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A Little Toe Tappin’ While I’m Gone

February 28, 2013

The Hog Blog went to Mississippi, he was lookin’ for a hog to kill

He was in a bind, ’cause he was way behind, and he was lookin’ to make a deal

He came across a young boar rubbin’ on a fence post and making a mess

The Hog Blog jumped up on a hickory stump, he said, hog, let me tell you this.

You’re a mighty fine specimen, but give the Hog Blog his due

I got a bullet of gold, against your soul, says I got more friends than you

 

The hog said, my name’s Wilbur, and it it might be a sin,

but I’ll take your bet and you’re gonna regret, ’cause I’m the most popular that’s ever been.

Then the Hog Blog opened up his case, and he said I’ll start this show.

And fire flew from the muzzle as he zeroed in his scope.

He tossed the empty in the creek, and it made an evil hiss.

But no one came to see the show, something was amiss.

(Instrumental)

When he finished, Wilbur laughed, well you’re pretty good old son.

But look around, you’re all alone, nobody didn’t come.

Then he played..

Corn on the mountain run boys run

Apples and berries gotta gitcha some!

Punkins and taters and watermelon too

And here came the hogs, two by two

(Instrumental)

And when he finished the Hog Blog smiled, grinned from ear to ear

and as those hogs came trotting in, he shot them far and near

Wilbur screamed, “you sonofabitch”, what did you just do?

But then the Hog Blog grinned, took careful aim, and then shot Wilbur too.

(Instrumental)

 

 

Loading The Truck – Time To Head To Mississippi

February 27, 2013

I know, I don’t have to spell it out, but it’s always fun to mentally repeat the old mnemonic. Try it with me, “M-I-Crooked letter crooked letter-I-Crooked letter crooked letter-I-humpback humpback-I!”

Isn’t that better than just writing, “MS?” 

Anyway, I’m trying to jam through a bunch of work stuff today so I can head my rig east and north tomorrow… heading for the land of the magnolia and tupelo honey.  There’s the Old Muddy, and the Delta, and riverboats… the home of the blues, and of Elvis. 

And hogs. 

I’ve been following the goings on over at Rex’s Deer Camp Blog, and it looks like they’re really starting to get heavy with swine up that way.  In fact, if they don’t do something soon, those pigs are gonna push ol’ Thunderhoof clean out of the state!  It’s no wonder Rex called, just begging for my help.  He was trying to get some world famous hog hunter, but I’m afaid he’ll have to make do with just me.

Of course, from what I’ve seen most of the hogs in Mississippi aren’t much bigger than piglets.  With that in mind, I’m not going to bring the heavy artillery… just the 105mm howitzer, a handful of grenades, and my Red Ryder (for the really tough ones).  I guess I’ll also bring the .44 magnum, hand cannon, with these new Winchester RazorBack XT loads.  I haven’t read the box yet, but I’m guessing these things will seek out the hogs and lay the smack down on them.  I won’t even need to aim! 

I probably won’t be posting for the rest of this week, but I hope to take some pictures (I may need a macro lens for those little pigs), and maybe even some video (if I remember to get the camera out of the truck this time).  Something tells me that, one way or another, there should be a story or two coming out of this trip.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Testing Lethal Baits For Hogs

February 25, 2013

Just running through my YouTube favorites, and saw this recent post from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The idea of using poisons to control any feral or wild species is always fraught with controversy and challenges.  The foremost, of course, is how do you limit the toxic material to the target animals without spreading it throughout the food chain?  It looks like the TPW work with Sodium Nitrite (a common food preservative) is showing promise.  Will it be effective?  I guess time will tell.  But the video is well made and informative.  Have a look, and let me know what you think.

 

Magnolia State Bound – Mississippi Hawgs Beware!

February 22, 2013

Hog DeathA couple of weeks ago, I got an interesting message on my Facebook page.  Turns out I was officially invited to the 4th Annual Hog Death at the famous Christmas Place. 

Now Rex, from the Deer Camp blog has been inviting me to come out and enjoy some of that Mississippi hospitality for several years now, but I’ve always had to decline for one reason or another.   But every time, I struggle to balance responsibility against my desire to get out there and meet another blogger… and to hog hunt in another state. 

