Quaca sustained multiple skull fractures, severe facial lacerations, cracked ribs, a broken wrist, bleeding on the brain and major damage to his right eye. Never a quitter, Quaca has scraped and clawed his way through intensive physical therapy in hopes of returning to bowhunting glory.
You can watch Pigman’s road to recovery in the two-part special Pigman Rising, airing on Sportsman Channel beginning Sunday, June 7 at 8 p.m. EST, followed by part two on Sunday, June 14 at 8 p.m. EST.
We recently sat down with Quaca at his Groesbeck, Texas hunting lodge to discuss his accident and the difficulties he’s encountered on the long road to recovery. Check out the exclusive photos:
<h2></h2>On Dec. 26, 2014, Brian “Pigman” Quaca and his father, Tom “Dap” Quaca, were on their way to a late-season deer hunt when their Ford Expedition slid off an icy highway outside Lamar, Colo. The vehicle rolled over twice on its way down a steep embankment, and the father and son duo was lucky to make it through the wreck alive.
Brian Quaca spent most of 2014 sitting on top of the hunting world. Quaca’s Pigman: The Series television show aired its fifth season on Sportsman Channel, firmly entrenched as one of the network’s highest-rated programs. Meanwhile, the Pigman brand attracted an ever-expanding list of corporate sponsors that includes hunting heavyweights Realtree, Bear Archery, Bass Pro Shops, Savage Arms, Leupold and Primos.
So, Quaca had plenty to smile about as he gathered with family and friends last Christmas at home in Groesbeck, Texas. But as the Quaca clan enjoyed the holiday and celebrated the success of its favorite son, they had no idea the Pigman’s world would literally come crashing down less than 24 hours later.
Early on the morning of Dec. 26, Quaca, 42, and his father, Tom “Dap” Quaca, 66, loaded their hunting gear into a black, 2005 Ford Excursion and headed out for a late-season deer hunt outside Lamar, Colo. Brian drove the first leg of the 10-hour, 661-mile journey, covering about 360 miles before stopping in Memphis, Texas, where Tom got behind the wheel and Brian moved over to rest in the passenger seat.
Another two hours in, as the pair approached Dumas, Texas, the weather took a turn for the worse and continued deteriorating into a wintry mess as they rolled north into Oklahoma. By the time they rumbled up Highway 287 and crossed the Colorado line, Tom was driving right into the teeth of a menacing winter storm.
By 3:30 p.m., the Excursion was about 12 miles south of Springfield, Colo. “There was ice and slush all over the ground,” Tom said. “We came to a spot where it really got kind of touchy, and the [vehicle] kind of spun out. As it started spinning it just went in a circle. I was riding the brake, and Brian was lying back in the passenger seat with his seatbelt on. He was sleeping.”
As the Excursion spun out of control, Brian woke up and immediately realized the vehicle was careening into the path of oncoming traffic. “Get it off the road!” he shouted to his dad, who managed to steer the vehicle off a steep embankment on the right side of the highway. According to the accident report from the Colorado State Patrol, the Excursion rolled over once, collided with a barbed wire fence and rolled a second time before coming to rest on its wheels more than 125 feet from the highway.
When the violent motion finally stopped, Tom quickly realized the severity of the situation. All the vehicle’s windows were gone, the roof was caved in and Brian was slumped over in his seat, his face covered in blood.
“He was breathing, but barely,” said Tom, who amazingly suffered only an injured collarbone, along with minor cuts and bruises. “His head was swelled up, and I thought he was going to die.”
Tom said the minutes that followed were a blur, as passing motorists stopped to offer assistance while they waited for an ambulance to rush a critically injured Brian to Southeast Colorado Hospital in Springfield. Despite extensive injuries, Brian never lost consciousness and remembers medical technicians working feverishly on him in the back of ambulance.
“There was blood in my lungs,” Brian recalled. “I just leaned over the side of the gurney and spit blood all over the place. I’m telling you, clods. I thought I was dead. I thought I would never leave Springfield.”
Hospital exams showed Brian had sustained multiple skull fractures, severe facial lacerations, cracked ribs, a broken wrist, bleeding on the brain, blood in his lungs and major damage to his right eye. Brian needed the services of a major trauma center in Denver, but with snow falling and winter winds howling, there was no chance of a medical helicopter evacuation. So, after working many hours to stabilize his condition, doc-tors loaded Brian back into an ambu-lance for a four-hour, white-knuckle ride to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., arriving in the early-morning hours of Dec. 27.
“They didn’t know until four days later I wasn’t going to die,” Brian said. “It had to be the Lord, because every single doctor told me, ‘I’ve never seem trauma like that and anybody be alive.’ ”
Pigman Rises — Many people assume Brian’s brash, in-your-face Pigman persona is made-for-TV entertainment, but those who know him best say what viewers see on screen is no act.
“Brian Quaca is the Pigman. That’s not a façade,” said longtime friend Jason Pickerill, marketing manager at Bear Archery. “People think he puts on this personality, like Larry the Cable Guy, but Brian Quaca is the Pigman 24/7. Before he was a TV star, before he was a celebrity, before he was anyone in this industry, he was the exact same person he is today.”
The more you learn about Brian, the less surprising that is. Born and raised in rural Limestone County, Texas, it’s not much of a stretch to say he was born with a bow in one hand and a rifle in the other.
“I had this boy in a backpack and had diapers and his little bottle when I went squirrel hunting,” said Tom, a retired utility worker. “I’d walk out in the woods and he’d be crashed out in the back. Then, when I built deer stands, I built one big enough for him to have a sleeping bag with all his little toys in there. Where he went, I went. Other guys would bitch about it, but I was like, ‘You can leave your kids at home. I’m not.’ ”
By the time Brian was a teenager, his father said the boy cared little about anything other than the out-doors. “He played football,” Tom Quaca said, “but if sports got in the way of fishing and hunting, he wasn’t playing. That was it.”
