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Hunters Helping Farmers Program Kicks Off In GA

October 15, 2014

So, this is worth sharing, particularly for any of my readers who might be located down in the Peach State.

From the press release:

October 14, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Boars. Wild hogs. Feral Pigs. No matter the term, hogs can be a big problem. Especially for landowners who depend on their property to supply crops that provide for their livelihood. Hunters Helping Farmers is a new program combining the efforts of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to help alleviate the agricultural and financial damage caused by these non-native invasive pests.

“It is a natural fit to connect hunters and farmers together to try and help solve this growing problem, says Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. ‘”In no way will this be a silver bullet, but hopefully one small way we can help assist in this huge issue for our farmers.”

Rooting, trampling and consumption of crops are the most common type of damage seen by farmers. Crops most often destroyed include rice, sorghum, wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. Hogs also can potentially contribute to bacterial contamination and sedimentation issues in waterways and they can carry numerous diseases, such as brucellosis and pseudo rabies.

“Feral Hogs are known for causing extensive damage,” said Georgia DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. “By matching a hunter who is looking for additional hunting opportunities, with a landowner who needs help dispatching feral hogs, we hope to provide some relief to those who are suffering from this problem.”

The Hunters Helping Farmers program provides a mechanism to help farmers and hunters engage with a similar goal in mind. The goal of the new program is to help facilitate a relationship between farmers looking for ways to control hog issues on their land and hunters looking to hunt them. Interested farmers can register on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website at www.agr.georgia.gov. Information from interested farmers and hunters will be matched based on geographical area and given to the farmer to choose if and when to contact a hunter. The farmer will be responsible for making all arrangements with the hunter.

For more information, call 1-844-464-5455

I’ll be curious to see how this works out, as I’d love to see the model put in place across other states… especially here in Texas (where it’s turned out to be amazingly hard to find a free place to hunt hogs).

More MishMash

July 8, 2014

Because a single, coherent thought is too much to ask right now…

First of all, California hunters should really be paying attention… and attending.

CDFW To Hold Public Workshop on Lead Bullet Ban Implementation

July 7, 2014

Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Gail Turner, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-1075

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Tuesday, July 29 to discuss the implementation of the lead bullet ban. The workshop will be held at the Rancho Cordova Library at 9845 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento from 7-8:30 p.m.

A CDFW representative will detail a proposed implementation plan, the PowerPoint is available on the CDFW website. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Sacramento in September.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 711 requiring that the Commission adopt a regulation to ban lead ammunition in the state no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation of the ban to occur no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive to the hunting community.

In order to determine what is least disruptive to hunters, CDFW has been reaching out to interested parties this year in a number of ways, including question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations and now a series of public workshops throughout the state. A public workshop was held in Ventura in April and Eureka in June. Another is planned in Redding on July 19. After Sacramento, planning is underway for workshops in August in San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino. In addition, individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line) or mail hard copy correspondence to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Louisiana hog hunters and farmers might be interested to learn that the Pelican State may soon legalize the use of helicopters to shoot feral hogs.  Taking a cue from Texas, LA wildlife managers and agriculture agents are looking at expanding the use of helicopters on private lands.  According to this article from the Times-Picayune, all Louisiana hog hunters aren’t happy about the possibility because they are afraid the sharpshooters will kill off all of the hogs and leave none for sportsmen.

(State wildlife veterinarian Jim) LaCour said he wishes it were that easy, but he told commissioners the state would have to kill 75 percent of its hogs every year just maintain a static population. The creatures are remarkably fecund, producing two litters a year with an average of six piglets per litter.

By the way, wildlife officials in Arizona are warning hunters to shop early if they hope to find lead-free ammunition for use this season.  As many hunters learned last year, the “ready availability” so often touted by lead-ban proponents is not really the case at all.  Finding lead-free ammo, even for standard calibers, was a challenge… especially for those shopping at smaller, local stores.  But even the major outlets, including Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops ran short on the shelves, and even the online inventory went dry for periods of time.

On the national picture, the Senate is moving ahead with S2363, the Sportsmen’s Act.  According to a release from the NSSF, the vote to move ahead was substantial, with an 82-12 majority in favor.  Of course, next comes the crush of irrelevant amendments and such as the political wrangling gets serious, but hopefully we’ll see the bulk of this thing come through without too much damage.

