Thursday, December 29, 2011

It Was A Great Hunting Trip

Just got back from a quick day-and-a-half trip to our hunting lease. It would have been longer, except for the fact that our 17-year-old son with the brand new girlfriend was home alone (more on that later). Didn't shoot a thing but had a great time.

I know this is difficult for many non-hunters to understand, but the motivation to go hunting is not driven solely by the desire to shoot something. Yes, that adds to the experience, but most of the folks I know hunt for a mix of reasons: the building excitement and the fun of preparing as the season nears (like Christmas, but with guns); the enjoyment of getting away from everyday life and doing something engaging, challenging, and outdoors (like hiking or camping, but with guns); and strengthening relationships with friends and family (like hanging out in a favorite tavern, but with guns*). If you happen to get lucky, that makes the whole thing even better (like dating, but with guns).

* We don't have a lot of rules, but we are very strict about safety. Rule #1 is "Once you have a drink you cannot touch a firearm until the next day."

Anyway, on this particular trip the weather was, finally, fantastic. Beautiful deep blue skies, crisp temperatures, just a light breeze. The ground was soft from the previous rains, but not muddy or squishy, making it easier to move around quietly and to see tracks. The roads were, for the most past, passable, although there were a few remaining bogs where I got to play 4x4 road warrior.

Best of all, since it was the middle of the week, no one else was there. It was just me, my older son, and his son (my grandson). I'm not much for stand hunting - I like to get out and move around - but with a full lease it limits how much roaming you can do. This trip I would get into position while it was still dark, then about an hour or so after sunup I'd move a few hundred yards and find another spot to sit for a while, and then move again. Probably not the most efficient way to hunt, but that's the way I like to do it.

We'd meet up back at camp for lunch, hang out for a while, and then go out again mid-afternoon.

Meals were simple. We had sandwiches for lunch. Dinner was sausage roasted over the fire, then covered with salsa and wrapped in tortillas. Dessert was leftover Christmas cookies. Elegant dining at its finest.

The only thing missing was the game. Between the three of us we saw one deer on the entire trip. It was a little forkhorn with one antler broken off at the base. Damn thing looked like a unicorn. I saw it early on the first day and passed, thinking I'd surely see something better. Wrong again.

I also saw a javelina family. Saw them several times, in fact. They showed up at 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. both days at the intersection of a couple of game trails I was staking out. I thought about shooting but I've been successfully anthropomorphized by Walt Disney. There was Daddy javelina, Mommy javelina, and a cute, tiny like piglet about the size of a football. He stayed under Mom most of the time. It was amazing watching them move in tandem, both changing direction simultaneously.

Unfortunately, Dad proved the old adage that all males are pigs. At one point, while Mom had her head down eating acorns, he mounted her. There was poor Mom trying to get something to eat, with Dad getting busy on top of her, and Junior underneath her butting up against her teats trying to nurse. Then Dad lifted his head and curled his lip back, showing his tusks. It wasn't an angry or threatening gesture, or even a triumphant one. It was more of a "Gee, is this a great world or what, and I'm so friggin' happy right now" grin. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. I would have given Dad a high-five but it would have broken up their tender moment.
Later that day there were nine (I counted 'em) large v's of geese fly overhead. It looked like those old WWII movies where waves of bomber fly over in formation. They were moving from west to east, headed for the Texas Gulf coast with its lakes and marshes (or at least where the lakes and marshes used to be before this year's drought - I guess the geese don't watch the Weather Channel). Seeing them spread out over the sky and hearing their cries gave me goosebumps (seriously).
There were other birds as well. In addition to the usual sparrows and wrens, we had plenty of dove and quail. There were several of the brightest, reddest cardinals I've ever seen, along with something I'd never seen of even heard of - green jays. They're medium-sized birds, bright lime-green with a dark blue or black head, and a light yellow underbelly. I had to look them up when I got home.

And then there were the predators - a couple of owls, several hawks, and even one caracara - the Mexican eagle (probably here without papers).

Add in the mammalian food chain - rodents, rabbits, racoons, coyotes, and bobcats - and it was a veritable Wild Kingdom.
Didn't see any feral hogs, but saw plenty of sign - tracks, wallows, rooted-up areas, and droppings. I had a game camera set up in one area, and there were nightly visits by a couple of packs, usually between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. Spotlighting hogs is legal in Texas (they're considered vermin, and rightly so) so after deer season we're planning a weekend to go night-hunting for hogs.
All in all, a great trip. But now it's time to catch up on everything I put off over Christmas, including school work.


Old NFO said...

Can't win em all, but STILL a good day and good time in the woods!

Harper said...

Again, you are welcome to come hunt feral hogs from my front porch. The neighborhood would thank you for it. The hogs tear stuff up and the damn coyotes keep us up at night. I think they intentionally sit at the fence and taunt the dogs.

CenTexTim said...

Old NFO - Amen to that!

Harper - Wouldn't your neighbors get upset when WWIII breaks out on your porch around midnight?

Seriously, have you thought about building hog traps? They're not that hard to construct, and you can dispatch the captives with a .22 behind the ear. Quick, clean, and quiet...

NavyOne said...

Great story, good hunting. Even if you did not bag anything.