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Public Land Hog Hunting Strategies!

June 28, 2013

glassing

Wanna bet this post title sets new records for hits?

“There are no pigs on public land.”

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that I could probably afford ammo for my hog rifle.  But if you ask a lot of hunters, especially CA hunters, that’s a common refrain.  Of course we know it’s not true, but looking at CA, there’s a whole lot of land, and a whole lot of hunters, but not much success.  Still, when you think about those first two things, that last one makes sense. 

Hogs are smart.  Seriously, they’re pretty much on par with dogs, if not smarter.  They learn… and they retain.  It doesn’t take many run-ins with humans before they figure out where to go and when to go there.  They’re also not afraid of logging some miles between dinner and bed, so if one place is a little too hot, they’ll find someplace else.  So if you put a bunch of hunters in an area, the hogs are going to find another area… at least during shooting hours.  And despite the fact that the place may be covered in sign, you never see a hog.

Very little is as frustrating as hitting the trail in the morning to find dozens of fresh tracks crisscrossing the ridges you just hunted all the previous day.  They’ll poop in your footprints, and then trot off giggling their little piggy giggles.  I’ve literally rousted myself out of camp to see fresh rooting less than 50 yards from my parked vehicle.  I even heard grunting outside the camper in the wee, dark hours.  But then you’ll spend the day busting your ass up and down over ridge and rill, glassing like a madman, only to find… well, nothing.  No pigs, big or little. 

So tip number one for public land hunters… hunt where no one else hunts. 

If you’ve been hearing about a particular spot for years, don’t go there.  Everyone else has been hearing about it too.  And they beat you to it.  Hogs like crowds of other hogs… not crowds of hunters.  You’re going to find them in the place you never heard about. 

Here’s a typical scenario.  Joe hears about this spot where Jim saw a lot of sign.  Bill told Jim that Sam shot a pig there six years, four months, and seven days ago.  Joe asks Jim to ask Bill to ask Sam where he shot the pig.  Sam tells Bill to tell Jim to let Joe know that the pig was in a clearing about 200 yards south of the big rock that’s just in the shadow of the forked oak tree.  Joe takes off in search of that oak tree, finds it, sees no pigs, and comes back to tell Jim to tell Bill to let Sam know that there aren’t any more pigs there. 

A couple of likely things have happened here.

The first possibility is that, by the time Joe heard the tale, odds are that a dozen other hunters also heard it.  They all came to try their luck.  The pigs said, “the heck with all this noise,” probably after Sam’s first shot, and they boogeyed on down the canyon to a new place.  If Joe had persevered and covered some ground outside of that “comfort zone”, he might have found himself a hog to shoot. But instead, since the hot spot didn’t pan out, Joe declared the whole area a bust.  Tomorrow, he’ll be asking Ralph to tell him where Ann told Sue that her boyfriend, Buck, shot that hog.

And that brings us to tip number two… never underestimate the value of hard work and perseverance. 

What Joe should have done is spread out and work the area hard.  Cover ground.  Find sign.  Locate key features such as water, bedding areas, and food.  And then hunt the hell out of it.  If you just drop by once a month or so when you’ve got nothing better to do, you might as well just be rolling the dice on success.  It could happen, but it probably won’t.  You need to be willing and able to hammer an area good and hard if you find good sign.  Get out there before the sun rises, and don’t leave until it’s dark… or better yet, pack a tent and stay out there.  Keep after it and then, maybe if the breezes of fortune are gentle across your fantail, you’ll have the same kind of luck that Sam had.

Of course, the more likely possibility is that Sam lied.  Hunters do that.  Successful public land hunters probably do it even more. 

And this leads us to tip number three.  If you find a good spot, don’t give it away. 

It’s tempting, of course, to come off as the hero.  We all want to be the nice guy, right?  More importantly, we want to be perceived as the great hog hunter who found hogs on public land.  So we share a little info about a hot spot, or pass along a tip to a friend.  Maybe it’s texting someone a GPS coordinate, or maybe just circling a general area on the map with admonishments to, “keep this to yourself.” 

“Oh, your secret’s safe with me,” your friend will assure you. 

Sam’s secret was safe too… until he told Bill. 

Look, it’s not some nefarious, ill-willed plot to ruin your honey hole.  It’s just that people talk.  You share that special info with a trusted friend who shares it with a trusted friend… it’s how things work.  If you want a hot spot to stay hot, you have to keep it to yourself… at least until you have a new hot spot to replace it. 

You don’t have to be unfriendly about it.  In fact, be helpful.  Just not too helpful.  Give a few suggestions about other places you’ve seen hog sign.  Give away someone else’s honey hole, like the place where you heard that Ann’s boyfriend, Buck, shot his public land hog.  Even better, pass along the advice I’ve just shared here. 

Think of it like the old aphorism about teaching a man to fish…

If you give a friend your honey hole and he goes there and kills a hog, you’ve lost a friend and a honey hole.  If you teach a friend to find his own honey hole… well, you’ve probably still lost a friend because if he’s smart, he isn’t going to tell you how to find his honey hole.

