Hog Blog Friends In The Field – Guest Post – Tom And Porky In A Weekend

April 6, 2012

This post is from my friend, David Bonini.  Thanks for sharing it, Dave!

While Phillip is travelling to and fro, I thought I would offer up some content to keep his loyal followers entertained. That is when it hit me. Who the heck am I and why would anyone want to read my stories? For it is Phillip that we faithfully tune into everyday. He is the one we really want. We all like to read his stories, engage in thoughtful debate or just live vicariously through his adventures. I started getting nervous. What could I possibly add that will keep you entertained? I am not a writer and the closest I have come to being considered one was the “Car of the Month” article I wrote for the high school newspaper in the 1980’s. How can I fill his shoes?

While I might not be able to fill Phillip’s shoes, I am going to give it my best shot. You see, I have been fishing and/or hunting most of my life and I have been accused by many of having the oratory skills to spin a yarn, to tell tales (some of them true) around a campfire, watercooler, driveway, backyard barbque, bar room or any other place where people will lend me their ear. I thought I might put some of these tales on paper and share them with you via the Hog Blog. I hope you find them entertaining but most of all, I hope they give you a reason to engage because that is what a blog is all about right? After you read, please get engaged. Please comment and share your point of view.

As I headed out to the field this weekend, I knew I would be confronted with some of the same ethical questions and circumstances that were depicted in Phillip’s blogs recently. I was to be accompanied with my youngest daughter, Serra (13), with this being only her second hunt since getting her license this year. In order to be a good mentor, I thought a lot about what would come of this weekend and the lessons that would be imparted to her.

I hired a guide for this hunt, Ernie Sanders and his son Mike Sanders from Middletown, CA. Ernie owns and operates D and E Guide Service. He hunts several thousand acres of private ranch land that spans across a good chunk of Lake County. The properties are loaded with wildlife. Our targets this weekend were wild hogs and turkeys. This was my third hunt with Ernie and it was my daughter’s first guided hunt in her short career. With one black tailed doe and one mountain quail on her resume, she was eager to get out there and bag her tom turkey. Heck this hunt was guided. We would just roll up to a blind, the turkeys would show up and we would shoot them. Well not really.

Upon our arrival at the ranch we found ourselves going over gun safety and the use of the 12 gauge shotgun that Ernie lent her. His gun would give her a little more range than her 20 gauge and his had electronic sights on it. The sights force you to keep your head in the proper position and there is a red or green dot that helps you aim.

On Saturday morning, Ernie and Serra headed out in the stormy weather while I went with his son Mike.The night before Mike had put me on a large group of hogs that had five large boars in the group. I am disabled and Mike had to help me through a barbed wire fence and over two small ridges on our quarter mile stalk. He put me within 200 yards of the hogs. He wanted me to get closer and the wind was in our favor so we definitely could have done it but that  put me in a tough spot. From our location, I could take a seated position with my back to an oak tree and my rifle on my bipod. This is where I was faced with a tough decision. Could I make this shot and make an ethical kill? I know that I can do it from 100 yards but what about 200? I have killed an elk at almost 300 yards and I have the confidence to do it but I can’t tell you why I feel so confident. I mean, all of my range time has been on a flat range at 100 yards or less. I had to weigh the option of going out into the open and taking a standing shot at 100 yards or staying put and taking the shot from a seated position. Mike offered to bring a chair out with us but I told him not to. Foolish pride I guess. I was comfortable sitting against a tree and using my bipod so I made the decision against the guide’s wishes to get closer. So there I was with a broadside hog shooting at a downhill angle. I have never personally shot at this angle and boy did I flub it. I put the 200 yard dot on its vitals and squeezed off the round. I put that bullet right over the top of the hog. Needless to say all the hogs escaped. Mike kept his cool and used this as a learning opportunity. He probably wanted to say, “I told you so” but instead he spoke to me about what went right and what went wrong. He talked to me about not repeating the same mistakes and that if given another opportunity, we are bringing the chair, getting closer and taking more time to make sure we can make the shot. In other words, he gave me my chance, now it is time for me to listen to the professional.

Dave's nice, fat sow. It's a phone camera pic, so quality is limited, but it is easy to see the size of this pig. Nice work, Dave!

