South Texas Vampire Pigs
Jeremy handed me the SIG Cross rifle in front of the Coach store at The Domain shopping center in Austin. He’s high class like that.
“It’s zeroed with one of SIG’s Whiskey6 scopes mounted on it. I think it’s one of their less expensive lines, but it’s really clear glass,” he told me.
Tossing the SIG Cross in the back seat of my truck, I said my goodbyes. I didn’t have much time to chat…I had to get down to Pearsall for Frio County Hunt’s annual veterans dove season opener.
Bryan Wilson always puts on a great hunt and this time was no different. Within a couple hours I’d limited out, and had a great time doing it. Between the waves of white wings, Bryan and I had a bit of time to inspect the Cross. I screwed on a suppressor, checked the zero through the bore, and played with the action. It handled well and I liked it more than I thought I would.
There was still a little daylight left when I left to head back to Hays County. Driving down the sandy road on my way out, quick, hateful shapes darted in front of me.
Jumping out of the truck, I grabbed the Cross as fast as I could and dropped to a knee. Too slow by far. The band continued on, escaping through the thorn brush.
I wasn’t surprised one bit when they popped up a couple hundred yards down the road, a lead boar staring right at me. The hateful little bastard was probably planning his ambush.
The joke was on him. Jeremy was right, that glass really is clear…nice and bright, too.
Six hours into having the SIG Cross in my hands, I had put a total of one single round through it. The boar had one round through him, too. Same round.
Early season, late morning
I’m usually up well before dawn, but on the first day of rifle season here in Hays County, I slept right through to sunrise.
Instead of putting on warm camo, I threw on a hoodie, some Hey Dudes, and the same blue jeans that were laying on the floor from the night before. I grabbed a cup of coffee before I walked out the door.
Walking off the porch, I headed to the south pasture where I intended to set up behind some big oaks that had fallen in an ice storm a couple years ago. On the way past my truck I took the SIG Cross out from behind the seat and chambered a round.
My truck was still within view when I saw him walking down the dirt road ahead of me. He was too far away to tell how big he was, or how old he was. His head was down, so although I could tell he had antlers, their size was a mystery.
I stayed still. He kept walking.
Steadily heading towards me, I recognized his path. Nose to the ground, he was headed to the south pasture, too. It turns out we were both chasing deer.
At less than 100 yards he turned off the road and onto the trail. I got a good look at him. Fully mature, with a full neck and fine headgear.
I set my coffee down and set myself down with it.
My motion caught his eye. It was the last thing he saw.
Gulab Smiled Once
I’ve been meaning to take Gulab hunting for years.
Most folks don’t know the man who saved the life of Marcus Luttrell in Afghanistan’s Kunar province beyond his fictional portrayal in a movie, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him and his family for a while.
Over dinner at his home, a friend of mine mentioned that I had just come from a deer hunt. Gulab’s eyes lit up. Using broken English and even more brokener Pashto, we talked about hunting in his native land, the pride of putting game on the table for your family, and white tail deer.
I offered to take him deer hunting some time and he immediately agreed. Although too much time had passed since then, we were finally going to make it happen.
In typical Pashtun fashion, Gulab didn’t show up alone — or on time — with several male family members, who all wanted to hunt. A buddy of mine had asked if he could drop by to meet Gulab and of course I said yes. He showed up to shake hands, but in camo and with a hunting rifle, and a friend, also in camo, also with a hunting rifle. They showed up even later than Gulab. I guess people are the same everywhere.
In the end, starting too late for the morning hunt meant a day of relaxing before the evening hunt. That gave us plenty of time to make sure everyone could shoot. After checking to make sure everyone’s paperwork and permits were in order, we headed to the range. I handed Gulab my new favorite rifle, one that had already proven great for beginner shooters.
He’d never seen a rifle like the SIG Cross. He wasn’t as familiar with bolt action rifles as he was with semi-autos. That makes sense…his youth was spent with the AK47, and his quarry wasn’t whitetail deer. It was Russians.