It’s a vicious circle, this public land hog hunting.  Vicious.

 

 

From The Guide’s Desk – Getting Your Money’s Worth On A Paid Hog Hunt

June 27, 2013

Thought ya’ll might like a break from the lead ban discussion. Let’s see if this one is any less controversial…

guides deskWhile running through my Facebook feed the other day, I saw yet another post where someone was looking for “cheap” hog hunting opportunities in California. I read through the comments/responses, and through it all ran the same old thread I’ve been seeing for years.  There were a few helpful suggestions.  There were a couple of guide services plugging their own operations.  And there were the guys, stubbornly mired in a fantasy world, who insist that no one should pay more than $XXX for a hog hunt.  Some of what I read bothered me a little bit, so I figure it’s worth sticking my two cents in on the topic. 

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t done extensive research lately.  I used to be pretty diligent in researching outfitters and guides, both to get some ideas on new hunting locations as well as to keep a competitive eye on the market.  But I don’t live or guide in CA anymore, and my research down here in TX is really just getting started.  I think that, between what I’m finding now and what I knew before, I can make some pretty solid extrapolations.

The truth is, for a quality, guided hog hunt you need to plan on paying upwards of $500 (this appears to be true no matter where you’re hunting… CA, TX, GA, SC., etc.).  In most cases, you’re going to pay significantly more.  I was looking at a couple of operations here in TX recently, and found that their hog hunts were running in the neighborhood of $400/day… with a two or three day minimum.  A guided, weekend hunt at a nice place in SC will set you back around $900-$1200.  Day hunts in the “Brush Country” area of west-central TX are showing up from $450 to $600, which is pretty much identical to what a hunter will pay in the central coast region of CA. (There are also cheaper hunts advertised, often $100-$200/day… but when you read the fine print, you find that those include “kill fees”, and even mandatory field-dressing/skinning fees.)

Are there cheaper options?  Definitely.  I suppose that some folks will even luck into a real deal for half that amount.  It’s not really a regulated industry, so prices are entirely up to the operator.  Of course, the flip side of that is that the quality of the hunt can also be entirely up to the operator, and if you didn’t pay very much in the first place, the incentive to offer real value isn’t going to be very high.

So how do you decide?

It really comes down to your expectations.  What do you want to get from your hunt?  What are you willing to accept?  Are you out for the guaranteed kill, are you hoping to get an education, or do you just want to experience a good hunt in some beautiful country?  Do you need a skilled guide who can help you with everything from finding game to skinning and butchering?  What do you want in regards to accommodation?

So let’s say you have an operator who says he offers a guided hunt in CA for $450.  He tells you that the pigs they kill average 200 to 300 lbs.  Sounds pretty good, no? 

Well, as a novice hunter you may not be aware that a 200 lb feral hog isn’t necessarily rare, but let me tell you that a 200 pounder is a really big pig in the wild.  And 300 lbs?  That is a true monster among feral swine.  Do such hogs exist in the wild?  Absolutely.  But as a hunter and guide with a reasonable amount of experience, I can tell you that I’d question anyone who told you their average kill was that large. 

The operative word here is “question”.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Maybe the outfitter has a solid explanation.  For example, if he’s running hunts inside an enclosure, a high-fence ranch, it’s entirely possible that they have a good stock of large hogs.  Maybe they manage their hunters and their herd to keep a ready supply of trophy-sized animals.  Or maybe they run hunts on tens of thousands of acres with a lot of pigs, and only allow the hunters to shoot really large hogs.  But the only way to find out is to ask.

By asking, you’ll know if you’re about to show up and hunt inside a fence.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that… but some folks do.  When I was guiding out at Native Hunt, I saw more than one client get upset when they found out that their hunt would be in an enclosure.  Newsflash, people… when this happens, it isn’t the outfitter’s fault, it’s the customer’s.  You’ve got to do your homework! (Native Hunt offered both high fence and free-range hunts, but unless specified otherwise by the hunter, we put them where they would find pigs.)

Asking questions is also a two-way communication.  Maybe you’re not really interested in killing a 200 lb. hog, but would be perfectly happy with a 100-pounder for the luau pit.  Are you opposed to hunting with dogs?  Are you able to hump up and down steep canyons?  You give the guide a chance to find out what you want, and you get to find out what the guide expects. 

So that’s the $450 guided hunt.  What about these cheap hunts you hear about for $250 – $300/day? 

To be honest, there aren’t that many places doing this anymore, but when you can find them it can be a really great opportunity… for a great hunt or a flat-out bust. For this kind of money, you should know you’ll get a bare bones hunt with minimal extras.  Usually, at this price you’re getting access to someone’s property or lease.  You won’t be guided (although some outfits, like Bryson Hesperia, will give you a ton of good intel if you ask), and you won’t have anyone packing your game out or processing it for you.  This can be a good opportunity for an experienced hunter, but you still need to do the homework.  What are success rates?  Is there a time of year that’s better than others?  If you don’t do some serious homework on this kind of hunt, you are setting yourself up for frustration. 

