A Little Something Is Better Than Nothing

November 30, 2015

I've been after the ducks three or four days a week since the opener...

I’ve been after the ducks three or four days a week since the opener…

One of the things about working on the Hog Blog is that the boss is pretty lax.  “Take a week off,” I he suggests, just because I he can.  “Hell, take two!  There is nothing so important to write that it needs to be written today.”

“Or ever…”

That’s the part that seems to remain unsaid.  If I don’t write it now, odds are good it will never get written.  And so it doesn’t, and the site lingers and stagnates, and weeks go by.

So here’s a little something…

It’s not like nothing is going on.

To begin with, I’m hunting at least every other day.  I’m either in the tree stand or in the marsh, before or after work, and on the weekends as well.  Also, there’s hog news every day, whether it’s another attack by wild boar on Pakistani or Indian villagers, or another U.S. city or county declaring feral hogs to be anything from extreme nuisances to an actual economic threat!  In both Italy and in the UK, the boar population seems to be booming and causing conflict.

Lead ammo continues to be a topic in some places.  Michigan, in particular, has been making noises about a potential ban on lead ammo.  Articles and columns have cropped up, generally parroting the anti-lead party line about the risks to wildlife and human health (why don’t columnists do their own research on the topic?).  Unfortunately, the pro-hunting argument has often been short on objective fact, and too often built on the complaint that it’s a “backdoor gun ban”, or arguing that there’s no “proof” that lead ammo harms wildlife (the evidence is pretty solid that it does impact some scavenger birds… the question is/should be whether or not that impact is significant enough to justify a ban).  Here we go again, right?

Meanwhile, I’ve just been hunting and working and not writing (for fun… e.g. blogging).  I’ll start to get something worked up, but by the time I’m half-done, the impetus dies off and I leave it be.  Doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a write-up on hog news, lead ammo, or a hunting story.

But if you’ve read this far, you may as well read on…

Thursday morning (Thanksgiving), I really hadn’t decided whether I’d hunt or not.  Kat had some stuff to prep for Thanksgiving dinner, so she didn’t want to hunt.  The little swamp I have access to for ducks doesn’t seem to be much of a morning hunt, and my deer stand is a little tricky to get to in the morning, since I have to walk right through the field to get to it.  But I woke up at 05:30, and after some indecision, I grabbed the rifle and decided that sitting in the stand would be better than sitting in the living room.

Just before full light, I caught movement in the soybeans.  The light fog made it hard to see, but through the Leicas I could tell it was a smallish doe.  A bigger deer was on the edge of the trees, and I’m pretty sure that was the smaller one’s mother.  I leveled the crosshairs on the bigger deer, but I couldn’t tell for sure that this wasn’t the little spike buck I’ve been watching all year, and I didn’t want to kill him by mistake.  I considered shooting the smaller doe as she fed in the soy beans, but for whatever reason, I held off.

Eventually, both deer exited the field, disappearing into the thickets.  Things got pretty quiet for a while.  In the distance, I could hear the deer hounds barking as they were loaded into the trucks.  Thanksgiving day is usually a big day for local hunting, and I expected deer hounds everywhere before much longer.  I had mixed feelings about waiting it out to see if they pushed some deer to me, but I figured I may as well sit tight.  It was still too early for them to cut the dogs loose, and they were a long ways off anyway, so they wouldn’t be a factor for a while yet.

Full daylight finally came on, and I was soon reminded of the other reason this isn’t a great, morning stand.  The sun rises directly across the field, and it gets pretty blinding for about a half hour, until it gets up high enough.  I shielded my eyes, and kept scanning for movement.

Mourning doves began to pour into the soybeans, and I got antsy.  Maybe I should go back and get the shotgun and Iggy.  We could probably have a few minutes of good fun shooting birds.  I still hadn’t broken in the new 20 gauge, and I could imagine a pleasant, old-school shoot.  I shifted the Savage in my lap, and almost stood to climb down.  Maybe just a few more minutes…

The sun was fully up, and far off across the woods I heard the first yelping of the deer hounds.  They were too far away to run anything my way.  So much for that idea.  I started to think again about going home for the scattergun.  My ass was getting numb from the hard seat, and my legs were getting jumpy.  I had to get some stuff together before driving down to the coast for our family Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe I should call it a day… in a few more minutes.

My thoughts wandered, and for a while the field and the woods were just background visuals.  Way off in the distance, I heard two quick gunshots and the dogs stopped yelping.  “Well,” I thought to myself, “at least someone got a deer this morning.”

I refocused and scanned the field again.  Right there, out in the open, a deer was moving through the soybeans!  That he’d made it that far out into the open without my notice was testament to how far gone my mind was.  But I was back in the game now, that’s for sure!

