Bringing It To A Close – One More Hunt
May 4, 2015
It’s hard to believe how much crap you can accumulate in a few years. When you add it to all the crap I’ve accumulated over my lifetime, even after the minor purge when I left California, it’s still a lot of crap. And packing all of this crap… well, it’s a crappy job. (Apologies and all due reverence to George Carlin.)
It’s even crappier when you put it off, procrastinate, get depressed and demotivated, and then, the weekend before you’re supposed to move, you say, “the hell with it,” and go hunting instead of packing and organizing. That just sounds like such a bad idea that it doesn’t surprise me at all that I did it.
Yeah, I know better.
I’ve got boxes stacked all over the house, and only about half of them are loaded. I’ve got logistics to figure out, a barn full of horse tack, hunting and fishing gear, tools, and miscellaneous odds and ends. I’m not even sure how it’s going to fit in the 26′ truck (plus the Dodge). I should have it all lined up in the barn, packed in labeled boxes and organized for storage.
But instead, I pulled together a hunt with my friend, John, and pretty much blew off any pretense of a productive weekend… although one might argue that adding a hog to the freezer is productive. Unless, of course, one is supposed to be in the process of clearing that freezer for travel.
So John rolled in Friday night and after an evening of catching up (or falling behind, thanks to Glenmorangie), the pre-dawn silence was shattered by cries of, “reveille, reveille!” We got a slow start, so I drove fast, powering over the caliche to meet our host/guide, Kirby Cooper, who would be taking us to a little piece of Hill Country paradise in the Edwards County canyons.
The moon was waxing, and game was feeding all night, and despite our highest hopes, the morning hunt did not pan out. We cruised back to town for lunch, and to tend to some business (a back-up contract for the sale of Hillside Manor, in case the initial buyers fail to meet the contingency), and then rolled back up to the top of the plateau at around 18:00. Kirby told us he’d been seeing a lot of hogs in the evening, and the sign I saw earlier suggested that he wasn’t exaggerating. There was a lot of sign. And that’s a good sign.
For my part, the evening started with a hike. The wind was wrong for hunting the blind and feeder, so I climbed the rocky hillside to a point about 150 yards from the feeder. In the elevated position, I could see a lot of country, but I was focused on the dry creek bed below the feeder. In this country, it’s been my experience that these dry creeks often become hog highways. Sure enough, about an hour later, a boar showed up and meandered around in the rocky opening. Unfortunately, from my position the only shot would be offhand and standing, and that’s not a shot I’m comfortable with at that range… particularly when I’m pretty sure that this is not going to be my only chance. Fortunately, hogs don’t pay much attention to the sound of a clumsy hunter tripping over rocks and stabbing limbs in his eyes as he scrambles for a better position.
Unfortunately, boar hogs do pay attention to threats from angry sows.
As I found a new position where I could sit down and use a stump for a rest, the boar stepped up out of the creek. I heard an authoritative grunt from the brush on the other side of the clearing, and the boar spun and trotted off down the creek bed. Kirby had told me that there is a big, spotted sow with some small babies in the area, and I figured she must have threatened ol’ Wilbur with something more severe than a spider bite if he came near her little ones. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear the familiar sounds of clacking jaws as something was cleaning up the corn from the ground. A moment later, I saw a little red piglet hop-running across the clearing, and then back into the brush. Soon, all was quiet except for the roar of the wind and the songs of birds.
There’s a good reason this part of Texas is a world-renowned birding destination. Excuse the aside, particularly since I’m not a birder, but it’s worth pointing out that from late February until June or July, the brush and trees are alive with a staggering variety of songbirds (and other birds too). A morning or evening in the blind at this time of year provides the most amazing concert you could ever want to hear. A little birdwatching becomes obligatory, and you spot any number of finches, flycatchers, warblers, orioles, and my very favorite, the painted bunting. It’s almost enough to distract you.
But I wasn’t too distracted to notice the big, red sow moving slowly along the tree line on the far side of the creek. At well over 300 yards, I wasn’t about to try a shot, and she was moving constantly away (once again, a feeder and bait are not a guarantee). I considered hopping up and going after her, and I’m fairly certain I would have been able to catch up and kill her, but it was still early. Instead of going after her, I decided to wait and see what might come to me.
On the far canyon wall, I spotted a dark creature moving along. I’d left my binoculars at the house, so I strained my eyes to figure it out. At first I thought it was a hog, but after a few moments, I could see that it was a sika deer. I knew there were some around, so I enjoyed the good fortune of seeing one. Then I saw another dark spot, this one much closer, moving through the brush along the edge of the creek bed. In a moment, I could see that it was the boar. I guess he figured the woman and children were gone now, and he could come up and have dinner in peace.
I waited until he was well out into the middle of the rocky creek, and then leveled the crosshairs on his neck. The stump was as good as a shooting bench, and I felt pretty good when I pulled the trigger. When the muzzle blast cleared, I saw the pig on his back with all four feet in the air. I sat tight for another half hour or so, waiting to see what else came in. The boar had rolled onto his side, and then his feet started scrabbling. I was fairly certain it was just reflex. He’d died so quickly, his body wasn’t aware of his demise. But after a moment I decided to go down and make sure he didn’t get back up. Just in case.
I was delighted, on arrival, to see a serious case of reverse ground-shrinkage. When I first spotted this guy, I’d guessed him at about 70-80 pounds. By the time I reached the bottom of the canyon and walked up to him in the rocks, he’d grown to a respectable boar and probably in the neighborhood of 150 or 160 pounds, with decent little teeth sticking out of his face.
Sadly, John’s evening did not pan out as well.
Nor did the next morning.
John mentioned, as he drove off to the airport Sunday afternoon, that he always finds a way to be the butt of the joke when I write up one of our hunts. That made me reflective, and gives me pause now as I reach the end of this little screed. I hate to make him feel bad, again. I mean, the poor guy spent two days in the blind out here back in November, without even seeing a whitetail deer (the Hill Country has the highest deer population in the United States). Then, this weekend he came back, gamely, to hunt Texas hogs and get skunked again. I’m sure he feels bad enough without me rubbing it in.
That would just be mean.