Doing your homework is just as important when you’re looking at the higher-priced hunts. In fact, it might even be more important.  Just because you’re paying a lot, doesn’t mean you’ll get a lot.  I’ve seen hunts advertised at $1000 for a weekend where the hunters stay in run-down farm buildings and have to provide their own food.  The “guided hunt” consists of taking the group of six to eight hunters out to tree stands and bait piles, and leaving them there for a few hours.  In other cases, I’ve seen weekend hunts for $650 where the hunters stay in a beautiful lodge with quality meals provided and the guiding is two hunters per guide.  Either way can be perfectly fine, as long as you know what to expect.  The only way to find out is to ask. 

So what does this all boil down to? 

Basically this… the days of the cheap hog hunt are pretty much over.  Not only that, but prices are going up.  Even in states like TX where hogs have become such a nuisance that the state has pulled out all the stops to reduce them, landowners and hunt operators are capitalizing on the popularity of hog hunting.  There are still bargains available, but never has caveat emptor meant more than it does today.  Remember that whenever a deal seems too good to be true… well, you know the rest. 

At risk of redundancy (I know I’ve written about this many times before), I’ll offer these recommendations for getting the most out of your hunting dollar:

  • Define your expectations clearly before you ever contact an outfitter or guide.  You need to know what you want before you can tell someone else.
  • Communicate these expectations to the outfitter or guide.  Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you’re hoping to get for your money.  You don’t have to be a jerk, but be upfront and honest.
  • Be completely clear about what you will accept, and what you will not (e.g. high fence, hounds, road hunting, etc.).
  • Be prepared to be flexible.  These are wild animals.  They don’t always do what the guide expects them to do.  Sometimes you have to be willing to adjust if you want success. 
  • Verify what is included in the price of the hunt (guides, accommodation, food, skinning/field dressing, etc.).  The more you pay, the more important this is.  You may find that what one outfitter offers for $1200 can be had from another at half that price.
  • Ask about success rates.  Guided hog hunts usually have high success rates, but if anyone advertises 100%, then question them.  Also note that some outfitters advertise “shot opportunity” instead of actual success.  Be sure you understand and agree about the definition of “shot opportunity” before you book the hunt. 
  • Ask for referrals AND THEN CALL THEM.  (Be sure to ask for successful as well as unsuccessful referrals.)
  • Oh… and ask about tips.  The outfitter may hedge, but it’s always good to feel out the expectation. 

The bottom line is that you are responsible for ensuring that your hunting experience is everything you want it to be.  It’s true that part of hunting is the unexpected twists of nature (human and wild), and that sometimes stuff happens beyond your control.  But the more proactive you can be, the more likely you are to have the experience and success you’re looking for.

Lead Ban Chronicles – AB711 Update and Monterey Lead-Free Ammo Giveaway

June 25, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesThe latest came as something of a surprise to me, but it looks like AB711 hit a snag on the rapid path to passage.  Scheduled for hearing on this past Monday, the bill was moved to the “suspense calendar” in order to give the committee members more time to review the proposed legislation and its impacts. 

What does this mean?  It means that CA hunters and gun owners have a little more time to continue efforts to stop this bill from becoming law.  It means that the arguments against the bill have a little bit of traction, and the pressure needs to continue. 

What it does NOT mean is victory.  It is not the opportunity to breathe easier, or to relax the efforts to stop this legislation.  Remember what happened with the hound hunting ban.  The moment it looked like it was defeated, pressure dropped off and suddenly the bill went through and became law.  Hunters and gun owners can’t turn your backs on this until it the bill has been scrubbed away… and even then, it will almost certainly come back. 

If AB711 is defeated (there is still only a slim chance that it will fail), then it will be time for hunters to carry the offensive and push to end (or at least reduce) the trend of wildlife management through the ballot box.  It is past time to start pulling the teeth of the agenda-based organizations in Sacramento by pushing for legislation that puts wildlife decisions in the hands of the biologists and professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to make solid, science-based decisions.  I recognize that there must always be a place for public opinion in the way public resources are managed, but that opinion can’t be allowed to override good management policy. 

Regardless of the fate of AB 711, the existing lead ban is probably not going anywhere.  However, there’s positive news once again for Monterey County hunters.  As they did last year, the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Monterey County Fish and Game Advisory Commission are offering local hunters the opportunity to get free ammo.  With the help of Cabela’s, these organizations will be sponsoring a drawing which begins Saturday, 6/29.   200 winners will receive a free box of lead-free ammo from Cabela’s for use during the upcoming hunting season (A-zone rifle season opens in less than two months!).

To enter, go to the Ventana Wildlife Society website, http://ventanaws.org/ and fill out the entry form.  Remember that you must be 18 or over, and you must live in Monterey County to be eligible.

