REYNOLDS COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - The first deer hunt for a young boy is a milestone. Every family embraces the first hunt with their own special traditions.
13-year-old Ethan Bryan, of Terre Du Lac, had his first deer hunt and unfornuately it did not live up to his expectations.
His first hunt was ruined by a sounder of feral hogs.
"I couldn't wait to take Ethan hunting," said Dan Bryan, Ethan's dad. "This was the year he said he wanted to go, so we were excited and I'd really hoped for a good hunt. I couldn't wait to teach him."
The father and son planned to hunt on U.S. Forest Service land in Reynolds County during the early youth deer season weekend, October 28 and 29.
They went out on Saturday, but had problems with a scope, so they went back out again on Sunday.
The two brought with them Ethan's great-grandfather's gun.
Ethan sighted a buck and shot it.
"I was so excited for him, but then when we tracked the deer to retrieve it, I saw a pretty good sized bowled out area. I thought that might be a feral hog bedding area," said Dan.
As the two stepped over some trees and saw the rooted ground, they heard a large animal growling.
Dan described it as, "One large hog took off in the other direction with some piglets, one stood its ground and then we heard crashing coming through the brush and it was two large hogs charging at us."
Their rifle was jammed, so he couldn't shoot the aggressive hogs.
The two made it out safely, but not with the deer Ethan had shot.
"Those hogs were aggressive, they were exactly where the deer was and we just couldn't get the deer and get out of there safely," he said.
Feral hogs are an invasive species and are highly destructive and prolific. Feral hogs will eat nearly anything available, including many species of native wildlife. They also compete directly with native wildlife by eating acorns, a major fall food source for deer, turkey, and black bear. Their rooting and wallowing behaviors destroy Missouri's landscape and pollute waters.
Conservation Agent District Supervisor Billy Barton said the Bryans made a reasonable effort to retrieve their harvest, as specified in The Wildlife Code of Missouri, and that there's no concern other than their safety.
"It's also unfortunate that feral hogs, an invasive species that doesn't belong here, ruined Ethan's first deer hunt," Barton said.
Missouri Department of Conservation and their partners are working to trap those feral hogs where the Bryans were hunting. Their goal is to completely eliminate all feral hogs in Missouri.
In some counties, like Reynolds, this isn't something that will happen overnight.
"Feral hogs reproduce so quickly that we must continue to work vigorously to keep Missouri's wildlife and landscape from further and lasting damage," Barton said. "We hope all Missourians will recognize the dangers of feral hogs and the threats that they pose to our farms and native wildlife. We encourage you to talk to your neighbors about the problem so we can all be on the lookout for these pests. By doing your part, you will help keep Missouri as a great place to hunt."
Ethan is determined to hunt again, despite his first deer hunting experience.
You can learn more about feral hog elimination efforts and how to report sightings here.
Missouri Department of Conservation loves hearing deer hunt stories, especially first hunt stories and you can share them on their Facebook.