If the swamps of Central Florida are hog-hunting heaven, William “Hoppy” Kempfer is a sporting Saint Peter — greeting bowhunters at the gate and welcoming them to porcine paradise.
For the past 17 years, Kempfer’s Osceola Outfitters has offered fully guided hunts on the family’s 25,000-acre ranch just outside St. Cloud. Although the sprawling property offers excellent bowhunting opportunities for Osceola turkeys, whitetail deer and alligators, Kempfer said it is the world-class feral hog hunting that draws the majority of his clientele.
“Growing up as kids, and all through our lives, we had trapped and hunted hogs,” Kempfer said. “We were just trying to exterminate them and never even gave it any thought that anyone would pay to come to Florida to shoot a hog. Now, I am guessing 70 percent of my income comes from hog hunts.”
As I learned during my July 2011 visit to Osceola Outfitters, there are several very good reasons Kempfer’s hog hunts are so popular. The pig population is robust, there’s no closed season on private land and success rates are high. For the money, stalking a group of hogs with bow in hand is about as much pure fun as you can have with
archery gear. And did I mention a 100-pound “meat hog” is about the tastiest thing you’ll ever kill with your bow and arrow?
For out-of-town bowhunters visiting Osceola Outfitters, the trip usually begins with a flight to Orlando and an easy, 45-minute drive south to Kempfer’s ranch. With all due respect to the hordes of tourists who flock to see the mouse who shall not be named, bowhunters will much prefer a visit to Osceola Outfitters, which could accurately be described as “The Hoggiest Place on Earth.”
When traveling to far-flung hunting destinations, sometimes just getting there is half the battle. Such was the case on this trip with a group of friends from the archery industry. After boarding my flight from Harrisburg, Pa., to Orlando, we were just pushing off from the gate when we heard a loud thunk and felt the jet lurch backward. The hitch on the little Tug cart that pushes the plane out onto the tarmac broke, allowing the cart to slam into the front landing gear. I’ve had my share of air-travel mishaps, but I must say that was a first!
To make a long story short, I joined my fellow passengers back in the terminal, where we waited several hours while mechanics repaired the damage. By the time I finally made it to Orlando and drove to the lodge that evening, everyone else had long since settled in and supper was cold. Most importantly (as you’ll soon learn), I missed the pre-hunt meeting outlining the ground rules for our hunt.