November 4, 2013
Just a little something that I thought of this weekend, with the opening of rifle season down here. I pulled out my go-to rifles, the Savage 30-06 and Browning Lever Action .243. Both of these rifles have always been tack drivers, and each has taken a fairly good number of game animals.
I set up a couple of targets at 100 yards, figuring that I’d shoot four or five shots just to get the feeling back in my trigger finger. I’ve done plenty of rimfire and pistol shooting over the summer, but the big guns didn’t get out much. I leveled off the 30-06, and squeezed off a crack. The 180gr ETip screamed off down range and…
Where the hell did it go?
I pulled out the Leicas and scanned the target. I can’t remember which brand these targets are, but they’re the ones with the reflective layer under the black, so you can spot your hits easier. After a moment, I realized that the yellow spot way over on the right edge of the target was not a number, but my bullet hole. I must have pulled it pretty bad.
I settled in behind the scope again, got my breathing nice and easy, squeezed the Timney trigger (at 2 1/4 lbs., it doesn’t take much), and sent the second round about 1/2″ above the first shot. My third shot went just to the left of the first. It was a nice little MOA group, but it was over 4″ to the right of where I was aiming.
I made the adjustments and got the group to settle just at the top of the 1″ bull. I thought, while I’m at it I should give these Barnes Vor-TX loads a try. These are launching a 165gr. tipped TSX (TTSX) bullet, so I was curious how much different the point of impact would be. I stuffed four of them into the mag and settled in. My first shot was about an inch higher than the ETips, almost dead over the bullseye. My next three all landed almost even with the ETip group, but maybe an inch and a half to the left of it. The group was a little bigger than I got from the ETips, maybe 1 3/4″, but I can’t say that was the ammo… and it was still a really respectable group for a hunting round. My plan is to hunt with the Barnes Vor-TX ammo this season, since I have yet to take any game with this cartridge.
Happy with the Savage, I set it aside and loaded up the BLR. Now I’ve had this rifle for close to 30 years, and it got a lot of use. It has always been scary accurate. I’ve shot holes in dimes with it at 100 yards, and even used to hang a beer can from a piece of kite string, and then shoot the string. But the trick about this rifle is that it’s got a wispy-thin barrel, and .243 is a pretty hot round. You have to let it cool off after a few shots, or the group will start to walk across the target.
The BLR didn’t like Barnes ammo when I tried it a few years ago, and Winchester was good enough to provide me with some of their new (at the time) XP3 ammo. The XP3 shoots lights out from this rifle. Unfortunately, when I dug my ammo out I realized I only had about seven rounds left. “Oh well,” thought I. “I’ll shoot a three shot group to verify zero, and that will leave me four rounds for Kat to use to shoot her deer.”
To make the long story shorter, my first group settled about four inches high and six inches right of the bull. I made adjustments, but now I had a decision to make. Use up the last of the XP3 ammo, or switch to something else. I had about a half box of rounds on top of the safe. They were in a Winchester silver box, but instead of the nickel cases these were brass. I decided to give them a go, and stuffed three of them into the mag.
The first shot was almost exactly 12:00, but still almost six inches high. My second shot went right by about two inches, but was only about one inch high. My third shot was about two inches below the second. What the hell?
It turns out that the ammo in the box was mixed. There were some 85gr Barnes TSX mixed in with what I think were 100gr Winchester PowerPoints, along with a third bullet that I couldn’t recognize (it was coated, so I think it was some kind of Winchester Premium line). Just for kicks, I tried it again. The Barnes bullet went in about four inches high and an inch or so to the right. The Power Points hung together, just to the right of the bull and a little high. I think I was getting fatigued at this point, because I landed the coated bullets all over the place. It was time to stop. The next day and well rested, I was able to get the Power Points into about a two inch group, about one inch high of the bull. Even though I know this rifle is capable of more, that was plenty good enough for shooting deer.
The whole experience was a sobering reminder that it’s a good idea to re-check the zero on our hunting rifles at least every season, even if you don’t think it’s necessary. For example, even though both are topped with identical Leupold VX-II glass, the two rifles I sighted in this weekend have had very different lives.
