Rifle season started slow for us with the full moon and acorns and broke down trucks. No man with a hunting license should ever have to mechanic a vehicle in the month of November, it should be a law, but when you have a 16 year old kid with a big foot and a big truck regardless of what the calendar says you are gonna be working on trucks.
I was in a tree somewhere when I get a text that says “I broke my axle on my truck”. I’m thinking he don’t know the difference in an axle, a drive shaft, or a tire rod end so I said send me a picture of what broke.
Well hell I guess he does. Every time I look at this picture I think of the old Kenny Rogers song Lucille, “You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel” ok so that’s not the words but I bet you sang that line to the tune of Lucille in your head.
When asked Alex just didn’t know what happened it must be a factory defect because he was just driving slow and easy. Well of course you were and probably on the way from church after volunteering at a homeless shelter and before you went to read to under privileged children right? Look I’m not smart but even I know when you get a teenage boy a great big truck with more power than is needed there’s gonna be stuff break but why November, I’m trying to bring food home for the family (that sounds better than running around in the woods having fun) and he successfully turned a perfectly good four wheel drive truck into a tricycle. Either way it has to be fixed and he needed to learn a little about it so we bought two new axles, bearings, seals, brakes and drums and went to work.
I hate mechanicing, if that’s a word, I don’t like working on trucks, I would rather have deer blood under my finger nails than grease. There is some satisfaction in working on a vehicle yourself and having it run great but I’m just not a fan of turning wrenches, especially when I should be out chasing woodland creatures around. I know I own two thirty year old trucks so I didn’t think this out too well but we all know old trucks are cooler so when they are going right it seems worth it.
We got the axles and everything back together and new brakes and he was back on the road. Since I was already working on trucks I just took the weekend and fixed a few things on the Landcruiser too and we now have two classics back on the road again.
After having a conversation with Alex about his driving style which he described as “occasionally aggressive” which to me translated to, he shows off when girls are around, and you should, we were on the same page about how the truck should be treated. I mean I would have showed off for the girls too had I had a cool truck like that when I was a teen but I had to win the hearts of the ladies with my charm and good looks which explains why I’m so good at fishing. It’s hard to win the hearts of the ladies with a junky truck, no looks and no charm but I spent a lot of time fishing.
To the hunting part of this story. I name everything, I don’t know why but I give names to trucks, guns, deer, deer stands, bows, whatever most everything I own has a name and my old Win 94 .30-.30 is no exception. Alex always said it looked like a cowboy gun so that’s it’s name “Cowboy”. We have The Stick of Death, Little Death, Black Death, (there’s a lot of death in our collection), we got Gold Member, Chinky, Cowboy, and others. I sound like Santa Claus calling out to his reindeer when I’m asking Alex if we got all the guns loaded, on Cowboy, on Chinky, on Gold Member. They get their names from different ways, some from the looks some from an event that happened while using it some just because they didn’t have a name and needed one like “40”, it’s Springfield XD .40, simple enough.
Ok now really on to the hunting story this time. I’ve had a big hog that I call Big Nasty, I call all big hogs Big Nasty, using some elusive tactics to avoid having me put an arrow into his lungs, so I employed Cowboy to do some work for me.
Cowboy is not fancy, he’s gritty and tough and works hard without complaint. I’ve drug him through the snow, the mud, the briars, you name it and like all Win 94s he takes it like a champ and just keeps working. Every gun cabinet in America should have a 94 in it, it’s a classic piece of American history and the most sold rifle ever at over 7 million guns. They are fun to shoot, light weight and to me I feel like I step back in time when I carry mine. I just want to put on a red plaid wool shirt and tall Maine hunting boots and wool pants with suspenders and grab a smoking pipe and stalk through the hard woods of Michigan somewhere like I imagine guys were doing in the 30s and 40s. Maybe even ride across the Western plains on horse back with my brand new 94 strapped into my scabbard and have to worry about Indians like real Cowboys used to do. Anyway I like to carry the 94 because I understand it’s place in firearms history and I like getting in tight places and doing dirty work on some hogs and Cowboy is perfect for that. He’s short, light weight, no scope getting hung up in briars, holds enough bullets I should be able to shoot my way out of a real big herd of pigs and of course and maybe most importantly he’s cool and looks good in pictures and I need all the help I can get looking good in pictures.
Now that I had the weapon I needed a plan because my current plan of sitting at the food plot and waiting wasn’t producing anything but glimpses through the brush and the hogs weren’t coming out in the open until after dark and big nasty would just walk around the food plot and not come out at all. My plan was to back track him and be on his trail leading in so that when he came to the food plot before dark I would be far enough up the trail to have shooting light.
With no stand or blind I knew it would be a long cold wait on the ground under a log but I was confident he would show. Two hours after I settled in I was starting to get real cold as the temps were high 20s and low 30s and the wind was blowing so I stood to get some blood flowing and decided to give a little grunt to see if I could get lucky.