So there we are, at a spot where we can glass the same hillside where we spotted the hogs the night before. As we glassed the hillsides we were ambushed by another group of nice hogs. This group held three large sows with about 10 or 12 smaller hogs all in the 30 to 50 pound class. They ran past us at 30 yards and were heading up the hill side toward the oaks. I was presented with another tough decision. Can I hit a running hog as it gains distance up a hill running away from me? I have experience with these shots and feel confident especially under 100 yards. Mike gets me set up and stable. He glasses all the sows and determines they are all dry, none of them are nursing. This is very important as D and E Guide Service does not allow the shooting of wet sows. No exceptions. After confirming the sows were dry, I picked out the largest one which happened to be in the lead. I got a bead on her and Mike called out the yardage. He also coached me along telling me to wait until she presented a broadside shot and where to place the cross hairs. We communicated with each other perfeclty. Somewhere around 90 yards, she turned almost broadside, quartering away from me. Mike gave me the green light and I let her have it. A clean, humane kill. One shot and she was down for good. 7am and the hog is in the truck as we head back to the ranch. Lesson learned, communicate closely and listen to the guide. He does this everyday.

Mike makes quick work of skinning the 200 pound hog and we head inside to change into dry clothes. Again we discussed both hunts and how we improved upon the mistakes the night before and that led to our success this morning. The thing that really impressed me was the attitude of the guide. He never chastised me for the decision or the rush on the shot the night before. We talked about it, formulated a game plan, put it into practice on this hog and we got the result we wanted. I am sure the result would have been different had he attacked my actions or made it uncomfortable. I learned a lot from that experience and the way he handled it.

Ernie and Serra came in around 10:30am with similar stories of missed opportunities. Ernie got her on several tom turkey’s but she had a hard time connecting on birds. She led them too much or not enough. She hit trees and rocks and everything in between her and the bird. She was learning that turkey hunting was going to be tough. Despite all her practice at the range on stationary birds at 25 yards, shooting a moving or strutting Tom at varying distances was a little harder. During lunch we talked about lessons learned and how to improve upon our mistakes for Serra’s afternoon hunt. Our plan was to go out and call or locate turkeys and then Mike and Serra would head out to ambush them while Ernie and I stayed with the hunting rig.

15 minutes into our hunt, Ernie located a nice covey of turkeys in a steep canyon flanked by a creek on one side and a hill with oak trees and rocks on the right. The turkeys were coming out of the canyon and up into the oaks. Mike took Serra, litterally grabbing her by the jacket and hurried her up the hill side to a spot where they could intercept them. There were several jakes in the lead a few hens and then a nice tom bringing up the rear. Somehow Mike kept Serra patient as jake after jake passed them by working through the oaks. Each jake had a visible beard and would have been fine for a first turkey but she remained next to Mike waiting patiently. Finally, a tom came rambling through. Serra shot but missed. She had the perfect lead on the turkey as he strutted through the oaks but when she pulled the trigger she hit an oak tree as he rambled passed it. When the shot rang out, the birds took off further up the hill. Mike grabbed Serra and they litterally ran up the hillside to a spot where they could cut off the birds again. They got to a spot where they could ambush the tom. This time, her shot was true and the bird went down. The first turkey of her career was a nice, two year old bird with an 8 1/4 inch beard and 1 1/4 inch spurs and it weighed in around 15 or 16 pounds. Boy was she happy.

On the way out of the valley we jumped a couple of coyotes. We could have shot them but I wasn’t sure how to explain to my 13 year old the reason for shooting coyotes since we generally only shoot what we intend to eat. I felt going after them would send a mixed message and at this age, I am trying to focus solely on hunting for food and respecting the kill. I am not sure I could have conveyed that message by shooting a coyote and not eating it or worse, just leaving it in the field. I just don’t think that would convey the right message. I mean, I know the benefits of predator control. The guides and ranchers certainly know it too, but I don’t believe I could have conveyed the message in a way she would completely comprehend and rather than send a mixed message, we enjoyed the show they put on while watching through our binoculars. Ernie and Mike talked about a plan to return to the area and cull the coyotes on their own.

Once home, we cooked the bird and we have been eating turkey sandwiches all weekend. We salted the end of the beard and spurs and plan to make them into jewelry. Serra is very proud of her trophy and I am very proud of her efforts. She really put in the work and she didn’t get discouraged. The lesson here was that we learned from our mistakes and our guides worked with us to make us successful. I am confident that it was the coaching and the approach that the guides took with us that made the difference.

Thanks for letting me into your world with my story today. I look forward to your comments and interaction. Phillip – thanks for giving me the platform.


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