Even at 185 yards, I could see that he was a buck.  A quick glance through the binos verified that he was, indeed, the big eight-point I’ve been after all season!  I slipped the shooting stick off the hook, and braced it on my toe.  The Savage settled into the fork, and I cranked the scope up to 9x.  The buck was walking from right to left, sniffing around.  I think he may have been following the does I’d seen earlier, as he didn’t seem to want to pause to eat.

I guess it paid to hold off for this big boy.

I guess it paid to hold off for this big boy.

The crosshairs settled, and for a moment my finger tightened on the trigger, but my heart was pounding too hard and my vision seemed to get a little cloudy.  I lowered the muzzle and lifted my head up for a moment.  When my breathing settled back down, I eased back into the stock, found my spot, and let the 30-06 rock.  I blinked at the muzzle flash, but I heard the kugelschlag and when my vision cleared, the buck was down on the spot.

The hit was a little higher on the shoulder than I’d planned, and even though he was as good as dead, I put another 180 grain ETip into him to finish it.  Then I let it sink in that the buck I’ve been holding out for all season was lying here, dead.

Of course, shortly after the shock of actually seeing and killing this eight-point, the realization dawned that in just a couple of hours I needed to be at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner!  With temps into the mid-70s on tap for the day, I’d have to get him broken down and on ice before I could go anywhere.

I made it, with time to spare, and a wonderful Thanksgiving feast it was!


It’s Finally Fall

November 17, 2015

It was recently pointed out to me that we’re halfway through November, and my most current post here on the Hog Blog was at the end of October. That’s just shameful, isn’t it?

So here’s a little something…

It’s been a pretty typical fall here in southeastern NC. Summer and winter are slugging it out. One day dawns in the low forties or upper thirties, and the next is pushing its way above 80 degrees. The leaves have turned colors and are dropping like rain. The pecans and walnuts have been dropping too. We’ve picked several coffee cans full, and the neighbors are filling five gallon buckets.

We had the first frost over the weekend. According to local farmers’ lore, that means the collards are ready (which is a good thing, with Thanksgiving right around the corner). It’s also time, according to the old-timers, to hunt squirrels, since the “wolves” are gone. “Wolves” are actually just botfly larvae, harmless enough as far as the meat goes, but seeing one pop out while you’re skinning a bushytail can sure put you off your feed. Cold weather knocks the flies back, so you’re not likely to encounter the nasty little buggers after the first frost of the year. Of course, in Texas I hunted squirrels in all seasons, but now that I’m home, I enjoy the tradition.

I’ve been deer hunting since the archery opener in September, but there’s something sort of special about being in the woods when the chill is settling and the leaves are falling. I’ve tried many times to describe the smell of dirt and leaves and pine trees, but bringing it together in words always falls short. But there are times, sitting quiet in the stand, that it comes together in a heady rush and takes away my breath for a moment or two.

Deer activity during shooting light has dropped off a bit, due mainly to the weekly pressure of dog drives and pickup trucks. I’m still seeing a few does and yearlings, but that big boy has become a ghost (maybe literally, if he happened to drift off of my place to the neighbors’). I’ve still got work to do as far as scouting and setting stands, but much of that will have to wait until next year. In the meantime, the season goes on… and will until January 1.

The second phase of waterfowl season opened this weekend (the season here is split into three phases). Kat and I made it out for a bit on the opener. This isn’t exactly my old stomping grounds, so I wasn’t sure what kind of pressure I’d run into, but when I pulled into the public boat landing, the place was empty. We were the only boat on this section of the river. Unfortunately, our boat is a canoe, and due to the unusually wet year we’ve had, the river was running hard. It was all I could do, even with Kat paddling, to maintain headway into the stream.

Still, it was a pretty morning. I found a likely looking fork in the river and pulled us into the overhanging brush. My decoys aren’t rigged for this sort of water, so I didn’t put any out at first. They probably would have helped, as the wood ducks were soon all over the place, just looking for a place to land. As it turned out, we were also on the wrong side of the river. The birds popped out of the treeline right overhead, and were gone before we could even raise the guns… if we even saw them. But I learn from my mistakes, so I have a better plan for the next trip.

I have also been lucky enough to be offered a piece of private swamp to hunt. The place has been flooded by beavers, and the landowner said the ducks get pretty thick in there. My first venture was thwarted by a lack of knowledge, but it was good scouting. I’m pretty excited about the place, especially as the migration brings more birds into the area. I anticipate good mallard shooting here, in addition to the ubiquitous wood ducks.

Fall is falling, hard, and I find myself falling into my element, just as hard.

So, stay tuned if you will.