Securing Our Guns In The Home – Firearms Safety And Kids

June 21, 2013

Guns aren’t toys. 

It seems silly that I’d even have to write that statement.  Is there a single one of you reading out there who doesn’t recognize this simple fact? 

Of course, if I were writing this for youngsters I wouldn’t think it silly at all.  In fact, I’d consider myself criminally remiss if I failed to teach kids to treat firearms with the utmost of respect and care.  It’s not about fear of the gun, but fear of what it can do.  I’d feel obliged to demonstrate proper handling, and drill those basic safety rules over and over.  By the time I got done, I’d expect my small charges to be able to quote the manual right back to me.

But even with that training, I know better than to expect them to always make the best decisions.  They’re kids, after all.  While it’s arguable that even some adults aren’t always intellectually or emotionally mature, children have the excuse of their age… and sometimes they do things that, to us grown-ups, seem really, really stupid. 

Like playing with guns.

This is why we as adults… parents, mentors, guardians… need to take special care to never allow children access to our firearms without appropriate supervision.  Does this seem as self-evident as my opening line?  It should, but apparently not all adults get it.  Some folks apparently think their children “know better”.   And too often, tragically, they find out that they were wrong.

Look, this isn’t about capitalizing on recent news stories to pile onto some grieving parents.  It’s about reminding the rest of us that, “hey, it could happen to you too.  And it doesn’t have to.”

I’m all for teaching kids to shoot.  I’m fine with buying your six year-old a Cricket or a putting a .410 under the Christmas tree for your eight year-old.  Learning to shoot can teach a lot of quality lessons, such as responsibility, discipline, and coordination.  It’s a good thing.  But you also have to teach them that these things aren’t toys… they’re not playthings.

The key is supervision.  When the shooting is done for the day, teach the youngster to clean the firearm and put it away with the grown-up guns… preferably in a safe, or a locked closet.  At the very least, store the gun with a trigger lock or cable.  Don’t trust the youngster.

Kids are slaves to impulse.  No matter how well a child is taught, or how well-behaved that youngster may be most of the time, they slip up.  I don’t think they can help it.  For whatever reason, that little sense of right and wrong gets skewed and they do something they know they shouldn’t be doing.  If he sneaks into the kitchen and nabs a cookie before dinner, that’s one thing.  But if he goes into the closet and grabs that slick little .22 to show off to his friends… well that’s another thing altogether.  The consequences can, very literally, be life changing.

And it doesn’t have to happen.

While I firmly believe it is every gun owner’s responsibility to be a  firearms safety expert and advocate, I recognize that some folks might need a little help. 

In 1998, the NSSF created a program called “Project ChildSafe“.  While a big part of the program is education, the organization also worked to provide free gun locks and safety brochures to parents.  Originally, the project was funded with matching money from the federal government, however; as those funds dried up, the shooting sports industry chipped in to keep it alive. 

With recent events and firearms safety and regulation all over the headlines, the NSSF has updated the campaign.  But please, shelve your cynicism.  The Project ChildSafe site is not a political podium.  It’s not layered inside and out with gun rights dogma or propaganda.  It is, strictly, about firearms safety… and especially about safety for our children.  The site offers resources to parents, gun owners, and educators who want to learn and teach more about gun safety… and those resources are free. 

Check it out.  Share the link.  And most importantly… just think.  Kids are kids.  It’s our job, as adults, to protect them.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Information For CA Hunters To Speak Up About The Lead Ban Expansion (AB711)

June 20, 2013

I got this release this morning, and thought it was worth sharing.  Please excuse the formatting, as it was a cut-and-paste from the email, and I didn’t have time to dig through and fix all the extra spaces and such.

You have a chance (actually 3 X 7 chances) to voice   your objection against the lead ammo ban bill, AB 711, which is scheduled for   a vote in the California Senate Approriations Committee on Monday, June 24th.   Please act before Monday by calling, faxing and emailing the seven senators   on the Committee.Here is what the California Rifle and Pistol Association has to say about this bill.

This bill threatens to ban  hunting with lead ammo and force hunters to use expensive non lead   ammo!  Don’t let California become the only state with a law prohibiting   the use of lead ammunition for ALL hunting! Your contact to the senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee should be before Monday to request a NO   vote on this bill.

AB 711 proposes a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition for   hunting throughout California.  Currently a lead ammunition ban is in   place for the California condor zone only.  The condor zone lead ban   prohibits the use of lead ammunition for the taking of big game and nongame   birds or mammals in the condor zone. AB 711 intends to expand the ban on the   use of lead ammunition to all upland game hunting (including species such as   quail, dove, pheasant, and rabbits) and to expand the lead ammunition ban  across the entire state for all hunting.  If AB 711 passes, only non lead projectiles could be used for any kind of hunting or depredation.

