Day One – A Lesson in Humbleness
I quickly unlocked the gate and Randy drove through. I locked the gate behind us; it was getting late as I explained that the honey hole was about 400 yards down the trail. We grabbed our gear and hurried off to my spot. As we neared the tree line at the edge of the field I signaled Randy to stop. Randy took note and quickly froze, silently awaiting my instructions. I poked my head out of the tree line and looked hard to my left at the feeder area 160 yards down the field to my left, nestled near a semi-circle tree line.
I noticed dust rising from the feeder area and was instantly disappointed thinking that we had spooked them; however, the rise in elevation and subsequent drop into the bowl-like honey hole only hid what was waiting in front of us. As we ventured out to the middle of the field Randy stopped me. Randy is a pretty tall order; he sees things I can’t; it’s handy having him around actually (Randy, don’t let it go to your head). Randy ducked down to my atmosphere whispering, “They’re still at the feeder!” My first thought was, “Oh crap, we’re too late!” My second thought was, “How do we get from here to there?” Randy and I thought about it for a minute as we moved back over to the edge of the tree line; if we stayed low and on the tree line we might have a chance.
Randy and I began our stalk, staying low we only stepped when heads were down, ducking all the while and hugging the tree line as we carefully chose one step after another. Somewhere in that stalking mode I realized my range finder was still at the gear we dumped at the start of our stalk (not good). After a 120 yard stalk, Randy stopped to set up the game camera and suggested I continue around the next outcropping of limbs to ensure I had a good shot. I did just that, taking one painstakingly slow step after another as weary hogs watched in every direction. The sounder appeared to be ready to leave with one sow watching the tree line as I continued. Reaching the shooting area I waited. She lowered her head to the grass and I dropped down. She watched as I stayed on my hands and knees until I could longer feel my legs. It was 105 degrees and the sweat poured out of me like a drip hose, running its course over the lenses of my glasses and dropping off the end of my nose to pool in the dust; it’s amazing how you make note of such things when you can’t move. After approximately 10 minutes of my best bush impression ever, the hogs began to eat again. A bruiser of a boar lumbered away from the trees back towards the feeder, broadside, and sporting all head and shoulders. I estimated him to be at 27 yards (remember I had forgotten my range finder). As the other hogs ate and the boar looked on I slowly rose to a kneeling position, sitting on my back heel and straightening my front leg out in the boar’s direction while I quietly and deftly drew “my Mistress” back. I put my 30 yard pin on the back half of his front shoulder, holding there until he finally stopped. I eased the trigger back and launched a parking ticket tipped by an Atom broadhead. Thwaaaaack!
I hit high, very high. He let out a quiet moan and stumbled. Regaining some composure he continued to walk, never running through the feeder area. He bumped into the feeder leg then continued into the trees directly under my treestand where he collapsed, my arrow buried through his spine up to the fletching. Randy and I did the typical congratulatory thing as we collected our bows, our wits, and our camera all the while exclaiming that I must have hit an artery but never dismissing that it was a poor shot.
We hurried over to the stand; Randy’s turn to hunt while I man the camera. The hogs may be back any minute. As we approached the stand we made a discovery that sickened me. That boar that we had watched fall over was gone. One drop of blood on a leaf was all that was found, no arrow, nothing but one drop of blood. I was sick to my stomach having lost such a great boar. We searched high and low for two hours or more but to no avail. With no blood and no evidence of direction or trail taken we called off the search. I felt as though I had made a bad shot but under normal circumstances would have harvested a fine boar with that shot. By normal circumstances I am referring to the Atom broadhead I selected for this hunt.
It was given to me to try, to review, to video a kill if possible. The Atom cuts with Titanium razor wire and is quite the revolutionary broadhead. Having said that, there is no question in the minds of its inventors that by design, when propelled through or around bone, the wires collapse, expanding again on the other side to continue cutting. The problem is however, when one (me in this case) makes a poor shot, particularly a spine shot the last thing you want is for the broadhead to go around the bone. The truth of the matter is this. If I had used a fixed broadhead such as a Slick Trick, or even a good sturdy mechanical, the spine would have been broken and the boar would have dropped.
Using a broadhead that collapsed when it reached the spine to “go around it” only proved to be disastrous. The core reason for the lost hog is a poor shot, even further back forgetting my range finder when I began the stalk. This not having been my first “go-round” I also find great flaw in my decision to use my 30 yard pin on the shoulder when considering that if I had used my 20 yard pin on the shoulder and shot low I would have likely hit the pump station.