Well, this year it’s all working out.  The invitation found me between work travel, and with no hunting trips to organize.  Of course, there’s a lot of work to be done around the ranch, but it’s nothing that can’t wait another week or two. 

Besides, I hear there’s going to be a “world famous hog hunter” at the event this year.  I can’t wait to meet this guy.  I’d sure like to pick his brain!

Lead Ban Chronicles – CA Statewide Lead Ban Back On The Table

February 20, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesI’d heard some whispers about this, but I don’t usually like to run with rumors.  I know, sometimes it puts me a step behind when news breaks, but it also keeps me from looking like a damned fool when a hot topic turns into a cold splash of nothing at all.   

Point is, it looks like CA hunters are looking down the barrel of a fresh effort to ban lead ammunition across the Golden State.  According to this article from today’s Mercury News (San Jose), a coalition of organizations including Audubon and HSUS are again pressuring the CA legislature and the CA Fish and Game Commission to ban lead ammo statewide, for all hunting.  The argument would appear to be that, since the lead ammo ban in the condor range doesn’t seem to be working (condors are still getting lead poisoning), then the ban needs to expand beyond the condors’ range. 

The state already bans lead ammunition for hunters in the range of the endangered California condor, but environmentalists say a statewide ban is needed because overwhelming scientific evidence shows condors, bald eagles and other birds are still dying from lead poisoning when they eat dead deer and other animals shot by hunters.

The groups are sponsoring a bill in Sacramento that is expected to be introduced by Friday. They are also asking the state Fish and  Game Commission to pass a lead bullet ban.

“Countless wild animals suffer and die needlessly every year from the continued use of lead ammunition,” said Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “It is put in the environment and stays there. It’s toxic, and it’s cumulative.”

I don’t hold out much hope that either the Fish and Game Commission or the State legislature are going to push back very hard against this new effort.  It’s really going to be up to the hunting community in California.  We’ve already seen the depth of influence that HSUS has in the CA government.  CA hunters have absolutely got to organize a cohesive and agressive response if you want to continue to have any voice in the regulations that impact you and your sport. 

The potential is there.  We saw brief flashes of the strength of the hunting community during last year’s fiasco with Dan Richards, and with the hound hunting bill.  The efforts were not enough, unfortunately, but that’s largely because the efforts weren’t sustained, and in some cases they were just too late to make any difference.  Simply showing up, en masse, for a single State House protest won’t do the trick.  It will take persistence, education, organization, and money.  Remember, HSUS comes into this thing with nothing to lose, much to gain, and very deep pockets.  Jennifer Fearing and others have been working for years, chiseling away to make inroads throughout Sacramento.  

I would strongly recommend looking at an organization like California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), and building the strength and influence of that group through both membership and money.  With the proper resources, this group could present a significant challenge to the influence of HSUS and other organizations.  But just buying a membership and sending donations isn’t enough.  Hunters have got to be actively involved, whether it’s through letter-writing and phone campaigns, rallies, or through working inside the organization to focus the message and push it through.  The worst possible thing you can do is just join the group and then wait for them to do the work for you. 

At any rate, this promises to be a tough fight.  The stakes are not unsubstantial either.  A fair number of CA hunters stand to be pretty soundly screwed if they’re no longer able to use lead ammunition. 

 

Checking The Game Cameras – Look Who Came To Dinner

February 19, 2013

Son of FunkhornSo this weekend, I realized I haven’t checked the game cams since 2012 ended.  Shocking, right?  But seriously, the primary visitors have been the same groups of does and yearlings, along with this twisted-horn buck that I’ve started calling Funkhorn Jr.

But that’s not all.  Turns out I’ve been missing a bit…

I’d seen these smoke phase turkeys a time or two, but I didn’t realize that they had become regular visitors to my feeder.

Smoke phase turkeyBut wait.

There’s more!

This guy pushed through one dark evening back in January.  This is what I’ve been waiting to see!

 

Look who came to dinner

 

A Long Weekend In The Field – Axis Hunting With John

February 18, 2013

Just to the left of this sentence is where the photo should go. 

