I like hunting with people I know
I can trust. Good judgment is a valuable character trait when loaded firearms
and killing are involved. I would be hunting with just such men on this trip. It was early March, and we would be hunting feral hogs in central Oregon, on
Clover Creek Ranch. Rob Applegate was supposed to join us on this trip, but a
late winter storm had closed the passes over in his neck of the woods and he
wasn't able to make it. Caz and Bob had beat me to the bunkhouse, which had
them worried....not that I was out stuck in a snow bank somewhere, but because I
had the fixin's for supper and they were gettin' hungry! Shortly after I got
there, the skillet was sizzlin' with andouille sausage, potatoes and onions,
simmering in chardonnay with a healthy dash of seasoned pepper. As the cast
iron skillet got hot, so did the "hot stove league" and the hunting stories,
tall tales and show-and-tell cranked up full swing. Knives and guns were showed
off and bragged about, gifts were exchanged and soon the BS was flyin' in fine
fashion. Front and center in these discussions were various knives, as each of
us had brought along new acquisitions for field testing on this trip -- Bob had
a new Bark River hunting knife that he was very excited about, Caz had a Swamp
Rat Knife Works blade that he was all lathered up over, and I had a new Beretta
Loveless drop point hunter that I wanted to put to work (I have always been a
fan of the basic Loveless design). Dinner was served and a grand time was had. I tell you, I could listen to Bob tell stories all night.
Beretta's version of the classic Loveless drop-point Hunter.
As we were cleaning up after dinner, Caz
went outside to throw the garbage away and came back in and matter-of-factly
announced "It's snowing boys." Sure enough, there was a white dusting on
everything, and it continued to snow lightly for the next hour or so. (The
snow was not unexpected, remember that Rob had had to stay home because of a
winter storm moving through the area.) We got everything ready for the next
morning and hit the sack.
The next morning, the coffee was perking, the
sausage was frying, and once again the snow was falling, not hard, but steadily
nonetheless. We ate breakfast and headed up the hill to hunt. As we worked our
way into the interior parts of the ranch, it started snowing harder. We climbed
the hill up to the broken down Cat bulldozer it was snowing even harder, and we
found no sign of recent animal activity in the snow. We continued up to the
pond and pasture up on top and once again, found no sign of animal activity.
The pond was full, frozen solid, and there were no tracks in the snow or any
evidence that anything had tried to break through the ice for a drink. By this
time the snow was coming down hard enough that visibility was getting limited,
so we decided to head back down the hill to a basin we knew about that was
relatively sheltered. There were no critters up on top.
The sheltered basin was a different story
however. We found signs of recent activity, we found hogs (including one HUGE
old sow), we found Russian boar (very fast Russian boar), and we found fallow
deer. All three of us were specifically looking for meat hogs in the 200-300 lb
range, so we decided to sweep this one hillside and work our way down towards
the pond at the bottom of the basin. Bob and Caz took paths that swung to the
outside part of the hillside, and I took more of a direct beeline to the pond.
As I got towards the bottom, I saw another couple fallow deer, and then a couple
of hogs. They were all behind a wall of juniper trees, so I couldn't get a real
good look at them, but the hogs looked to be roughly in the size range that we
were looking for. As I slowly worked my way down to the last of the juniper
trees, the fallow deer sensed something was amiss and slowly exited stage left. The hogs were more interested in rooting around in the mud. I laid down in the
snow (the only way I could snake a shot past the overhanging juniper branches)
and got my first good look at the black boar 40 yards in front of me. He was
about 250 lbs, just exactly the size I was looking for. However, the shot
presentation was not good, so I laid in the snow and waited.
Allow me a brief caveat at this point -- I was
hunting with a T/C Contender, chambered for the .338 GEF, a wildcat that I put
together back in the early 90s with the help and guidance of J.D. Jones of SSK
Industries. My goal on this trip was to test out a couple of cast bullet
designs that I had put together specifically for this gun. The first was a
Lyman 33889 that I had modified to drop a 246 grain HP, and the second was a
custom 235 grain GC-FP made by Mountain Molds (www.mountainmolds.com). I had
worked up loads for both of these bullets that were giving me very good accuracy
(5 shots into 1" at 50 yards), and wanted to see how they performed on
critters. The 33889 HP load was going right at 1600 fps (a very useful velocity
for a cast HP), and the Mountain Molds bullet was going almost 1750 fps.
Conveniently, both loads shot to the same point.
The .338 GEF. the 235 grain Mountain Molds GC-FP
(left) and the Lyman 33889 hollow-point (right).