At any rate, I’m not planning to become an outdoor news aggregator site anytime soon, but I did find all of these topics worth sharing… partly in the interest of keeping you folks informed, and partly just because it’s all I’ve got for content right now.  But stay tuned… who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of hogs?

 

The Swine Invasion – Latest News From The Front

June 23, 2014

Monitoring the news feeds as always, I saw a couple of interesting articles regarding the efforts to manage the spread of feral hogs around the country.  First, let’s talk toxins.

At this moment, there is no approved toxin for controlling feral hogs.  While there are some products on the market that have been used (illegally in many cases), there’s nothing that is specific enough to impact a hog without posing a threat to other animals… either through direct contact or through the food chain.  Poisons are, too often, indiscriminate killers.  I’ve heard of people who have used various poisons, and almost always get a description of a “trail of carcasses,” from raccoons and opossums, to porcupines, coyotes, and birds.  There’s a reason it’s generally illegal to use this stuff… and even where legal, most folks tend to steer clear.

There’s also concern, quite valid, about using poisons on a species that some of us eat.  A pig (or an accidentally poisoned deer) can carry a pretty lethal load in its bloodstream.  The unwitting hunter who shoots one of these animals for the table is in for a nasty… or potentially lethal… surprise.  With any luck, the results will be minor illness.  But more serious consequences are definitely possible, especially if the meat is consumed by more susceptible members of the family, such as youngsters or older folks.

But what if there were a toxin that could target feral hogs without being harmful to other species?  What if, in fact, the most effective toxin for killing pigs is something we actually add to bacon for our own consumption?

I’ve mentioned this before, in passing, but researchers from the USDA and a couple of universities have discovered that sodium nitrite can be lethal to hogs.  The research is currently ongoing, as they have yet to reach the USDA’s benchmark of a 90% kill rate, but the results so far are promising.  This could be welcome news to agricultural interests and wildlife managers seeking to protect sensitive habitat, as well as to suburban homeowners in places where other control methods such as shooting or trapping are not as viable.  This article from ABC News online has a little more information, including some of the challenges and responses the researchers have to overcome in this effort.

From the ground to the air…

Aerial shooting has also proven to be a useful tool for hog control, particularly in flat, open land such as parts of Texas.  Attacking the animals from helicopters allows marksmen to kill large numbers of hogs in a single outing, thinning the local population and often driving the remaining animals off of the property.  The thing is, there aren’t enough airborne marksmen to do the job on a large-scale basis.  A couple of years back, Texas made it legal for individuals to pay for a helicopter “hunt”, but these outings are pretty expensive, putting them out of the reach of budget-conscious hunters.  That leaves a lot of ground to cover by a small handful of specialized teams.

Enter “Operation Dustoff”. 

According to their website, the mission of Operation Dustoff is as follows:

This program was developed and designed to strengthen and foster the most successful well-adjusted group of wounded service members. Our goal is to raise awareness and utilize the public’s aid to address the needs of injured/wounded service members. We are taking what the service members were trained to do for our country and creating functionality that will help them become a valuable resource to our community by utilizing their trade as an asset for hog eradication. These service members will also develop a sense of camaraderie with other injured/wounded service members by finding a common bond through friendly competition and enjoyment. Operation Dustoff provides unique and direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured/wounded service members.

The project is currently funded by corporate sponsorship and donations, and looks to build a core team of skilled, aerial marksmen to help combat the spread of feral hogs and to mitigate the damage they do, primarily to agricultural interests.  The hope is that by using trained and professional operators, more farmers will be willing to hire the teams for fly-over shooting.  At the same time, the program intends to provide a supportive opportunity and community for wounded veterans.

It sounds like a net positive to me.

If you’re interested in learning more about Operation Dustoff, either as sponsor or a participant, check out their website at: http://opdustoff.com/?page_id=21.

CA Considering Removing Feral Hogs’ “Game Animal” Status?

May 5, 2014

That may be a misleading headline since it’s apparently pretty early in the game here, but according to a revised bill, AB2268,  from Anthony Rendon, this may be part of new laws and regulations intended to get a grip on the booming, CA hog population.

The full text of the bill can be read online, at the LegInfo website, but here’s a quick summary of what I read.

