Perfect Pork Belly–Friday’s Successful Hunt

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With the region gripped in a winter storms (34 and rainy) my pal Clayton and I figured there would be no better time to procure some pork. I was as excited to test some of my cold weather gear, as I was to actually be hunting. Most passed the test.

We began our hunt around 11 and with the wind in our face, Clayton and I crept through some dense underbrush which displayed a ton of pig sign. Rifles strapped to our backs and carrying 12 gauges with buckshot, we made two long stalks with no success. We did creep within 40 yards of a sizeable herd of deer, but we have enough venison.

After a lunch of sardines, crackers and grapefruit Clayton’s brother arrived. While they took care of some ranch business for an hour or so, I did a quick stalk on my own and settled over a field which we baited with some diesel soaked corn.

I hadn’t been sitting five minutes when out walked an 8 point, within 40 yards of me.  Nothing was interested in the corn and I met back up with the Bonnot brothers.

We scattered out over their property and I hunted from the leaning box stand. Anchored to a pecan tree, three lanes have been cut into the dense Southeast Texas underbrush. You can see down left lane 560 yards, down the middle lane 275 yards and the right lane 125 yards.

This is a fun spot to hunt because you have to stay ready, the critters will appear and disappear within a matter of seconds as they cross these alleys. This year I’ve seen several doe, a young 7 point buck, several pigs and racoons, and a bobcat. Lots of activity.

So while diligently looking for porky straight ahead of me, I glance to the left and suddenly glimpse a mammoth red hog as it just finishes crossing the shooting lane. My disappointment in letting this “color phase” pig walk dissipated quickly when a smaller black pig materialized. The wind was wrong for this lane, and it lifted its head to smell me giving me just enough time to squeeze off a shot and see the pig drop in its tracks. Success!

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Can’t sneak up on me with the rearview mirror employed.

After having to track my last boar, I did some research into their anatomy. I have been using the same round I used on my bear hunt and was miffed that the piggies weren’t dropping dead in their tracks after taking 180 grains from my .3006 into their shoulder. This link explains why I have been having to track these animals. Notice how much further forward the vital organs are on pigs, compared to deer and other game animals. I will now aim well forward of the shoulder and the results are clear.

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Look closely and you can see the porker lying on the ground.

The pig seemed small at this distance, especially compared to the big cinnamon red that came out first.

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As I approached I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much larger than I thought.

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My shot went through the jaw and out the back of the opposite shoulder, severing the spinal cord and aorta.

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We opened the carotids so she would bleed out on the truck ride back to the skinning station. Makes for a less messy butcher.

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So much yummy fat. Can’t wait to fry some up.

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Watching Clayton and Shane dress out the pig was like performance art. Fast and clean, it took them less than 15 minutes.

This pig is by far the fattest I’ve ever killed. She weighed 150 pounds even on the scale, making her my heaviest pig to date. The pork belly is close to 3 inches thick which is nearly the size of domesticated pigs. Definitely going to be making some maple flavored bacon with this sow.

There and Back Again: The Desolation of Haug

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wink

Like an army of Tolkien goblins crashing through the forest, I could hear the wild boar rumbling down hill.  Evil high pitched squeals of tortured agony and rage along with the guttural grunts and snorts caused a rapid rise in my heart rate.  Not squirrels or birds hopping in the dry leaves giving rise to false hopes.  Limbs cracked, hooves thudded and briers snapped as the rambling procession edged closer.  No, these were animals of considerable size. I moved my rifle into position silently, and peered through the scope to assure a clear line of fire.   on the stand.

My range finder told me in alarm-clock-red letters it was 123 yards to the large birch near the trail I figured the pigs would use to enter the pasture.   Confidently hidden, I was perched in a tripod stand on the back side of our ranch.  I wore no magic ring, just my black SmartWool merino base layers and camouflage neoprene waders–I was nearly invisible nonetheless in the shade and leaves of a pecan grove.   Middle Lilly Creek was full, making the neoprene waders a necessity, though I was fighting my natural sweating proclivities despite temperatures in the 20s.  But a risen creek was a good thing because it meant decreased hunting pressure.

Soon the anticipation was over and into the field burst a pair of black razorbacks nose to the ground pushing the sandy loam aside like bulldozers.   I aligned my cross-hairs on the fur covered shoulder of the boar as it moved hurriedly back and forth at the edge of the mirkwoods. The light was soft and through my scope darkness and latent muscular energy emanated from the beast.   Slowly, my finger steadily increased pressure until the sight picture was suddenly obscured as the second boar swung his torso violently  into the first sending them both onto their backs.  I stopped my squeeze.