It’s a classic shot… His face, an admixture of weariness, excitement, happiness, and the subtle shadows of ambivalence at celebrating the death of such a beautiful living creature.  He kneels proudly, holding his rifle in an extended arm, butt down and muzzle up… the portrait of success.  Stretched on the ground in front of him is the sleek, spotted body of a mature axis buck.  The eyes are still black and glistening… still unglazed by death.  The velvet-covered antlers sweep back in a graceful arc over the animal’s back. 

At about 09:30, Saturday morning, I thought that was the picture I’d be posting today. 

The buck had been grazing on the far side of the pasture, oblivious to the three hunters discussing the shot opportunties, estimating the range (one of the hunters, an “experienced guide”, had forgotten to get his Leica binocular/rangefinders out of the truck), and debating whether we should try for more than one animal, or just focus on one shot at a time.  We decided that John, the shooter, would build up a rest with some handy bricks, and take the (approximately) 250 yard shot from a solid mount.  Our host, Levi, and I would spot the shot.  I wanted to run back to the truck and get my rangefinder, as well as the video camera, but instead I sat tight and watched the animals through my scope.  If the herd didn’t scatter at the first shot, there might be an opportunity for me to pick out a deer of my own and make it a double.

At the crack of the 7mm-08, the buck sprang straight up and kicked before sprinting into the pecan bottom.  He stopped, perfectly protected behind a downed tree branch.  All we could do was watch and see what he did.  If he gave the shooter another opportunity, that would be great, but the way the deer seemed to be sinking with his head down, we were all pretty sure the game was over.  It was only a matter of time before he collapsed.  Finally, he sank to his front knees and laid down.  Unfortunately, he was now almost completely hidden from my sight.  Was his head up or down?  Was he done, or just sick?  Should we chance loading up into the truck and hauling ass around the pasture  to get to him?

We all agreed that the shot looked good.  The buck’s reaction seemed fairly textbook.  He must be down for the count.

Except he wasn’t.  Even as we stood discussing and congratulating John on a great shot, the deer staggered back to his feet.  The herd had trotted past him, headed to another part of the ranch, and he was going to try to join them.  The tangle of downed branches and pecan trees kept John from getting another clear shot as the deer slowly staggered off, out of sight.  Then Levi said he saw it fall again, and we should get the truck and head around there to collect him.

We were pretty sure there’d be a dead deer laying under the pecan trees when we arrived, but there wasn’t.  We cast about blindly for a little while before backtracking to the blood spoor, and starting over.  The trail, it turns out, went the opposite direction from where we’d last seen the buck moving. 

The tracking job was long, complicated, and very frustrating at times.  I’ll spare the extended description of the whole ordeal, but at the end of it, Levi jumped the deer in a cedar thicket, and it leapt a fence and crossed onto a neighboring property where we could not follow. 

Here is where I’d have inserted the second photo, aligned right, of John with his axis doe.  Her copper fur, spotted with white would be shining in the brilliant sunshine of a mild and beautiful, winter afternoon.  In the picture he strokes her slender neck with a look of somber admiration.  The rifle is placed, muzzle-up (and bolt open, thank you), across her haunches for the photo, carefully posed by the photographer for a classic “hero shot”. 

But it appears that this was not to be either.  A moment’s hesitation is a moment too long for a skittish creature like an axis deer.  And it never pays the marksman to second-guess his shot placement in the midst of making the shot. 

Were there lessons learned?  Absolutely.  Hindsight is always so very clear, and looking back over the weekend exposes all sorts of things that could’vewould’veshould’ve been done differently.  There were lessons of patience, waiting a little longer, taking a little more time on the trail, and paying closer attention. 

We were reminded of the need to stop regularly while blood trailing to take our eyes off the ground and look around us.   Levi was looking at the ground when the buck jumped up from a thicket very nearby.  It’s possible that, had he been scanning the brush as well as the ground, he might have seen it before it got away.   Or maybe not…

We were reminded that animals don’t necessarily stop where we expect them to, and you should never rush ahead without looking carefully around first.  John and I had seen a group of deer run across the road ahead of us, and cut across country to head them off.  I was rushing to get to the place I thought they’d be, and we practically walked right into them because they had turned and come toward us.  If I’d been a little more attentive on where I was, instead of focused on where I wanted to be, I’m pretty sure we could have had a shot at those deer. 