Because it’s always on standby down here, the Savage spends a lot of time bouncing around in the truck. It’s travelled all over the country, often just riding on the back seat or in the rear floorboard. The dog walks on it. Groceries get set on top of it. All things considered, it wasn’t a big surprise that the scope had shifted. I account for this, however, by shooting it from the bench at least a few times each year.
But the BLR lives in the safe, except during hunting seasons. Last year it came out once, Kat shot a deer with one well-placed shot, and it got cleaned and put away. The distance from the safe to the stand wasn’t more than a 100 yard walk. Before that, it’s been over two years since I used that rifle on a hunt. I shot it a little bit in the interim, mostly messing around off-hand behind the barn, but this weekend was probably the first time that rifle has been on a bench in three years. My guess is that it was off last year when Kat shot her deer, but four or five inches of variance didn’t really matter on that 75 yard shot. The bullet may have gone a little high and wide, but it was still well within the kill zone. But if that deer had been 200 yards out, across the pasture, the result might have been very different.
Besides the obvious, I don’t know why scopes tend to go out of zero from time to time. Manufacturers like to make big claims about the ruggedness and reliability of their optics, rings, and bases. And I think most modern scopes are pretty danged solid. But when you think about it, the mechanics that hold and adjust the crosshairs and mirrors of a modern scope are relatively delicate things. They’re subject to all sorts of forces, from recoil to air pressure and humidity. Even rocks change over time. It should be no wonder that our optics do too.
Checking zero shouldn’t require a whole box of ammo, or a whole lot of time. It’s a reasonably small effort that can pay out big rewards in the end, though.
October 22, 2013
My friend, John (JAC) pops in here from time to time, usually to keep me honest when I’m off on a rant about lead-free ammo or other such stuff. But he also gets out for an occasional hunt, and this season he was fortunate enough to get after an elk in his home state of Arizona. As I requested, he sent me a write-up about the hunt.
Events in the field often don’t play out quite like we plan them. This was the case for John, and as you’ll see, he had to do a little internal processing after all was said and done (as evidenced in the title he gave the piece). I’ve been corresponding with him via email, so I’ll hold off on repeating my comments just now. I’d love to hear what some of you folks think, though.
How to fail massively and wind up with 265 pounds of elk venison
I went elk hunting last week in hopes of finally filling my freezer in accordance with my desire to eat no meat but that which I’d hunted myself. I had only two rules: first rule, don’t shoot a cow with a calf, and second, don’t violate the first rule.
My excellent friend Steve has a place in Payson, Arizona, and last year, he and I hunted mule deer on the high desert that falls away from Payson toward Phoenix and he agreed to help me again this year. He is excellent in the sense that he is good at being a friend, and in the sense that he is good at being a compassionate person working in the morally and legally complex field of law enforcement. You guys would get along, actually. Like you, he has a pick up truck that is 72 feet long. Like yours, It has a big, happy dog in it a lot of the time. He sees game when it’s too far away for me to see it the way you do. And like you, he runs off in pursuit of it. I told Steve about my rules and he said not to worry, there were so many elk around I’d tag out the first morning after picking my shot.
I bought a 30-06 last year in case I was ever drawn for elk. I took it to the range this Spring to sight-in for the first time. I fired ten times over the course of an hour and then went out to the concession and bought a bottle of water. When I came back I was on the right side of the rifle for the first time and I saw a six inch scratch running lengthwise under the bolt-knob. I first thought someone handled it while I was gone and dropped it against the table. But that would be such an egregious, unimaginable violation of etiquette, I decoded instead that I must have pulled it from the case against the zipper and scratched it myself.
Beginning in August, I loaded lots variations of rounds with Nosler E-Tips and the first time I went out and ran them over a chrono and checked their accuracy, some of the groups were perfect little clover leafs and I figured I was one seriously dangerous elk hunter. The next time I went, however, the groups opened up to several inches and the scratch felt rough when I wiped down the stock. The third time out, after a few shots, the scratch grew and forked. There never was a scratch of course, the stock had fractured during the first few shots. So last Tuesday I took my 7mm-08 to the range with a box of reloads made by Stars & Stripes Ammunition and a lump in my throat. I’m a great worrier and I was seriously worried about the diminutive cartridge for elk. I salved my worry by writing friends (sorry you were one) and pointing out that the 7mm-08 is more powerful at 200 yards than a 30-30 is at the muzzle. Pretty thin gruel for my ravenous anxiety, but it’s what I had. Apropos of your post on copper projectiles last week, those Stars & Stripes rounds fired 140 grain Barnes TTSX bullets at 2863 fps. The rifle shot two sub MOA groups like it usually does and I went home and cleaned it. Wednesday morning I went to the range and fired two fouling shots and spent the day getting supplies I needed. When I was loading up Wednesday night, the moon was big and bright. I’d not been paying attention to it and hadn’t noticed it during the week and I hoped it was waning.
