Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Biggest Hog Ever (for me)

Hunting hogs is relaxing after the intensity of a deer hunting season.  Playing the whitetail games considering all the variables of the rut, weather, moon phase, cold fronts, etc. and staying focused on determining the antlers of bucks in the near darkness when they appear, in order to determine if they are new or ones I had seen before, walking around with eyes in the back of my head, starting late and staying until absolute last light, trying to determine if the buck in front of me at the time is the biggest I'll see this season begins to 'wear' on me (if you can call this stress - haha).

But this day after the season had closed,  I was hog hunting - totally relaxed, leaning into it but feeling no pressure, in the spirit of win/win - if I did not shoot one, I would have time to do my 'chores' the things that are always demanding attention on a ranch, and if I did shoot one - I'd get a pig!

...As the sun began to act like it was about to start to come up, I could make out a single pig among the deer.  It was a small pig and I was uninterested so early in the hunt.  I chose to bide my time and observe.  The pig began to move off as the sun lightened the field ever so slightly and I reconsidered again - should I take it?  "No" I thought - it was too early in the hunt and anything could happen.  This was not a big pig and I would wait.

After an hour had passed, I still had animals in front of me but none were pigs.  Then, from the left, the pig that had walked off, reentered.  "This is my sign" I thought.  I knew the end of the morning hunt was near as the light grew brighter, so I trained my scope on the pig, waiting for a clear shot between the deer.  He turned to face an area deer had trotted away from, was clear, and perfectly broadside.  I know that he could decide to leave in a hurry for a reason that only pigs understand and decided to take him.  I willed the rifle to shoot and as I was absorbing the recoil and subconsciously working the bolt, the biggest pig I had ever seen was running across the meadow in front of me - at least 100 miles an hour.  As I the rifle came back down and the bolt closed on a second cartridge, I placed the crosshairs on his chest as I swung the rifle and waited for him to clear a group of trees.  As he came out from the trees, I squeezed the trigger maintaining my swing, worked the bolt and began looking for a second opportunity at him.  He passed into the brush but seemed to be moving slower than he should have been.  The shot felt good. 
I knew I had taken a risky shot.  "Where did he come from?" I thought, as he did not come into view until I shot the first pig.  Familiarity with my rifle and confidence in the .35 caliber enabled me to take the shot.  I hoped I would not regret it.  I knew this could become a dangerous situation if he was poorly hit.  I was hunting alone and had to track him through some thick brush.  The big tusks had gotten my attention and the sheer size of him was a little intimidating.  I purposely stalled, deciding instead to replay the shot many times in my head, and determine where exactly he entered the brush while I finished my thermos of coffee, giving the bullet plenty of time to do its work. 
Too soon, the coffee was gone and there was nothing to do but go after him.  I validated the smaller pig had expired and began looking along the brush line where I thought he ran...nope nothing here.  "Hmmm, I really feel like I hit him" ran through my mind.  I slowed my pace, and started over, looking down several trails in the vicinity.  Finally, 30 minutes later I found a drop of blood atop a rock diluted with dew that looked like cherry koolaid - proof positive the bullet had hit him.    Carefully, with a renew focus, I searched the vicinity - another 3 or 4 feet down the trail, some grass blades has been brushed with blood 5 inches up from the ground.  I tracked his trail, painstakingly another 45 minutes for about as many yards and the trail led to an oak motte, in the middle of which was a crimson drop of blood on the oak leaves in a spot central to 3 exit trails out of the brush.  I brushed aside the cedar and crept into the oak motte, a little concerned about my posture and proximity to the hog.  I knew I would be unable to react swiftly crouched down and I knew I would be very close - too close in event he was wounded and mad and decided he wanted revenge.
I took the first trail to the left, looking for sign - nothing.  I quickly decided it would be better to get out of the brush and look around the edges for signs he exited the dense underbrush.  I check the center exit trail and the right-most exit trail - nothing.  It was as if he crawled up a tree. 

I crouched down and studied the dense brush for sign.  I entered partway, pushing back branches to open new views beneath the understory.  Nothing.  I entered the brush in an area I could stand almost straight up - nothing.  Perplexed, I turned around and at my feet he lay.  Was I ever glad he was dead.  He was huge.

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