Long time no blog… yeah, I know. It’s hunting season, and I’ve been out stalking deer and hogs for the last 6 weeks. Some days I came back empty handed, but more often than not I came back with a hog or a deer. Which is great, until you consider all of the work that goes into skinning and tanning the hide, processing the meat, etc. For the most part, I’ve finished processing all of the game, though there are a few hides that aren’t quite done being tanned yet.
Three weeks ago Ambulance Driver, Alan from SnarkyBytes.com and Matt G and I, along with some other friends, set off to hunt some wild boar in the hardwood bottoms of Central Texas. Friday night we got settled into our little cabin in the woods and found we had some time to make sure the couple of new hunters we had with us had their rifles zeroed.
5 minutes later AD was using a bit of DuraBond to close up a small cut on his UK friend Limey Buddy, who had gotten scope-bit when firing an 8mm Mauser. Not easily deterred, we decided the rifles were hitting “minute of hog” split up to head to our respective blinds and stands.
I chose to set up in a 20 foot tower stand on top of a hill overlooking a feeder set close to the creek bottom. Most of the area I could see was sparsely populated with cedars and tall grasses, which would make it difficult to spot any hogs coming up from the creek towards the feeder. I wasn’t even sure that they would hit the feeder, as the game cameras had shown them only intermittently and with the rainy spring and summer we’d had this year, the acorn crop was more than abundant. If I was a hog, I wouldn’t leave the abundant acorns and safety of the thick brushy creek bottom.
The large sow came to rest beneath a large stand of cedars.
But I’m not a hog. After about 45 minutes of sitting in my stand watching a herd of cattle mosey about below me, I noticed their ears perk up and they began to move off. Not long after that I heard the tell-tale grunts and squeals of wild hogs coming up from the creek.
The young boars came up first, followed by little year-old piglets. None of them were old enough or large enough for me to want, but then a large alpha-sow appeared. She kept to the safety of the cedars and tall grass, making a clear shot difficult. I kept the crosshairs of the scope atop my Howa 1500 trained on her last position as she rooted and foraged out of sight among the tall grasses, and eventually she emerged into a clearing where they had previously rooted up a good sized wallow.
Reacting to the shot, she wheeled towards me and ran straight at the tower before veering off to the right and diving into a thick stand of cedar choked oak trees. I texted my companions to let them know what had happened and settled in to wait until sunset when we would meet up to track and recover her.
Sunset came quickly, and I clambered out of the tower as MattG and some of the rest of the crew showed up to help track. A bright red blood trail quickly became evident, and we soon found her piled up near a stand of cedars not 100 yards away. She was huge, much larger up close than she appeared from the safety of my stand.
While I was glad to have harvested such a large hog, one considered a destructive invasive species in this part of the world, I knew just how much work it would take to transform this beautiful beast into pork loin and sausage for my freezer. We hauled her out and loaded her into a truck for the drive back to the cabin. Once there, she weighed in at a hair over 250 pounds live weight. I began the arduous task of cleaning and skinning her. AD volunteered the use of his Alaska Knife set – which I have to say I was insanely jealous of. It was a beautiful knife set bundled in a well crafted scabbard and included a caping knife as well as a large skinner and cleaver. AD even pitched in and helped with the skinning, a process which is much more difficult on feral hogs than on most other North American game animals.
The process of skinning and quartering took a while, but soon enough I had the quarters on ice in the cooler and it was time to relax. Turning my attention to the rest of our motley crew, I found that while I had been busy processing my kill they had broken out the beer and grilled up some very nice sized steaks. I wasn’t terribly hungry, having eaten a large lunch earlier, but this was one of the more enjoyable parts of any hunting trip: getting the chance to sit around and socialize with good friends.
The next morning dawned cold and overcast. I chose a stand set up just inside the treeline of a creek bottom about a mile away from where I’d been successful the night before. Having been the only one to harvest anything so far, I took along Limey Buddy, one of the less experienced hunters, with me in the hopes that he would be able to harvest his first hog.
Sure enough, not long after the sky began to turn grey and the the first hints of sunlight danced with the treetops, a bachelor group of young boars came up the creek, foraging among the fallen leaves. I pointed them out and began to line up my own shot on one on the right. Limey Buddy fired before I was quite ready, and the entire herd scattered at the sound. I couldn’t quite tell whether the shot had hit or not, but we sat back anyway to give things time to quiet down some. Not 5 minutes later two more boars appeared out of the thick brush across the creek and my partner fired again. This time the shot looked good, and again the wild hogs dashed off into the undergrowth.
AD demonstrates pairing food with scotch whiskey while out hunting.
I texted a summary of the past few minutes events and we relaxed in the ground blind while things quieted down again. After about 30 minutes I ventured from our hiding spot to see if I could spot any blood trail. The footprints and disturbed leaves were easy to spot, and I followed the trail for about 30-40 yards but didn’t see even a speck of blood. The other hog he shot at appeared to be a clean miss as well: obvious footprints and disturbed earth and leaves, but no blood whatsoever. Not wanting to leave our quarry possibly killed or injured and unrecovered, we combed the woods and creek bottom for more than 2 hours but didn’t see anything to indicate that either one had been hit.
