Note: Graphic images included in this post………you have been warned!
(links in blog below are in bold text, please click on links and check them out)
I was able to live a dream last week south of Houston Texas, going hunting for feral hogs. But this was no ordinary hog hunt where you sit in a blind and wait for a single hog to come along, nor was it a trophy hunt. While there were hogs out there that would have been a trophy for some hunters, they were just wild pigs to us. No, our hunt was with Vertex Aviation Group as part of an aerial depreciation program to eliminate or remove wild or feral hogs in Texas.
Feral hogs in Texas, as well as other parts of the US, are tearing up farm land and residential neighborhoods with regularity. The damage they do in a short period of time is unbelievable Seeing that damage from the air is even more incredible. For those of us who remember having domesticated hogs in pastures, just multiply the wallows and damage by 100X and you get the picture.
My problem has been two-fold: I wanted to go on a hog hunt and shoot pigs, but I didn’t want to pay out the nose for a “sit and wait” hunt to kill a single pig. There are a log of hunting clubs and lodges that offer boar hunts for trophy pigs and those didn’t interest me. I kept reading about how bad the pig problem is becoming in areas of the country and how they were attempting to eradicate them but could not figure out why a hunt would cost so much money and more importantly why you were charged extra if you didn’t kill a trophy. I am not a trophy hunter.
I had been in contact with an acquaintance and farmer from Indiana who also is a gun writer and blogger, Frank W James, about hog hunts, and he gave me some options. One of which was Vertex! After reading about Frank’s hunt with Vertex and seeing their website and comments on their Facebook Page it became pretty obvious that Vertex fit the bill for the hunt I wanted to take.
Why Vertex? Really it was simple for this farm boy. The least important but playing a factor was that it was a hunt from a helicopter. I have never shot out of a helicopter so this shot up the excitement factor by 10x and would also allow me to learn a skill that I might not ever use again, but would allow me to mark it off my bucket list. Second on importance was that we got to shoot pigs, the plural of pig, meaning many, without a trophy requirement or penalty. Vertex supplies the firearms, Battle Rifle Company AR15/M4 platform 223 cal semi auto, and all the ammo as part of the hunt package. Again I liked this very much!
Plus Frank’s experience and story did a lot to sell me on Vertex.
But the thing that sold me on Vertex was 40% all the above things and 60% the safety class requirement.
The safety class requirement was what really sold me on this hunt. No other service requires safety training to hunt with them. This was important to me for several reasons. First, it showed that they had my best interest at heart making sure that I didn’t hurt myself, them, their equipment or those on the ground. Second it also showed me that they were serious about their jobs and about the service they provided to their landowners. Lastly, it also provided training on how the hunt would go, how to shoot and how to insure that we got the best bang for our paid hunt. With most of the staff of Vertex being former military, the safety culture is ingrained and is very evident in every deliberate action they take. I like that very much. I felt safe, had the up most confidence in Mike and his staff, and felt very comfortable and at ease the whole time I was in the chopper and around the firearms.
There is an art to safely handling an AR/M4 platform from a helo and Vertex covers this very well in their safety class. The hardest thing for me was the mag changes. I am very use to getting the rifle up in front of my face or “in my work space” to do mag changes and clear malfunctions. This is a big no no in a helo. Keep the muzzle pointed out the door and below the horizon. So all mag changes and malfunction drills take place on your lap. So there are a some extra hand movements while the rifle is grounded on your lap. Being very deliberate in every action insures you do it right and in a safe manner.
I enjoyed the safety class almost as much as I did the hunt.
But I enjoyed the hunt much more!
We hunted for three hours in a dual gunner configuration taking turns sitting front and back seat. Mike would fly over the wooded areas and scrub brush around the farm fields and pastures. The down wash and noise from the chopper would scare the pigs out of hiding and into the open where he would fly along side of them and then put us into position to shot them. And shoot we did!