Other lessons?  After losing the buck, Levi and I both remarked on our fondness for neck shots and how they eliminated tracking jobs.  In the midst of the hunt, we convinced John to switch up his game and shoot for the neck instead of the shoulder shot he was generally quite comfortable with.  As a result, he hesitated at a crucial moment instead of going with what he knew and the deer ran off before he could shoot.  When presented with another opportunity where a shoulder shot would have been perfectly effective, he went for the neck and doubted himself just enough to miss the shot.  This is a lesson I should already have known well… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So there are no photos.  And John is going home without any meat. 

But it wasn’t a total loss, as I got the opportunity to spend some time in the field with a great guy.  We shared excellent conversations, some good food, and a drink or two after which we did our best to solve the problems of the world. 

Next time.  It may not be better, but it will almost certainly be different. 

 

Just Something To Think About Over The Weekend

February 15, 2013

Ian, one of the proud and few Hog Blog readers sent me a few photos from some game cams he’s been following in Sonoma County.  I thought they’d be good incentive for some of us to get out of the house and into the woods this weekend.  If this were my game cams, I know exactly where I’d be!

In case you were wondering what hog sign looks like...

In case you were wondering what hog sign looks like…

What's that sound?  Little bitty pork chops?

What’s that sound? Little bitty pork chops?

This pig is trying a new evasive action camo.  You have to decide which spot to shoot at!

This pig is trying a new evasive action camo. You have to decide which spot to shoot at!

This is a parade of pork chops!

This is a parade of pork chops!

Game cameras can sure intrude on those private moments...

Game cameras can sure intrude on those private moments…

I Had No Idea How Bad The Ammo Shortage Is!

February 14, 2013

Don't panic.It’s way worse than I thought.

I have to admit, I’ve been a little insulated.  Winchester, Barnes, and Federal/CCI have pretty much set me up with enough ammo to keep my relatively modest needs met for a while now.  Beyond that, I’ve got enough reloading components to satisfy my basic needs of target shooting and hunting for a pretty long time.  So, at least for my go-to guns, the 30-06, .243, .44mag, and .17hmr, I haven’t really done much shopping. 

But recently, Kat has taken a new interest in shooting handguns, and she’s been talking to one of our neighbors about a women’s “shooting club”.  Most of her shooting will be with a 9mm or a .22LR, and while I’ve got a few hundred rounds of each laying around, I thought I’d hop out on the Interwebz and see about laying in a couple of bulk boxes of ammo. 

Holy crap!

I hit the major sites first.  You know, Cabelas, BassPro, CheaperThanDirt, Sportsman’s Warehouse, MidwayUSA, and the dearth of available options was shocking.  Every site showed a complete lack of 9mm ammo, and most wouldn’t even backorder!  I figured, “well, OK.  This sort of makes sense.  With all the gun and ammo ban talk, the self-defense and AR guys are stockpiling this stuff while they still can.”

So then I looked around for some .22lr ammo, and was absolutely shocked to find that the situation was identical!  Nothing to be found!  Now I know that there are a lot of .22lr “trainer” rifles and handguns out there and they’re a cheap way to shoot the ARs.  But I didn’t expect to see the virtual shelves bare of options (Cabelas did have some tracer rounds, but I’m not really interested in shooting those…especially in this drought). 

Local shops are almost as bad.  We hit a place in San Antonio yesterday, Nagel’s Guns.  They had a few boxes of 9mm on the shelves, but it was mostly the rapid expansion, self-defense ammo.  That stuff is pricey, and I have as much of that as we should ever need.  We don’t target practice with that stuff.  As for the basic ball ammo and cheap target rounds, they had nothing…nada… zip… zilch.  They were almost completely sold out of .22lr. 

I’ll add that gun sales in that shop were off the hook!  We could barely find room to belly up to the counter to get service, and the counters were covered with 4473 forms in various states of completion.  As I looked around the shop filled with a wonderful variety of new and used hunting rifles and shotguns, almost every customer was purchasing or inspecting either ARs or handguns. 

One of our local shops in Uvalde, Oasis Outback, is a similar picture, although since their stock of handguns, ARs, and ammo has almost been completely depleted, there were no crowds.  They do have a few ARs on the shelf, but closer inspection shows that all of them have “Sold” marked on the price tag.  In speaking with the gun shop employees, there is no clear idea of when they’ll see more ammo or more guns.