Tom said Brian was also obsessed with maximizing the performance of his growing collection of bows and guns. Before Brian earned his high school diploma, he earned a reputa-tion as one of the best bow techni-cians and gunsmiths in his area, and his services were in high demand among local sportsmen.
He also became an accomplished hunter, with hundreds of small game and deer kills under his belt. But where he really excelled was chas-ing hogs. Brian’s coming of age as an outdoorsman coincided perfectly with the proliferation of feral hogs in their area. And with local ranchers up in arms over the massive dam-age the pigs were causing, Brian had free range to spend his afternoons and weekends and stalking pigs. He got particular pleasure from stalking rank, old boars with his bow.
After high school, Brian studied machine technology at Texas State Technical College and went to work in a power plant owned by TXU, the same company that employed Tom. But his heart wasn’t in it, and before long Brian told his father he wanted to put his machining skills to use making custom bows and rifles.
At the time, Tom was supplement-ing his income as a part-time hunting guide. With the local feral hog popula-tion exploding, so was the popularity of pig hunting, with a steady stream of clients from the nearby Dallas area. The Quacas saw an opportunity to capitalize. In 2000, they purchased several hundred acres on the outskirts of Groesbeck, named it Triple Q Ranch and started outfitting for hogs, white-tails and a variety of exotic species. With literally tens of thousands of fe-ral hogs in the area, the Quacas have a steady supply of local pigs to trap and transfer to their fenced property. And the local ranchers are only too happy to let them do it.
“People love us, because we put them in jail and they are not coming out to root their fields up,” Tom said. “There’s only one way out, and it’s as the best-eating pork you can stick in your mouth.”
Within a few years, word about the awesome pig hunting at Triple Q was out, and the operation started attract-ing some of the hunting industry’s biggest names as clients. The Quacas got their first exposure to outdoor television around 2005 or 2006, when Tom Nelson, host of Cabela’s American Archer on the Outdoor Channel, hunt-ed with the father-son duo. A fast friendship was born, and it wasn’t long before Brian was running a cam-era and filming episodes for members of Nelson’s Wolf Creek Productions, who also recognized Brian’s natural talent in front of the camera.
“The producers who would come down would say, ‘Dude, you need your own TV show,’ ” Brian said. “So, I made a little sizzle reel.”
Brian’s concept was hardly an overnight success. “Everybody said a pig show will never work,” he said.
Well, almost everyone. Monte Dan-iels, in charge of program acquisitions at Sportsman Channel, saw promise in the Pigman concept, despite the fact it had been rejected by a couple competing networks. “He had a great personality and a ton of drive to be successful,” Daniels said. “You could tell he was just one of those guys who wouldn’t give up until he made it.”
Pig Man on Sportsman Channel — The network’s faith was rewarded. Pigman: The Series debuted in 2010 and quickly caught the public’s atten-tion, thanks to Brian’s one-of-a-kind personality and family hijinks mixed with hardcore hog-hunting action.
“There was nothing else like it on the market,” Daniels said. “What Brian brought to the table was re-ally out of the box compared to what other shows were doing. That really separated him and brought recogni-tion to his show.”
The show captured Best New Se-ries in the network’s 2010 Sports-man’s Choice Awards, with Brian taking home the trophy for Favorite Host — a feat he repeated in 2011, 2012 and 2014. No other Sportsman Channel personality has even won Favorite Host twice, a testament to the intensely personal connection Brian makes with his audience.
“When you watch his show, it’s almost as if he’s talking directly to you,” said Pickerill, the Bear Archery marketing manager. “He’s not reading some script. He’s just got this God-given talent that speaks straight to the viewer, and he brings the audience along with him on his hunting trips.”
The original Aporkalypse Now he-licopter hunting special Brian did with hunting and rock-and-roll icon Ted Nugent in 2012 remains the highest-rated episode in Sports-man Channel history, and Pigman’s staying power is evidenced by the fact that the series continues to rate among the network’s best and took home the 2014 award for Best Big-Game Hunting Show.
An Uncertain Future
Despite its success, the future of Pigman was put very much in doubt the moment the Quaca’s Excursion rolled off an icy Colorado highway.
Although family and friends spent the first several days after the crash praying Brian would simply survive, the focus quickly shifted to a long, arduous process of rehabilitating in-juries that would be devastating to anyone — never mind someone who hunts and shoots for a living.
First, the good news: although Bri-an suffered severe head trauma, his mind and personality remain fully intact. His body, however, remains a work in progress even now, six months after the accident.
The bad news is Brian has ex-tremely limited vision in his right eye — not good when you are a right-handed shooter. The violent head trauma suffered during the crash ripped the retina from the back of his right eyeball. Although surgery reattached the retina, he currently sees little more than light and dark with that eye. However, he remains hopeful a future surgery to remove a cataract that formed after the accident will generate considerable improvement.
“Half my vision is gone, and I make my living with my right eye,” he said. “It scares the [heck] out of me, man. But I have to overcome it.”
Brian has also lost about 40 percent of the hearing in his right ear and suf-fers from facial palsy on the right side of his face as a result of severe nerve damage suffered in the crash. As a re-sult, the right side of his face droops and the right half of his lips don’t move properly when he talks, result-ing in a slight slur. And because his right eyelid won’t blink on its own, he needs a patch to protect the eye from harsh light and dry air.
“People got used to looking at me a certain way, and I am not that way anymore. I don’t know if I will ever be that way again,” Brian said. “The biggest challenge for me is just going to be getting my confidence back.”