AB 711 is designed to circumvent the regulatory process   delegated by the Legislature to the Fish and Game Commission. In January   2008, AB 821 put the condor zone lead ban in place.  Since that time,   blood lead levels in the condors has continued to rise.  This is despite a 99% hunter compliance rate with the non lead regulations as reported by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Fish and Game Commission is currently reviewing the science related to the use of lead and its impacts on wildlife and is engaged in   forming a working committee to review the lead projectile issue. The   Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are the subject matter experts for wildlife issues and should be permitted to continue to carry out   their role in managing California’s wildlife.

Below is the list of Senators who will vote on this   Monday – if you use the listed email addresses you should be able to get   through to each of them. Even though the senators on this committee may not   be from your district they represent all Californians when sitting on   committees. It doesn’t hurt to call, fax and email to make sure your message   gets through. There are only seven of them so be sure to contact everyone of   them today!

Senate Appropriations Committee

 

Senator Kevin de León (Chair)

senator.deleon@senate.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4022
Fax: (916) 327-8817


Senator Mimi Walters   (Vice Chair)

senator.walters@sen.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4037
Fax: (916) 445-9754


Senator Ted Gaines

senator.gaines@senate.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4001
Fax: (916) 324-2680


Senator Jerry Hill

senator.hill@senate.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4013
Fax: (916) 324-0283

 

Senator Ricardo Lara

senator.lara@senate.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 651-4033
Fax: (916)-327-9113


Senator Alex Padilla

senator.padilla@sen.ca.gov
Phone:  (916) 651-4020
Fax:  (916) 324-6645


Senator Darrell   Steinberg 

senator.steinberg@senate.ca.gov
Phone:  (916) 651-4006
Fax:  (916) 323-2263

On The Road Again…

June 14, 2013

Cliche?  Yeah.  But it’s early…

Anyway, headed out today for CA, and later up to Spokane for the next week.  I doubt I’ll have any updates unless there’s some news on the hog hunting or lead ammo front.  I think CA is drawing closer to that statewide ban, by the way…  hunters take notice, and if it’s worth it to you, take action.  Is there still time?  Never surrender.

In the meantime, here’s another video blast from the past…

Handguns For Hogs

June 12, 2013

Not all that long ago, I think it was Neil, one of the elite… a “regular reader”… suggested that I take a run at back-up handguns for hog hunting.  So I will, but with a video caveat…

 

I’m not an expert handgunner. 

I’m not even very good (compared to many handgun marksmen I’ve known).  But I do like to shoot anything that goes, “bang,” so while I may not know a ton about the latest and greatest in pistols and revolvers, I’ve got enough knowledge to be dangerous.

But first off, let me say this.  A “back-up” handgun really isn’t something most hog hunters require.  If you need a finishing shot, your rifle is usually perfectly adequate for the job.  I know a lot of guys (including me) who started out carrying some sort of  small ordnance as “insurance” or to administer that “coup de grace”.  After a while, the majority of us stopped.  For hunting the back country in places like CA, every extra ounce of weight counts.  And truth be told, I can’t think of anyone who has had the need to switch from their primary weapon to a handgun on a hunt. I know we all have theoretical scenarios, but trust me… they just don’t happen very often.

As a guide, on the other hand, I almost always carried a handgun.  In fact, while working at Native Hunt we were required to carry.  It made no sense not to be prepared for the worst, since guides are responsible for the clients’ safety.  Even then, the only time we generally had to use our sidearms was during dog hunts, and then it was usually at powderburn range (exchange your handgun for the hunter’s rifle and let him do the “honors”).  Despite the potential and mythical power of a wild boar’s charge, it simply doesn’t happen all that often… and when it does, it is very seldom life threatening. 

On the other hand, hogs are tough… even the little ones… and if you want to go handgunning for them, I recommend that you follow the oft-abused-but-generally-faithful aphorism… Use Enough Gun.

What is “enough gun” for hogs?  That’s a question guaranteed to spark a lively debate among hog hunters, but I’d also argue that it’s a good way to weed out the guys with experience vs. the guys who have read too many ballistics tables or magazine articles.  In almost every circle, there’s going to be some guy who swears you can kill them with something like a .22magnum.  “It’s all about shot placement,” this person will say.  And I’d say that person has probably never killed a hog with a handgun, unless he was standing in a pen.

Right here, let me make a relatively brief aside and bring up the subject of action types.  For the most part, you’ve got semi-automatics and you’ve got revolvers.  While I tend to side with old-school thinking and believe that  you can’t beat a revolver for reliability and simplicity, I have to concede that there’s really nothing wrong with a quality semi-automatic.  A lot of guys are intimately familiar with their semi-autos, and that means they’re going to shoot them better. 

However. 

For the most part, semi-automatic handguns are not chambered in suitable hunting rounds.  To the layman, it may seem like the .45acp, the .40S&W, or the 10mm is a cannon and should be good for anything short of T-Rex.  But it’s just not so.  They just don’t deliver the penetration and energy to reliably drop a large hog (unless you’re hunting with dogs, and shooting bayed or caught pigs).