In our three hour hunt we scared up three groups of pigs that made it out into the open. The first group had over 20 hogs in it, the second group had upwards of 40 and and the last group had 11. Shooting from a helicopter that is moving at a moving target is hard but as the time went on it became easier to get a handle on. You are shooting behind the hogs as they run with is counter to how I grew up hunting quail and rabbits where you lead them. We were not the best shooters from the air by any stretch of the imagination, but we improved as the hunt went on. Mike, our pilot, coached us along during the hunt as well. LISTEN TO MIKE! You get better with every pass on the hogs and it more natural to shoot from the “lag” as it does to lead a bird or rabbit. After we got the hang of the “lag” we became more effective at putting rounds on target. As Scott and I recounted on the drive home, we killed in excess of 30 hogs that morning.
As part of our hunt package we also got a “Hero Video” which is a video shot during our hunt. It should arrive in a few weeks after they edit and sync the different camera angles. We can’t wait for it to arrive to show it to friends and fellow hunters who have expressed an interest in going down to Houston to hunt with Vertex. Who knows, I may have to go back real soon and act as a guide for all these Southern Illinois folks who want to go on a helicopter pig hunt!
I give Vertex and our hog hunt three thumbs up out of two, 6 out of 5 stars and an eleven on a scale of 1 to ten for an outstanding lifetime memory!
Work is coming along nicely on the new office. It will be even better when we get lights in the shop!
This was just an accident, apparently. The hose broke during application from what I have gathered. It also looks like the safety flow valve failed.
And to think some people try to steal this stuff and they put it in 5 gallon buckets, coolers and propane tanks. Foolish.
If this was to happen run, run, run, run into the wind as fast as you can. It seeks out water. Its boiling point is -28 deg F (minus 28 F) or something like that, and it will KILL YOU.
Well harvest 2012 is all but in the bag so to speak. I have about 3 acres of beans that are still too green to cut and a frost will help them along. I will get them when I get them at this point. With only about 10 acres of subsoiling left to do and the tillage will be put to bed for 2012 as well.
It rained last night and that brought our rain total for 2012 up to 28 inches here at the farm. We are still about 20 inches behind for the year with the year running out……..
Trying to sell seed and finish pulling soil samples, but it’s hard to get guys to meet this fall as most everyone wants to get done and not talk about another year right now.
The first deer season for shotgun is this coming weekend. I think I will go hunt just to have something to do that doesn’t require thought and is pretty relaxing.
Promise to start posting more as I am getting back in the mood for the blog after a hard and stressful year.
Took a few weeks off, as I have been on the summer version of the rubber chicken and roast beef meeting circuit. Lots of info was picked up at most of the meetings with one topic being overdone, and that would be the drought. Everyone seems to have had a weather guesser, climatologist or dry weather/drought expert of some type speak. With exception of one or two they all said the same thing and a few of the weather people seemed to talk down to us farmers as if we were not aware of how hot and dry it has been.
Well, here we are at August 13 and I thought I would post a picture or two of the corn crop at this date. I took the bush hog and ran into the same field I have posted pictures of in other posts here on the farm, to show just what our final yield prospects look like.
The stalks are rubbery and have greened up a bit after we got a few pop up showers as of late. But that has done nothing to add yield, just make the corn look greener than it was.
I had to count 32 stalks (which in this field was 17.5 ft of row or 1/1000 of an acre) before I found an ear with any kernels on it. This would be typical of this field minus the 6 or 8 end rows around the field that have an ear, of about the same size, on about every stalk.
Hardly worth the time to harvest………..
I have heard of several yield and aflatoxin stories the last 72 hours for this area. One story is of a 60 acre field that, when shelled, fit easily into a tandem truck and had an aflatoxin score of 30. Another was of a corn field that did average 30 bpa but had an aflatoxin score of 300. Both were rejected. Of those shelling corn, the best field average I have heard of so far was in the 70′s, but it was also some bottom ground that you would expect to have higher yields on. Most of the upland ground that has been harvested thus far has yields in the 20′s-40′s.
I will try to follow up with some meeting highlights the next few days…………
Here is a video interview I did with Josh Flint of Farm Progress on Thursday on the drought here in Southern Illinois.
