I like hunting with people I know I can trust.
Good judgment is a valuable character trait when loaded firearms and
killing are involved. I would be
hunting with just such men on this trip.
It was early March, and we would be hunting feral hogs in central
Oregon, on Clover Creek Ranch. Rob
Applegate was supposed to join us on this trip, but a late winter storm had
closed the passes over in his neck of the woods and he wasn't able to make it.
Caz and Bob had beat me to the bunkhouse, which had them worried....not
that I was out stuck in a snowbank somewhere, but because I had the fixin's
for supper and they were gettin' hungry!
Shortly after I got there, the skillet was sizzlin' with andouille
sausage, potatoes and onions, simmering in chardonnay with a healthy dash of
seasoned pepper. As the cast iron
skillet got hot, so did the "hot stove league" and the hunting
stories, tall tales and show-and-tell cranked up full swing.
Knives and guns were showed off and bragged about, gifts were exchanged
and soon the BS was flyin' in fine fashion.
Front and center in these discussions were various knives, as each of
us had brought along new acquisitions for field testing on this trip -- Bob
had a new Bark River hunting knife that he was very excited about, Caz had a
Swamp Rat Knife Works blade that he was all lathered up over, and I had a new
Beretta Loveless drop point hunter that I wanted to put to work (I have always
been a fan of the basic Loveless design).
Dinner was served and a grand time was had.
I tell you, I could listen to Bob tell stories all night.
Beretta's version of the classic Loveless drop-point Hunter.
we were cleaning up after dinner, Caz went outside to throw the garbage away
and came back in and matter-of-factly announced "It's snowing boys."
Sure enough, there was a white dusting on everything, and it continued
to snow lightly for the next hour or so.
(The snow was not unexpected, remember that Rob had had to stay home
because of a winter storm moving through the area.)
We got everything ready for the next morning and hit the sack.
next morning, the coffee was perking, the sausage was frying, and once again
the snow was falling, not hard, but steadily nonetheless.
We ate breakfast and headed up the hill to hunt.
As we worked our way into the interior parts of the ranch, it started
snowing harder. We climbed the
hill up to the broken down Cat bulldozer it was snowing even harder, and we
found no sign of recent animal activity in the snow.
We continued up to the pond and pasture up on top and once again, found
no sign of animal activity. The
pond was full, frozen solid, and there were no tracks in the snow or any
evidence that anything had tried to break through the ice for a drink.
By this time the snow was coming down hard enough that visibility was
getting limited, so we decided to head back down the hill to a basin we knew
about that was relatively sheltered. There
were no critters up on top.
sheltered basin was a different story however.
We found signs of recent activity, we found hogs (including one HUGE
old sow), we found Russian boar (very fast Russian boar), and we found fallow
deer. All three of us were specifically looking for meat hogs in
the 200-300 lb range, so we decided to sweep this one hillside and work our
way down towards the pond at the bottom of the basin. Bob and Caz took paths that swung to the outside part of the
hillside, and I took more of a direct beeline to the pond.
As I got towards the bottom, I saw another couple fallow deer, and then
a couple of hogs. They were all
behind a wall of juniper trees, so I couldn't get a real good look at them,
but the hogs looked to be roughly in the size range that we were looking for.
As I slowly worked my way down to the last of the juniper trees, the
fallow deer sensed something was amiss and slowly exited stage left.
The hogs were more interested in rooting around in the mud.
I laid down in the snow (the only way I could snake a shot past the
overhanging juniper branches) and got my first good look at the black boar 40
yards in front of me. He was about 250 lbs, just exactly the size I was looking
for. However, the shot
presentation was not good, so I laid in the snow and waited.
me a brief caveat at this point -- I was hunting with a T/C Contender,
chambered for the .338 GEF, a wildcat that I put together back in the early
90s with the help and guidance of J.D. Jones of SSK Industries.
My goal on this trip was to test out a couple of cast bullet designs
that I had put together specifically for this gun.
The first was a Lyman 33889 that I had modified to drop a 246 grain HP,
and the second was a custom 235 grain GC-FP made by Mountain Molds (www.mountainmolds.com).
I had worked up loads for both of these bullets that were giving me
very good accuracy (5 shots into 1" at 50 yards), and wanted to see how
they performed on critters. The
33889 HP load was going right at 1600 fps (a very useful velocity for a cast
HP), and the Mountain Molds bullet was going almost 1750 fps.
Conveniently, both loads shot to the same point.
The .338 GEF loaded with the 235 grain Mountain Molds GC-FP (left) and
the Lyman 33889 hollow-point (right).
several minutes of watching the black boar's backside, he turned and faced me. If I had had the deeply penetrating Mountain Molds 235 grain
FP in the chamber, I would have simply placed the crosshairs on his forehead
and dropped the hammer. But with
a hog's hard, sloping head, and a soft cast HP, I wasn't sure if the bullet
would simply flatten and ricochet (probably not, but I wasn't sure), or kill
him cleanly, so I held off. A few
minutes later, he turned broadside to me, giving me the presentation I was
looking for, so I put the crosshairs on his ribs and fired.