First of all, the bill calls for the CA DFW to conduct a study on the population of the CA wild hogs in order to get a realistic, current picture of the extent of the animals and their impacts on habitat and agriculture.  While the original justification of the wild pig tags was to cover the costs of this kind of research, it’s apparent that there are more questions and speculation than there are empirical facts.  More research needs to be done, and realistic (science-based) management plans need to be drafted.

Among other recommendations in the bill are the suggestions that wild pigs should no longer be classified as game animals (a designation they’ve held since 1957).  This classification imposes limitations on hunters, such as the requirement to buy a tag for each pig killed.  These limitations, in turn, reduce the wild pig harvest.  The game animal status also puts limitations on landowners by restricting depredation efforts.

Personally, I think it’s about time someone stepped up and took a hard look at the way CA is managing the wild pig population.  I’m sure that someone, somewhere in the DFW, saw the popularity of pig hunting as a potential cash cow for the Golden State’s coffers, but with pig tags running about the same price as deer tags, the number of pigs being killed (legally) by sport hunters will be limited.

AB2268 is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and as I keep saying… CA hunters, step up and make your voices heard.  Get educated and get involved if you want to see positive change in your state.

New York To Ban Hunting And Trapping Eurasian Boar

April 29, 2014

No huntingIt looks like the State of New York is stepping up its battle against the growing population of wild hogs by taking some pretty drastic steps.

Back in October, NY Governor Mario Cuomo signed legislation banning the release of Eurasian boar into the wild (mea culpa… the Hog Blog missed this and failed to report when it happened). The same legislation will phase out all import, sale, breeding, and possession of Eurasian boar throughout New York by September of 2015, effectively shutting down high fence hunting throughout the Empire State.

As justification for the ban, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) points to the number of wild boar which have escaped from high fence hunting facilities and established populations in the wild. Efforts to contain the spread of these invasive, non-native swine have proven expensive and challenging, as hogs are both prolific breeders and highly intelligent animals. They quickly learn to avoid traps, and if an entire sounder isn’t captured, the remaining animals can quickly rebuild their populations.

As part of the control effort, sport hunters have been able to shoot wild hogs on sight. Property owners have also been permitted to set traps to protect agriculture and landscaping. According to officials from the DEC, rather than helping, these efforts appear to be hindering organized eradication efforts by scattering and pressuring the hogs.

As a result, in order to allow the DEC and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to successfully carry out an eradication program, sport hunting and trapping of wild hogs will no longer be allowed in New York state. The new regulation, adopted on April 23 follows:

Part 180, Section 180.12 – Eurasian Boar – Express Terms Adopted April 23, 2014

Express Terms

6 NYCRR Part 180 (“Miscellaneous Regulations”) is amended to add a new Section 180.12 entitled “Eurasian boar” to read as follows:

Section 180.12 Eurasian boar

(a) Prohibitions.

(1) No person shall hunt, trap, take or engage in any activity, including the use of dogs, that is likely to result in the taking of any free-ranging Eurasian boar, as defined in Environmental Conservation Law section 11-0514. “Free-ranging” shall mean any Eurasian boar that is not lawfully possessed within a completely enclosed or fenced facility from which the animal cannot escape to the wild.

(2) No person shall disturb, move, destroy, tamper with, obstruct, damage, open or interfere with any lawfully set Eurasian boar trap, net or capture device. No person shall release, remove or transport any live Eurasian boar caught in any trap, net or capture device.

(3) Exceptions. This section shall not apply to any state or federal agency, to any member of a law enforcement agency acting in accordance with their official duties, or to any other person permitted to take Eurasian boar pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law section 11-0521 or section 11-0523. Any person who takes a free-ranging Eurasian boar pursuant to any of the above exceptions shall promptly notify the Department and follow all instructions given by the Department with respect to handling and disposition of the carcass.

Is this a good thing?  I don’t know.

I’ve always felt that sport hunters are not the right agents to carry out eradication efforts.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but not the least of them is that many sport hunters are so indoctrinated to certain ethical standards that they’re unwilling to take the extreme measures required to wipe out a population… such as shooting wet sows and babies.  Many sport hunters don’t want to kill more than they can eat (or carry), and will shoot one or two hogs out of a sounder and move on.