After several minutes of watching the
black boar's backside, he turned and faced me. If I had had the deeply
penetrating Mountain Molds 235 grain FP in the chamber, I would have simply
placed the crosshairs on his forehead and dropped the hammer. But with a
hog's hard, sloping head, and a soft cast HP, I wasn't sure if the bullet
would simply flatten and ricochet (probably not, but I wasn't sure), or kill
him cleanly, so I held off. A few minutes later, he turned broadside to me,
giving me the presentation I was looking for, so I put the crosshairs on his
ribs and fired. There was no reaction to the shot, he simply turned away
from me and trotted briskly away for about 15 feet, then he stopped,
staggered, fell over and rolled back downhill towards me. As he came to
rest, there was a large, pink frothy geyser erupting out of his right (i.e.
exit) side, so even before I got up
out of the snow I knew that he was lung shot, that the cast HP had
expanded well and that it had exited.
As I got up to go over and inspect my hog, I got my first good look
at the hillside farther up the drainage -- there were several other
hogs in this same size range rooting through the mud and melting
snow. Not wanting to spoil the chances for my hunting partners, I
snuck back into the junipers quickly and quietly, and started
heading back up the hill towards where I had last seen them. I ran
up the hill and met them halfway and (huffing and puffing) told them
that I had my hog down and that were a number of other hogs down
there for them to look over. Bob took his Krag and slowly snuck down to more or less the same spot that I had shot
from. He had a nice brown and black spotted hog (with some amazing
red-orange highlights) wander out onto the flats and Bob put the bead front
sight on his forehead and let the .30-40 Krag speak. The pig simply went
rigid, and fell over, and quivered slightly. It never squealed, grunted or
kicked. It just lay there stiff-legged. Head shots work.
at 1600 fps killed this hog quickly.
A .30-40 Krag and head shots, a fine recipe for making
Bob came back to us and told us that there
was another bigger spotted sow a little farther up that Caz should be able
to get a shot at. Caz snuck his way up to where Bob and I had shot from and
sure enough, there was a nice brown and black spotted sow that walked out
onto the flats broadside, and Caz took his 5.5" USFA Shootists .44 Special
(loaded with Skeeter's load, the Lyman 429421 over 7.5 grains of Unique),
lined up on her and fired. His first shot crushed her spine and she went
down hard, squealing, well, like a stuck pig. He walked up close and
finished her off. The three of us stood there with our three hogs on the
ground, all shot from basically the same spot, within about 15 minutes, and
all three had died within about 20 yards of each other. It had been a good
Time for the field dressing. Long story short, all three knives made a good showing for themselves, each making
short work of "their" hog. My Beretta Loveless Hunter is made from AUS-8
steel, which has gotten to be popular as a knife steel in recent years.
This knife takes an edge nicely, but some have criticized AUS-8 for not
being able to hold its edge with continued use. Well, let me just state for
the record that after dressing this hog, it will still shave with ease. I
paid $40 (new) for this knife and in my opinion it is one of the best values
in the hunting/skinning knife market, period. Bob and Caz were also quite
pleased with their new Bark River and Swamp Rat knives (respectively).
The .44 Special single-action is a very classy way to hunt for
Inspection of my hog's carcass and innards revealed that the entrance
wound was a .338 caliber hole and only had a small circle of
bloodshot meat around it (about the size of a nickel). Both lungs
had a hole through them about the size of a quarter, with about 6"
of severely bloodshot lung tissue surrounding the hole. The far side
of the ribcage had an irregularly shaped hole through it, roughly
the size of a half dollar, and the exit hole through that tough
pigskin was about the size of a quarter. While there was some
bloodshot meat in the far side ribcage (the expanded bullet hit two
ribs on the way out), there was notably less than Iím used to seeing
with higher velocity jacketed bullet loads. The Lyman 33889 HP at
1600 fps had done everything that could possibly be asked of it.
I guess that's why I like cast HP's so much.
After I got the hog's skinned/split carcass
home, I boned out the pork for the freezer. The long upswept blade of the
Chicago Cutlery meat cutter's knife that Bob gave me performed these chores
superbly. I cut the backstraps into 2-lb roasts, boned out the shoulders and
ribs to make sausage with, and cut the hams (bone in) off the pelvis. I
marinate the pork loin roasts in chardonnay with a splash of Worcestershire
sauce, and then roll them in chopped herbs and garlic and bake them (covered)
for several hours at moderately low temperature, and they come out delicious! I
got 20+ lbs of breakfast sausage off of this guy (had some this morning in fact)
and it's so lean that no grease collects in the pan when you fry it. Whooeee!
I like wild pork! Lean and tasty.
Chicago Cutlery meat cutter's knife did an excellent job
boning out the pork.
This was a really good couple of days -- good friends,
interesting guns, and some very useful cast bullets. And at the end of the day,
there was good food, fine wine and excellent story-telling. But there were some
new friends too -- each of us had brought a new hunting knife to try out, Caz
brought his new USFA .44 Special, etc. Each was new, but clearly destined to
become an old friend. In short, those two days were filled with good men and
good tools, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with both. That's the kind
of stuff that make hunting special for me. Old friends, and making old
friends, is something special indeed.