There was no reaction to the shot, he simply turned away from me and
trotted briskly away for about 15 feet, then he stopped, staggered, fell over
and rolled back downhill towards me. As
he came to rest, there was a large, pink frothy geyser erupting out of his
right (i.e. exit) side, so even before I got up out of the snow I knew that he
was lung shot, that the cast HP had expanded well and that it had exited.
Cast hollow-point at 1600 fps killed this hog quickly.
I got up to go over and inspect my hog, I got my first good look at the
hillside farther up the drainage -- there were several other hogs in this same
size range rooting through the mud and melting snow.
Not wanting to spoil the chances for my hunting partners, I snuck back
into the junipers quickly and quietly, and started heading back up the hill
towards where I had last seen them. I
ran up the hill and met them halfway and (huffing and puffing) told them that
I had my hog down and that were a number of other hogs down there for them to
look over. Bob took his Krag and
slowly snuck down to more or less the same spot that I had shot from. He had a nice brown and black spotted hog (with some amazing
red-orange highlights) wander out onto the flats and Bob put the bead front
sight on his forehead and let the .30-40 Krag speak. The pig simply went rigid, and fell over, and quivered
slightly. It never squealed,
grunted or kicked. It just lay
there stiff-legged. Head shots
A .30-40 Krag and head shots, a fine recipe for making pork!
came back to us and told us that there was another bigger spotted sow a little
farther up that Caz should be able to get a shot at.
Caz snuck his way up to where Bob and I had shot from and sure enough,
there was a nice brown and black spotted sow that walked out onto the flats
broadside, and Caz took his 5.5" USFA Shootists .44 Special (loaded with
Skeeter's load, the Lyman 429421 over 7.5 grains of Unique), lined up on her
and fired. His first shot crushed
her spine and she went down hard, squealing, well, like a stuck pig. He walked up close and finished her off.
The three of us stood there with our three hogs on the ground, all shot
from basically the same spot, within about 15 minutes, and all three had died
within about 20 yards of each other. It
had been a good morning!
The .44 Special single-action is a very classy way to hunt for hogs.
for the field dressing. Long
story short, all three knives made a good showing for themselves, each making
short work of "their" hog. My
Beretta Loveless Hunter is made from AUS-8 steel, which has gotten to be
popular as a knife steel in recent years.
This knife takes an edge nicely, but some have criticized AUS-8 for not
being able to hold its edge with continued use.
Well, let me just state for the record that after dressing this hog, it
will still shave with ease. I
paid $40 (new) for this knife and in my opinion it is one of the best values
in the hunting/skinning knife market, period.
Bob and Caz were also quite pleased with their new Bark River and Swamp
Rat knives (respectively).
of my hog's carcass and innards revealed that the entrance wound was a .338
caliber hole and only had a small circle of bloodshot meat around it (about
the size of a nickel). Both lungs
had a hole through them about the size of a quarter, with about 6" of
severely bloodshot lung tissue surrounding the hole.
The far side of the ribcage had an irregularly shaped hole through it,
roughly the size of a half dollar, and the exit hole through that tough
pigskin was about the size of a quarter.
While there was some bloodshot meat in the far side ribcage (the
expanded bullet hit two ribs on the way out), there was notably less than
Iím used to seeing with higher velocity jacketed bullet loads.
The Lyman 33889 HP at 1600 fps had done everything that could possibly
be asked of it. I guess that's
why I like cast HP's so much.
I got the hog's skinned/split carcass home, I boned out the pork for the
freezer. The long upswept blade of the Chicago Cutlery meat cutter's
knife that Bob gave me performed these chores superbly. I cut the backstraps into 2-lb roasts, boned out the
shoulders and ribs to make sausage with, and cut the hams (bone in) off the
pelvis. I marinate the pork loin
roasts in chardonnay with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and then roll them
in chopped herbs and garlic and bake them (covered) for several hours at
moderately low temperature, and they come out delicious!
I got 20+ lbs of breakfast sausage off of this guy (had some this
morning in fact) and it's so lean that no grease collects in the pan when you
fry it. Whooeee!
I like wild pork! Lean and
Chicago Cutlery meat cutter's knife did an excellent job boning out the
This was a really good couple of days -- good friends, interesting guns, and
some very useful cast bullets. And
at the end of the day, there was good food, fine wine and excellent
story-telling. But there were
some new friends too -- each of us had brought a new hunting knife to try out,
Caz brought his new USFA .44 Special, etc.
Each was new, but clearly destined to become an old friend.
In short, those two days were filled with good men and good tools, and
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with both.
That's the kind of stuff that make hunting special for me.
Old friends, and making old friends, is something special indeed.