PANHANDLE PIGS by Bernard Brown
“You never know what lays over the next hill” may be a saying, but in hunting, it is a command to be obeyed.
Any rise, large or small, requires a get-off-and-probe-the-ground-ahead approach.
The Texas Panhandle, Mid-January, each mesquite a skeleton of its summer self, a gentle breeze easing down from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River; we had everything in our favor, and wanted to keep it that way!
KK and I eased over the crest, and there, 125 yards, grunting, pushing-just being pigs-were ten or so, sized from brown-black weaners to a two-hundred-pound white sow, milling undisturbed.
Being the guest shooter, and a meat hunter, I picked out a shoat and squeezed off a shot. Bingo!
Free range, organic Meat!
A quick cleaning, up on the rack of the Polaris, and, thirty minutes after daylight, the 80 pound gilt was hanging on the gambrel.
With the liver on ice, carcass cooling in perfect weather, a celebratory Louisiana strong black coffee, (KK is a coon-ass Cajun) we were headed back out, hoping for more action!
More offensive action was slow coming! Though we had 10,000 acres to hunt, decent dirt roads to travel around and through the copper-red canyons, ambush spots aplenty, the pigs were winning this round, on defense.
We spotted more whitetail does and “el chaparral” (Wiley Coyotes’ nemesis) than pigs the rest of the day and next.
But, as in most ventures, patience, careful scouting, picking a good location and timing are synonymous with luck!
Patience, we are told, is a virtue: though not terribly virtuous, I had patiently planned to resume pig hunting for years. Renewing a wonderful relationship born in West Texas some 20 years earlier, KK and I had managed to put together a mutually agreeable time to meet.
Timing is everything, we are told.
Our inaugural reunion, timed in early May last year, followed a winter of near record precipitation. Tall, abundant and waving in the breeze, the wild array of “Only-In-Texas” spring flowers made pigs beyond hard to spot. So hard to find in the brilliant blazes of dancing flowers, the soft green of freshly-leaved mesquite and fanning shadows that we killed one pig in five days of effort! Timing is everything!
But the hunt is paramount to the kill, right?
KK, a practicing petroleum engineer, with a wall full of patents, approaches cooking as robustly as designing oil field tools, and hunting.
Hunting was good, killing was bad, but eating was great! An epicure cook in camp means superb food!
BACK TO THE STORY
Following two sunny, cool, pleasant but fruitless days, this afternoon’s sky of high windswept cirrus and cirrocumulus portended rain, and a much colder temperature!
Assuming the sounders of swine would be feeding ahead of the cold front, we bird-dogged likely spots for evidence. One broad, brushy arroyo showed fresh tracks. Setting up on an overlooking hill, we prepared to stand till dark.
We didn’t have to. Within an hour, a passel of pigs came to the closest-thing-to-water and tender green grass that we, or they, could find.
The Nosler 28, on a Browning X Bolt Frame, barked again; another gilt down, headed for the camp gambrel.
Dark, boring in with the now-angry sky, herded us to the harbor of camp, KK’S simmering elk chili, and a cold Shiner.
The saying in Texas is “drought is busted by flood”. Rain raged and the thermometer plunged.
We awoke to 20 degrees with the hanging pigs, and everything else, thoroughly iced!
After a lengthy session of tenderly ragging the windscreen of Mr. Ranger, – Ice, Plexiglas, and scrapers don’t mix-we were back at it.
Another day riding, hiking, and hunting produced a single sighting of one more roadrunner, and one wily coyote.
Setting up on a high spot in late afternoon, this time in a protective shelter, rewarded us with a fat whitetail doe to round out the larder of liver and meat!
The following, and final, morning had us scrambling to get the deer hided, quartered and into the ice chests with the hogs.
With camp policed and squared, we drove our separate ways; KK to a bit warmer part of Texas, me to the snow and cold I had escaped a week hence in Idaho.
A great reunion, productive and with a planned encore. Meanwhile, good eating!