It’s also true that trying to eradicate a species like wild hogs by shooting individual animals is like trying to drain the ocean with a shot glass.  The only way to remove the animals is to get entire sounders in a single engagement, and this requires trapping on a pretty large scale.  The other alternative is poisoning, and while progress is being made on a targeted poison bait for wild hogs; the risks to other wildlife, livestock, and pets is high.

On the other hand, eradication may prove to be an over-ambitious undertaking.  In NY, as I understand, the hogs are still pretty geographically isolated, and that does give an advantage to the government trappers.  However, it only takes a couple of hogs to establish a population pretty quickly.  If the eradication isn’t absolute, the animals will spread and establish in new areas.  It’s not a little ironic that this possibility (spreading the animals out) was one of the justifications used by the DEC in deciding to ban sport hunting for wild hogs.

As far as shutting down the high fence operations, well, I can’t help thinking that’s really overkill.  If the animals in the wild are truly escapees from the captive facilities (and they could be, I can’t dispute that), then it points to a need for better management and regulation.  It also suggests that accountability is not sufficient, and the facility operators should be held responsible for the costs and efforts of containment.  This should not be an insurmountable problem, and shutting down an industry over a few bad operators just never makes sense to me.

But that’s just my opinion.

At any rate, Empire State hunters can still pursue Eurasian wild boar on the preserves until September, 2015.  After that, hopeful hog hunters will have to set their sights on another state.

Huge Wild Boar Taken In North Carolina

March 13, 2014

I knew the hogapotamus came from the Great Dismal Swamp, but this monster from Bertie County verifies the tale.

It’s funny sometimes, how when I can’t think of anything to write about, something like this falls right into my lap.

Feral Swine Law Oversteps In Michigan

July 9, 2013

I think it was last year that I was writing about Michigan’s efforts to curb the spread of feral swine by placing an outright ban on their possession.  While the spotlight of this case was on a private hunting ranch, the way this law was worded posed a threat that went far beyond the contentious issue of high fence hunting, and took aim at small farmers in the Wolverine State.  Mine was one of many voices calling for reason and careful consideration of any such legislation… and mine was one of the many voices ignored when the law was passed.

Feral swine descriptionThe issue is primarily a matter of defining the prohibited animals.  The “Invasive Species Order” (ISO) includes an extremely vague description of feral swine.  As it turns out, several “heritage” breeds display the physical characteristics that the Michigan DNR uses to identify prohibited animals.  And, as predicted before this law went through, the results are that small farmers are being threatened with criminal charges and fines for failing to surrender or eradicate their stock. 

Some of the small farms are fighting back (in some cases because they don’t have a choice… if they lose their hogs, they lose their livelihood and even their homes).  Several, like the family of Mark Baker are taking the offensive and refusing to surrender their stock.  In the face of $700,000 in fines and even possible prison sentences, the Bakers charge that the DNR is overstepping its authority in enforcing the ISO against small farms. 

It promises to remain a contentious issue and worth watching, even if it no longer has much of anything to do with hunting.

Reminiscing… Kat’s First Boar

May 15, 2013

While we’re on a run here, this is one of my favorite vids (and one of my prouder moments).  The video tells the tale…

Hog Blog Hiatus?

May 2, 2013

Due to the outpouring of concerned emails from all my many fans, wondering where I was and if I was OK, I figured I owed an explanation for the recent week-and-a-half absence.

Truth be told, I haven’t received any emails, but I still feel like I owe some sort of apology for disappearing without a word.  If not for that video that I actually preloaded a week or two ago, the Hog Blog has maintained a sort of radio silence.  That’s not cool, either for readers or for advertisers (not that I’m seeing any return for the ads on this blog… yet).  Part of my excuse is that work took me to Spokane last week, and at the same time the security guys in IT decided to tweak the Websense filters.  Guns and weapons are tabu keywords, so I couldn’t even access the Hog Blog for most of the week.

But a bigger reason is a little more esoteric… I just haven’t felt much like writing.  And the thing is, there’s plenty going on.

Feral hogsA few days ago, the New York Times published an article about the spread of feral pigs across the country.  The slant was the conflict between wild hogs as sportsmen’s game and the fact that they’re a rapidly expanding, non-native invasive species.  This isn’t news, for most of us who are familiar with wild hogs, but I did find it kind of interesting that the NY Times felt like it was a big enough controversy to merit space on their pages.