“But you get multiple follow-up shots,” you might argue.  True, but unless you’re an expert handgunner, the odds of sinking a kill shot in a panicked, running hog are slim.  Spray and pray is great in video games, but not so much in real life… especially if you plan to eat what you just shot full of holes.  That said, some guys do still choose to hunt with their .40s or even their .45s, and they will probably kill some hogs under the right conditions.    Nevertheless, I keep hearing tales from these same guys about having to shoot four or five times to drop a hog.  That tells me that there are better options.  And most of those better options come in the form of revolvers.

In my limited experience, and in the wider experience of fellow guides and hunters, the .357 magnum is a bare minimum for hog hunting.  Truthfully, it lacks much in the way of outright killing power, but it is a round that most people can manage fairly well.  There’s a tradeoff there, but it’s worth consideration.  A well-placed .357 with a good bullet (e.g. Barnes XPB) will bring down most hogs reasonably quickly.  However, a poorly placed shot will likely result in an extended, and often fruitless, trailing job.  Not to mention that I’ve seen head shots from the .357 bounce right off. 

If you follow incrementally, the next caliber to look at would be the .41 Remington Magnum.  It’s unfortunate that I just don’t know many people who use this caliber, and those I do know use it on deer.  Ballistics suggest that this would be a reasonable caliber for hogs, at an appropriate range and with a good bullet.  However, when you look closely, it doesn’t offer a whole lot more than the .357 at close ranges.  The real benefit of this round comes at longer ranges, however; it doesn’t carry a lot of energy when it gets out there. 

Next up is the .44 Remington Magnum.  Now we’re getting somewhere.  If someone asked me to recommend a hog hunting handgun, this is probably where I’d point them.  A full-powered .44mag has enough oomph to put the hurt on almost any hog at ranges inside 50 yards or so (although you shouldn’t expect dramatic, instant knock-downs).  My go-to handgun for hogs has always been my Ruger Super Blackhawk, a sweet, single-action revolver with a 7 1/2″ stainless barrel.  While I am personally partial to my choice, there are a variety of quality handcannons chambered for this load, and available in single or double action conformations.  

I think it’s critical to mention here, however, that even though the .44mag is a powerful round and well-suited for hogs, it’s still a handgun round.  It loses energy quickly at longer ranges, and while a skilled marksman can shoot this thing accurately at 100 yards, it’s not going to do a lot of damage way out there.  On something like a hog that doesn’t usually leave a good blood trail, you still need to consider keeping your shots in close. 

Once you get past the .44magnum, you’re into the realm of serious hog killing handguns.  However, I do want to make a note about the .45 Colt.  This round is widely used by antique firearms shooters, and as a result, most factory loads are relatively meek so they don’t blow those old guns to pieces.  Modern .45s are much stronger and able to handle much heavier charges.  I recommend doing the research and selecting a more powerful factory load (such as those produced by Cor-Bon) for hog hunting.  Another good option is handloading.  The .45 is a very capable hog gun, but it needs a stout load to realize that capability. 

After this, you start to get into the real cannons… the .454 Casull, the .460 S&W, .480 Ruger, and a slew of .50 calibers.  Any of these will certainly be “enough gun” for hogs.  However, you really need to understand that some of these are simply too much gun for hog hunters.  It’s a common mistake, often driven by testosterone and machismo, to get the biggest-baddest thing you can find.  The problem is, unless you’re an experienced handgunner, all these monsters are going to do is generate bad habits (flinching, closing your eyes), and possibly hurt you.  They’re not for everybody.

Most handgun instructors strongly recommend starting out with something small.  A .22lr revolver is an excellent trainer, and you can learn the mechanics of handgun shooting, hone your accuracy, and perfect your form without concern about recoil or muzzle blast.  And even after you move up to the bigger guns, you should practice often with lighter loads.  For example, the .357mag can be used with .38 Special amm for less expensive, lower recoil practice.  The .44mag handles .44 Special ammo perfectly well, or for even lighter loads you can use some of the “Cowboy” loads which have extremely low recoil and muzzle flash.  Same goes for the .45 Colt. 

In my personal experience with handgunning, I have found that it more closely resembles archery than rifle shooting.  You have to practice until you establish muscle memory.  You want to work on perfecting your shooting form, and then be conscious of it all the time.  A slight lean, a twist, torquing the grips… any of these minor flaws will cause your accuracy to suffer.  Even if you decide to put a scope on your handgun, all of these things apply.  There’s just much less gun there to forgive your minor mistakes. 

So no matter what gun you choose, or whether it’s a primary or a back-up weapon, there’s one word that will mean more than anything else… and that’s practice.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Does A Lead Ban = Bullet Ban?

June 11, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesI expect some folks are getting sick of hearing about this.  I expect some of you think I really, REALLY need to go hunting or something so I’ll write about another topic. 

Sorry.  No hunting for me for a while.  And this lead ban thing, it isn’t going anywhere. 