You can make several hog vocalizations with your deer grunt tube but I’m not real good at it and it’s only worked a couple times, so I was surprised when I grunted and heard a grunt back. I must have froze my brain laying on the ground there’s no way I just heard a hog grunt. I tried again, and again a return grunt, holy smokes this is working. I settled in next to a big tree a few feet away and turned toward the sound and waited. I started to hear more than one pig and in just a few seconds shadows turned to swine and I was surrounded by pigs from 10 pounds to 200 pounds and big nasty was pulling up the rear. I highly doubt my calling is what brought them in as Im sure they were headed that way anyway but I do think that the sound calmed them down by making them think other pigs were already ahead of them.
I’m guessing this big pig at 270-290 pounds because he looked about the size of several I’ve weighed that were that weight.
As pigs filter by not 20 yards away I keep a close eye on big nasty but he didn’t get that big by just walking into food plots in the daylight and he let the little guys go first. The first of the pigs had likely reached the plot when he came into full view but he disappeared just as fast he appeared. I had let several hogs walk by at this point and I could hear them starting to get behind me which was not good at all because if they caught my wind and blew out they would take big nasty with them and I wanted this hog.
8,9,10 I counted hogs as they went by and he was getting closer but just at the edge of the thick brush he stopped and let the little guys go ahead, this little move saved his life.
I knew the smaller hogs were getting close to my wind and as bad as I wanted him I wasn’t gonna pass a chance to take a hog so when a little 80 pounder stopped at 25 yards I gave him one behind the shoulder and the woods exploded. There were pigs running in every direction but I stayed focused on the big one, as I jacked another bullet in and pulled the gun up he just stood his ground. He never ran, he just bristled up and backed into the brush grunting his strong disapproval until I lost him. It wasn’t the one I wanted but I did have some black forest ham.
Don’t be confused this is not ham from Germany’s Black Forest where the real stuff is made, this is not the ham that Subway tries to pass off as Black Forest ham, this is a black ham from the forest, my Jack county version of black forest ham.
I woke up early and decided to leave my bow, me and Cowboy were having such a good time why not just keep it rolling.
As the sun come up I starting seeing white spots all over the ground and knew it was one of the coolest things you’ll see in the woods, frost flowers. Every year there is a certain plant that forms frost flowers on our place. It’s only one type of plant, although I think any long stemmed plant can do it, but here it’s just the one. The way I understand it is the air temperature has to be cold enough to freeze the stem which splits it from the expansion of the water freezing. Then the ground can not be frozen because the plant still being alive will take up water from the ground and when it gets to the split in the stem it comes out like a mist and is frozen. This happens throughout the night until it forms an ice formation. The ice is very fine and all the frost flowers I find on this plant look alike. It only happens one or two mornings a year here because once the plant is frozen it dies and no longer takes in water.
The day passed with a few sightings of deer but nothing I could get a shot at or that I wanted to shoot. The weather man was calling for colder temps and moisture of some type for the night and next morning and I couldn’t wait.
I heard the rain hitting the tin roof 2 hours before daylight and it made me smile. It wasn’t heavy just enough to wet the leaves and acorns which meant I could walk without sounding like a herd of elephant coming through the woods.
I sat for several hours watching the woods but only seeing a small fawn and little buck I decided it’s time for a walk and besides I don’t get Cowboy out much and this might be his last walk-about this year.
I slowly still hunted for an hour without even a glimpse of a critter when I caught a whiff of pigs. You can smell a pig when he’s real close but when the herd is big enough you can smell them at a little distance with the right breeze and thick branches overhead like I had. I guess the smell just settles in since the brush is so thick the wind don’t really blow hard through there but I knew I was close to pigs so I stopped to look awhile.
I never seen or heard anything so I stayed on my trail and found fresh mud on a tree, then a track with no water in it, then some more mud, I was close but just couldn’t catch up. I found everything but a pig on that little walk. At one point it was so thick I had to crawl and being so cold I was too bundled up to be crawling quietly so I found a better trail and picked up more fresh mud.
I had walked a good ways and my mind started to wonder, I know I’m so close to pigs Im writing the story in my head already when the poke of a briar in my face snaps me out of it. I just need to stay on the trial I will find them but again my mind wonders. I think it’s carrying this gun that makes me think I’m a gun slinger.
I got hogs coming from all directions Im shooting but not fast enough, I drop Cowboy down to my hip and I start slinging lead and working the lever like Lucas McCain. I’m hitting every hog, just like the Rifleman I never run out of bullets, bullets are flying, hogs are dying, blood is spraying on trees and branches, I can’t be stopped, little kids wanna be me, woman are calling my name and suddenly I realize I’ve walked the entire length of that thick bottom without a sighting. For a second I wonder what’s wrong with me, maybe I should sleep more Im dreaming as I walk now.
It’s time to go to camp and pack up, I switch my brain into “home” mode and out of hunting mode and start to dread the drive back. I don’t wanna leave, I never wanna leave but I have no choice. I round a little corner and see feathers on the ground and stop for a look. It’s what’s left of a cardinal, only feathers and beak remain, Mr Bobcats breakfast, and I grin knowing I wasn’t the only hunter here this morning and I’m glad he was successful. Big Nasty is still there and I’ll be back after him soon maybe with Cowboy maybe with a bow or maybe a muzzle loader who knows but either way I will be back.