I drove up to Payson on Thursday. Leaving dinner that evening, it was clear the moon was waxing instead of waning. It was sitting hugely on the horizon. At 4:30 a.m. on Friday, the moon was fully up and casting shadows. The wind had picked up too making the 32 degree temperature feel especially ugly. We drove out to a 125 yard wide electrical line easement that ran for miles, off loaded Steve’s Polaris, and drove off into the cutting wind, no headlights necessary thanks to the moonlight. The plan was to get up high and glass so after stashing the ATV, we bombed up several hundred feet of a nearby slope, Steve demonstrating how he got the nickname Big Diesel. That guy doesn’t race, but he doesn’t slow down either. Ten minutes later, fully warm I settled in to wait for dawn. Fifteen minutes after that, fully cold, I was silently rooting for dawn to hurry the hell up as I pulled my fingers into a fist inside my gloves.
The sun eventually rose and the cold abated, but he wind never relented. We glassed a long time, then Steve made a big loop through the canyons to see what he could see. I stayed behind in a shady spot, my rifle resting on my monopod and glassed the easement. The area seemed likely. There were ravines falling away on both sides of the easement, filled with a mixture of oak, pine and spruce. There was a lot of elk scat. I stayed in the field all day, still hunting up and down the ravines and eventually found a narrow draw in the easement where the ground fell away pretty quickly to a floor of fresh grass. There was even some clover growing there. I sat up on the edge in the afternoon shadows with the wind straight into my face. Around 3:30 in the afternoon a big coyote with a beautiful red plume at the end of his tail came over the lip of the far side and trotted down the slope. At 60 yards he did the National Geographic front legged hop and stomp, lunged in after whatever he’d stomped up, pulled his head out of the grass and tossed something into the air, caught it, chewed it and then tossed his head back to swallow. For the next five minutes that handsome boy raced around a little blue spruce, lunging in here and there, sometimes upending himself to get an whatever he’d found. He eventually came straight down into the bottom of the draw and crossed away from me to the other side, his tail looking the color of a red-headed baby in the sunshine. After the coyote left, I watched iridescent blue jays gathering food the rest of the afternoon. We don’t have birds like that in Phoenix and I don’t remember them back in Missouri either. II spent a pretty nice afternoon and I headed back to meet Steve at the truck in the gloaming. Steve had taken his quad on a loop of several miles but didn’t see any mammals himself.
Saturday morning we hunted a place named Walnut Flat. There was one truck in the pullout and another high up the mountain when we pulled in. The moon was insanely bright. We waited until 5:30 then got on the quad and drove off into the moonlight. As the first glimmer of daylight started to change the color of the horizon we headed off on foot. Walnut Flat is beautiful. It’s a large grassy mesa surrounded by ravines and there is a pond at the interior edge. We glassed, moved off and glassed again, hopping from juniper to juniper. We came across a ground blind situated to watch a huge open area. We spent the next hour, maybe two skirting the edge of the ravine to get over the edge of the mesa out of the blind’s field of fire. Around 9:30, Steve headed back to the quad to check on his dog back at the truck. I snuck along through the forest for a couple more hours. There was so much scat on the slopes above Walnut Flat that if I wasn’t standing in glistening black elk droppings, I needed only to take a step left or right to crush some. I don’t know where the animals were that left all the scat though. I didn’t hear any rifle shots either.
