Finally - The Big Bad Wolf's Hunt!

Travel Day and Day 1

Tuesday October 20 and Wednesday October 21, 2009


 

Note: This story will be told in double form, first the narrative, then a picture layout supplemented with additional explanation...

 

As noted in the beginning of the story "The Old Partt, the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs" ( Link ), this hunt came up suddenly, and came together pretty fast. I barely found out about it, then I signed up, and it was only a few weeks off. No sooner had I signed up than Dan Russell jumped in to share the trip. I spent a couple of busy weeks of bow building and practicing and, wow, it was time to go.

Dan drove down from Wenatchee, WA to Seattle on Monday evening, October 19 and stayed at our place till morning. We got up at 4:30 a.m. and Ann drove us to SeaTac Airport to catch our flight to Dallas. My decision to check a duffle with a back up take down bow and arrows in it turned out to be no problem, airport security wasn't the least bit interested once I said it wasn't a fiream and was being checked. The flight to Dallas was uneventful and we made the connection, which had been delayed about 40 minutes with no trouble. Then it was a small turbo-prop to Odessa/Midland Airport. Our advance arrangement for a rental car went smooth as silk. The local map provided by the car rental was excellent and we found the WalMart (marked as a key point on the map!) with no trouble. A stop there produced our 5 day Texas hunting licenses for $50 each, plus a supply of groceries.

After WalMart, it was drive south and turn right at Crane, TX and go 13 miles to a gate. Only problem was it was way past dark and there were no lights. We had a heck of a time finding the right gate, but finally did. By then, it was also raining and blowing very badly. Setting up camp did not seem like a good idea. I slept in the car, very uncomfortably, and Dan slept in the camp truck, probably equally uncomfortably.

Next morning dawned cold but sunny and we could see the ranch camp buildings and the surrounding flat land. We quickly got organized and Curtis Kellar, owner of 7th Age Bowhunting, ran over the camp rules and operations, which are pretty simple. There are javelina and pigs on the ranch, which is in sections of 45,000 acres (!), one of which is ours. Under Texas law, you can shoot two javelina and all the pigs you want. However, because he's trying to manage the javelina herds, Curtis goes a bit further... if you shoot one javelina out of a group, that's it for that time. Shoot your other one somewhere else on the ranch, from some other group, or at some other time. Also, an unrecovered wounded animal counts on your limit. Curtis organizes each day's hunts, suggesting hunting spots where he drops you off, to be picked up later. After you've got the lay of the land, he may let you drive yourself back to somewhere you've been, or take a mountain bike, or even walk. Eating is catch as catch can... the facilities are there, do your thing. There's nothing fancy; it's just a huge chunk of land with animals on it that you're allowed to go play on.

The daily hunting program is basically from before dawn to about noon or one, then back to camp for lunch, then out again from about 3 to dark (eight). Initially, Dan and I were the only hunters. Additional hunters showed up each day. We all hunted separately, and this will basically be my account of my own experience.

Wednesday morning, Curtis drove us around for a look at the ranch and some of the hunting spots. He also showed us the game tracks and signs. For this first afternoon's hunt, he ran me out to a water tank and "solar windmill" site that seemed to offer promise. Of course, my question, was, "What's a solar windmill?" All around the ranch, you saw regular old fashioned metal plate windmills, with solar panels at their base, so I was imagining something exotic. No... it's just that old fashioned windmills are terribly high maintenance, so the ranchers and farmers are converting them to solar power by locking the windmill blade and rudder and disconnecting the pump shaft. Then they put in an electric pump powered by a large solar array. The windmill itself is still handy, so you can see, over that expanse of land, where the wells and water tanks are. Anyway, wherever there's a well and tank, there is water seepage, and that's where the animals go for their water... literally, oases in the dry land.

The solar well that Curtis took me to had both an old wooden tank, and a very new modern cement one. There were lots of cattle around as we drove up, and myriads of tracks of javelina and pigs. (Incidentally, if you're not comfortable with loose cattle, you might want to give this kind of ranch hunting a second thought, but they were never any trouble at all.) We stopped up the road from the tank and got out and Curtis instructed me in carefully and slowly slipping (dare I say "stalking"?) up to the tank and then slowly around it. As we rounded the side, what should appear but a nice javelina across the tank area and road. Curtis told me to sit down (I had a three legged stool) and wait patiently and other javelinas would join the one there and they would most likely feed toward me. He left me and I settled down and waited... and waited... and waited. After 45 minutes, it was clear they were not feeding toward me. They were perfectly happy where they were. What to do?

I could see that if I could get around the old tank I'd be closer, but I'd also be visible. However, it seemed the best choice. There were a number of cows around the tank, so I kind of used them for cover, moving when they did on the theory that even if they didn't actually cover me, the fact that something else was moving had to help. After a good bit, I had worked around to the front of the old tank... which gave me a good view of several feeding javies, but through a metal cattle control chute and still too far away for my comfort shot. OK, I needed to get over to the new tank, and what I really wanted to do was get around both tanks to a nice split-trunk tree in front of the new one, and right in front of the area where the javies were, some now lying and sleeping in the deep dirt wallow.

Now, Indian woodsman I am not. Remember, this is my first bow hunt! However, I knew that javies have very poor eyesight, seeing mostly movement. So, being ever so slow and careful, and watching the cows intently, I moved a little every time they did, each time sidling over toward the new tank, and closer to it. There was one point at which I was halfway between the cattle chute and the wall of the new tank and the cows all drifted away, leaving me flat footed right out in the open! Man, I froze! And stayed froze until a cow who shall be my friend forever drifted back over to see what the statue was up to and got in front of me. The javies were all still quiet... Whew!

