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.
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?”
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.