As the swine scrambled to their feet I found my mark again and shot.  I didn’t feel the shock from the synthetic stock of my Tika T3 .3006  because I was distracted by screaming eerily reminiscent of ring-wraiths.   I lost sight of my target through the scope and the pigs sprinted towards me, one stopping 50 yards to the right.   I sent another 180 grains racing into the swine only to see him run the 70 yards behind me out of sight.

Distraught, I climbed from my hiding spot in the tree leaves, and started my search for blood.  I found none.   I cursed myself for missing at such close range.  Then elation.

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A hill of black fur with steam escaping gaping wounds like smoke from an active volcano indicated my bullets had found their mark.  I approached the animal with respect, ensuring there would be no sudden reanimation and cause for a quick retreat.  Though an estimated 150 pounds, this boar was young.  Perfect for eating.

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Gutted, quartered and loaded into my pack I began the half mile hike to my SUV.  No elves or dwarfs greeted me on my trek through the woods, but when I finally reached the vehicle a second breakfast sure sounded nice.

havalon

shoulder removed

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up close

 

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Hunt Report

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Back during our cold snap a week or so ago, my buddy at church Clayton and I talked about how the weather had cooled enough to go after some pork for the freezer.   We met up at noon yesterday, shot the breeze awhile, and embarked on our hour drive north to his land.   

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Thick with live oak, post oak, pecan and various shrubbery underneath, this portion of the gulf coast prairie is chock full of a deer and pigs.  Like most of Texas, this is low fence, private property hunting.  Also, this ranch shares a border with a high fence operation.  As we neared our parking spot, one of the giant deer from the high fence neighbor stood just a few feet from us on the other side of his 8 foot high fence, staring.  There is something comically vulgar about these types of deer with their headache inducing racks, and giant yellow tags in their ears.  We laughed about the odds of an escapee walking across our path and what the appropriate course of action would be.  I’ve decided if I do shoot an escapee, I must leave the tag in the ear when I have it stuffed.

Clayton forgot his Off, and in the balmy 75 degree weather he was going to need it.  I was glad, because I preferred we hunt together on my first trip to his family’s beautiful ranch near Ganado, Texas .  Also, anyone I can show the benefits of a Thermacell to will be forever grateful.

Two weekends ago, I made the poor decision to leave my rifle and first team hunting equipment at my father’s place, 6 hours to the North.  I had intended to return the next weekend and hunt, but of course, life got in the way and I didn’t.  This left me hunting with my antique British Enfield 303, which is open sights.  I’m only good to about 100 yards open sight, so of course I expected all of our pigs to show up about 200 yards away.

We arrived at the ranch, loaded up and made a short quarter of a mile hike to our tree stand.   On the way there, a strange buck presented itself at about 75 yards.  One antler appeared to be a four point and the other was either a broken tine with 1 point or a fork horn at best.  We considered taking the shot, but ultimately passed.  That’s a good buck for December.    

Climbing into the stand, we were both sweating.  But not long after, a cool front from the north blew in and took away the humidity and the heat.  Yellow pecan leaves were floating to the ground like confetti as we traded hunting stories and relaxed in the woods.   After about 20 minutes, two doe and a yearling stepped into the shooting lanes.  Soon after a young 7 point, with good mass and about 13.5 inches spread came out following the doe.  Clayton’s family tries to take  to take mature 4.5 + year old bucks. This buck looked about 2.5-3 years old, legal but young.    This will be a fine trophy next year. 

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 He left, and soon a sounder of pigs about 250 yards away appeared.  We hoped they were working their way toward us, but they stopped about 200 yards out.  Being the good host Clayton wanted to see if they got any closer so I’d  have a realistic chance, but they didn’t appear to be closing in.  I encouraged him to blast away.  He steadied himself, shot and missed.  The pigs ran off.

photo (30)15 minutes later, a small fork horn appeared directly behind our stand.  Head down, he was hanging out just munching away at some corn we spread for pigs.  Eventually he winded us and bolted.  As we remarked on his carelessness, the hogs reappear at about 150 yards.  

Earlier we agreed Clayton would shoot first and I would clean up.  He fires spinning a big sow who stumbles out of sight.   I pull the trigger, and nothing.  My gun jammed.  I’d just shot it a month ago with no issues.  My first thought was I’d never taken the safety off, no luck.  It was jammed and I couldn’t work the bolt action.  Worse still, the safety was stuck in the firing position with a bullet chambered.  Fortunately, we were able to “unfreeze” the action and its back in working order.

Meanwhile, the pigs, about 20 in all, reappeared to our left.  Clayton sent a volley of shots that would have made the rifleman himself, Chuck Connors–proud.  Unfortunately, none found their mark.

Despite seeing the big sow spin from Clayton’s earlier shot, we never found blood and couldn’t pin point the exact entry she took back into the woods.  After a diligent search, we decided to call it a night.   No pork belly for me to cure on this hunt, but nonetheless it was a grand time.