Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alternative Uses for Children: Spotters

In general, I STRONGLY prefer "up close and personal" hunting .  To me, it is much more exciting to be within 10-50 yards (and sometimes 10-50 feet) of an animal where you need to watch every step you take, monitor every movement by them and yourself and constantly be aware of the wind direction versus sniping away from 500 yards while having to take the curvature of the earth into consideration.  Plus, closer range usually ensures a quick, humane kill due to better shot placement and delivered energy.

It also helps to focus the mind if the creature has the propensity and ability to fight back.

At the same time, if you practice, our rifles are more than capable of "reaching out and touching" something.

Sometimes... you don't have a choice.

On a past weekend, I was in pursuit of the much-despised yet tasty feral hogs.  My 9 year old was VERY keen on going along with good ol' dad.  While she is always welcome to come along, this adds another level of complication since she is:

(i) loud,
(ii) slow,
(iii) prone to quickly becoming chilled,
(iv) still learning to avoid loud things while walking (i.e. sticks, leaves, forest floor debris, water, mud),
(v) missing the whisper gene,
(vi) prone to lose interest quicker than her 46 year old dad, and
(vii) very, very curious.

She is however VERY GUNG-HO which is one of the 1,000s of reasons I love her.

Since she was along on this trip, a change of tactics was in order.  For starters, we would be hunting the open right-of-ways versus diving off into the snake-filled, poison ivy choked overgrown woods.  Considering feral hogs are psychic and have the ability to appear well over 1/2 a mile away from where you are, a long range shot might be required.

We were in the same area where the weekend before, I saw 7 separate groups of hogs.  "This is going to be easy", I thought.  Well..... 2.5 chilly hours later we had only seen pigs from about... 1/2 a mile away.  After walking a bit, we returned to a likely intersection of a pipeline easement and a creek.  Visibility was superb in 4 directions.  We had been in this general area for several hours now and were both getting a bit bored.  I considered a change of locations when I glanced down a long right-of-way and saw these little black dots.

Binoculars transformed the black dots into black hogs and as luck would have it, there were no cattle near them.

Ideally, we would have closed the gap to the hogs to at least 200 yards.  They were waaaaaay down there but due to a swollen, impassable creek, a long shot would be required.  I shed my backpack quicker than a stripper angling for an extra $20 bill.  With the 9-year old in tow, we FLEW into action.

Finding a slightly higher mound to help give me the best vantage point, I laid down prone (facedown if you are from East Texas) behind the much loved .270/bipod combination.  There was a clear path to the right side of the right-of-way but taller brush to the left (the direction from which the hogs were coming) was blocked from my foot high view.  Plus, I could see the hogs were not hanging around eating in the clear, they were filing through the area and heading back into the woods on the right.  We had about 3-5 seconds before the last of them would be gone.

I tell my daughter to stand behind me to help protect her from the muzzle blast / pressure wave and for general safety.  But then I noticed that she had my binoculars.

Like a fine-tuned experienced sniper spotter, my 9-year old starts calling out details.

"There are two small ones in the middle."

"The red one is gone now."

and then...

"Oh dad... there is a big black one, walking to the others!"

I tell her to cover her ears as I wait for the "big black one" to enter the small clearing.  Holding about 3-4" over his back, I squeezed the trigger.

Keep in mind, we could barely see these hogs with the naked eye and I estimated the range to be 300-500 yards.  It was a stab in the dark at the range.

Actual stretch of woods where tale unfolded.

A check with the binocs revealed nothing.  The clearing was just that, clear.  It was just the two of us.

"Wow, that was loud!".  (She later confessed she had NOT covered her ears since she was curious and wanted to watch the shot.)

After a long trek down the creek to the bridge, a long walk back to our right-of-way and a long stroll to hog ground zero, there it was, a medium sized reddish hog, very dead, with a clean, humane hole in his temple.

I later paced the distance off and estimate it to be ~340 yards +/-.  My longest successful shot to date.

But as I cleaned the animal (much to my daughter's horror and anatomical curiosity), I started thinking more and more about the situation leading up to the event.

The hog I was shooting at was big and black.  This one was small and red.

I was aiming at the shoulder.  This hog was hit in the head.

I was aiming at the right side.  This hog has an entry wound on the left.

My daughter is thinking then entire chain of events is pretty cool and that good ol' dad is awesome and generally the best hunter on the planet.  I have not yet shared with her that good ol' dad missed and hit an unseen hog, probably in front of the one she directed me to.

As my wife is prone to say... "There is no glory to be had" in doing so.

I did however share these details with the guys at the hunting camp, a decision I soon regretted.

+++++

A Man in the Woods

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