How hot is it?
Well on the 4th of July this is how hot it was around Robertson Farms at 2:20 pm:
Air Temp 99.6.
Heat Index 109.
Grass in yard, full sun 130.
Grass under shade tree 89.
Wheat stubble on surface in wheat field 150. (is it no wonder where the DC Soybeans came up that they have fried and died?)
Soil under wheat straw in field 98.
I want to try and get some bear soil temperatures tomorrow in the corn field that I have been taking the pictures of. That should be interesting. Heat index today here at the farm hit 113.
Water math for a Southern Illinois corn crop.
Inches of rain we are behind in this drought: 14 inches for the year.
Gallons of water needed to produce 1 bushel of corn per acre: 4,000 US Gallons (some say more some say less but we will use this number)
Gallons of water needed per acre to raise 150 bushel corn: 600,000 US Gallons per acre
Gallons of water in a 1 inch rain fall per acre: 27,154 US Gallons
Gallons of water in 14 inches of rain: 380,156 US Gallons per acre
Inches of water needed to reach our current growth stage (~R1): 13 inches of water per acre or 353002 gallons of water per acre (University of Nebraska Irrigation Guide To Corn)
Inches of water needed to finish the crop out to maturity: 16 inches of rain per acre or 434,464 gallons of water per acre. (University of Nebraska Irrigation Guide to Corn)
Rainfall predicted in inches for the next 5 days: 0.25-0.5 inch of rain (NWS Hydrometeorological Prediction Center)
Gallons of water in a 0.5 inch rain: 13,577 US Gallons
A half inch rain is hardly a drop in the bucket when your dry like we are and a flood when you saturated.
But I would gladly take a half inch rain right now……………..gladly.
I keep getting asked just how bad is it really down here in Southern Illinois with the drought and the corn crop. Well below is a picture of what I would call a typical field that was planted in March or early April. Nope its not the worst picture I could post, its an average picture. There is better corn but it is the later planted corn, mid April to first of May. Pictures of that next day or two.
This is not one of my corn fields and I will not say exactly where it was but it was in Franklin Co, IL. I scouted this corn on Saturday June 16 at about 10 a.m.. The yard stick is for reference. This field was planted on March 30/April 1. It is trying to tassel in some places in the field.
While I didn’t take a picture of the field today, its rolled up very very tight and is a brilliant white color. Its currently 94 deg with 40% RH and 10MPH winds while I type this at 1745. This field has had less than 0.75 inch of rain between April 17 and today.
Saturday we loaded up in the truck and struck out for Bloomington, IL to pick up an item I had purchased. We drove up I -57 through Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign then took I-74 over to Bloomington. Our return trip was down I-55 to Lincoln, Springfield, Litchfield to Rt-4 at Lebanon then I-64 back to Mt Vernon and home.
All I can say is wow, this crop is in serious trouble. Outside of a few pockets of good looking corn, one near Effingham, Bloomington and Lincoln, the whole route looked drought stressed. Very drought stressed and in some places stands showed the effect of dry soils at planting, especially on the soybeans.
Plus there were areas that looked N deficient as well as areas that were fired.
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “good” (not even close to normal or excellent) and 1 being “near dead” I would give my my corn crop a rating of 3. Overall I give the crop we saw from the windshield a 4 with some three pockets of 7 and an equal number rated at a 2 with one area of 1.
Most of the crop is a 4 or a 5, meaning its in the poorer end of “fair” looking.
All of the corn we saw was twisted up. It was just greener in some places than others………..
I have been few and far between on my posting on this site as well as the PCS site as of late. Several things are causing it, none of which are really a good reason I guess.
First off is the drought conditions that just seem to have me repeating anything I want to post about. It’s dry. Everyone knows that it is dry, and just commenting on the obvious is going nowhere so why do it.
Second, I am just tired as of late. I feel like it’s the middle of August and I have ran the good race and it’s time for a break or something but the calendar says its the 7th of June.
So a tired farmer with nothing new to post about means we skip updating the website most nights.