After that, it was a few relatively easy steps over to the tree, where I slowly sat down on my stool and began studying javelinas at a distance of from 8 to twenty five yards... fascinating for someone who'd never seen one before. The half hour or so I spent watching them calmed me down a lot and I decided they'd probably put up with a slow stand up while I picked a target. I chose a good sized, but not huge, one that was standing across the clearing, what I came to call "the arena". For some reason, my brain said he was the perfect target picture, the one I was waiting for and comfortable with. My brain wasn't far wrong... just not quite perfect enough. I later learned two things: First, the distance was very close to 15 yards, and second, the kill zone painted on the Ames burlap javelina target I used for the front of Herman, (my foam pig at home) is easily twice the actual area of the real kill zone of a javie! Their vitals are compact! Anyway, the arrow flew well and, to my eye, hit well. It stuck in the javie, my eye said just behind the leg, but I now suspect maybe just a hair not far enough behind.

The javie exploded into the air, hind quarters kicking, squealer working, and took off in a huge circle back into the brush. I could follow the movement for quite aways, but then it was simply too deep. Now, I was well read in the knowledge of sitting tight for half an hour to an hour before pushing an animal. However, I was even more well told by Curtis that under no circumstances was I to try to blood track an animal. He said that these javies are well herded up and will try to protect one that is down, having been known to attack dogs and people. (See later reference to "teeth"). I was to wait for him when he came to pick me up. So, Here it was 5:30, I had a javie that I thought was pretty well hit somewhere in the brush, and Curtis wasn't due to pick me up till early evening, at least two hours.

I continued to sit in my little tree "blind". All the animals had cleared out, of course, but in about a half hour, they started coming back in. It became apparent then, and later, that this was simply their "home spot" for the moment. I proceeded to spend a truly delightful afternoon studying the daily life of the javelina family. What an experience, and what a photo op!

Now, all of that was the good news. The bad news was that Curtis wasn't able to get back until dark, and we couldn't try to track until morning, so, you'll have to wait till that installment to learn more.

Meantime, here's the first day's picture show...

 

 

 

First sight of the camp, Wednesday morning, after the rain. More on that old Landcruiser later... Typical ranch windmill...

 

There are other buildings, a barn, mechanic's shed, pumphouse, etc. in the total yard, but this is our center: Curtis' shed. His tent is behind the shed, the community shower alongside, along with freezer and refrigerator. At the right edge you can see the pipe hanging gambrel for game (we hope).

Curtis, 7th Age Bowhunting, has game contracts with about seven ranches across Texas and has something of a very simple coumpound at each one.

 

Curtis, crouched, showing Dan pig tracks...

 

Large ones in this instance...

 

And very tiny ones in this instance...

 

"Oh, my gosh!" says the city boy from Cleveland...

Our first javelina sighting... a big boar. No hope of hunting him right now, he's on the move.

This is pretty typical of the country... sandy soil and mesquite bushes.

 

 

This and the next are pictures of typical small ponds or seeps near tanks. The older the tank, the larger the seep!

 

 

The fences are for the cows; they don't really do much in respect to other animals, which dig tracks under.

 

This is where/when Curtis guided me around the old tank... and there's Mr. Javelina... across a large space and past a cattle handling chute/fence I really wasn't comfortable trying to shoot through. As noted above, I waited for the animals to come closer, but ended up playing stalker. If you look past the curve of the tank, you can see a tree sticking out. That tree is right in front of the new tank, a white cement structrure, hidden behind the curve of the old one.

 

Ah! My tree... sparse, but mine own, and loads better than right out in the open and standing in the middle of the cows! The area in front of the tree is my "arena". Getting here, a distance of about 75 yards, took me about an hour, and I had no idea whether what I was doing was the dumbest thing in the world or not. The animals have faded back into the edge of the brush, but casually, and I could still see them there. I sat very still on my stool and in maybe 30 minutes they started coming back out.

 

I did, carefully, move enough to take some pictures from my spot. This is a solar windmill. You can see that the vane/rudder assembly is still up there, but there is no shaft coming down to power a pump. Instead, the solar panels charge batteries that run the pump motor, which responds to a demand float switch in a trough or tank.

 

I was really taken with the old tanks on the ranch. They're like plains ranch versions of old barns.

 

Uh, oh... movement to my left.

 

 

Nice one, but way too far... this is telephoto'ed.

 

 

Now this is more like it! The big guys come in first. This is in front of my tree, but at maybe 20 yards.

 

Pulled in a little. The javies are back, but they're antsy and moving around. No way I'd chance drawing.

 

 

This and the next are my favorite shots... This one is pulled in, but a perfect pic of the animal. I find them fascinating. Javelina are not pigs, though distantly related.

 

These two guys started settling down and moving slower, poking around, more or less across from right to left, and gradually closing the distance to my tree. I probably should have kept waiting, but it just "looked right" for the lead guy and I very slowly stood up and got ready, let him keep moving, then shot. The arrow flew beautifully, and I saw it end up in what I thought was a good spot, behind and above the front leg. However, it only went in about half an arrow-length, so I suspect that what I saw wasn't as perfect as I thought it was. It would have been a kill on my Ames face at home, but...

 

 

And the sun went down before Curtis got back, so I had to wait till tomorrow to find out what happened... and so will you...

 

 

Link to Second Day