Gerald Almy: Texas trip yields 300-pound wild boar, gobbler, bass
It’s always exciting to combine two outdoor sports in one outing. A grizzly bear hunt and salmon fishing trip was one of my most adrenaline-filled examples. But a spring hunt in Texas a few years back probably provided even more action than that exciting British Columbia adventure. Three species – wild boar, Rio Grande gobblers and jumbo largemouth bass – were all on the agenda – packed into three exciting days of hunting and fishing.
I arrived for part one of the adventure at Gary Machen’s ranch house, where outfitters Don Harris and Pete Schmidt were already waiting with Pete’s crackerjack hog hounds. We quickly loaded up the dogs and then drove 10 miles to the hunting area on a far corner of Gary’s property.
We began the hunt as a warm late afternoon sun cast a golden glow over the Texas landscape. Wildflowers were in bloom in purple, yellow, blue, and orange. They carpeted the ground wherever thick thorn bushes, black brush, and mesquite didn’t grow.
We hunted on foot, following Bud and Tadpole and Gyp as they nosed through the brush and cactus, searching for the scent of wild hog. These animals are something of a scourge on the landscape in Texas and many other states, and landowners are happy to see as many of them harvested as possible.
One of the most exciting methods of pursuing the hogs is using hounds. Normally when they are hunting on their own, Don and Pete like to use two types of dogs. Bay dogs have particularly good noses and are best at sniffing out the pigs. They’ll scent where the hogs have traveled and bark as they track them down.
When they catch up with the hogs, they’ll bay them and try to hold the hog up. The catch dogs are then turned loose. These are even more aggressive and will corner the hog tightly while the hunter moves in, grabs a leg, flips the hog over and harvests it with a long-bladed hunting knife. Don claims it’s not dangerous when you have good dogs, even for hogs weighing 200-300 pounds with long, sharp tusks.
I was intrigued by this hunting approach but decided for this outing to bring my black powder rifle. Because of that, we hunted a bit differently this afternoon. We just used baying dogs who would hopefully find a hog and make it hold up in open enough cover that we could move in close for a shot with the muzzleloader.
It didn’t take long for the dogs to do their work. As we hiked along, suddenly Bud let out a loud bawl and was soon joined by Tadpole and Gyp. A hog was up, and after an exciting chase, he finally came to bay.
As we moved in, the first thing we could see through the thick brush was a blur of dogs and a long set of hog legs. Eventually, we circled in from the other side and saw that the hog was a very large, old specimen with exceptional teeth. The boar would likely weigh 300 pounds, but with the thick cover and three dogs circling him and jumping in and out, it was impossible to get a shot. Soon the hog broke free and raced across the mesquite-covered landscape.
We followed the dogs and eventually they had the wild boar at bay again. But he wasn’t cooperating. Trees broke as the big hog broke brush and lunged at his pursuers.
Just as I was about to try a shot this time, Gyp moved behind the hog, and I held fire. The hog broke again.
Finally, at the third location, it held up. Pete and I eased up, and I was able to aim behind the shoulder. Just as I squeezed off, the hog hurled itself around and lunged 3 feet, attaching a dog. Luckily, the shot found its mark. It was indeed a trophy boar — a little over 300 pounds with battle scars from fighting and long, sharp tusks. In spite of its size, it would later make many great meals.
The next stop on this trip, which was clearly already a huge success, was the Coyote Ranch, owned by the famous cattle ranchers Richard and Robert Nunley. I had hunted deer on one of their ranches before, the Junco, where Lyndon Johnson used to hunt, and they had told me about their bass fishing trips. Some 13 intensely managed lakes on the Coyote Ranch offer world-class bass fishing for largemouths that can top 10 pounds.
The ponds lived up to their reputation, providing non-stop action, including fish up to 7 pounds. Both spin tackle and fly gear produced action on every lake we tried. Very seldom did five minutes go by without a fish on the line or leaping clear to throw the hook.
The final arm of the trip was an afternoon turkey hunt on the Stowers Ranch, farther north in the Hill Country. Gobbling activity had peaked, and instead of the dozens of toms one usually encounters on this famous hunting ranch, it was a bird here and another there calling from the live oak-dotted hills.
Still, that was enough action to allow me to call in two long-bearded toms to 25 yards with a box call and harvest the largest. The bass all went back into the ponds where they could provide more fun for future fishermen on the Coyote Ranch, but this tom would provide great dining to go along with the coolers full of chilled wild boar meat I would be taking home with me to Virginia.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.