Is this simple hysteria?  Is there a panic on, amongst gun owners?  I found it interesting as I have visited shops in the recent weeks, that many of the buyers aren’t “gun nut” types.  They’re not stockpiling weapons.  A few of them are hunters looking to lay in something for self-defense in addition to their hunting rifles.  Others are folks who’ve never owned a gun before, or have only passing familiarity.  They want to get something “while they still can”. 

I remember the madness in 1994, prior to the passage of the first assault weapons ban.  I also saw it right after 9/11.  And, of course, there was 2007-2008, as it became clear that Obama was going to take the presidency and madness reigned over the fears of harsh new gun control laws (that were never even proposed, much less enacted). 

But this time, on the heels of Obama’s re-election and the spate of mass killings (Phoenix, Aurora, Sandy Hook), it’s worse than I’ve ever seen.  Of course, this time there are some pretty draconian proposals on the table.  I feel for the good folks in New York, California, Colorado, and probably a handful of other states who will rush to enact similar restrictions on guns, ammo, and certain accoutrements.   I’m also pretty sure we’re going to see some sort of restrictions come on the federal level. 

There are, of course, other factors related to the ammo shortage.  I pointed them out in my last post, and also had some conversations about this a while back in regards to the limited availability of lead-free ammo.  Raw materials have gone nuts in price, with increased export to China and some other countries.  The simple reality that the increased interest in the AR platform over the past decade has resulted in an increased demand for the popular AR calibers.  And, of course have been several “interesting” theories put forth about why ammo is becoming scarce.  I’m not going to go there, but the truth is, as usual, much more blase.  People want more ammo than the industry can provide. 

This, it seems to me, should have been one of the big stories coming away from the SHOT Show this year.  It had to have been a topic of conversation. 

By the way, the shortages are relatively wide-spread, but they primarily affect the various self-defense and “AR” chamberings (e.g. 9mm, .223/5.56, .308, 6.8spc, etc.).  The price of more common hunting calibers has gone up to reflect diminished supply, but you can still find most of them on shelves or online. 

Don’t panic.

 

More Stuff During The Doldrums… Ammo Shortages And Giant Hogs

February 13, 2013

After straining to make up some sort of content yesterday, a few things floated through my inbox, or across my Facebook screen that caught my interest. I figured a couple of these would be worth sharing.

First of all, a lot of folks have been talking about ammo shortages again. This isn’t really a new thing, as some of you may remember the runs on ammo about four years ago. Whatever else you may say about President Obama (and please, this is not an invitation to say whatever else you may want to about Obama, Bush, or any other political figure), his two terms have been an absolute bonanza for the firearms industry. Guns and ammo have been selling faster than the factories can supply them, and, as a result, the stores are sporting empty shelves. Orders are going unfilled, all the way back to the factories.

Of course there are other factors, including limited supplies of raw materials like copper, brass, and even lead. But the bottom line is that it’s getting tough to find certain kinds of ammunition. It’s also boiling down to all sorts of speculation, rumor, and outright conspiracy theory. It’s so bad, in fact, that Hornady felt the need to speak up in a public notice on their website.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar statements from other manufacturers as this goes on.

The thing is, if you’re running low on ammo, I’d advise you to go ahead and get it now.  If you have to backorder, it may be a while.  It would be a shame to miss a big hunt or a shooting event just because you let yourself run low on bullets. 

In other, utterly unrelated news, I just saw this over at Rex’s Deer Camp blog

Prehistoric monster boar!

It appears that rumors of giant boar hogs in the area may be the result of some strange experiments conducted by previous occupants of the Famous Christmas Place Plantation, which is now the treasured hunting grounds of Rex and his family.  We’d heard for years of the near-mythical “Thunderhoof” roaming the property, and now these hogs… bigger than a horse and mean as a one-eyed wolverine with a toothache… makes one wonder if it’s even safe to go into the state of Mississippi, much less try to spell it out loud, three times fast.

There are rumors that I might be bound to the old, Magnolia State in the near future, in search of these massive, man-eating pork chops.  I don’t know yet if it’s true, but I get the feeling that I might want to bring a bigger gun.  Anybody have good load data for the 120mm howitzer?

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