Saturday afternoon we headed out for a place called Hardscrabble Mesa. We took the National Forest road until it dead ended at an engineer’s dream of a gate. It was made of a rectangle of 4″ box steel with 4″ box steel cross supports. It’s end posts were sunk into concrete and guarded by gambion boxes filled with head-sized river rock which was cemented inside the wire. We left the quad and clambered past the gate to take a look a the road beyond. To our left were rock wall cliffs rising a couple hundred feet and to our right a drop off of lots of hundreds of feet. I never really got close enough to look straight down because I am somewhat, but not completely crazy. The warning signs said the road was unstable and it was hard to dispute that as we made our way down the hill toward a sharp curve guarded by k-walls. It looked like the monsoon rains had washed away the pavement and undercut the cliffs on the inside of road. We only walked for a few minutes past the k-walls and when we turned around we could see why they were there. There were four, maybe five crushed cars that had gone off the road. Those cars had free-fallen as little as 60 feet and as much as several hundred feet. The results were the same for all the cars, though. Gauging by the cars’ age, the road must have been built by the 40′s and the k-walls placed in the 70′s.
We took the quad to the top of Hardscrabble Mesa. That is a sunny, windy place without any water we saw or could find on the maps. Steve wandered off the utility roads once and reported that there was as much scat as on Walnut Flat, only it was all white with age. A couple hours killed, the sun heading for the horizon, we headed for the truck. If you are into zooming, terrifying quad rides, hop on Steve’s on the top of a mountain mesa with 45 minutes till the end of shooting light. Holy mackerel. As we loaded up, I figured that I’d seen a coyote, some beautiful jays and had had the ride of a lifetime. It was a good weekend already.
As I turned in Saturday night, I didn’t need to turn on the bedroom light, the moonlight sweeping in was plenty bright.
For the third morning in a row, my phone lit up and sang at 3:23 a.m Sunday. Steve had picked a third spot, near the East Branch of the Verde River and we lumbered out. It was as cold as the first day but the air was still. As we pulled off the highway, the headlights settled on three elk cows. A really big one, a medium sized one and a smallish one. There must be more, I figured but whatever else, I admonished myself, don’t shoot that mommy elk. I was suddenly very enthusiastic about the place Steve had picked. The pullout was u-shaped and we went back to the highway and found another. We left the quad and headed into the forest sneaking from moon shadow to moon shadow. We picked a big shadow behind a big cedar and stood still waiting for dawn. We could see the highway and watched two trucks pull off within sight of Steve’s. I was pretty unhappy since I had a proprietary feeling about the spot. We moved into the forest away from the people with elk rifles and ATV’s behind us. Steve was hunting, I think I was mostly thinking about putting trees between us and the people I could now hear coming up behind.
At 6:20 I saw a big white rump up the slope ahead of us. I had my rifle unslung so I couldn’t pull up my binoculars, Steve looked through his Swarovskis and said “That’s an elk.” I dropped to a knee, but Steve reminded me that we can’t shoot from, to or over roads, even logging roads. I think he reminded me by saying “Get off the road!!” so I scrambled off the road and stuck the stock of my rifle on a cedar branch and cushioned it with the rubber sling. I dialed my scope up and saw an elk turning left and looking my direction. Steve, watching through his binos behind me and a few yards to my right said, “I’ve got her, take her.” I clicked off the safety, settled the cross hairs into the dark crease low behind her left shoulder and fired. I couldn’t see her as the scope rocked back, but I saw two elk bounding up the slope away. Steve said she’s down.
I found her in my scope and she had gone straight down on her legs but her head was moving like she was trying to get up. My body was shaking pretty violently, my voice was involuntarily modulating. The sound of an ATV rumbling up behind stopped as Steve waved the other hunters off.
Then, to my exquisite horror, a small elk walked over to the one I’d shot and just stood a few steps away, obviously unsure about what to do. That little elk stood there a couple minutes while the head of the one I’d shot craned again and again as she tried to will her body to get up. That little elk stood there until the ATV behind us started up again and drove into her view. Steve was still behind me glassing and telling me not to shoot again. I only remember saying that this was 100% of what I didn’t want. I don’t know if we talked while I watched that elk through my scope except for Steve letting me know where the humans were. For several minutes after her calf left, I watched her and I just kept thinking I’d broken both my rules in my haste and excitement. I’d shot precisely the elk I didn’t want to shoot.
