April 1, 2015
What a night!
Yesterday evening, my neighbor, Ron, pulled into my driveway like a scene out of Fast and Furious, tires spitting caliche rock as he slid up to the gate.
Ordinarily, I’d have been annoyed at this behavior, but you have to understand, Ron is an older guy… a retired, accounting type, not some young redneck… so seeing him drive like this was reason to be concerned. I was halfway across the yard by the time he slung his door open and started to get out. Bad thoughts were spinning through my head… had he injured himself? Had something happened to his wife?
“Do you have a big rifle,” he asked as I trotted up to the truck?
It brought me up short. “What?”
Ron knows I do a lot of my rifle hunting with the 30-06, and I know he’s got a .243 and a couple of ARs. “What do you mean, a big rifle,” I asked him?
“There’s a buffalo in my garden! It tore the whole fence down!”
One of the things about living out here in the Texas Hill Country is that you never know what’s going to show up at your feeder, in your pasture, or, in Ron’s case, in your little garden. The hills and canyons are full of exotic species, escaped or released from various high fence operations. As I’ve mentioned before, axis deer seem almost as prolific as whitetails. There are lots of hogs (except at my place). It’s not unusual to see a herd of blackbuck bounding across unfenced pastures. And, every deer season without fail, someone shows up at the Smokehouse with an elk or a red stag that just showed up at their feeder or food plot.
But I don’t think I’d ever heard of anyone shooting a feral buffalo. Not only that, but I don’t even know of an exotics ranch anywhere within 50 miles that has bison.
So I was a little skeptical, but I had to wonder. Ron’s not an avid outdoorsman, but he’s not an utter doofus. It’s pretty hard to mistake any other critter for a buffalo. I asked if he was sure, if he’d actually seen it, and with monk-like patience, he explained that, yes he was sure it was a damned buffalo… a big one. Not only that, but it had charged him when he went for his truck, and chased him halfway down the drive!
I keep the local game warden’s cell phone number on the fridge, so I told Ron to sit tight while I made a call. A buffalo running loose is not the kind of thing that goes without notice, and if some rancher had lost his animal, he’d probably be looking for it. That’s a significant investment. I figured the warden might know if any such thing had been reported.
The warden picked up on the first ring. After telling him what Ron had told me, he let me know that he was already aware of the situation, and on the way to my area. A high fence operator up the canyon from me had brought in a small herd of bison, and they’d run crazy when he let them out of the trailer. They ran right through the eight-foot fence. The rancher and one of his hands had managed to round up the cows and calves on horseback, but the big bull was rank. It killed one of the horses, and broke the ranch hand’s leg. Word was that the rancher didn’t care who killed the damn buffalo… he just wanted it dead.
The warden told me that he was still about an hour and a half away, but if I’d rather, we could wait for him to come put the animal down. Of course I told him that wasn’t a problem, and I’d give him a call as soon as I had it done. With a caution to be careful, he told me he’d be waiting for my call.
As you can probably imagine, my head was spinning. Not only had I just been given the green light to kill a buffalo, but it was apparently a pretty bad one. I hoped it would be as easy as slipping back over to Ron’s place and whacking the beast while it grazed on the garden greenery. I’d worry later about what to do with all the meat. I told Ron to hang tight, and went to the gun safe to fetch the .325wsm.
On a whim, I thought to grab my new GoPro and strap it on. Of course it wouldn’t be much of a hunt, but it would be cool to capture it on video. I’m glad I did, too. I think it came out pretty good.
So here, I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story. I need to go find a bigger freezer.
March 30, 2015
I spoke to my neighbors and got permission to slip over to their place in hopes of ambushing one of the toms that’s been cruising up and down the dry creek bed, and gobbling their heads off every morning.
I dug out my box call and a slate, debated pulling out the gobbler and decided to leave it stowed for now.
I found Fertile Myrtle, the trusty decoy, and tried to straighten out the wrinkles in her foamy flanks.
Iggy and I cruised over and scouted the area thoroughly, identifying two ideal setups.
Saturday morning dawned, and I sat shivering in the chill morning air, waiting to hear the fly-down or the gobbling that typically answered my neighbor’s rooster.
It never came.
No gobbles. No yelps.
The morning passed and I had errands to run, so I set my sights on Sunday and went about my business.
Sunday dawned, and again I waited.
The damned birds have done it to me again.
March 27, 2015
There have been times when I’ve been critical of the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation), but one thing that organization does that I think is absolutely invaluable and positive is their Project ChildSafe program. It’s designed as an outreach project to gun owners, as well as folks who don’t own guns, to provide firearms safety resources and education with a focus on youngsters. Project ChildSafe is good, solid information without any overarching political propaganda. The only agenda is to keep the kids safe, and to promote responsible firearms use and storage.