“The conundrum is that you’ve got one of the world’s hundred worst invasive animals, and at the same time you’ve got a highly desirable game species,” Dr. Mayer (John J. Mayer is the expert on wild pigs in the US) said. “It’s a real Jekyll and Hyde type situation with wild pigs.”

The article points to the recent attempt in MI to ban possession of eurasian boar or feral/wild pigs, particularly those owned by high fence hunting preserves.  State officials (with behind-the-curtain support of anti-hunting organizations) argue that escaped pigs from these operations are a key source of the feral swine that are now populating the Wolverine State.  Other states, such as Pennsylvania, are also considering similar bans.

On the other side of the coin, hunting preserve operators argue that the ban will put them out of business, and that escapees are a minimal problem.  For most of these operators, wild boar provide a relatively inexpensive option for their customers, and can make up a significant percentage of the ranch’s income.  They say (and I tend to agree) that the problem is the irresponsible operators who don’t maintain proper fences, which is no cause to indict the entire industry.

A point I think that didn’t get enough consideration (it’s mentioned, but not explored) in this article is the argument that in many cases, the spread of wild/feral swine is the result of ignorant and irresponsible hunters who are transporting and releasing hogs on their private property in order to create a huntable population.  I don’t have hard data to support this argument, personally, but I do have a very clear picture of what’s going on out there.

Spend enough time talking to enough hog hunters around the country, and the stories abound… and they’re almost all identical.  Joe and Bubba think it would be cool to have some hogs to hunt on their property/lease.  Someone down the road has trapped a bunch, so Joe and Bubba load them in a trailer and haul them up to their place and dump them in the woods.  Before long, the neighbors are seeing hogs.  And so on…

Again, there’s not a word I’ve written here so far that I haven’t addressed before on this blog.  With that in mind, I’m not going to go into a lengthy discussion of the problems that feral pigs can create.  Suffice to say that the key items on the list are damage to crops (estimates suggest about $1.5 billion per year), risk of transmitting disease to domestic pork, and ecological destruction.  While I think there’s room for discussion about how significant these problems are on a general scale, it is fair to say that we would probably be better off if feral swine were not here.

Is there a solution?  I think there are plenty of things we can do, and in some states there are pretty good, efffective measures taking place.  Among others, I do think a key step would be to eliminate the economic value of feral hogs.

In states like California, Florida, and Texas feral swine have become significant business to many landowners.  A weekend hunt can run upwards of $500 per hunter, and in areas where the hogs are really plentiful, guiding hog hunters can provide a living wage.  In itself, this may not seem like a bad thing.  It’s bringing jobs to rural areas, and in many cases it’s offsetting the cost of the damage these animals do to local crops.  The problem is that once this kind of thing becomes a business, eradicating the hogs is no longer the desirable outcome.  Several landowners have begun to try to manage the populations to ensure a sustainable hunting opportunity.  Hunters are prohibited from shooting wet sows, or discouraged from shooting certain animals.  Hunting pressure is limited to keep the pigs from leaving the property and give them time to recover from the predation.   It’s also a fact that some less scrutable operators bring in and release more pigs to keep the customers happy.

I don’t agree with banning wild swine at fenced hunting preserves.  Like any other huntable exotic species, this is where they can be managed, hunted, and controlled for disease.  With proper oversight and regulation, along with strict accountability for the operators, fenced preserves are a viable option.  However, as Texas and some other states have seen, lack of regulation of these preserves will result in escapes, uncontrolled breeding, and failure to maintain the health of the animals.  There has to be control, and it has to be enforced.  The cost for this should be carried by the operators.

By the way, it’s not just individuals leveraging feral swine for profit.  California requires prospective pig hunters to shell out $21.34 for a single wild pig tag (non-residents must pay $71.54).  This effectively removes sport hunters from any effort to eradicate feral swine from the state, leaving that effort (if it’s performed at all) to high-priced professional exterminators.  Landowners who experience crop depredation must apply for a permit to control it, and then can be constrained by the permits to certain methods.  These regulations pretty much ensure that feral swine will continue to thrive in the Golden State, and as a result, will eventually spill over into neighboring states.  Oregon is already reporting populations of pigs, although it’s unclear whether this is the result of migration from CA or of illicit transplants.

