One immense and sprawling Texas ranch. Huge elusive hogs that begin stirring in late evening. Come along on a hair-raising spot-and-stalk adventure that gives hog hunting its special allure.
I love Texas hog hunting, and those boys down there have it all figured out, but I find their corn feeders too predictable and their box blinds suffocating. Trouble is, most outfitted ranches make hunters sit in the blinds and wait over bait. They don’t want stupid clients ruining the deer hunting, getting hurt, or whatever. But not the Nail Ranch near Albany, TX. Nah, this historic cattle outfit lets its hunters tackle its free-range hogs however they want. Me? I prefer stalking pigs on the ground. It’s exciting. It may go something like this … .Jim “The Amazing Emu” Kern kicked me out of the pickup at 5 p.m. and pointed two fingers toward the horizon as if he were tossing a curve. “Feeder’s over that hill,” said the man who was either nicknamed “The Emu” for his gangly legs … or his ugly beak. I’m not sure where “The Amazing” part came from. I’d told him I wanted to dig around the 30,000-acre ranch by myself to try and kill a big boar, and that suited him just fine. The retired MLB-pitcher-turned-hunting-guide is all for letting the client choose the way he wants to hunt, even if it’s lower odds.“I’d stay as late as you can possibly shoot,” he said, “The big boys don’t often move till last light. I’ll pick you up right here at dark thirty. You got a flashlight?”
“Yep,” I said, cocksure.“See ya later.” I jacked a load into the chamber and shuffled into the West Texas brush as the Emu rolled away.
My plan was to gain the hill for vantage, spot a boar in the mesquite brush then stalk it for the shot. But planning isn’t my strong suit. Just ask my girlfriend.As I topped the hill and found a shady spot to sit and glass, I heard a slight rustle to my right. I saw swaying grass then the flopping, dog-like ears of a wild pig. I raised the rifle and waited for the hog’s body to clear cover, but just as I did I felt a whisper of wind kiss the back of my neck. The hog froze. Perhaps I should have estimated where its chest was before I loosed an Accubond, but I hesitated. The red dirt-colored hog turned and the buffalo grass enveloped him like a curtain. I didn’t see another hog the rest of the evening.At last light I stood and began moseying back the way I’d come. I reached down to my pocket for my flashlight, but my fingers came up with none. Rats! I’d left it at the lodge. Just as I took a few cautious steps, however, I saw the sharp silhouette of a giant boar crest the horizon and dip into the brush ahead of me. The wind was now in my favor, but it was so dark that I knew the black crosshairs would blend with his hide like bats in a cave. He was only 40 yards ahead, and at the clip he was moving I’d guess he’d be on me in another moment.I knelt, hoping to gain a few more degrees of silhouette, gripping the AR tightly. Now I heard him coming, but I couldn’t see him! How could I forget a flashlight!? I peered through the scope with pie-plates for eyes, hoping to see anything. Rats again! The scope must’ve been on 9 power! Savagely I clawed at the magnification ring, but there was no time; I could hear his heavy hooves displacing limestone as grunts emanated from his chest with each trotting step.
Then, I saw movement—possibly the flash of ghastly-white tusks against the dark canvas of brush.
Blam! I pointed and fired. The boar screamed and raced forward, more out of fear, I think, than revenge, but it was certainly possible it was revenge. I ole’ed him as the boar raced by and was instantly swallowed by the thick grass. I heard rocks crash as it ran down the hill. Then, suddenly, all was quiet and dark again.Uncertain of a hit, I took my cap off and wiped my brow, took a deep breath, then rested my hand on my thigh to brace myself for the shakes that I could already feel welling up. As I did, I felt something wet. I held my hand up to my face and rubbed my fingers. It was blood. I knew it wasn’t mine—I wasn’t hurting anywhere—and so it had to be the hog’s. It had spurted on me as it rushed past, and that meant that it was almost certainly hit in the neck or chest. By now it was likely dead, or so I hoped. Just then, I saw headlights bob over a distant hill. I determined the truck’s path and headed in a direction to intersect it. I hit the two-track just as Jim pulled up. He craned his emu-esk neck out the window and said, “Well?” “I got one … I think.” He cocked his head like a Labrador trying hard to determine just what in the hell your new commands mean. No doubt he noticed the blood on my hands and pants as he looked me over. But before he could ask a question I said, “Got a flashlight?”Have you ever seen an amazing emu look totally flabbergasted? So have I.