My 9-year-old son, Forrest, has been fascinated by wild boars since he was a toddler. This was all the encouragement I needed to arrange a spring 2005 hog-hunting trip to Texas.
After surfing the web for a couple weeks in the fall, I settled on 1A Hunting-in-Texas Guide Service, operated by Robert Steenbeke, (www.hunting-in-texas.com), which offered just what I wanted: hogs, javelina, and night hunting.
In September 2004, I sent a deposit to Steenbeke, who said we could have the camp to ourselves if we had five or more hunters. I asked several of my friends if they would like to join us for a March 2005 hunt. Four signed on right away, so I had the five I needed. Two would later back out -- one because of a work conflict and another to take his wife on a trip to South Korea.
None of the hunters in our group had ever hunted hogs before. But our party of Leon Danielson, Gary Harrington, Mike O'Donnell, my nephew Zach Leitch, Forrest, and myself couldn't wait to reach the Lone Star State.
Greg Binkley, president and CEO of The Sportsman's Guide, had to drop out of the hunt because of work issues. Binkley very generously gave his hunt, fully paid, to my nephew, Zach, who had just returned from 12 months in Iraq. Zach thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, but I'm not sure we got our money's worth in Iraq since he couldn't hit much!
Driving To Texas
We drove straight through from Moorhead, Minn., to the ranch north of Laredo, a distance of just under 1,500 miles. Our hunt started at noon Wednesday and ended at noon Saturday -- three full days and nights of hunting. After unpacking, having a quick lunch, and taking a few shots at the rifle range, we left camp in two vehicles for the afternoon hunt. The two primary methods of hunting hogs in this relatively flat and brushy part of Texas are daytime hunting from stands with views down one or more corn-baited trails, and night hunting the trails from vehicles with spotlights.
Since it had rained recently, some of the 90,000 acres of ranch trails were wet and couldn't be driven upon. The rule is to not drive if it will leave ruts. Forrest and I walked the last 250 yards to our elevated deer stand. Steenbeke spread some corn along the trails we were watching to hold any hogs that happened to cross. And it wasn't long before the trails were alive with deer and rabbits.
The wild or feral hog (Sus scrofa) population in Texas is estimated to be about 2 million. They are not native to Texas, and thus there are no state bag, possession limits, or closed seasons on private property. Their flesh tastes just like farm-raised pork, only it is much leaner. However, the boars can be gamey, just like a big farmyard boar.
Chances On Javelina
Everyone had a chance to take a javelina during our hunt, but Harrington was the only other one in our group to shoot one. He watched two javelinas on a trail for over 15 minutes from his ground blind, when he realized one of them was a very large animal. Just before dark, he rested his .270 on some sagebrush and took the boar "javie" when it turned broadside at about 120 yards.
Forrest managed to shoot his first wild hog from an elevated stand just before dark. We watched two sows and several small pigs coming down the trail toward us for almost an hour, before they got within range. One shot at 30 yards with the .243 did the trick. Forrest is still scratching the flea bites he got from nearly hugging his hog.
One of the many highlights of this kind of hunt is the food. We started each day with continental breakfast at 5 a.m. A full, hot breakfast followed our morning stand hunt at about 10 a.m. After dressing out the morning's harvest and getting it into the walk-in cooler, checking the rifles at the range, or taking naps, a big lunch was served at about 2:30 p.m.
At one lunch, we ate halfof Danielson's small boar, expertly prepared by our guide Michael over mesquite on the outdoor grill. Danielson shot the boar the previous afternoon at 80 yards with 140-grain Noslers in his .280. After lunch, it was off to the stands for the afternoon and back for a big dinner at about 8 p.m. Then, after dinner, it was out for the night hunt, sometimes until 3 a.m.
We left our animals for mounting at Dinges Taxidermy Studio in Omaha when we passed through town at 6 a.m. Sunday. I am anxious to see how they look on the wall.
The hunt was a great experience for all -- especially Forrest!
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