Hunting

Had a great time in Texas not long ago hunting at Northern Sky Ranch near the town of Jacksboro.  Had great fun with my son!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Check out hunt videos here on their YouTube channel.

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.

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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!

The first weekend of shotgun deer season has come and gone with little fanfare it would seem.  There was very little shooting going on Friday and just a little more on Saturday and none at all on Sunday.  It will be interesting to hear or see what the final tally is for the first season.

Part 2 starts on Nov 28th and last until Sunday.

There are still several farmers trying to finish up soybean harvest in the area and that might have had some effect on the first season.  I know talking to one hunter that harvest was taking place not far from his deer stand and he said the deer were all stirred up as a result.

 

Well we are moving into the middle of November, that time of year when everyone is thinking about deer season, Thanksgiving and/or nothing at all.

The last three weeks of November are really screwed up in Illinois.  The weekend before Thanksgiving is the first shotgun deer season, which might as well be a state holiday, follow by Thanksgiving in the middle of the next week, followed by another shotgun deer season the following week.

This makes field work fun as every field you go into right now has a hunter around it somewhere.  Fields that are not harvested are harder and harder to get to and finding anyone to visit with or schedule anything is a challenge because of so much time devoted to either deer season or Thanksgiving.

Plus this year with the drought and the lack of a real harvest no one is really thinking about next year or wants to visit on next year.  It has been a psychologically demoralizing year and everyone is ready for it to be over.  Yet no one wants to think about next year yet.

Next year started in July for me, but its the middle of November for 80% of the farming community and next year doesn’t start until sometime next year for them.  Oh well, maybe a good deer season will get everyone picked back up.

In case you haven’t seen or heard about this yet…………. beware where you hunt.

This harvest has been a long one and is still going on for a lot of folks even as the “big rains” approach.  For me it seemed it lasted three months, but it wasn’t really that long.  In the end it finished very quickly and I cut more acres of beans in one day here on my farm that I have ever cut before.  No, it wasn’t the low yield. It was that everything was right:  The beans were ready, the stems were dry, the machine was working properly.  Everything came together to finish.

All of that time in the combine cab or tractor cab gives one time to think, but not opportunity to put it down in a blog.  By the time I got done I had either forgot some of what I wanted to blog about, or the topic was no longer relevant so to speak.  So I am ready this morning to start off the my renewed blogging with a firestorm of sorts, but got my mind changed by my trail camera.

The kids and I went and downloaded the trail camera I have set between my two deer stands.  We don’t take deer hunting seriously here anymore.  First off, I don’t have, or don’t make the time to do it like we use to.  Second, I have got soft in my middle age and if its windy or wet, or windy and wet forget it.  I am not freezing my butt off for a cut of meat that isn’t that good to start with.  The kids want to go so we go and sit and watch the wildlife more or less.

Deer are refereed to as Government Goats around here.  They enjoy the elevated status of protected species in the sense that they are “owned by the people of the state of Illinois” and you have to have a permit to hunt them, even on your own land.  Yet as a land owner I have to let the goats free graze and free roam all over me so the “people” or “owners” of the goats can enjoy them.  Don’t get me wrong, I like deer, but I like deer management even better.  But deer management anymore in this part of the state means only one thing:  Outfitters.

Deer hunting outfitters are more of a nuisance than the deer anymore.  Between the lack of respect for private property by placing hunters on ground they don’t lease, destroying crops with their ATV’s, the effort to grow bigger deer to command a bigger fee and their fighting with one another I think we should have an outfitter season instead of a deer season.  Outfitter season would be open to hunt all outfitters, their trucks, stands and ATV’s with them sold and the proceeds going to charity.

In short:  Lock and Load and put them out of business!

Oh yes I know they are an “economic boom” for the community…….yea right.  They are an economic boom for their own pocket book and cost farmers and land owners millions for the destruction they do with their equipment and the deer they are trying to grow to the crops and land.

Now, with that off my chest, back to the trail camera.

We don’t get a lot of deer staying here on our farm.  Our farm is a transition for the deer between the two water sources around here and the two or three bedding areas.  Food is plentiful.  You might see several deer in one day and then not see a deer for a week or better.  So it was a great surprise to me and the kids when we downloaded the trail camera and got several pictures like this of two bucks fighting.  Not just once but twice.  I am sure its the same bucks from the looks of it, most likely two years old, but they were locking horns.  And they did it on two different occasions.

So there is hope for the kids this year that they will see a buck from the deer stand.  I have hope that we might get to see these two fight live and in person this fall.  And if we see them from the stand then it was a good day hunting.  And if we don’t see them, it was a still a good day hunting.  No matter if a shot is fired or not, it will be a good time with the kids out enjoying creation.

I highly recommend a trail camera even if you don’t hunt.  I has been enjoyable viewing the pictures seeing what is crossing the farm:  cats, dogs, coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons, deer and other “things” that you might not necessarily think are on your property.  I keep waiting for the shot of the ATV from some trespasser………..

 

Monday night and Wednesday nights are my two nights of TV so to speak.  In other words if I want to watch TV anymore, its on these two night because its “gun” night those two nights on Sportsman and Outdoor channels.

I have to admit that “Wednesday Night at the Range” on Outdoor channel is my favorite of the two nights and has my new favorite show “Midways USA’s Gun Stories”.  I really have been enjoying this show.  The production quality is excellent with the use of slow motion capturing the operation of the firearms, the host Joe Mantegna adds not only some class but the acting helps with the presentation of the topics and the experts that are interviewed add many different angles and perspectives to the gun or topic being discussed.

