Hog Hunt March 2009
Red Dirt Boar Ranch
At the Kansas City Sports Show in February a couple of buddies of mine stopped by the booth of Red Dirt Boar Ranch. They booked a trip for March 20th and then asked me if I would like to join them One more buddy jumped on the band wagon and the 4 of us left KC early Friday morning the 20th.
We actually got to the ranch earlier than we intended but it worked out well. We were taken on a brief tour and shown the lay of the land. Basically it was 160 acres of rough ground with 7 or 8 tree stands in strategic locations. Each tree stand overlooked a shooting lane that contained a game feeder with a timer. With the timers set for late afternoon, we hustled around and got ready for "the hunt".
Honestly, I was a little discouraged. I had the feeling I would be looking at a feedlot full of hogs that were trained to respond to the feeder timers. And while to an extent, that's just what it was but only on the surface.
What I didn't know because I've never "hunted hogs" is that they never stand still. That was the tip of the iceberg. These critters can be invisible if they want to be. If they stop in the brush, they are just like any other query, hard to see if not impossible. And fast is an understatement. One strange sound and they scatter like a flock of birds. They don't scatter far but if you've ever tried to "pick a target" from a group of deer or dove, then you know how tough that can be.
So here I am Friday afternoon looking at unfamiliar country side and not having a clue what to really expect. As it turned out, my feeder didn't run because the high winds that day had shook the grain out of it. The ground was covered with corn underneath the feeder. Watching intently for movement in my shooting area I spotted a group of hogs out about 100 yards. By the time I realized they were there, they were gone.
Now, I have to back up a 2 or 3 decades. I used to help a friend of mine feed hogs and clean pens on a regular basis. I never had a hog in my crosshairs all though there were many times I wanted to kill'em. 100 yards in front of me, hogs had presented a shot and disappeared.
It took me a couple of minutes to get my mind around the fact that they appeared to be "livestock" but they were not and it was "OK" to shoot.
Regaining my composure and getting back to the task at hand, I started watching again and now I had a little different perspective. Yep, they are the target, they are moving and there's no "pen" to stop them.
It wasn't long before more showed up and even wandered in closer to the feeder. But they were not acting like any hog I ever met. These guys and gals would take a step closer, do a dance and move 3 or 4 feet farther away and disappear in the brush. They played this routine until my trigger finger was throbbing.
In my lap layed my little Ruger Compact in 308. Charged with 125 grain hog mashers that I had assembled a couple of weeks ago. I'd had the gun on the shooting rail, back in my lap and back on the rail countless times.
Finally a nice sized hog stepped from behind a clump of trees and presented a shot. I quickly shouldered the rifle again hoping the target would stay put. It did and the shot connected and anchored the hog in it's tracks. A nice head shot and I felt good about it. The thunder of hoofs that followed the blast of the gun surprised me however and it turned out there were several "in range" but only 2 or 3 that might have been visible..
I had my Ruger Blackhawk in 45 colt hanging on my shoulder. So I quickly swapped guns and hoped for another shot. My Blackhawk is scoped with a Bushnell 2-7 and I have practiced enough to know that the gun is capable. I spotted hogs moving back out into the open and tried to pick one out to make my own. Settling the crosshairs on another nice one I rolled the hammer slowly to the first click. That was all the noise that hog needed to initiate the dance routine and the shot was gone. I played this game for several minutes and every time a shot was presented it vanished as quickly.
I tried moving the power up and down on the scope hoping for quicker acquisition but nothing helped. I finally found a "still" target and pulled the trigger. Of course I missed as I expected I would and the hog fled for parts unknown taking all of his buddies with him.
Expecting to miss is usually a sentence to do so but having owned this gun several years and never having killed anything but paper with it, I have no confidence in myself. The scope compounded the problem of target acquisition and drove my frustration to the edge. I don't know if I will ever get anything killed with this revolver but I'm not ready to quit trying.
The next afternoon I was back in the stand with both guns and was prepared to use whichever one I felt I could do the job with. The only shots that presented themselves were a group of small hogs. I really didn't want a small hog but took the opportunity to look at them through the scopes of both guns and practice target acquisition. All of the "targets" were practicing their dance routine of only standing in 1 spot for a nano second but it was great practice for me.