(Oh, and if you’re new here, I absolutely reject the idea of the lead ammo ban… in CA or anywhere else.  It’s unnecessary legislation that will place a significant burden on hunters without making any appreciable positive difference to the environment, wildlife, or human health.  I am strongly against the lead ammo ban.)

A while back, I mentioned that I’d run into a recent meme about how lead free bullets may run afoul of “cop killer bullet” legislation, resulting in a ban on non-lead ammo.  At the time, I thought it was the product of some paranoid, under-informed (albeit well-meaning) gun nut who had simply misinterpreted the BATF regulations. 

Thus it was only with mild surprise that I learned the source of this “rumor” was none other than those paranoid, over-informed (they know better) gun nuts at the NRA.  Since that first exposure to this piece of “information”, I’ve seen it repeated in multiple places around the Interwebz… including a prominent place on the NRA/NSSF shill site, HuntForTruth.Org.  The other day I saw it in an “Action Alert” from the USSF (US Sportsmens Foundation).  Today, I saw it repeated again in a letter from the NSSF to the CA Senate Natural Resources Committee as part of an appeal to reject AB711 (the expansion of the CA lead ammo ban).

Before I dump on a little more derision to this blatant fear-mongering and misdirection, here’s what’s going on.

In 1986, Public Law 99-408, the so-called “Cop Killer Bullet law” was passed.  The key section, Section B states:

The term ‘armor piercing ammunition’ means a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances)from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron,brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium. Such term does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Secretary finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Secretary finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.

Note, first of all, that the regulation applies ONLY to ammunition which may be used in a handgun.  The reason for this specific language is that pretty much any center-fire rifle bullet will penetrate soft body-armor… the criteria by which “armor piercing” is defined in the context of this law. 

You’re probably thinking the same thing I thought, back in 1998 or ’99 when I took this question to the SHOT Show with me.  Under the terms of this law, wouldn’t a copper handgun bullet be banned?  I talked to an engineer and a marketing guy at Barnes, and then I went and asked an ATF agent (they always have a huge booth at the SHOT Show).  Their answers matched perfectly, and in fact, you may have already seen the answer right there in the language of the law.  “Such term does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmentalor game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Secretary finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes…”

So Barnes was able to get their all-copper, handgun bullets through the BATF process because the Secretary found that it was intended for sporting purposes.    However, it did take a lot of work from both the Barnes engineers and their legal team to make it happen. 

According to the letter from the NSSF (and co-signed by several hunting and conservation organizations), there are at least 19 companies who have submitted requests to have their lead-free bullet approved.  Now I understand how bureaucracy works, so I can see that there are likely delays.  But I did some research to see what bullets they might be talking about.  Only one case came up, and it was from 2011.  It involved an ammo maker who had developed a line of brass bullets for the 5.7x28mm cartridge.  Because the manufacturer had apparently failed to submit the design, BATF raided his business and seized the ammunition.  He argued that his design was the same as the Barnes banded solids and met the “sporting use” requirement. 

As a layman, I could see where this thing walked a fine line.  The manufacturer’s original argument was that the bullet was designed for a rifle, so it should be exempt from the bill in the first place.  However, it does not appear to have been originally designed for hunting or sporting purposes.  Again, it’s a fine line to my untrained eye.  But if this is a similar case with all of the 19 alleged applicants, I can certainly see why there’s an extended delay.

The rest of the argument relies on the fact that there are many handguns designed to shoot rifle cartridges.  These include the Thompson Contender, Remington XP-100, Weatherby Mark V CFP, and a few others.   Should one choose to twist logic a bit, one could argue that under the letter of P.L. 99-408, any ammunition that could be used in one of these “handguns” would be subject to the BATF review process.  This is the twisted technicality upon which the NRA/NSSF rest their argument.  And technically, I suppose it’s true enough.  But the suggestion that this review is actually underway, or even being considered is nothing more than propaganda for the paranoid.  

The ATF is not planning to recategorize all lead-free rifle ammunition as “armor piercing”.  They’re not going to make the manufacturers pull all of their ETips, Barnes bullets, Lapua Naturalis, Winchester PowerCore, Remington Copper Solids, and Federal Trophy Copper off of the shelf and send it in for review.  A lead ban in California is not going to be a de facto hunting ban because of the Cop Killer legislation. 

So there ya go!  If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bullshit.

Hog Blog Book Review – Nature Wars

June 10, 2013

In the dusty recesses of my desk, I uncovered a veritable treasure trove of stuff that I need to review.  OK, there were only a couple of things that had been stowed away while I’m remodeling my office, but I was glad to find them.  Because I spent the better part of this past weekend in the air between NC and TX, the first item I chose to review was a bookNature Wars by Jim Sterba

Nature WarsNature Wars is an attempt to describe how our efforts to manage wildlife turned out to be too successful.  It’s an excellent illustration of the rule of unintended consequences… or how the road to hell is actually paved.