There is some promising research on targeted poisons for feral swine.  HogGone is a product consisting primarily of sodium nitrite, a common food preservative.  In large dose, it kills hogs within minutes, yet presents minimal threat to other species. The bright side is that sub-lethal doses are quickly processed so that there are no crippling side-effects.  The hog either dies or not.  The testing has also shown that hogs poisoned by sodium nitrite are harmless for human consumption.  Research is currently underway to find a way to ensure delivery and further minimize the risk to non-target species.

The biggest challenge to controlling the spread of feral swine across the US is the lack of a unified effort through the Federal Government.  While the feds are providing some funding for research, most states are essentially on their own to develop management plans, and those plans are all over the place as far as effectiveness and efficiency.

Finally, just for consideration… I sometimes wonder if hogs are as bad as they’re made out to be.  Oh, I understand the agricultural and livestock concerns well enough.  But when I spend time in backcountry hog habitat, I’m just not sure they’re as environmentally destructive as some of their opponents would have us believe.

 

 

New Hog Hunting Toy And Opportunity

April 1, 2013

Sometimes, if opportunity doesn’t come to you, you have to go to the opportunity. And other times, opportunity simply arises out of an apparently disparate series of events. It’s all about how you choose to manage it.

It’s no secret that I’ve sort of been bemoaning the absence of hogs on my property.  With the exception of that one teaser this winter (I wasn’t even in the state when he showed up), there hasn’t been so much as a track.  But seeing one reinforces my belief that there are hogs around… especially since I keep hearing some locals complaining about hogs rooting up their yards and pastures.  So I’ve kept my eyes open.

Across the canyon, the far hillside is part of a 7000 acre, high-fence ranch.  With the exception of whitetail season, the place doesn’t get hunted all that often.  The ranch was once stocked fairly heavily with various exotics, but since the economy dropped out, the clients stopped showing up and the owners have decided to let the herds decline naturally.  I’ve spent a lot of hours sitting on my front porch with binoculars, picking the place apart for wildlife.  I keep hoping to spot some cool stuff, like maybe red stag, aoudad, or unusual African species.  Until recently, all I’ve seen is turkeys and whitetail, mixed with a few goats and cattle.

Across the canyon from my house.

Across the canyon from my house.

About two weeks ago, I saw black dots running in and out of the brush line, near the top of the ridge.   At first I thought it was just the goats, but something about the way they were moving looked familiar.  I keep a pair of binoculars in the window by my chair, so I fetched them and started scanning the edges of the brush.  Sure enough, the black dots were hogs.

I watched them with a sort of mixed elation.  It was cool to see pigs, but they were on the wrong side of a high fence.  All I could do was watch, and daydream about hunting them.  I saw them in the same place the next evening, and again the following morning.  Before long, the novelty sort of wore off, but I kept an eye out in the evenings and usually spotted one or two.

Last week I noticed the horses were running a little low on hay, so I called my regular guy to see if he had any to sell.  With this drought, hay is in fairly short supply (and not cheap, either), and sure enough, he didn’t have any bales to spare.  He gave me another number and suggested I call this guy.  I asked about where he was located, and he laughed.  Turns out, he grows hay on the other side of that ridge I’d been watching, and manages the property that’s behind the high fence.

I called the number, and sure enough he had plenty of hay.  We worked out a deal, so I hooked up the trailer and headed over to his place.  While one of his ranch hands was loading the hay, we started talking about hunting.  He told me he doesn’t hunt much anymore, and his only clients are the guys who have the whitetail lease.  He said that with the exception of a small group of axis, the exotics were all gone from the place.  The only reason he even maintained the fence was to keep the cattle in.  Then he mentioned that the hogs had found a way in, and they were making themselves right at home.  I couldn’t help myself, so I asked if he had anyone hunting them.  He seemed a little surprised that anyone was even interested in hunting a bunch of damned pigs.  “If you want to shoot these things, I sure don’t care.  Just don’t shoot my cattle or my axis deer.”

