Spot and Stalk in Texas

I’ve just returned from a little corner of northeast Texas hunting hogs for three days on the Wildcat Creek Quail Hunting Resort. After practicing hard with my bow, a PSE Stinger 3G, deadly fast and highly accurate, I was more than a little nervous to be hunting hogs for the first time. We went out twice a day, just before dawn and just before dusk for several hours. Alternating between tree stands, ground blinds and a tripod, I and my fellow hunters spotted quite a few hogs, herds and a few big boars going solo. Spread out over a hundred acres, the terrain was lush and dense with a variety of scrub, alder and cedars, with several-story old growth hardwoods spread about. Before arriving, Texas was hit with nearly five days straight of rain, ending a many-years long drought that turned most of the bottoms into full-fledged swamps. To make matters tougher, I would be hunting with six other guys in the area–creating a lot of pressure. We were there celebrating my brother-in-law’s 40th. Hopes were high, some were serious, some weren’t.

DAY ONE

After tuning my bow on the range,  and a late start, within a half hour of getting into my stand, a big black boar that was probably “bumped” into my area by another hunter getting set-up, made an appearance on a rise just above my baited area near a pond. He gave the air one sniff and trotted off. I saw the same hog in the same area later that evening, but I was ratted-out by a squirrel that went on the alarm behind me. My guide later suggested it was probably sounding off at another hog that I missed spotting coming in from behind. Either way, day one I came up short, but exhilarated by the encounters.

DAY TWO

I decided to switch up and hunt a feeder where one of our party had taken a shot with a crossbow at a big sow, only to have his bolt deflect off the hog’s gristle–a tough armor-like plate on a hogs shoulder. I had seen this before on a hunting show–so I knew it was entirely possible to shot a hog at 10 yards and not get any penetration. I was in the stand before dawn, and was treated to the cacophony of the waking forest. I heard the most beautiful birdsong, but no hogs! An evening move to conduct a spot and stalk was a far more rewarding hunt.

My guide, and the owner of WRC, Ron Parker, decided to take me into the thickest part of the forest. We moved at a steady even pace, with the instruction to walk in his footsteps and stop when he stops. 300 yards away, the other guide, Chico, took another hunter up a parallel path. Even though we had our worries that a passing buggy had ruined our stalk, Chico bumped a herd in our direction. Several large boars circled around us in a complete 360 degrees. We crossed a couple of dirt roads and came across another one of our group in a blind, we got him out and proceed to do another push–but the hogs were too fast and crossed back into the thickest woods many yards ahead of us. Our opportunity was gone. All during the hunt, Ron provided lots of little tips…it was a masterclass and I look forward to doing my own “still hunting” soon.

DAY THREE

I tossed and turned all night, considered bailing on the third morning. I was tired, feeling a little down. I wanted to get out early at 5:30am, but worried about a persistent cough, getting lost in the dark. I knew that in all likelihood it would be just me and my brother-in-law in the forest, the others had fell away, too much partying…but after two hard days of pressure on the hogs, would they even show up? I dithered and got in the stand a little late I realized. I could see the hog-sign, the torn up ground from all the rooting for grubs. The hogs had been up, had breakfast and moved from their bedding area where my groundblind was set up. Chico, the head guide, assured me, they’ll come back around, just be patient.

I waited and waited as the morning air warmed up. I was satisfied by the stillness. At 10:30am, I was ready to pack it in, when I heard the tell-tale whoosh and stomp of hogs running through the forest. They were trotting not 100 yards away heading for their bedding area, ready to go quiet for the warmest part of the day in the cool wallows. I smiled and let my spirits rise, my chance seemed to have finally arrived. Sound became sight as I spotted about twenty-plus animals moving across the road and into the bedding area at a casual, even lazy gait, staying along the treeline. Smaller hogs, brown, and black, ginger. Then, no, no, no, I heard the tell-tale sound of an EV, a buggy coming up the road. The hogs froze in place. One softly grunted, and off they marched right out of the bedding area. Not a single one came out of the treeline until they were out of range of my bow. I was crushed, left longing for a do-over. The finality of the end of the hunt was at hand.

REASONS TO RETURN

There are so many reasons to return to WRC. The Parker family have created a warm, modern, and very comfortable lodge. Their family-run operation was supposed to be a quiet retirement after a lifetime of traipsing the world building the finest resorts in the Caribbean, Dubai and other exotic locales. Instead, WRC is a labor of love, and each Shinerbock you’re handed across the handbuilt bar, each pan-seared quail or piece of peach cobbler baked by chef David, another Parker son, each generous smile from Chico, makes it easy to imagine returning as soon as possible.

And then there’s the fishing. Ron has stocked several of the ponds and lake with Florida strain bass. He told me, “I love to hunt, but I LOVE fishing.” I had told Ron earlier about a big bass I spotted in a run-off stream off the lake (probably due to the rains). He promptly grabbed his pole and left. Later I spotted him pulling up in an EV as I was fly fishing the banks of the lake behind the lodge. “Did you get it?” I asked. “Yep. I got it.” We spent a good hour together fishing for more bucketmouths before I broke my pole on a snag. Guests routinely pull out 5 even 7 lbers. I took my fairshare on a popper on my 8wt.

One of the guides, Nick, Ron’s son, really wanted to get me a hog, and with only a few hours to catch my flight, offered to take me out for once more, this time with his rifle. I thought long and hard about it. I wanted the encounter. I wanted the meat. I wanted the kill. And yet, I wanted to take the animal under circumstances that met my own conditions. I set out to let nature take its course, aware that though I had modern conveniences, nature had her defenses too. Sure, the owners and guides are skilled enough to take a hog when they apply themselves. Their talent and knowledge would almost assure another opportunity. However, I wanted a “fair chase” opportunity that matched my skill level. I told Nick that no, I’d get my first hog with a bow, when I was ready, when I had earned the chance, and without a doubt, I would return.

David, Chico, Nick of WRC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s