Five or so minutes after she finally laid her head down, Steve and I methodically made our way straight to her. There was a single drop of blood on her right side where the bullet exited. The Cedar tree I’d used as a rest didn’t have a John-sized branch so I was hunched when I fired. I’d pulled the shot up and left but, to be precise, it could have been bad shooting rather than the tree. The bullet caught her at the junction of her neck and body, passed through the near lung, struck the spine and caromed down, I guess, through the off-side lung and out. There was a thumb sized hole in the offside lung, a little one in the near lung. The spinal injury had paralyzed her and kept her in place till the lung wounds killed her. I hate to think how far she’d have run, leaving no blood trail, if her spine hadn’t been damaged.
The Payson-area processers were either full or not accepting elk with their hides on, so we hightailed north it to a mobile elk processing unit run by Miller Southwestern Processing, a Queen Creek (near Phoenix) operation. My elk was 10 percent larger than average. She dressed out at 265 pounds.
Some notes on my personal experience with Barnes’ bullets: I’ve now killed three big game animals using Barnes bullets; a pig in California with a Barnes TSX, an axis deer in Texas using a TTSX and this cow elk also with a TTSX. The pig was 60 yards down a steep slope and I pulled that shot up and left too, catching it under the jaw, and destroying its spine. It went down so fast, and the shot was at such an angle, that I saw the pig drop through my scope. The petals came off that bullet and I found them in the meat. The axis was a country mile off, but I was able to shoot prone with my rifle resting on its neoprene sling. I hit it in the chest, I know, because we found lots of frothy blood, but I don’t know how the bullet performed because we never found that buck. My cow elk died of the lung wound caused by the TTSX, though not in an acceptable time period. There was no blood at the entry wound and a single drop at the exit site. We ranged that shot at 121 yards. That bullet was traveling around 2570 feet per second when it hit her. It’s performance should have been optimal and we found no petals. But the holes in the lungs were’t at all what I expected and the larger off-side wound may have been the result of a tumbling bullet, for all I know. Steve, who has seen the insides of lots of shot animals, didn’t believe it was the lung wounds that had killed her and the debate wasn’t resolved until his lovely friends, a veterinarian and his wife, dropped by and gave the expert opinion that it had to be the holes in her lungs that were the fatal wound since the artery under the spine would have caused death in seconds, not minutes.
I went to bed last night thinking about the despair and terror to which I consigned that baby elk, and the weird fortuity of making a bad shot that was probably much better than the one I’d intended given the little TTSX wound channel. I took the wrong shot and made a bad shot. I did everything wrong. And yet, in the kitchen this morning, there is an iced cooler with five pounds of liver, an elk heart, and a tenderloin I need to take care of.
September 12, 2013
It’s been way too long since I made it back to CO for elk season, and the jones is only getting worse. My friend and outfitter, Rick Webb posted this video from today’s scouting trip out of his place near Montrose. This did NOT make it easier to focus on work for the rest of the day.
If you’re looking for a CO hunt, Rick’s got reasonable rates and a great operation. Just remember, they’re wild animals in BIG country… sometimes it takes some doing.
September 3, 2013
What? Labor Day? A holiday? I didn’t even realize, until Friday, that it would be a long weekend. But it was, and it was good.
Managed to get in a little (keyword, little) dove shooting out in the pasture. It was great to get out and actually hunt something again. I managed to scrape up enough birds for a good dinner. They’ll be tasty!
Even better, Iggy the Wonder Dog performed his first “real” retrieve… which isn’t bad considering I’ve probably only shot seven or eight birds for him in his whole life. It’s so cool to watch that little light click on in their doggie minds and they realize what you’re asking for. Iggy was a proud pup when he came prancing up to me with the bird in his mouth. Now if I can just find a chance (and a place) to get him out after some ducks this year…
Got some work done on a new deer stand as well. There’s a spot up on the hillside where there are several big oaks clustered around. I started clearing the cedar and understory out some to open up shooting lanes, and using the limbs to build a couple of ground blinds. It’s kind of tough running the chainsaw on that steep ground, especially in 97 degree heat. I finally stopped when I realized I was feeling chills. That’s never a good sign. I hope to get back up there and finish up this weekend.
In a couple of weeks, the archery season will open up, and then the madness will set in around here. The out-of-towners will pour in, all the hunting camps around me will get active, and I’ll start spending a lot more weekends over at the smokehouse with the skinning knife in hand. I’m sort of looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.