I drove home on a cloud!  I’d just scored a hog hunting spot that would practically be all mine for eight months out of the year (deer season is about four months long).  After I got home and fed the horses, I parked my butt on the porch with the Leicas and started glassing.  Sure enough, just before dark the black spots started popping in and out of the brush line.  I hit the rangefinder, just for kicks, and ranged the closest group at about 885 yards.  The brushline itself was about 1100 yards.

I had too much work over the next couple of days to think about making a break for it, but I relaxed with the knowledge that no one else would be pushing the pigs around.  They’d be there when I was ready.

On Thursday, I had Levi, my well guy come over to talk about my new water conditioner.  Levi is sort of a “gun nut”, and we usually end up chatting about guns and hunting.  I grabbed us a couple of Shiner Bocks, and we kicked back on the porch.  As we were chatting, the hogs came out and I pointed them out.  Levi thought it would be cool just to be able to shoot them from the porch if I had something that would reach out that far. At that range, hitting the hogs would be one thing.  Killing them cleanly and then recovering them would be something else altogether.  800 to 1100 yards would much too long a poke, even for my .325wsm, so I just sort of nodded.  “What you’d need for something like that would be a .50BMG,” I told him.

“What about a .416 Barrett?” he replied.  “That would probably do it.”

“Yeah, a Barrett would probably do the trick,” I agreed.  “But I don’t have five or six grand to drop on a special-purpose rifle like that.”

You have to be careful what you say around Levi.  He’s a deal-making machine, and I think he must know everyone in the county!  So I was only partially surprised when he lit up and turned to me.  “I know somebody who’s got one for sale.  I don’t even think he’s fired it yet.”

“I can’t justfiy spending money on something like that,” I answered.  “What the hell am I going do with a .416 Barrett?”

“This guy really needs to get rid of it,” he replied.  “And I know he also needs some tin roofing.”

Levi knows I’ve got a huge stack of tin roofing out behind my barn.  I guess it was from some previous buildings on the property before I moved in, and it was scattered all over the place when I first bought it.  When I finally got it all stacked up, I figured there were probably 150, 8-foot sections out there.  At $12 each, I figured it was worthwhile to hold onto them for upcoming projects.  But so far, I haven’t touched them.  Every time we have a wind storm in the canyon, I have to go back out and gather the pieces back up again.

“I bet he’d make a deal with you for that tin,” Levi said.  “You  want me to ask him?”

I don’t know why I agreed, but I didn’t think it over too hard either.  This guy wasn’t going to trade me a Barrett rifle for a bunch of used roofing tin.  I didn’t take into account the rural economy.  On Saturday morning, Levi called me.  “He said for the tin and a thousand dollars, you can have the gun.”

Thus came the quandary… what the hell would I do with this kind of gun?  But how could I turn down this deal?  A thousand dollars and some scrap metal for a practically new Barrett .416 is not the kind of deal you see every day.  Hell, I could sell if for at least twice that on Gun Broker.  “Tell him it’s a deal,” I answered.  “When does he want to do this?”

A valid, 1000 yard rifle.

A valid, 1000 yard rifle.

Levi told me he wanted to do it as soon as possible, so by the end of the day on Saturday, I was the proud owner of a Barrett .416 and that stack of tin was gone from my property.

Of course there are a couple of catches.  First of all, the rifle is not scoped.  I figure a good Nightforce scope is the right match for the rifle and that’s’ going to set me back a couple of grand.  And I’ll have to handload if I want to shoot for less than $6 a shot.  Fortunately, Oasis Outback, the local shop over in Uvalde has a Nightforce on consignment, and they’ve also got the components for reloading.  I made a call, and everything is ready for me to pick up this afternoon.

I never thought I’d own something like this, but it’s opened up some brand new horizons for me.

Like those hogs across the canyon.

The way I see it, instead of driving 25 miles around the end of the canyon to access my new hog hunting spot, I can hunt from right here on the porch.  From this range, I bet I can shoot two or three before they even realize what’s going on.  Then I can drive around and pick them up later.

I will be shooting over the top of my neighbor’s house and barn (you can see them in the photo above), but I don’t think that’s too big of an issue.  Kat doesn’t think it’s a great idea, but I figure they probably won’t even notice, as long as I don’t start spraying the whole hillside.  And with the cost of this ammo I don’t see that being much of a likelihood.   I’ll have to pick my shots carefully.

It’s a heck of a way to kick off my second April in Texas.

 

 

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