Sunday, December 14, 2014

This Little Piggie Went.......BANG!

     Another item on my bucket list has always been to hunt wild hogs.  Feral hogs number about 6 million in the U.S. with nearly 2 million of those in Texas.  There are many different avenues and services available by which to accomplish this type of hunt.  It is free with permission on private land to alleviate crop depredation.  I, however, do not have this option available to me this year.  I was hoping to hunt with a very good friend of mine who is just retiring from the USAF, but he is still undergoing the endless gauntlet of VA medical red tape that was supposed to be fixed by now.  I did visit with his brother in La Grange and we are looking forward to such a trip next year.  So for me this year it is sub-lease a ranch for a couple of days in South Texas with camping and butchering services. runs such an adventure on the Candelaria Ranch  between San Antonio and Houston.  This is a full service hunting ranch with other hunts for trophy deer, rams, elk, etc. but hogs are their #1 business as there are so many of them.  Their super discounted package deal ($299 for 3 days and 2 pigs) was just too good to pass up even though I was just looking for a medium size (125 pound) feeder pig to stuff my RV freezer with this year.  I figured it was a good way to get my 'feet wet' before we decide if we may want to make this a yearly trip.  All I needed in addition was the $48 Texas 5 day non-resident hunting license for sport hunting.

      My price was reduced since I was camping in my own RV, but they do offer a very nice lodge (and all meals as part of the above package) or private cabins should you wish.   I decided to use my 45 Long Colt handgun this year instead of the crossbow although that may be an adventure for a bigger hog next trip.  The 300 grain Buffalo Bore jacketed bullets will be more than enough to stop one of these beasts.  It is the same weapon I used on my Black Bear trip last year.  This would require a hunting blind or spot and stalk type of hunt with final ranges within 75 or so yards.  South Central Texas is a mix of cactus, mesquite, and thick brush.  Perfect hog habitat.  Two tracks criss-cross the ranch throughout.

     We arrived at the ranch the day before the hunt.  I paid for 2 nights camping in order for us to set up, get things in order as well as cut and wrap our meat the day after the hunt.  Camp was set up in an area next to the cabins and main ranch lodge; nothing fancy, but electricity and water.  I was concerned about an incoming front that was due to cool things off with thunderstorms, but we arrived to 76 degree weather and only a 20% chance the next couple of days.  We were also privy to ranch livestock that came through not only of curiosity, but to visit one of the stock tanks.  We watched as several ranch jeeps with hogs came by us from successful hunters.  In fact,  the count on our arrival day was 12 hogs. 

          "Ranch Boss" Paul picked me up the next morning at 9 a.m. and took me out to the lowland swamp thicket area.  It was a fairly open mix of elm and oak trees with plenty of acorns.  I set up with my Ruger, monopod, and backpack w/raingear (cause I never trust the weatherman).   The blind setup was complete with chairs and many logs stacked to provide a fort-type appearance about 3 feet high.  I was placed in an area where 2 fence lines intersected and it was obvious that many, many hogs had used this run area before.  There was even a well used wallow about 60 yards down the track.  I sat the entire morning and through lunch without seeing a single thing, which was a bit disappointing since I quit counting gun shots at about 50.  About 2:15 everything broke loose.  I was setting up a shot of a nice sow coming down the near fence line with a couple piglets when something caught my eye to the far side.  I turned to glance at a group of at least 50 hogs and piglets that had come down the far side without the least bit of noise.  Of course everyone quickly scattered when they came to realize what I was and I was left with a still fully loaded gun and a pretty surprised look on my face.  I didn't have to wait long for a 2nd chance as it was only minutes later that a very nice hog came down the same side and gave me a very good shot at about 20 yards. 
     Here is where I gained a new respect for the toughness of these animals.  I put a very good shot right through the ribs of this pig only to have it just walk away bleeding up the trail, but not falling.  I went to follow it figuring it would fall eventually, but it didn't.  It turned to walk back my way so I stepped off in the brush and lay down to prepare for another shot.  I got 2 more shots through the shoulder before it finally laid down about 100 yards away.  I did have to finish it off with one 'between the eyes' before it was all over.  When I talked to the other hunters later they told me this is fairly common.  Not very many hogs go down with a single shot.  In fact my butcher presented me with one of the 300 grain jacketed bullets; mushroomed nicely, but still lodged in the shoulder, not breaking it! 
     My tusker weighed in at 115 lbs which is just about what I wanted; a meat pig.  We ended up with 48 lbs of meat.  There were several others on the scales topping 200 today.  In fact on the drive back to the ranch in the jeep I saw probably another 100 or so in several herds.  There were 3 hogs over 400 lbs harvested today including a 505 lb brute!  The  Candeleria Ranch offers a very nice hunt with plenty of animals, a 2 pig limit, a nice lodge, full room and board for 3 days @ $299.  Butchering is extra, averaging $50 a hog.  I got my feet wet this time, learning plenty, and will probably not be my last time hog hunting.  I have one of the hams injected and Tender Quick curing in a brine on ice for a campfire in New Mexico in about 2 weeks. 
WiFi courtesy of our Verizon MiFi Hotspot. 

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