In the book, Sterba lays out his case in three key parts.  First, there is the foundation of all wildlife… the forests.  We read the tale of how the great forests were initially decimated as the country was settled.  Most of us are familiar with this part of the story, but Sterba takes us a little deeper with facts (and factoids) so that, instead of reading like an indictment of evil, it’s easy to understand how it happened.  For example, he explains how critical wood was to the early settlers as a building material and a source of power and heat.  Then he shows us how the eastern forests have been in a fairly continuous state of regrowth.  It is no longer “recovery”, but expansion.  In some places the eastern forests cover even more ground than they did when the settlers first arrived. 

Later, he goes into the history of wildlife and how close we came to completely wiping out entire species through uncontrolled hunting (especially market hunting), habitat loss, and disease.  The way west was paved by the beaver, as the rodent’s skin practically drove the entire economy.  As beavers were wiped out of one area, the trappers continued to push them further and further west.  Their current comeback has created multiple conflicts as they must now share their habitat with humans.  Beavers don’t really differentiate between landscape and wild trees.  And once they begin to dam a watercourse, that water has to go somewhere… which often means it backs up over roadways, fields, and even homes. 

Likewise, Sterba tells the story of the decimation and recovery of whitetail deer and turkeys… both of which have become nuisances, or even menaces to farmers, homeowners, and drivers.  As with the other sections, Sterba uses a combination of historical data, statistics, and anecdotal information to make his case. 

Throughout the book, Sterba manages to maintain something of a netural-but-interested perspective.  While you can certainly sense occasional narrative bias, he leaves most of the judgment to the reader.  “But,” he seems to say.  “Before you judge, consider the whole story through the perspective of the people who were there.” 

Did I “like” the book?

Yes. 

I found it very interesting, and it made me consider some things I hadn’t thought about before.  It was sort of strange that, after reading the first half on the way into Wilmington, NC., I noticed how much bigger the trees in and around town seemed to be.  The old highway corridor from the airport to my mom’s house was practically walled by enormous trees (liberally hung with kudzu).  I don’t recall it ever looking that way.  I think this is part of what he was talking about when he described the “reforestation” that’s happening before our eyes. 

I also really appreciated his discussion of the complicated web of “solutions” for the current issues caused by the return of so many wildlife species.  I know how some of those conversations can turn, and how logic is often overwhelmed by emotion.  California is one perfect example of wildlife management through the ballot box, but as Sterba points out in the book, CA is hardly unique there. 

Sterba’s writing is very good.  The writing itself is clean, and he builds each paragraph carefully.  I found little to complain about, except that much of the book is very dry.  At times I did have to labor a bit to keep reading because even though the story was very interesting, the storytelling was sort of flat.  I’ve certainly seen it done better… but I’ve also seen much, much worse.

You can find Nature Wars on Amazon or most other online booksellers.

Casting Call for Hunting Couples

June 5, 2013

Just got this press release yesterday.

I know a few of you out there enjoy hunting as a couple, or as a family.  The Brunsons’ show is pretty good, by outdoors/hunting television standards.  It’s got a nice, amateur feel with good production values and a generally good set of hunting and outdoors ethics.

There’s nothing in this for me, but if one of you readers should happen to make the cut, please let us all know here at the Hog Blog.  We can say, “we knew you when…”

Who Will Be Television’s Next Superstar Outdoor Hunting Couple? Could It Be You?

Addicted to the Outdoors TV Show Open Casting Call

Addicted to the OutdoorsWould you and your sweetheart like to host an episode of an outdoor television show? Here’s your chance. Send an audition video by June 30, 2013.

Gina and Jon Brunson want to make you and your honey TV stars.  Jon and Gina Brunson, hosts of the award winning Addicted to the Outdoors (ATTO) television show, are expanding their Addicted brand. They’re searching for a select few  Addicted to the Outdoors Couples.

Addicted Couples is focused on shining a spotlight on family participation in the outdoors and on couples who make the outdoors more than a hobby – who make it a lifestyle.

Entering is easy. Just shoot a short video of four minutes or less with your mobile device or video camera. Introduce yourselves and show your on-camera personality and passion for hunting. Shoot indoors or out. The key is to let Jon and Gina get to know you. Post the unedited video to YouTube.com and share a link to the video with Jon and Gina no later than June 30, 2013.

The ATTO crew will review all submissions. Ten couples will be selected to interview with Jon and Gina via Skype.

One of Your Hunts Filmed for TV

That’s right, it’s lights, camera, action – and you’ll be the stars! Several couples’ hunts will be filmed with the intent of becoming a full-length episode of Addicted to the Outdoors for the 2014 television season.   If you have what it takes to be an Addicted Couple, ATTO will send its award-winning professional production film crew to you. The crew will film one of the hunts you already have planned for the 2013 summer/fall hunting season.

From this launch deck, Jon and Gina believe they can build a national ATTO movement and potentially develop our next television series, Addicted to the Outdoors Couples.

Who Will Be Television’s Next Superstar Outdoor Hunting Couple? It Could It Be You?

Submit your video today!  

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