I ended the evening without pulling the trigger.
The guide offered to take me out Sunday morning for a brief period from one of the tree stands and if that was not productive we would try a little stalking. The stand produced only 1 small hog and I let him skate by. I watched this small hog through my binoculars thinking he might walk to a group of hogs. He stepped behind a tree and vanished. I sat there another hour and never saw him again.
When the guide picked me up we headed to another area of the property were he felt we would find some hogs. Again my untrained eye for spotting hogs in the brush brought out the reality of how tough this might be. The guide would point at a patch of brush and say "there's one" of course by the time I focused on the location the hog was gone. We played this cat and mouse routine until we located some a couple of large hogs.
I shouldered the 308 and squeezed the trigger. As I cycled the bolt, the guide said "did you get him" and it was funny because that whole confidence thing slapped me in the back of the head. My brain said "Uh, yea" which translates to "of course" but I just responded with "yes". When I squeezed the trigger, I didn't have any doubt in my mind that I would connect and I have always believed that is 75% of the equation. This hog was standing 40 or 50 yards out in heavy underbrush. The shot that had been presented was a side view of head and shoulder. But as an example of the visibility, the guide didn't see it and didn't see it fall even though he was standing 3 feet from me and looking intently at where I was pointing the barrel.
That's my account of the hunting part of the trip.
Back to Friday night, the other Bill in the party scored well with a 450 Marlin. 2 nice hogs and one of them had some gnarly looking tusks. Dan scored next I believe and he killed it with a stainless Blackhawk in 44 Mag. Tim killed a nice hog with his Sharps 45/70.
In all, we killed 5 "meat hogs" Friday night and while that seems like a lot of easy shooting, all of the stories were similar. The hide and seek games with the hogs, the dance routine they played and the challenge of getting one in your sights long enough to pull the trigger.
When we were dropped off at our stands Friday afternoon we were told by the staff that they would be back to pick us up at dark. By dark I was out of my stand trying to cram all my "accessories" back into the pack I was carrying and I was standing next to the hog I had shot. With little or no light, I could still see hogs around me. I was wishing I had my little Walther P22 with the laser on it. That might have been fun.
The staff picked us up at dark as promised and loaded all the hogs up as well. Back at the barn they efficiently strung up the hogs and skinned them out. Every deer camp should have a hanging rack like they were using. Boat winch type hand cranks on each of the 4 legs of the rack. Cables ran to the top of the rack, through pulleys and back down to gambrels. Very cool set up.
It was agreed that Saturday morning, the owner would take us to a near by gun shop. "Near by" in that part of the world was more like 20 miles or so but it was fine. The vehicle we would travel in was incredible. It was a Ford F650 custom rig that had been stretched to 6 doors and still had an 8 foot bed. 22" tires and running boards that hit you at the knee. All you could say was "holy $hit".
The funniest part of that little trip was when we stopped at a gas station to pick up a few misc. items. As we were preparing to leave the lot, a nice Dodge pickup with a lift kit and 31" tires rolled onto the lot. We all started laughing and it was kind of a unanimous "NO, THIS IS A TRUCK". The guy wouldn't even look our direction when he got out of his pickup. I guess you had to be there but once you see the picture, I'm sure you'll understand.
Saturday afternoon Tim and Bill scored again, taking 2 more eating size hogs. Tim's was a larger boar than what we had been taking and big enough you wouldn't want him mad at you. None of us were really after "hogzilla" but no doubt he was out there in the brush.
As for Red Dirt Boar Ranch, the staff and facilities were great. They are in the process of building a new "lodge" so for the time being, sleeping quarters are travel trailers but they worked out fine. If you book a trip with them, tell them you heard about them at Centerfire Central.
A couple of views from my stand.
Friday nights pile of hogs.
This is the sow I took Sunday morning.
NO, Really, THIS IS A TRUCK.
Sitting in front of a Toyota Tundra. You can see the "new lodge" in the background.