Wilbur.
The feeder consists of a 30 gallon garbage can, nested in a metal pipe frame with hardware cloth enclosing the timer. This keeps birds from picking at the corn and emptying the feeder in a short time. The whole feeder was strung between two pine trees on a cable about 6 feet in the air. The installation is on Private Property, just 50 yards away from the cabin.
After installing the feeder in September, we, (Hoss and Steve) revisited camp Six Pack in October. October is the beginning of Muzzle Loading season in the Big Cypress Swamp. After arriving in camp and unloading the gear, I checked the feeder. The feeder was on the ground, it seems that a bear had wandered by and had pulled the whole thing down. All 160 pounds of corn was gone. So we reinstalled the feeder, and put it higher off the ground. Now it was eight feet off the ground where it was hopefully out of reach. Our next visit was in November, which is the general gun hunting season in the Big Cypress Swamp. The feeder was still up in the air and a sprinkling of corn was underneath it, so it was working. However one of the pine trees supporting the feeder was the worst for wear. The bear had returned, and not being able to reach the bottom of the feeder, was climbing the pine tree. Apparently, the bear would climb the tree, up to where it was even with the bottom of the feeder and then reach out for the feeder. His claws would drag across the bark of the pine tree leaving deep rake marks, as the paw would slide across the tree and then the bear would fall on the ground. This must have been quite a sight! That poor tree had most of the bark ripped off at the height of the feeder. The bear never figured out to go on up to the cable,  which it could tear down. Corn to a swamp bear is like candy to a kid, that bear must have tried and tried and tried to get that corn, but finally gave up, because the feeder is still standing.
Every day while we were at camp in November, we checked the corn on the ground. The only thing we saw picking at it was small birds. This was disappointing; we were expecting to at least see a raccoon. Our next trip was in March, which is wild turkey season in the Big Cypress. Upon arriving at camp, I checked the feeder. It was up in the air, but no corn was on the ground. I decided to come back at the time it would go off in the evening to make sure it was working. Right before time for the feeder to go off, I slipped out to the feeder. As I approached, something big and black ran off. Now I'm thinking that bear was back and I had just frightened it away.I looked for tracks, but none were visible on the dry ground. Soon after the feeder went off and corn came raining down. So, what ever it was, was smart enough to know what time the feeder was going off and was probably waiting underneath it each day. The next morning we were going to be out hunting turkeys before daylight, but that next evening we made plans to set up a couple of tree stands near by and get some pictures of what we thought was the bear.
The next day was not successful with the turkeys, but we had a good hunt anyway. Late in the morning we checked the feeder and all the corn was gone, so our visitor had returned. That afternoon we set up a couple of tree stands, not to close to the feeder, but close enough to see and get some pictures. About an hour before the feeder was to go off, we mixed a couple of nice tall drinks, took our cameras and headed out to the stands. We got on the stands as quietly as we could, not knowing for sure how close our visitor might be. We sat on the stands about ten feet apart, sipping our drinks, not talking to each other, so it would be quiet. It was one of those still, cool days, with the shadows starting to get a little long on the ground. Actually, a pretty nice day.
About 15 minutes before the feeder would go off, we heard a noise off to the right, toward the cypress swamp behind our cabin. The noise although intermittent, was getting closer. Just before the feeder would go off, a dark shape was moving through the palmettos bushes. This dark shape moved right under the feeder, just as the feeder went off. The corn rained down on a black Wild Hog. Now this wild hog was hog wild about corn. We started to quietly take pictures as the hog kernel by kernel started finding the corn and eating it. The corn was scattered pretty well, so it took considerable time for the hog to find each and every kernel. Since Hoss and I were next to each other we started to softly talk and make comments to each other. As the corn started running out, the hog started to pay more attention to it’s surrounding. Soon it heard us, and looked in our direction. Hoss and I expected the hog to spook at this point and run off. But what happened was the hog became curious. He started to ease over to us, but was very cautious. Soon he was right under my tree stand, looking up at me as to say “what are you a big bird”. He then put his mouth around one of the rungs on the stand, as thought he was tasting it. He then walk over to the bottom of Hoss’s stand and looked up at Hoss. He must have liked what he saw, because he tried to jump up on a rung. Meanwhile Hoss is looking down, not sure what to make of this. After a minute of this, the hog wandered back to the feeder to try to find another kernel of corn or two and then wandered off out of sight. Hoss and I were amazed at how brazen this wild hog was and discussed it as we walked back to camp to start dinner.
Now as dusk set in, I started charcoal in the grill, to cook a few burgers. Hoss brought me out another drink and as we were standing there, out side of the kitchen, we heard a noise, turned around and there is the hog standing in the yard. He is over near our burn area, where we burn limbs, leaves and other old items. Hoss had tossed out his old sleeping bag on the burn area. He was planning to burn it later. This hog was now noising around the sleeping bag. He would walk up to it and sniff it, then shy away from the human scent on it, but he kept coming back to it. Soon he walked around the sleeping quarter and past us, just like he owned the place. We couldn’t believe how brazen he was. Hoss was getting a little spooked by him, especially when I started pointing out whose tree stand he was trying to climb and whose sleeping bag he keeps messing with. I told Hoss to sleep with one eye open tonight, because “Wilbur” would be trying to get in his bunk with him. (Yes, that's how "Wilbur" got his name). Hoss took this to heart.
Wilbur circled back and went behind the kitchen and started messing with our garbage bin. Hoss kept yelling at him to scare him off, but he wouldn't budge. I finally filled a bucket of water and threw it on Wilbur to get him out of the garbage. After he ran off, I realized that we had put the empty corn bag in the garbage and that was what Wilbur was after. Corn is such a  strong draw that, Wilbur just could not resist it. I took the empty bag and placed it on the ground next to the kitchen. Wilbur was soon back and snatched the bag and ran off with it. Now if you want to see a funny sight, you should see a wild hog run off with an empty 80 lb. corn bag sticking out of both sides of his mouth.

Its muzzle loading season in the Big Cypress, (Oct.2000) and we just returned from the opening weekend. It had been three months since our visit to camp and Wilbur. We were wondering if he was still around. When we arrived we checked the feeder and discovered that the bear had returned. He had pulled the mesh off of the bottom of the feeder, but had not managed to tear it down. This though allowed the birds access to the feeder mechanism and they had picked the corn clean. So the feeder was empty. We repaired the feeder, filled it with corn and put it even higher off the ground. No sign of Wilbur though. On the morning of the second hunt day, while it was still pretty dark. Hoss headed out to his stand. As he was crossing the camp clearing, I walked out of the kitchen, and there was Wilbur. Wilbur headed out across the clearing tagging along behind Hoss. I guess he was going to follow Hoss to his stand. Any way, Hoss is still nervous about Wilbur, maybe a 150 pound wild hog following you around would make anyone nervous, Hoss got behind a tree and when it was apparent that Wilbur was still coming Hoss yelled! This diverted Wilbur and he trotted off down the buggy trail. Although we didn't see Wilbur the rest of the trip, we could hear him chewing on palmetto berries next to camp. I did ask the hunters in camps nearby, not to hunt on our camp property, and to especially not take the friendly black wild hog.

Its bow season in the Big Cypress, (Sept. 2001), We haven't seen Wilbur since the end of hunting season. So we figure he has run off with some female that was passing through. There are some things more important then a steady meal of corn, I guess!

 

This page modified on September 3 2001, S.DeLine