One of the things in life that is certain is that hunting in South Texas brush is not your typical walk and stalk country. The sage, mesquite and other underbrush can grow so thick that the only way to get through it is on your hands and knees and follow the game trails. Most every bush, tree, animal and insect in South Texas has thorns, stickers, fangs, stingers and teeth, and each can be deadly in its own right. Chasing game through this thick brush is not something that many would do. The chance of coming face to face with wild hogs, cougars, deer and of course the rattle snake, makes this activity a puckering experience. I have done this only a few times after retrieving an animal for a client or guest and only because it was a first animal shot with a rifle or a really good trophy. I do not regularly condone shooting animals and not retrieving them, but when it comes to the numerous hogs that we hunt, well, the varmints, ants and buzzards have to eat as well. Just to set the record straight here, we have about a 95% success rate of retrieving our animals with this regular group of hunters.
So if you can’t walk and stalk, then how do you hunt this South Texas brush country? Some ride around in High Rack vehicles, basically an elevated stand on wheels. Others may walk our set up in ambush at intersection of Senderos ( don’t know the true meaning of this Spanish word, but it’s a cleared path or road, typically running straight across a property and periodically intersecting each other to allow for easier access to the property). These Senderos can be quite long at times and offer some long range shooting for those experienced in that form of hunting. But the most common form of hunting is from an elevated stationary stand, usually positioned at an intersection of two or more Senderos. These elevated ambush points are usually accompanied with feeders to help stop the pigs in order to allow the hunter time to acquire his target and fire. It always amazes me how fast the feral hog moves from one place to another. With a Sendero typically only twenty to twenty five yards wide, a hog will only give you a three to five second window to see it, get on target and fire, hence the feeders to stop them long enough to shoot. Even with a feeder there to stop the pigs, they never seem to stop moving. Patience and a decisive mind play a big part in a successful pig hunter with these circumstances.
So now that you can picture some of the country and understand the terrain better, let’s go hunting. On the place I usually hunt, we start waking up the hunters around 5 A.M. The feeders generally go off at 7 A.M. and depending on how many are hunting and where, we have to leave the camp by 6 A.M. As we drop off each hunter, we have portable feeders secured to the trucks receiver hitches and a switch ran into the cab to supplement the feeders by feeding the roads. This is commonly referred to as, ringing the dinner bell. After the drop off vehicle is gone, its time to settle into awaiting the awaking of the world. To me, this is one of the best parts of the day. As the sun begins to rise in the East, the shadow animals that you have been watching begin to retreat into the brush, to be replaced with the real thing. The birds and deer begin to move and if you watch them carefully, they will alert you to the approaching pigs. Pigs don’t move quietly through the South Texas brush. And when they appear on scene, they appear in a hurry and usually there are several of them together. Each pig is constantly moving, eating up each kernel of feed, as fast as they can, before the others pigs get to it. Between the crunching of the feed, to the squeals and rooting around, even in the pitch black of night, you will know where they are.
So now it’s light enough, you have pigs in front of you and the biggest sow finally stops to sniff the wind or look down the Sendero. The safety gets slipped to fire, you release your breath, you slowly start applying pressure to the trigger when your buddy in the next stand fires and scatters every pig in front of you into the brush. What, you think this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Its ok, they may come back or another group may come in from another area. The one thing for sure, is that if you have the patience, another opportunity will present itself. Besides this will give you a little time to think of the things you will do to your buddy for messing up your hunt.
One more thing, shot placement. As I started this tale off about tracking pigs into this brush it is no fun at all and can be down right dangerous.
Three words; Central Nervous System.
Head, neck or spine shots are great for planting these animals right where they stood. I have seen small pigs nearly cut into, run 20 to 30 yards into the brush trying to keep up with the herd. Pig’s anatomies have the heart and lung more forward behind the shoulders. Double lunging a pig can guarantee a difficult tracking job and a high probability of loosing your trophy. Some of the larger boars will have a shield over there front shoulders (a thick layer of skin and scar tissue that builds up over years of fighting and running through this brush). This shoulder shot placement is not recommended. Even if you penetrate through this shield and leg bone , it more than likely will not have an exit wound and that will minimize the external bleeding to make it even more difficult for tracking, remember, thorns , stickers, fangs and teeth.
If you get a chance to get to South Texas to hunt these wiley critters, shoot as many as you can or your host will allow. I promise we will make some more. These are some prolific reproducers and with plenty of forage, in just a few months, Mother Nature will replace what you killed. Wild feral pigs are also, some very fine eating. Only a few of the big, actively breeding boars are not fit to eat. Smaller, young boars and even some of the larger non- breeding boars and sows will be good to eat. You will know when you take down a breeding boar, he will have a smell you won’t forget and is unlike all the other pig smells you will encounter. The sows are good to eat unless the forage is bad and her piglets have sucked her down to where she is emancipated. I like the 20 to 30 pound ones to put on the pit whole. We have cooked whole pigs up to 80 pounds and they were finger licking good.
Remember when in Rome do as the Romans would do. When in South Texas, shoot as many pigs as you can, as fast as you can. We do.