The ground is dry. Very dry in a lot of places. It will take a major rain event, like two or three days, to get us to a point where things will green up and stay that way. Last night we tried to irrigate some of the sweet corn, but after a while we pumped the well dry and had to wait for it to recharge. That told me we are in pretty bad shape. But again everyone who is in this mess knows that. No need posting this to the informed masses.
With the dry weather and poor crop conditions I am even more sarcastic than usual and even a little bit edgy. With that, simple things seem to be getting to me, and it is better for me to try to keep my thoughts to myself. Especially when it comes to stupid things the non Ag community says to me. I have even had to walk away from the cashier at Rural King, who apparently has no clue about how dry it is and how much I don’t care if a rain shower would ruin her boating date.
Even worse is the stupid things that Ag community says, like the major chemical company rep who stated that rain would help the northern two thirds of Illinois corn crop on RFD radio the other day. He never seemed to care about the southern third and he sure didn’t seem to know or care about our dry condition when pressed about it. I realize that this dough head just judges his world out his back door in Bloomington but he also needs to remember that there is more to the state of Illinois than Chicago and Champaign Co.
Like I said, its better for me to really be deliberate on my posting right now before I say or do something I might not be able to edit later……..
Send a rain please.
Well after two attempts in the middle of a drought, we got “rained out” of cutting wheat. We got a “shower” of 0.07 that made the wheat jump up two points in moisture and made it cut tough. So everything is back in the barn waiting on the next rain event and what we will do…………..
A quick review of the rain totals collected by my weather stations show that in the month of April I have had 2.04 inches of rain here at HQ. For May as of this morning, with a “significant rain event almost a guarantee” (statement by local weather guesser), we have had 0.21 inch of rain. YTD its 9.67.
The big April rain total came mostly out of three big rains on the 4th, 13 and 16th. Each rain was a total of 0.5 inch.
It will take a significant rain event to get the moisture to meet.
On news of my soybean crop, which is not planted, as in zero or none, I am still waiting for my seed production beans to get from South America to here. Like it matters now, no moisture is no reason to plant. I just about broke the blade on my pocket knife trying to dig for moisture yesterday. Plus the weeds are about to take the field for the third time. I am running out of options on what to spray to control the weeds……….
I got done sidedressing the last two fields of corn with anhydrous today. That means other than one last shot of post chemicals tomorrow, the corn crop is now on its own.
Now my focus shifts to wheat cutting which will happen next week………
And then I hope by the 8 of June (first it was the 1st of May then May 15 and then June 1) my parent seed will be here and I can start planting some soybeans.
In the meantime, we are bone dry, low humidity, windy and getting hot. More like August weather than May. The last real rain I had was about April 13.
Ready for a few days off……..
Lots of anhydrous going on this week around the area. Side dressing corn is my second favorite part of growing corn. Number 1 is shelling it! But I love side dressing corn almost as much as running the combine.
There is just something about how the corn reacts a few days after the tool bar opens up the soil and the plant grabs the nitrogen that makes me know we have a shot at a big crop. I say shot because it all comes down to rain and weather in the end, but I always feel that I gave it every chance when I side dress.
Anyway here is a picture that Randy Anderson posted on Facebook of him finishing up on Friday night. A very good picture. Randy is one of my soil testing clients and also a fellow Farm Bureau member and Crop Watcher for the ILFB Farm Week. You can follow his reports from Saline Co, IL here if you dont get the Farm Week.
Here is a few pictures I took. The first is my tractor and tank applying anhydrous behind the house when I got started on Tuesday night.
This last picture I took when down at Cornersville, IL pulling some soil samples on ground farmed by David Hale. It had just been side dressed and they have closers on the tool bar that made the little mole mound. I really like this picture also.
Came home tonight and got the rotary hoe out and started hoeing corn. 12 days in the ground and it still hasn’t come up, acts like it cant or wont or has run out of gas or something. We will see what happens in a day or so now………..
Ready for something to go right this spring.
Head over to Precision Crop Services website to see an scouting update on Bird Damage to corn.