Along with resources available online, such as guides and printable documents, the Project has also released several well-produced videos. The most recent one just came out, and it’s all about talking to your kids about guns. While I couldn’t get past the parallels to sex education or drug awareness videos (it uses a similar, simplistic model), it does present some pretty good talking points. I think too many of us gun owners take these things for granted, and the video is a good reminder that kids need to be reminded. Keep the conversation going, even if you think your youngster already knows it all. Even if you’re just repeating yourself, the fact that you take the time to do so lets the kids know that you take it seriously and that you think it’s pretty important.
Anyway, check the video out, and if you’re interested, have a look at the Project ChildSafe page to find more videos and resources. And spread the word…
March 25, 2015
So, I haven’t really done much in the way of TV reviews lately. Part of it is, as I have mentioned previously, I’m getting pretty frustrated trying to find something that I either haven’t already seen (so many repeats, so little time), something I want to see (I won’t watch fishing, I seldom watch turkey hunting, and I don’t care to watch waterfowl shooting), or avoiding the stuff that just insults my intellect (“reality” shows). I know the networks are looking to diversify their programming, but I really wish they were looking in a different direction.
I’ve heard a number of folks say that they could do a “better” show than much of what they see on the air today (and I’m sure some of them could… hell, a syphilitic lemur could do better than some of the crap that’s on there). Others envy the producers and on-screen talent for these “dream” jobs, and there are a lot of fantasies about what it must be like. I know a little about what goes into making outdoors TV, but I think no one could speak better to the subject than Randy Newberg. So, here he is:
March 24, 2015
Clean your minds.
Despite the possibly evocative and misleading title (and of course it’s on purpose), I have not shot a turkey yet this season… quickly or otherwise. Nor have I observed any conjugating turkeys… quickly or otherwise. In fact, I haven’t even hunted yet. The birds are just now making their seasonal move into the area, and Saturday was a complete washout. Honestly, I prefer the rain we got to shooting a turkey.
But I had to post this quick little blurb, because there’s just something about sitting here in my office with the window open, scratching out a few calls on the box to a couple of distant toms, and having them appear a half hour later, searching intently for that lonesome hen who had, so recently, been yelping her lusty hunger across the canyon. The larger of the pair stood in my gate for a full two minutes, gobbling his ass off and then scanning to the left and right and all points in between to hear the lovelorn response. If I’d been on the porch with the pellet gun or the bow, he’d have been a fairly easy shot.
They’re so stupid this time of year.
March 23, 2015
So, I’ve reviewed a lot of hunting gear over the years. I’ve also been asked to write about things I’ve never put my hands on, and my general rule is to leave it be. I’m not going to read a press release or promo and then try to tell you I think it’s a great product. I want to know if it’s good or not, and then give you the pros and cons based on my personal experience.
With this in mind, I’m proud to introduce this next product. I’ve had almost three years (and change) to get a good feel for this offering, and I can say without hesitation that it’s a pretty sweet deal.
If you want to kill whitetail deer, this product will get you as close as you could ever want to get. You still have to shoot, but this product pretty much does everything for you… including putting them right in front of your gun or bow.
If you’re looking for a “country” experience, this product will put you there. Fresh air and birdsong for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Yeah, it’s that good.
So, here it is. In the interest of shameless, self-promotion, I offer the real estate listing for the Hillside Manor. Not only is it a great deal on a wonderful place, it’s the only property in the Texas Hill Country that was occupied by none other than that Hog Blog guy. How can you resist?
March 20, 2015
I’ve debated how to present this, and I decided the best thing to do is just put it up here without my input for now. Some of you who’ve been sort of following my discussions on this topic probably have an idea of what I think, but for the moment, I’m curious about what you think after watching this short video
Doesn’t matter if you agree with it or if you find fault, if you learned something or not, I’m really curious to get some other takes besides my own. I will say that I had to allay my initial knee jerk reaction and pay attention to what the guy is actually saying. I think that is the most productive approach.
So view on, and respond if you can spare a moment.
March 19, 2015
The guys over at Pyramid Air have always been great about providing good information on airguns, from choosing the right gun, to maintenance, to customization. While there are a handful of good resources out there, they’re usually my first stop when I’m looking for information on the topic. In addition to their reviews, articles, and blogs, they also have a forum where people can chat and discuss pretty much all things airgun. In addition to using the site for my own, occasional research, it’s where I almost always direct people who have questions about this topic.
Why does the topic come up enough for me to mention Pyramid Air? Mostly, I suppose, because interest in hunting with airguns, and the trend in “adult” airguns has really gained some momentum in the past few years. With the press of new guns (and ammo), there has also been a surge of videos and social media posts about killing everything from squirrels and pigeons to buffalo with these things. Unfortunately, a lot of what’s shown up out there is pretty questionable, such as shooting feral hogs with .22 caliber pellet rifles.
It’s with this in mind that I was glad to see the following email in my box today.
Hunt Smart, Not Pigheaded
When hunting with airguns, it is important to remember to hunt in a humane manner. But it doesn’t end there. As members of this fast growing community, it’s up to us to educate each other – both seasoned and those new to the sport – about the proper way to hunt with airguns.
What can you do? Spread the word. Educate new airgunners on forums about the appropriate caliber needed for different sized game. Don’t forward videos or information to other airgunners that promote unsafe and/or unethical practices.
