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Off To SC To Get A Fat Hog, Home Again, Home Again…

August 17, 2015

This is how we get it done!  (I particularly like the toilet seat in the background.)

This is how we get it done! (I particularly like the toilet seat in the background.)

Well, not me.

I was invited, but had to tend to moving into the new headquarters.  So while my brother, Scott, and his grandson, Damien, were off playing in the South Carolina woods, I was sweating and toting boxes.  Sad story, no?

Well, they didn’t get a deer on the SC opener, but some hogs made a bad call and meandered in front of Scott and Damien yesterday, and Damien invited one home for dinner.

 

Hog Hunting Music – No, Really!

June 17, 2015

If there’s one thing missing in the worlds of music and hog hunting, it’s music about hog hunting.  Sure, there’s been a tune or two out there about hunting, and even a few have mentioned wild boar, but overall, there’s a general dearth of songs specific to the thrill and madness that are hunting sus scrofa.

Or so I thought.

Anything can be found on the Interwebz.  It turns out, that not only are there a couple of great tunes out there… there’s even a Facebook page specifically dedicated to hog hunting songs!

Here’s a little something I just found today, featuring the music of Aussie, James McKay (it’s not his video, just his music).  Enjoy!

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.

Usually.

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.

Last Texas boar He didn’t count on me.

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.

 

Kids In The Field – My Nephew (Grand-nephew?) Damien And The Boar

September 9, 2014

Damien_hogNow, let’s get this thing back to what it’s really all about… hog hunting!

OK, so I still haven’t shot a hog since last year (I did shoot AT a hog this spring, but let’s not talk about that).  But while I’m not hunting, other folks are.  Like my brother’s grandson, Damien.  Here’s the story from Damien’s grandpa (my baby brother)…

Here is the run down….

We headed out Saturday, around noon, for Broxton Bridge Plantation in the beautiful low country of South Carolina for the grandson’s first attempt at a wild hog.  Broxton Bridge Plantation offers a wide variety of hunts including upland birds, ducks, trophy white tail deer in velvet(season starts aug.15th), and, of course, Hogs. The plantation also has a very nice sporting clays course and a bed and breakfast.

We arrived around 4:30pm and had a relaxing afternoon harassing armadillos and exploring the civil war battle grounds that border the plantation. The B&B is a restored plantation house that was built in the 1850’s.

I rolled The Boy out of bed an hour before sunrise, grabbed a bite, and headed for the woods. The hog hunts are done inside an 85 acre high fence and are self-guided, spot and stalk.  Sounds too easy doesn’t it?

Well, 45 minutes into our hunt we spotted a group of four hogs and the stalk was on. Did I mention The Boy is only seven, about to turn eight in December?

We managed to close the distance and set up 75 yards from the hogs. I have had The Boy shooting his Remington .243 off shooting sticks at 100 yard targets, so this would be no problem.  We just had to be patient (did I mention he is 7?).

As we waited for the shot to present itself, we realized the hogs were all small boars (50 or 60#’s), so we relaxed and let them move off.  We continued to stalk slowly through the pines and as we approached an old house that has fallen in on itself, we heard grunting and then the woods exploded!

Eight hogs had been laying under the rubble and were now running in almost every direction except ours.  I got the boy on the shooting sticks, and we waited to see what they would do. The hogs ran out about 60 yards before stopping, but we couldn’t get a clean shot. I was just about to try and move us when a couple of the hogs headed back to the safety of the fallen house.

The Boy picked out a nice red boar with black spots and got on his scope, but the hog had other plans and trotted thru his shoot lane without stopping.  It slipped back under the house.   As I tried to think of a way to get the hogs back out from under the house without spooking them too much, The Boy spotted a big, black boar moving thru the woods and heading our direction. I could feel The Boy’s excitement rise as the hog closed the distance, finally stopping only 30 yards away and starring straight at us.

The Boy was on his gun, and whispered that he had the cross hairs between the hog’s eyes, so I gave him the green light.  The .243 roared to life in The Boy’s hands, and the hog cut a back flip.  After a short search and a follow up shot (the first shot went a little low) The Boy had his hog… a 260# monster boar.

Our thanks go out to Joetta and Skeet of Broxton Bridge Plantation for their hospitality and help after the shot .

No, I’m not jealous… not a bit!

Nice work, Damien!

Hunting Seasons and New Opportunities in CA and TX

August 20, 2014

I know, CA hunters are already hard at it, with A-zone rifle underway, and archery seasons cranking up across most of the rest of the state.  Kinda late to say, “get ready for the season,” huh?

But here’s news (at least to me) that I think some CA hog hunters will be happy to hear.  According to an article I just saw in the Red Bluff Daily News, northern California hog hunters will have a new opportunity, starting on September 1, as the DFG and US Fish and Wildlife Service will be opening up hog hunting in the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the article, the hogs are doing significant damage to the riparian areas that the FWS has worked so hard to restore along the river. Hunters will help alleviate the damage, both by killing some of the hogs and pressuring others out of the sensitive areas.  These hunts are shotgun and archery only.  The season will run from September 1 through March 15, and will only apply in units of the refuge that already allow hunting.  Check local regulations before venturing out.

Of course, down here in the Lone Star State, an awful lot of folks are looking forward to the September 1 dove season opener (Northern and Central zones).  Down in the southern edge of the state, dove hunters will have to wait a week to get in on the action.  According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, there should be a boom of birds this year.  I know that, down here at the Hillside Manor, I’ve been seeing a pretty fair number of birds.  Closer to the agricultural areas around Uvalde and Sabinal, birds seem to be everywhere.  Lots of cut corn fields, cotton, and sunflower fields are keeping them active and fat.

