By Gregg Fuller
-- I was deer hunting in late December 2006 near the central Texas town of Comanche about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth. I had already taken my allotted trophy buck, and was now working on my cull buck tag. We hadn't seen very many deer in the past few weeks. We contributed this to the fact that there is an over abundance of feral hogs in the area.
The hogs seemed to have pretty much taken over the 400-acre ranch. To say that Texas has way too many feral hogs is a gross understatement. Texas Parks & Wildlife had issued a statement earlier in summer that by 2007 feral hogs would outnumber the state's estimated 2.5 million white-tailed deer. It was an unnerving statement to say the least. Especially to a guy who generally left his rifle in the stand, and went unarmed either to hunt or came back from hunting in pitch-black dark.
I have large caliber handguns, but hate to tote them around. Besides, I had damaged a number of firearms while entering or leaving the woods without a flashlight. I hated the thought of an artificial light blowing a big buck out of the area. I know the trails, and how far each turn is. Without a flashlight and unarmed, you might understand why it is somewhat uncomfortable slipping around in the dark with the dense hog population. We had our share of coyotes and bobcats, as well. I consider them pests, and while shot on sight, they were not feared at all.
Being a sound conservationist, I had taken eight hogs already that deer season. It was getting to the point that most everyone I knew had feral hog meat in their freezers. I was quite honestly beginning to get tired of shooting pigs! I guess if you are a true hog hunter it would be okay to have this problem. But I am a deer hunter. When I'm not hunting deer, I'll work on a food plot, a stand or a shooting lane.
A cold front had moved in a couple of days before, and the morning had turned very cold for central Texas. The wind wasn't blowing, but in the dark, the tall grass looked like long stands of liquid crystals from the heavy frost reflected by moonlight. It would be a gorgeous sunrise, and I thanked the good Lord for the honor of watching His best works come to life. In the woods or on the water, I had always considered it a blessing and privilege to view the daily light show.
I reached my stand 45 minutes before shooting light and chambered a round into my .270. I retrieved my binoculars from my backpack and began looking over the long, narrow grassy field that followed the contour of the nearby creek. On a morning like this, good optics allowed me to see fairly well in the light reflected from the moon and stars in this frosty open area.
I watched a couple of deer move along the nearby tree line. I strained my eyes to see whether the heads sported racks and was soon lost in the space-time continuum of hunting. The two deer kept moving right past my feeder and disappeared into the trees. Putting down the binoculars, I checked the time and was not surprised that 20 minutes had passed since I first saw the deer. It was just another magical moment in the woods. I love to watch deer, and almost always regret breaking the silence with a shot. Notice I said "almost always;" it never unnerves me to take a big buck.
As I sat in the dark, I noticed that the gray sky was starting to turn reddish purple. It would be another great sunrise. Just then, I noticed a dark shape moving near the distant feeder. As I looked through my binocular, I could see the shape head slowly but steadily toward the feeder. Not needing to check the time, as anytime was legal for shooting hogs in Texas, the rifle found my hand, and in one motion, the short barrel found the small shooting window.
I looked through the scope and began to judge the size of the hog by comparing its length to the distance across the pipe feeder legs. This was a very large hog. I eased my safety off and let a shot go that seemed to echo for 10 seconds. The muzzleflash made sight impossible for several minutes, but the large unmoving dark shape was unmistakable. The hog fell in its tracks. My morning hunt was over in an instant.
I waited for good light and walked toward the downed hog. I had seen a really large boar several times in the area, but had never been able to take a shot before it disappeared into the dense tangle of the creek bottom.
This wasn't the biggest boar I had ever taken, but at 250 pounds or more, he was very large by any standard. It was just before sunrise, and I knew that I wouldn't have any help to load the beast for several hours. So, I eased back into my stand and simply enjoyed the early morning.
Fort Worth, Texas