At Pyramyd Air, we monitor customer comments and don’t publish those that offer incorrect uses for airguns. In our hundreds of calls a day, we educate customers and recommend the correct product for their needs – whether its plinking, pest control or hunting. Do the airgunning community a favor, and educate yourself on a regular basis.
I think this is in line with some of the recent discussions I’ve been involved with, both here on the Hog Blog, on Facebook, and in other areas. Rather than jumping in to criticize, sometimes we’re all better served by trying to offer constructive feedback. I think it’s fair to say that most of the people who post or write objectionable things simply don’t have the benefit of knowing better. Let’s help them learn, without turning every discussion into a pissing contest.
March 17, 2015
This is not a new discussion here, but this recent article out of South Carolina made me think it was worth trotting back out.
It appears that the hog problem in the Francis Marion National Forest has gotten bad enough that the land managers have decided to bring in some professional hunters. And, as always seems to happen, this decision has generated some uproar from the sport hunters (or recreational hunters, or whatever you choose to call them).
To the sport hunters, it’s a question of fairness, and they argue that the SC DNR should be focused on expanding opportunities for the public, instead of paying someone to do what the hunters suggest that they would do “for free”. But in the article, the DNR offers what I think is a pretty solid response:
“We don’t treat hogs as game animals. We want them eradicated. That’s the difference between a hog hunt and a removal,” said Sam Chappelear, a regional wildlife coordinator for the agency.
It’s an old conflict, and I’ve seen it play out all over the country. A state has nuisance animals to remove. Sport hunters jump and say, “let us do it! We’ll pay for the opportunity, instead of paying professionals to do the same job!”
Sometimes, it does make sense to open hunting opportunities to non-professionals. As many municipalities have learned, bringing in sport hunters to help manage deer populations in suburban or semi-rural areas can be an effective method to thin localized, dense herds. There are certification programs, training, and other methods used to make sure these hunters are safe and conscientious (and accountable). In general, this solution seems to work well for both the communities and the hunters.
But there’s a big difference between some relatively light “thinning”, and the need to eradicate or sharply reduce an entire population, especially when it comes to feral hogs. Here are a few points that many sport hunters don’t consider… or don’t understand.
- It’s not going to be enough to hunt a couple of hours at daybreak and sunset on your days off. Eradication requires an all day, every day (and some nights) effort until the pigs are gone.
- It’s not enough to find the easy trails, or sit in a blind/stand. When the dumb pigs are gone, you have to get in there deep to get the smart ones.
- It’s not enough to shoot a couple of good “meat pigs” or a trophy boar. Eradication means killing everything, from the big, stinking boars to the itty-bitty, striped babies… and getting it done as quickly as possible, before the sows have a chance to drop more itty-bitty, striped babies that will grow up and make even more.
- It’s not enough to send random hunters into the field to shoot at and scatter the sounders. Eradication requires a coordinated effort with a plan.
I can relate to the frustration of the sport hunters. When I was living in CA, I remember well the issues at Mt. Diablo and Mt. Hamilton with hogs tearing up sensitive habitat, and even wreaking havoc in the parks. Like many other local hunters, I was chomping at the bit for the State to come up with a solution that would allow hunters to pursue these hogs. And, honestly, in the case of the hogs at Mt. Hamilton, I think sport hunters could have played a positive role in pushing the pigs out of the park… or at least in keeping the pressure on them to reduce their impact.
But the State has other considerations, not the least of which is liability. California’s reputation for litigiousness is well deserved. The donnybrook that would likely occur if hunters were turned loose in a State Park, that close to major population centers is staggering to imagine. Who needs that? A few trappers, moving in quietly and setting up in the wee hours do a better job with less visibility… and less risk.
Sport hunters are a significant asset to certain wildlife population control programs. There’s little doubt about that, and recently documented declines in whitetail overpopulation in the Southeast offer some measurable proof (although the numbers are only for a couple of years, and the trend could easily reverse) that liberal limits and lots of hunters can make a difference. That’s great. But when it comes to wiping out a prolific, non-native invasive species, we’re just not the right tool for the job.
March 12, 2015
I haven’t seen a turkey on my place since I smacked that tom back in November (or December… I can’t remember). That’s pretty much normal… or at least it’s normal over the three years and change since I bought this place.
They show up around October, hang out until December or January, and then they disappear.
It always starts the same way. The sun comes out after a period of grey, cold, rainy days. The grass greens up. And way off in the distance, I’ll hear them, shock gobbling when my neighbor’s goats or peacocks sound off.
Every day or two, the gobbling gets a little closer.
Then, some morning right around the opener, I’ll hear cutts, yelps, and purrs.
I’ll race to the window, open now to enjoy the spring breezes, but I won’t hear it again until I give up and go back to what I was doing. Then I hear it again.
And, finally, maybe a day or so on either side of the opener, a big tom will be strutting in my barn pasture.
This will be my last turkey season at Hillside Manor. I plan to make it count.