Labor Day… the kickoff to the busiest time of the year!
August 13, 2013
At some point in the last few years, I’ve talked about field-dressing game using the “gutless method.” It’s a great technique when you’re way back in the backcountry, especially when you have to pack out a large animal solo. Best of all, you can do it all with a good knife. No saw. No axe. No pulleys or winches.
In this video, Randy Newberg (On Your Own Adventures and Fresh Tracks) shows how he does it, step-by-step with great video work.
July 1, 2013
It’s no secret that there’s not really a lot of public land in Texas. I’ve heard the figure 98% private thrown around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s pretty accurate. But that leaves 2%, and in a state as big as the Lone Star State, that’s still a good piece of land.
I’m still feeling my way around down here, so I don’t know a lot about the public land hunts. However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife website has a lot of great info, including a whole slew of draw hunts available to licensed hunters. Even better, they offer a variety of hunts for anything from alligators to waterfowl. Some come with attendant prices, but the prices are really reasonable compared to paid hunts on private property. There are even a couple of guided hunts available, including one for bighorn sheep!
There are also youth opportunities. This past spring, an 18 year-old high school senior took the state record gator on public land during one of these hunts. There’s a great write-up about the hunt on the TPWD site. I’d always thought a gator hunt would be a high-dollar consideration, and so I’d sort of ruled it out. However, I may have to start looking into the application process.
Speaking of the application process, each hunt has a specific deadline, and you’ll generally have several options of hunt dates. Check out the website for the details, and get those applications in!
May 14, 2013
Wow! I’d almost forgotten about this one.
My friend, musician and hunting guide T. Michael Riddle wrote, performed, and recorded this theme music for the Hog Blog. I stuck a bunch of video highlights together to make a sort of showcase. It was fun, if a little narcissistic.
Oh well… I’ll re-share it anyway.
May 13, 2013
The original Hog Blog ran for almost five years before some changes happened. I ended up with this new site, and unfortunately had to leave an awful lot of stuff behind. Some of it wasn’t too bad, a lot of it was (I think) pretty informative… even educational. So despite some earlier personal misgivings, I’m going to occasionally take a look back at that older stuff. Part of it is simple reminiscence. And part of it is because it’s sort of a shame to just let all that work sit there. Maybe some of you folks who weren’t around then will find it interesting. Or not…
Anyway, it’s here if you’re that curious (or bored).
Something else I found myself doing this past weekend is scanning through some of my old videos. I’m no great shakes as a videographer, but some of these were a lot of fun to make. So I thought I’d re-share some of the vids that I thought were my better work. To my old friends, who’ve been here all along and have seen these before, I apologize for redundancy.
So, here’s a clip I did about one of my favorite hunts when I was guiding at Native Hunt. Hopefully, you’ll see why.
May 8, 2013
Sick of the lead ban discussion? I know I am. I actually have been for a very long time. But the truth is that we’re not really getting it anywhere else. What we are getting is the talking points propagated by HSUS and CBD, and very little in the way of substantial, factual counterpoints from hunter-friendly media or organizations that claim to support hunting and hunters. Where the hell is California Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone and Crockett, or any of the others? They’re practically silent on the lead issue. Why is this? What am I missing?
Well, I don’t have that answer and today, I’m not willing to go searching for it. I’m in Texas now, and I’m fairly certain that it will literally take an act of congress to impose lead ammo bans down here. So I’m gonna focus on something else for today…
What else? Well, that’s been a challenge lately. I haven’t done much hunting. Turkey season came and went, and besides a couple of short excursions early in the year, I didn’t shoot one. I had great opportunities if I’d wanted them. The turkeys got quite bold here as the season went on, and I could have assassinated a nice tom right out in the driveway if I’d wanted to do so. He and his little harem of hens established a habitual path from their roost, across my barn pasture, and into the wooded hillside behind me. I even stood at full draw one morning, half-hidden beside my truck with a 15 yard chip shot as he stood in full strut. I didn’t though, because it just didn’t seem appropriate. I hadn’t called him. I wasn’t even wearing camo. He just wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time.
I just wasn’t driven to it. I’ve still got a whole turkey in the freezer from January, and the wings, back, and legs from the other one I killed. Maybe I’ll regret this decision after the meat runs out, but the season opens again in the early fall and I will certainly have more opportunities to put an arrow through one. And I’ll be honest… when I want the meat, I’m far less particular about the circumstances around the kill.
