We left the record breaking high temperatures of Michigan and came to Houston so my wife could spend Christmas with the man of her life, our grandson Sylas! It is very hard after being married for twenty five years to be replaced by a miniature of a man that calls me Fufu (his own way of corrupting the "Brazilian" Vovô.)
But since I was forced to abandon the last days of Michigan grouse season and completely miss late antlerless gun season at Neverland, I had to find a way to enjoy Texas...well, my way.
After returning a rental car at the airport on Saturday we all met at The Academy on Westheimer Street to buy hunting licenses and a pair of boots to Daniel after I convinced him that loafers were not suitable for hunting. And then, when after lunch the two Marias (mother and daughter) convinced Daniel to join them on a shopping expedition taking Sylas along, Zak took me on a much more pleasurable quest: visiting gun shops.
We spend several hours at Collectors Firearms at the corner of Fondren and Richmond, and to say that this is one of the finest gun stores that I ever visited would almost be an understatement. Collectors has just about everything you can imagine to just about every taste and every pocket, from Napoleonic wars weapons, through fine hunting firearms all the way to full automatics. I have never seen so many Colt Pythons under one roof! Not to mention an iron frame Henry Rifle in fantastic shape, that could be yours for exactly three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, plus taxes of course.
Then on Sunday morning we drove to San Antonio where my single purpose was to visit The Alamo, which we did soon after having lunch at the River Walk. I watched John Wayne's The Alamo enough times that I could almost glide through the place, but I could do little to hold my emotions by being at a place of such historic significance where brave men, from both sides and multiple backgrounds, fought for their ideals and presented offered their final sacrifice in their names. I cannot help but be awed by unselfish demonstration of bravery and honor.
On Monday morning after breakfast the Marias and Sylas returned to Houston while Daniel, Zak and I drove to Pierce to go hog hunting. A couple months ago knowing of the inevitability of our trip to Texas I started researching some (affordable) hunting options around Houston where I could take two relative neophytes to hunt, my son Daniel and my son-in-law Zak, and after some research and a couple phone calls I booked an afternoon hunt with Karankawa Plains Outfitting Co., located at the famous Pierce Ranch.
The Pierce Ranch today has 32,000 acres of pastures, rice fields and row crops, but under the hands of its famous founder Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce on the heydays of the 1870's Old West it amassed over a half million acres. Karankawa offers free ranging whitetail and hog hunts, as well as dove shooting, upland birds and waterfowl.
We met at the Pierce Post Office at 3:30 PM and were escorted to the ranch work complex, which is about a mile or so from the extensive housing area where we met our guides and got ready to be transported to our respective blinds.
I was dropped at a nice prefabricated ground blind that could comfortably seat three people and provided at least a 180 degrees field of view of a rather wet plowed field with a feeder directly in front of it 90 yards away. To my back was the road and some and past it dense second growth vegetation. Just after the feeder and no more than 60 yards to my right there was also dense vegetation but with older and taller trees. And to my left the tree line was at least four of five hundred yards away. So I had an ample field of fire.
I had a hard time deciding which gun to take on this trip, as ideally I would like to avoid to travel with a long gun case, but in the end after several false starts and a lot of procrastination I decided to bring my 30-06 CZ 550 American topped with a Bushnell Firefly 3-9X40mm. The last time I had shot this rifle was on 4th June 2005 when I got my Kudu in South Africa's Eastern Cape, and I even took the same ammunition I used on that safari, Remington Premier Safari Grade loaded with 180 grains Swift A-Frame bullets.
I got situated in the blind, opened the windows as it was quite warm and also because I wanted to minimize movement and noise when the time arrived. At around 4:15 PM the feeder came to life and distribute a nice amount of corn around it and shortly afterwards two small hogs came trotting from the far end of field to my left and I had another veritable case of buck fever, or should it be hog fever?
I don't know if the hogs heard my heart pounding or winded me, but well before they came to the feeder they just disappeared into the bush. I did not have much time to be disappointed as minutes later I noticed movement inside the woods just behind the feeder, and after the usual waiting game two whitetail bucks came to feed on the corn. One was a small fork horn or maybe a six-point, but the other was a most beautiful buck, that would have been a ten-point had he not have broken his G3 and G4 on the right side. He must be a fighter.
Watching a deer like that with a loaded 30-06 was almost as tempting as looking at a 62 inch Kudu during my last trip to the Limpopo at Richard Hobbs' BuffaloThorn when we were tracking a Blue Wildebeest I had shot and I was carrying a loaded 375 H&H. I did not even raise my rifle and only observed the deer through my range finder.
It is always a pleasure to watch wildlife, especially when I am hunting, because at these times I can feel that I am truly an integral part of a larger ecosystem, and I am not just an observer.
And as I was idyllically watching those beautiful deer a deer of hogs came out of the far end of the woods behind the feeder and started grazing, rooting or do whatever pigs do when they are feeding. There were around twenty five or thirty animals of all sizes and with the scope set at 9X I searched for the biggest animal with most brisk hairs on the bag.
The problem is that the hogs did not stop moving, and smaller animals moved in front of my intended target all the time, and during the few moments that I would have a clear shot that particular animal was on the move, and never offering a good broadside shot. Finally the bigger animal stopped quartering towards me at about 170 yards and I had enough time to put the cross-hairs just behind the left shoulder and press the light single set trigger of my CZ.
After the shot all hell broke loose and pigs where virtually flying in all directions. As I reloaded they started getting back to the bush and the animal that I had hit must have been the leader of the sounder as it was leading the retreat, but I had time to pick another target and send another lethal A-Frame bullet on its way. The second pig dropped almost immediately.
I waited for a couple minutes and walked towards where the second pig laid, but unsure where the first one had gone. With a full magazine and scope at minimum magnification I approached the dead pig, touched its eye with the barrel muzzle and went looking for the other animal. It was maybe thirty feet away. I repeated the procedure and finally relaxed.
Feral pigs and wild boars are extremely destructive animals that cause substantial environmental and economical losses around not only in the United States, but several other countries in the world, and with no natural enemies and high reproductive rates, hunting is one of the few successful measures to check their population. Had I had the opportunity I would have shot a couple more pigs.
Back at the blind I waited until dark when the guides, other hunters and the kids came to pick me up. We walked back to the pigs and since I had shot them and had enough young free labor, I did not feel compelled to drag the heavy swines by myself.
Back at the ranch I received a demonstration of how fast experienced people can disassemble a pig. We bid everyone goodbye, dropped most of the now pork at Junior's Smokehouse for processing and brought the tenderloins and two hind quarters home.
We had the tenderloins for dinner tonight and will have one of the "hams" for Christmas dinner.
Daniel and Zak did not see any hogs from their blinds, but they saw deer, raccoons, armadillos and other animals. They both told me that they really enjoyed the day, and clearly understand that hunting is much more than pulling the trigger or killing an animal. And I hope that they tell their own version of this story, either on this blog or elsewhere.
...and sow No. 2