Something else the TPWD has done for 2014 is set up an online tool to apply for “Drawn Hunts”.  These are hunts on both public and private property that offer some opportunities like archery hunts for Mule Deer in Big Bend, alligator hunts over in the eastern part of the state, or even guided, scimitar-horned oryx hunts at Mason Mountain. Some of the hunts include a fee if you’re drawn, while others only cost the price of entering the drawing (this varies from a few bucks to $10 or so).  Obviously, these drawings can be tightly contested, as only a few openings exist for most of the hunts, but the rewards can certainly be something to get excited about.  Deadlines for each drawing are posted on the site, and most of the hunts include a specific set of dates.  You’ll want to make sure you read everything thoroughly before you sign up, but definitely, sign up!  In a state like Texas, with so little public land, this is one way to get out and do some hunting in prime locations… often with very limited pressure or competition.

August bachelorsMe?  I’m pretty much ready for the doves (besides the occasional Eurasian collared dove I shoot for snacks), but this year I’ve really started looking forward to deer season.  There are two bucks that have been pretty regular visitors this summer, and as much as I’ve enjoyed watching them grow… well, I can’t help thinking about getting an arrow into one of them.  I haven’t decided if I want a shot at Funkhorn (or if presented, can I take the shot after watching him for so long?) or at the traditional 8-pointer.  I guess my mind will be made up should the time actually come.

 

 

 

That Explains It! Hogs On Vacation

August 6, 2014

Now I know why there are no hogs around here right now.  They’re all on vacation!

Keeping It Alive…

May 29, 2014

Another week has blown by already, and while I’ve had the best intentions for updates and new content… well, it hasn’t happened.  If new posts were the pulse of a blog (and they are), then the Hog Blog would be on life support right now (and it pretty much is).

Ian's boarFortunately, while I’ve been whiling away the hours at the day job, someone is out there getting things done.  Virtual friend and occasional commenter, Ian, got out to some private property and put the smack down on a really nice boar.  Make sure you click the image to see the larger version, to get a better look at the cutters on this sucker.

If you enlarge the photo, you’ll also see that Ian dropped this wooly-booger with a head shot.  Now my normal practice is to discourage this particular shot placement, but there’s no question that it’s effective when properly executed.  In this case, Ian took the shot at around 25 yards, which makes it pretty much a “gimme” with a scoped rifle.  Hard for me to be too critical of that.

On a completely different note, hunters in San Benito and Monterey counties (CA) have the opportunity to enter a drawing for a box of lead-free ammo.

Once again, the Ventana Wildlife Society (http://www.ventanaws.org/) is holding an online raffle for local hunters, to encourage the use of lead-free ammo in this critical section of condor habitat.  Just jump onto their website and complete the sign-up form.  You can even choose whether to receive cartridges or just the bullets (if you’re a hand-loader).  But move quickly, because there’s a limit of 200 boxes before the giveaway dries up.

 

 

 

 

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.

Nightmares Of The Hoggish Kind

February 28, 2014

Well, by this point on a lovely Friday, I had hoped to be heading up to Mississippi to join my friend Rex Howell and the rest of the Christmas Place gang on another big hog hunt.  Last year’s event was definitely a riot, even though Rex made sure to put out plenty of HogbeGone™ around my stands.  I figured I could overcome those odds with a little perseverance (aka stubborn, bullheadedness) this season.

But then he had to go and tell me about the newest denizen of the Famous Christmas Place… the vicious hogapotamus!

Now there aren’t many things in the woods that scare me.  Mr. No-Shoulders barely gives me pause.  Bears and catamounts don’t even rate a shudder.  The only shivers induced by the howl of a wolf pack are shivers of excitement. Even Sasquatch hardly makes me look over my shoulder (except on dense, foggy mornings in the bowels of Kokopelli Valley… but that’s a different tale).  I’ve spent days alone in the deepest woods and darkest swamps without the slightest inkling of fear.

But that was before I heard about the hogapotamus.

The fearsome hogapotamus! He’s obviously real, because he was on NatGeo!

Everyone knows you don’t mess around with this beast.  In his native habitat, the Great Dismal Swamp that lies along the North Carolina/Virginia line, the hogapotamus is known to be a wicked, bloodthirsty killer.  No one is safe in his presence, neither man nor beast (nor peanuts, nor soybeans, nor sweet potatoes…).

Unlike other predators, he doesn’t hunt by stealth.  Instead, he crashes through the brush like a bulldozer, roaring his terrible roar and rolling his terrible eyes and gnashing his terrible teeth as all living things, furred, finned, or feathered, flee ahead of him in abject terror.  Sooner or later, some pitiful creature will succumb to paroxysms of horror and fall twitching and trembling in his path.  Then the hogapotamus will feast.

The method used by the beast to kill and consume his prey is too grisly to share on a family-oriented website.  Suffice to say that trained biologists have fainted away merely at the site of a hogapotamus kill.  No one who has witnessed the actual event has survived to tell the tale, except for one poor game warden who is still confined to the madhouse in an extreme, state of catatonia.

I’d always felt that by moving all the way across the country from North Carolina, I might have finally escaped the horrific hold this monster held over my tiny mind.  Here in Texas, surrounded by heavily armed neighbors and scorpions, I thought I was finally safe.  My nightmares abated, and I felt free to once again roam the woods and wastes with rifle in hand and a carefree song in my head.  But now… now to hear that this thing is as close as Mississippi… it’s all too much.

So I’ve cancelled my visit to the Famous Christmas Place.  I’m chicken.  I admit it.

If Rex and the gang survive the weekend, I’ll be looking forward to tales of derring-do and adventure… as well as any photos of regular ol’ hawgs.  I’m sure they’ll kill a pile, since Rex won’t feel the need to chase them out of the county before I arrive.

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.

 

 

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