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OUTDOORS: Thrill of the hunt will have to suffice

The flight into San Antonio last week was one of those experiences that could be unpleasant to seasoned travelers and downright scary to novices or those already leery of air travel.

Turbulence from a massive low pressure system bounced the plane around the sky. The captain ordered flight attendants to remain seated and fastened in seatbelts for most of the flight.

 This trip was to see my daughter Jessica graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio—graduate summa cum laude, that is. Yes, I am most proud. A single mom, she dug in, sacrificed and is succeeding.

A celebration was in order, probably something involving margaritas. But, in an outdoors writer’s mind, the proper way to first begin the week’s festivities was with a family feral hog hunt in the scrubby oak and mesquite country near Hondo, Texas, 45 minutes west of San Antonio—maybe get a little wild pork to throw on the post-graduation barbie.

 

Hog Heaven

 We anxiously awaited our first late-afternoon and evening stint in the comfortable hunting blinds of rancher George Koch’s “Hog Hunt Heaven.” We split up to improve odds of success. Preteen grandson Aleric sat in a blind with his grandmother, Maria. He would shoot her Remington Model 700 rifle chambered in 7mm-08, while she supervised and coached. My granddaughter Nadia, a rising fourth-grader, would join me as on her first hunting experience.

 Wild weather was an early evening possibility. Sure enough, after just 30 minutes on the stand, distant thunder rumbled. As the sky steadily darkened, I thought, “Great, we’ll be stuck in a hunting blind during a possible tornado-maker storm. I hope she’s not frightened.”

 Far from it, we chatted and watched as a small group of wild turkeys and four black-bellied whistling ducks casually picked up corn from the mud as a 45-minute cloudburst rained down.

 “When this storm ends, I bet wild hogs will be up and moving,” I said, hoping to build her excitement. As skies cleared and night closed in, she fell fast asleep.

 I fumbled around in my camera bag for the small light that clipped to my cap’s visor. The battery cover opened and small, round batteries spilled out. While I tried to fix the light, I glanced up and saw a parade of hogs 60 yards away moving left to right.

 “Figures,” I muttered, dropping the light and batteries. I grabbed my rifle, trying to quickly get it through the blind’s window. Most of the dozen animals had already disappeared into the scrub brush.

 I had, at best, 4–5 seconds before the opportunity was lost. Only the final animal offered a shot. Through the crosshairs, I saw visibly protruding tusks.

 “A boar–nuts! I wanted a smaller ‘meat hog,’” I silently complained. Any hog with visible tusks is likely a trophy old boar; the problem is, they’re usually inedible.

 

No Pig in this Poke

 I should’ve fired when the pig’s head was in the crosshairs. Instead, inexplicably, I adjusted aim for a rushed, traditional shot at the ribs. At the crack of the .270, all pigs reversed direction at a full run.

 After a few minutes, I told Nadia to wait in the blind while I looked for the hog. The poor shot decision yielded predictable results. No dead hog, no evidence of a hit. I carefully moved through the dripping underbrush, often dropping low to scan for any tusker boar looking to charge. Wet Texas soil caked to my boots like thick mud cakes.

 Whippoorwills greeted us as we arrived on stand in the next morning’s pre-dawn darkness. Choruses of wild turkey gobblers followed. Shortly after the turkeys flew down from their roosts, an amazing flock of at least 18 gobblers came into view. These Texas wild turkeys belong to the Rio subspecies. Their exceptionally long legs make them look like they are standing on stilts.

 A wild hog cookout that afternoon clearly wasn’t happening. Kielbasa and jalapeno-cheese sausages were tasty alternatives.

 A father–son team of Lee and Paul Sherrod of Dripping Springs, Texas, joined us for the evening hunt. With four stands occupied, somebody was bound to score some pork. Paul missed early on a single boar, but dad Lee dropped two meat-sized hogs, a boar and sow. 

The final opportunity came the final morning as Aleric and Maria spied a big boar meandering slowly through sparse cover. Aleric just didn’t have enough experience to track the hog in his scope until he felt he had a makeable shot.

 Lee’s success helped but, overall, we could’ve killed five pigs. Still, we saw loads of wildlife and had some good times. I can’t wait for the next graduation.

 

NSSF & Reed Part Ways

 The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, announced this week that Reed Exhibitions would no longer manage the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show.

 The company managed the SHOT show for three decades, but NSSF stated in its announcement that Reed’s decision to restrict the sale of certain types of firearms this year at its consumer hunting and fishing show (the former Eastern Sports & Outdoors Show) was in conflict with NSSF’s mission to serve the shooting sports industry.

 It was couched as a mutual decision, but many in the shooting sports industry expressed views that the show would be untenable if continued with Reed’s participation. The NSSF is seeking new management for the2014 SHOT Show.

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at outdoors@freelancestar.com.

For more on outdoors things to do around Fredericksburg and the region, sign up for The Free Lance-Star’s newest e-newsletter, Mighty Outdoors, at http://fredericksburg.com/topics/mightyoutdoors/about.html

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