We returned to camp to find that nobody else had been successful either. A few deer had been seen, but none were legal to shoot at the time. After a filling breakfast I headed down south a few miles to a deer property I had access to in order to scout out some scrapes and rub lines for a deer hunt the next week.
That afternoon we reconvened to determine who would be setting up in which stand. Knowing that the hogs would be keeping to the creeks and river bottoms after the activities and shooting that morning and the night before, I chose a remote blind set up about 50 yards from a little draw that lead into a larger creek system. I sat there all afternoon, and while I could hear the hogs no more than 20 yards away, they never came up out of the thick brush and I never had a shot. Towards sunset however, I heard a shot from one of the nearby stands.
“Finally,” I thought, “Someone other than myself managed to see something and got a successful shot. Upon returning to the cabin however we discovered that Jeff had shot at a hog and missed. He blamed “crosswind”. It turns out that the hog he shot at was about 100 yards away. Something didn’t quite add up… the winds were only blowing 15-20 and gusting to 30. That meant that if he had a full value crosswind the shot would only be 3″ off at 100 yards. AD and I, not being talented mathematicians, still managed to put 2 and 2 together to determine that a small EF5 tornado had touched down between Jeff and the hog just at the moment he fired the shot, and the 250 mph winds had blown his round more than two feet and caused him to miss the hog completely.
Everyone was pretty dejected about not having harvested anything. I even felt a bit guilty that I had been the only one to have been successful so far. For a minute or so at least. Alan stoked up the fire while AD carved off a backstrap from the hog I’d bagged the night before and we dined in style on twice-baked potatoes and wild hog backstrap. Jeff had left a half a bottle of scotch and soon enough that came out and, as they do when scotch is involved, hijinks ensued.
Predawn the next morning I set out on my own for the same ground blind that Limey Buddy and I had seen hogs the morning before. No sooner had I settled into the camouflaged blind did I hear something moving in the underbrush to my right about 20 yards away. It was dark, too dark to really make out what was rustling around out there beneath the canopy of trees. But it kept coming towards me, and soon I could make out the tell-tale stripes of a skunk making a beeline towards my hiding spot. I cursed underneath my breath. He was just outside my blind now, nosing underneath the edge of the floorless tent-like structure. The last thing I wanted was to get sprayed by the startled skunk when he came up inside and discovered that he was not alone inside the ground blind.
I cleared my throat and hissed “Shoo!” hoping that would be enough to dissuade the determined Mustelid. The skunk’s activity stopped and after a brief pause I heard him head back into the underbrush. After breathing a sigh of relief I settled back into my chair and scanned the river bottom for any sign of hog activity.
Nothing moved for some while. Nothing I was looking for at any rate. Squirrels played in the branches of trees nearby and an armadillo rooted around in the fallen leaves about 10 yards behind me, but I didn’t see any sign of hog. I had just decided to give it another 30 minutes before giving up and heading in when I heard hooves moving through the flatwood riparian terrain on the other side of a dry creekbed. The wind was not in my favor. Almost as soon as he came crashing through the undergrowth, the medium sized black boar skidded to a stop and huffed in my direction. Both ears were up and he glared right at my position, standing stock still. He was strongly quartered towards me and I could hear him growl as I slowly squeezed the trigger.
I fired and he turned and ran back along the same path he had come. 25 minutes later, after a brief search, we located him. He was back in some very thick cedars uphill from where he’d encountered me and it took a bit to haul him out, but we got him loaded up into the 4×4 after about 45 minutes effort.
Sunday morning saw us getting desperate, since our hunt ended at noon. Once again, we heard one of us shoot, and we arrived back at camp to discover it had been Daniel. Again. Being
blessed with blind shithouse luckthe excellent hunter that he is, he managed to score on another hog, a 150-pound boar.
I felt pretty bad now, I had gotten two hogs and at this point everyone else would be going home empty handed. Or so I thought. Not to be outdone, MattG, Alan, and another of AD’s buddies loaded up in a pickup truck and drove down to a swampy area, determined to get at least one hog before we had to leave at noon that day. I heard some shots about 30 minutes later, but they sounded too far away to be our guys. AD felt differently: they’d all taken AR-15s with them, not the bolt guns we’d been using earlier.
“That’s an AR15,” he said. “That was pretty fast for a bolt throw. They’re on the hogs.”
And sure enough, he was right. They’d scared up a group of hogs and shot two on the run. Alan was sure that he had hit his, but they were unable to find a blood trail. T on the other hand managed get a small 80 lb. female hog, the perfect size for the smoker.
It was, by all accounts, a great weekend out hunting with old friends and new. Not everyone got to take a hog, but nobody went home empty handed. We all took home the memories of another great weekend spent among friends and among the leaves.