Really the show is, in my opinion, a significant step up in gun/hunting/outdoor show presentation and quality.  Matter of fact, it makes a few of the other shows on these channels look pretty amateurish.  That’s not a put down but just a statement on how much of a leap this show makes in production quality.

To be fair some of the other shows on these two nights are a presentation of technical issues, some are of competitions and some are instructional.  The type of production in Gun Stories would not lend its self well to these shows.  However I think that in the end that Gun Stories will only help to elevate the quality of the other shows.  That makes us that watch gun TV winners in the end.

I also really enjoy Shooting USA which has a very high production quality as well and has a good mix to topics from one week to the next.  I remember watching Shooting USA on the TNN network on Sundays after church many, many years ago now and thought at the time how well it was produced and shot.  Two other shows I enjoy are Guns and Ammo TV and Gallery of Guns.  The other shows are done well but depending on the topic of the night either hold or dont hold my attention long.

One show I miss is Tactical Impact.  Dont know what happened to it but its gone.  I like it better than Tactical Arms and so far thought it was better than the new Tac TV.  To be fair to Tac TV I have not got to see it very regularly but again there was something about the production quality and flow of Tactical Impact that I really liked.

 

Got the first shot of nitrogen on the wheat yesterday. Applied 50 units with Agrotain. Two good things about yesterdays N app: First the ground was frozen and two the sprayer got rid of the “sky carp”.

I shouldn’t complain, these geese were Canadians and not Snows. So the damage is very minimal. A Canadian will only eat a little bit off of each plant because they want to come back and eat again someday. A Snow will pull the plant up and chew on it and then spit it out. I have no use for Snows, but the Canadians are pretty and fun to watch. Either way this year I am glad they are gone so people will quit asking to hunt them!

Shortly after this picture was taken it started to snow, as in precipitation, no geese. Got about an inch. It wont last long, to be in the high 40′s to low 50′s by Sunday.

Its the second “weekend” of shotgun deer season here in Illinois.  Yes, the weekend starts on a Thursday.  Its much colder this weekend, and much wetter thank goodness

I will try to split my time between a stand and my computer processing yield monitor data and soil maps.

And maybe this fellow will be a little closer to the stand this weekend, provided someone hasn’t hit him with a car or poached him.

OK, no deer.  Saw one nice buck about 200 yards away, too far to shoot at.  Here in the “Peoples Republic” of Illinois you have to use a shotgun with slugs to deer hunt.  So 200 is a bit far for a kill.

Didn’t see another thing until Sunday afternoon, a smallish doe who was wired about something.  Then after we quit and were leaving for church a small four pointer almost ran in front of the car at the end of our driveway. 

Well two weeks and we can do it again……………we will see what happens.

Well that fall right of passage, the first of the three big fall holidays begins today.  Shotgun Deer season in Illinois.  Or as a lot of farmers refer to it, the great thinning of the Government Goat Herd.  Deer are both an economic boom and economic loss for a lot of farmers.  Some have turned into outfitters and charge for people to come hunt a big buck on their land as a way to try to regain all the crops they have ate and tore up. 

To be fair, deer are like Canada Geese in my opinion.  They are not that destructive and tend to be a non issue except for isolated cases.  They are pretty smart animals, they eat only what they need, don’t necessarily tear up large acreage or areas doing it because they want to come back and eat again in that area.  Turkeys on the other hand are like Snow Geese, or Sky Carp as a lot of people call them, very destructive and just plain mean when it comes to crops.  They dig and pull and eat and just flat out leave a mess where ever they go.  The last thing you want is turkeys or snow geese to find your farm.  They will pick it clean. 

So be careful out there this weekend if you hunt and be careful out there if you don’t hunt.  The hunters drive the deer to the roads it seems…………..

My new deer stand might be the back porch.  This doe was eating apples off the apple tree not 30 ft from the deck in the back yard.  The dogs didn’t scare her, but the chickens would cluck at her and half way charge her and ran her off. 

As seen from the kitchen out the deck door……….

I like Frank Lutz. He is pretty well middle of the road and does his research well. He and his research was featured on TV a few nights ago. Listen real close………

Here is something you don’t see very often, or at least I haven’t.  I’ve seen many a buck with one antler or with broken antlers, but never like this one.

From DeadZone TV. I hope it gets on where I can watch it. I want to see “Mr Excitement” Randy Anderson, who is one of my clients, hunt.

Shotgun deer season starts tomorrow. While I am still an avid hunter I find that the fun is in the hunt for what ever not just a big buck. So much so that for the last three years I haven’t killed a deer. Just getting out and sitting in the quiet with no cell phone or other people around and watching nature is relaxing and enjoyable. Watching the deer is also enjoyable, even when they don’t come within shooting range.

Which is one thing that bothers me, with all the emphasis on big racks by the TV shows and hunting celebrities and the money that outfitters now get for putting you on a big buck, they are taking the fun out of hunting. I mean all the land is leased up, there is no place to hunt and outfitters are even putting their clients on public land.

Lets face it, its not like there isn’t any deer, heck you cant swing a dead cat without hitting a deer in this area. Without any trouble on any single day you can count over 100 deer just driving around the country side. Turkey is just about as bad anymore. It is really no trouble a all to kill a deer if you want one real bad.

I really think that one should have to kill a doe first before they can get a buck tag. That would take down our deer population and slow down some of these rack hunters and outfitters from trying to tie up all the hunting lands.

But dollars out gun common sense every day. Exhibit A: The Government.

Hope I don’t see you in my woods tomorrow. And if I do, your lost and don’t know it!

73

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