It was a crushing Friday afternoon. Randy got the shot on video but it was a fairly tragic hunt; let my hunt remind you that no matter how many scenarios you play out, the one you find yourself in will often be different. Another rookie lesson I was humbly reminded of is that with today’s technology, there is no excuse for not having a range finder involved in your stalk. Being sure of your yardage is as critical as every other aspect of the hunt. You owe your best decisions and most ethical approach to our heritage by using all of your resources to facilitate the most successful and ethical results possible, even disastrous, malicious, over-breeding hogs.
So, being the Christian I am I asked, “God, what am I to learn from this?” I knew the answer before I asked, “Humbleness.” Being the “Super-duper-archery- hog-hunter” facilitated poor decision making (It’s true the broadhead didn’t help either but I was the bigger problem in this equation). When hunting any game animal that you have experience in, you must continue to check the same boxes as you did as a rookie…no shortcuts.
By the way, the Atom did penetrate exceptionally well; had I made a clean shot there is no doubt the boar would have expired quickly using the Atom. I am not ready to create bad press for Atom broadheads; I am ready to tell you to consider the risks associated with them given the type of scenario I found myself in. I don’t know if I will try them again, perhaps if afforded another opportunity I would, this time making a clean, ethical shot. The shot I made is not one to write a review on anyway, uncertainties abound, clearly not a true picture of the Atom’s performance; however, if I do try them again it most assuredly will not be on a trophy.
Day Two: Pay Dirt and Some Soiled Drawers!
Feeling much better, I meet Randy at the ol’ dusty filler-up station again. We run in for a couple of sodas and a quick hello to “Cowboy” – no idea as to his real name, his nametag simply reads “Cowboy”. Heading out to the honey hole we both make note of the time, much earlier than yesterday. I’m still sick over losing that bruiser boar and hoping to see buzzards near the stand when we arrive. We both agree that we feel much better about today. We’re ready and won’t be caught off-guard; no stalk, they’re coming to us tonight.
In the stand, it’s sweltering again 106 if I remember correctly. At the filler-up station we joked about how addicted to this we were to be out in the heat hunting in treestands; even worse we reasoned out that in tree stands we were even closer to the sun. Sitting in that treestand a mere hour later I truly believed in what he had theorized. I think I was too close to the sun; I smelled burnt hair. I sat there in the stand with Randy below manning the camera for more than two hours. I don’t think I every stopped moving as I continually used a hand towel to wipe the sweat off my face and off the lenses of my glasses.
When I began to doubt that they were coming, there they were. A hefty sow we estimated at a solid 350 pounds came tearing out of the tree line with a good sounder in tow. Ten hogs in all ate heartily for a few moments with Big Mama hanging back at 40 yards refusing to advance. I watched carefully, never making eye contact, as she repeatedly raised her head up and took long, slow draws of air trying to wind us. She knew something was up and would not commit to the feeder, instead hanging back on the far side of the feeder now adding aggressive grunting and moaning; we were busted; they could smell us. Fortunately, lack of movement was our saving grace. As she refused to commit, the others ventured in unfazed. I had been watching and yearning for a sow I aptly named Oreo who, as luck would have it, was directly under the feeder. I came to full draw on the massive sow but she never offered any kind of a shot. I held for a good while. Oreo decided to park in front of the feeder at 17 yards. When I finally acknowledged that Big Mama was not going to offer me a shot I happily lowered my aim to Oreo. Thwaaaaack!
Oreo stayed parked in that tow-away zone courtesy of 100 grains of Slick Trick madness!
In an effort to get the sounder back in I quickly climbed down from the stand and ran out to retrieve the hog, dragging it back. I had Randy climb into my stand and then ran into our little video spot ten feet into the woods; easy right? Wrong!
We heard the hogs coming in as light began to quickly dissipate. Randy looked down at me and motioned that he could hear hogs close by and behind me. That was a no-brainer because what Randy didn’t know is that I could hear them breathing. As I sat there, darkness poured over the woods quickly gobbling up shadows until I could barely see, left alone, no weapon, with hogs behind me. Big Mama let out a sniff that reminded me of having a deer blow at me. She must have winded me again because she began her trademark blowing and grunting at me again. It was QUITE a humbling experience sitting in the darkness with nothing but my good looks to keep Big Mama from calling me her own! She grunted at me again. I slowly turned to look and found her stopped on a trail not more than ten feet behind me and letting me know very clearly that she did not appreciate our intrusion.