In a couple of weeks, my brother will be here and I’ll take a couple of vacation days. I’ve planned an axis hunt at my friend, Levi’s lease. I think the odds are good of bringing home a little meat from that outing… although it could come up dry. They’re wild animals, and subject to the whims of their appetites and sex drives. Levi’s pastures could be empty all week. I hope not, though.
We’re also trying to line up some hog hunting. You’d think it would be easy to find a hog hunt in Texas, but I tell you what… to talk to some of these outfitters and ranchers, you’d think hogs were scarce as honest politicians. When you do find a hunt, it’s come to the point where it costs as much as a California trip. I guess it’s the drought, but I also think it’s because folks down here have come to recognize a cash cow (or hog) when they see it… and folks from all over the country will pay to come hunt Texas hogs. That’s a drag, but as I get to know more of the locals, I’m hoping to start getting access to private land.
I’m also actively looking for a small lease. Just a couple hundred acres for now, but enough to hunt and to take the occasional friend or relative. No luck so far, but the feelers are out.
So there… almost a whole post without discussion of the lead ban. Proud of me?
April 9, 2013
I was shooting the breeze with my friends, Carl, who owns the smokehouse, and Keith, who owns the local hardware store. As such conversations go, we spanned the gamut of topics from local news to weather, to the recent (brief) upturn in local business. And, of course, it came to hunting and bringing some meat in to be processed. Carl and co. make some awesome sausage!
So Keith mentioned that he started to shoot an axis the other morning, but it was drizzling rain and a little cool, so he held off. “I’ll get one later,” he said with a nonchalant confidence. “When the weather is nicer.”
It got me thinking.
For the past week or so, a pair of hens, a jake, and a tom turkey have been making the rounds in my barn pasture. I called a little on Saturday, and the tom fired right up, but since we were out there riding the horses, I put the call away and left him alone. They show up at almost the same time every morning, and work the same general route into the pasture, up past the barn, and then back down… feasting on the glut of grasshoppers, and picking through the leftover hay where I’d been feeding the horses. They’re almost like clockwork. I even slipped out the back door with the Benjamin Marauder the other morning, but decided not to try the 30 yard shot because… well, I don’t know why. I just didn’t feel the urge to kill the bird.
I figured it’ll be more fun later, maybe, to try to call him in and then kill him. Or maybe I’ll just let him be this year. I’ve got birds in the freezer already. And Kat doesn’t seem overly inclined to go after him. Let them breed and maybe next season there’ll be a bigger group. Or maybe later this season, I’ll get more motivated to go for him. Or Kat will decide she wants to try him. It’s hard to say.
If I look back at this past deer season, I had some similar thoughts. Sure, I killed a few deer, but I also let an awful lot of them walk. On a bunch of days, I didn’t even hunt… which is sort of a strange thing for me when I think about it. I kept the feeder running, and the cameras showed me a lot of deer. There were even a couple of decent bucks coming and going. But I just didn’t feel the need to get out there at every opportunity.
There’ll be more opportunities.
That was the “revelation”.
Folks who live out here start (fairly quickly) to take the wild bounty sort of for granted. Why freeze your ass off in a frosty stand, or sit miserable through a rainy morning, when you can go out almost any day and fill a tag? I always sort of wondered at how complacent folks are around here when they see a big herd of axis deer, or a flock of 40 or 50 turkeys loafing in a pasture. These are things that once got my blood boiling and my trigger finger twitching. But now the realization that they’re always right out there for the picking has sort of tempered that flame.
It’s not that I don’t still get excited about the hunt, because I do. And when I’m on the stand, even within sight of my own back door, I’m 100% in the game. But I’ve noticed the excitement is usually highest when it’s about hunting something I can’t get right here behind the house. When I spotted that hog on the game camera, I was stoked… at least until I realized he’d only been there once in almost two months. When Kat told me a group of axis had trotted down the road in front of the house, I got a little fired up. I’d like to put another axis in the freezer. Or when my brother and I were talking about doing another elk hunt, I could feel the pulse in my chest.
It’s not earth shattering or life changing or anything like that. It’s just an interesting realization.