Maybe I was being played, or maybe Gulab has some solid basics down, because even though he swore he hadn’t shot in many years and was unfamiliar with the rifle, his first shots of Hornady’s 143gr Precision Hunter 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition all touched the 1″ bullseye at 100 yards.
We shot a few more guns into the afternoon…AR’s and other bolt action rifles, but when it came time to pick what he wanted to hunt with, Gulab insisted on the Cross.
That next morning, Gulab recited his prayers on his rug while I recited mine with my rosary. He took tea, I grabbed some coffee.
Sitting in the blind, it wasn’t long at all before a group of whitetails showed up. A single small doe came to the feeder first, followed by a couple mature does, all followed by a fine 9-point buck.
He was lean, as is common during the rut, but his neck, stiff gait, and sagging back were all indicative of a post-mature buck. He was probably a 12 point in his prime, but age, and a prolonged drought likely diminished him. He was perfect.
As the rifle came up, Gulab’s face remained as stone, intent on nothing but the animal. A single shot rang out.
A doe dropped to the ground. She was fatter than the buck, and Gulab didn’t care about antlers one bit.
Gulab hurried to her and cut the veins of the neck to allow the animal to bleed. Although required by his religion, it wasn’t necessary for any kind of dispatch purpose. The doe was already very much dead, a perfect shot taking the heart and lungs.
As we got her hung up, for the first time, Gulab smiled. He instructed the young men there in halal technique and they looked on with pride. As he expertly carried out the butchering, his mood was contagious. There were smiles all around.
In every conversation I’ve ever had with the man, a sense of loss permeated his being. Gulab wasn’t just some dirt-poor farmer in his homeland. He had multiple homes, gardens, and flocks. He was a respected leader in his community with a large, healthy family. Now he is in exile. His home is gone, his family targeted, and several of his family members and his friends have been killed. All because he helped an American.
For a minute, for a morning, all of that was gone and I was lucky to be a part of it.
It won’t be years before next time.
South Texas Rhino Hunting
I was Rhino hunting. At least that’s what Bryan had called him.
The big boar hog was supposedly built like a tank. Not overwhelmingly huge, but tall and thick in the shoulders. He’d been on the cameras around blind #3, seen bullying the smaller pigs, pushing them around to get at the corn. The others would arrive in a rush, only to be thrown aside when the bigger beast showed.
He didn’t show.
Nothing showed at all that first morning, save the song birds picking at the corn under the feeder.
The afternoon was different. A huge sounder rushed in, kicking up red dust so thick I couldn’t see individual bodies. As the light was fading, I kept watch through the mass, but the Rhino never showed.
The next day, I hunted a different nearby location, but with a similar result. Lots of pigs, but no Rhino.
There was almost no light left at all when I decided there was no reason to leave empty-handed again. If I couldn’t shoot one big pig, maybe two little pigs would add up just fine.
The Whiskey6 scope mounted on top of the SIG Cross rifle was exceptionally bright in low light. Now past sunset, I looked through the glass and waited until one pig walked up to another, a sow’s head down and feeding behind a younger boar’s shoulder.
The single 140gr Nosler Accubond bullet dropped the sow instantly. The boar made it almost to the brush line, but not quite.
Those two pigs made great sausage, but now my mind couldn’t shake that big boar I’d seen in the trail cam pics. I hadn’t seen a pig like that in a long time. He was built like the tall Russian boars we used to see decades ago, before that more pure line got mixed with the Spanish pigs.
I kept at him.
Another afternoon at Blind #3 and more pigs charged the feeder, but no Rhino. I figured I’d try to line a couple up again. As the dust swirled, a shadow appeared, looming above the other pigs.
Honest to God, my first thought was that it was a bear.
The sheer volume of pigs under the feeder caused pandemonium. Between the smaller pigs and the dust, I was afraid I’d never get a clear shot at him. The Rhino put his nose under a pig, a solid 100lb pig, and tossed him clear of the feeder.
Every other pig scattered in fear.
My round found the center of the center of his neck. He dropped in his shadow.