She stayed there grunting for what seemed to be an eternity, never taking a step; she just watched me ten feet away and moaned her death moan (or at least that’s what it sounded like to me). It was a battle of the wills. She willed for me to leave and I willed for me to leave, but how, with that monster ready to trample me, do I get out to the trees? I worried for several minutes until I finally decided to turn the video camera light off, and hoping that when I did it would not provoke her to charge.
Fortunately it didn’t. I stayed for a couple more minutes just looking at her silhouette in the darkness. She was, by far, the largest hog I’ve ever run into at that distance and she was clear about her presence… and mine. Finally, I did a gut-check and stood up, still no charge. I slowly and diligently stepped out of the trees trembling. Then, like a good little school girl, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled over to the base of my ladderstand. I had won!
Randy eventually climbed down and noticed me shaking. His only reply was, “Man, you were covered up with hogs!” I sarcastically thanked him for the pistol he had with him in the treestand while I showed off my trembling hands and goosebumps. I can honestly say that I nearly urinated back inside that tree line! Big Mama got the best of me. Payback’s on the horizon! Come on Mama, let’s dance!
Day Three: The Headless Copperhead
Zero-dark-thirty came at zero-dark-thirty! I rolled out of the sack and landed in camo. I was running late but we still had time. By the time I arrived at our meeting place Randy had made friends with all the trash in dirt parking lot on the side of the ol’ filler-up station. I apologized for my tardy ways and we quicly sped off. We reached destination Honey Hole and quickly set up. Randy went up the tree and I stayed below lying in stealth amongst the briars and poison ivy (I must be allergic to it), this time with his glock in my cargo pocket. The hours came and went, nothing but some grunting and one or two quick fights, perked our little ears up that morning so we decided to take a quick hike to see if we couldn’t jump something. Near the end of our stroll I saw something I never thought I would ever witness, a very large man doing his best Michael Jordan, and landing it as if he had shock absorbers in his pretty white sneakers. I was quite impressed as I asked, “What the heck is the matter with you?!” Randy shot me a very intimidating look (usually with my Jarhead background I don’t shy from the big guys but Randy was a Jarhead too so that changes things). I cowered as he leaned over me and said, “Man, I just stepped on a Copperhead! I’m getting my pistol!” Before he could make it back I had my first arrow nocked. I was so close that I could not use my sights. Thwaaaack and a miss! I loaded another one. Thwaaaaack! That one pinned the snake to the ground. I could see was about to pull off of my arrow as Randy approached with his bow. Randy stuck him with a second arrow. I walked around to the other side and stepped on his head and quickly severed it. He was mine, my first Copperhead bow-kill! And, Randy is now enslaved to me for the remainder of his natural born life as payment for saving him.
Day 3 Continued – Fish Finder
At the conclusion of our hogfest we drove back up to my place to pick up my rod and tackle box then continued on to an old tank (Texan for pond) behind a friend’s body shop where I had caught the 8+ pounder a few weeks before.
Standing on the bank Randy casts a spinner bait and catches a nice 1 ½ - 2 lb bass right out of the gate. Randy had a look in his eye that I had not seen before. I’m afraid he may enjoy fishing more than hunting, what a freak!
We cast and reeled, cast and reeled, and cast and reeled for about 30 minutes. Then, being the superior angler I am (even though I am a complete rookie) casted straight out into the middle with a buzzbait. I reeled in watching it slap the water as it went. Suddenly, a bass lunged out of the water and inhaled that poor buzzbait! I set the hook and reeled him in. It was another bass running between 1 ½ - 2 pounds.
Thirty minutes later I switch back over to my Texas Jig setup and drilled the bait out to the deepest area of the tank again. I did just as my brother had instructed me and made that little worm do the Mambo on the tank bottom. Slap! My rod doubled over. I set the hook (that was obviously already set) tightened the drag and started reeling. Just a couple of minutes later I knelt down and picked him up, a solid 4 ½ lb largemouth!
Around the time that smell of burnt hair began wafting back into my nostrils Randy explained he had to leave to run his errands. I didn’t argue. I just wanted to get in the AC before I burst into flames. Fortunately we both made it to our vehicles without having to “stop, drop and roll” and parted ways.
This weekend was one of my more memorable weekends of hunting made even better by sharing it with a great friend. Randy, thanks for hanging out. We’ll get one down for ya soon! By the way, have my truck washed before I get home tomorrow!
Well there you have it. Was it worth the wait?