So the Admiral and I went up to Jack Ranch for the long planned first dove hunt with Frank Hook. The drive up the 5 was uneventful for us but not for others; LE was out in force! Seven B&W just on the grape vine and a couple of unmarked cars pulling people over left and right. Stopped at Blackwell’s Corner to have lunch with James Dean – he was there but not saying much.
We met up with Frank and drove out onto Ranch which is 90,000 acres – that is twice as big as Catalina Island. We unpacked at the recently finished new hunting quarters, great accommodations with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a spacious kitchen/lounge/dining area AND AIR CONDITIONING. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition! We then patterned our two shotguns at 25yds using large pieces of paper stapled to a tree. We tried 3 different 1 to1+1/8 oz shot with #71/2 or #8 pellets and saw clear differences in spread by the shell. By way of apology, I hugged and kissed the tree afterword. A game warden saw me so now I am a registered tree hugger and cited tree molester all at once.
Dove #1 – well sort of: 6 pm rolls around and JS, Frank’s colleague and asst ranch manager shows up in his jeep and we load up with shells, shot guns etc. We also stick in my Browning A bolt II 30-06 plus some 110 gr. TSSX Federal ammo in case as it gets on dark, a pig shows up for we have just about run out of sausage at home. On the way, Frank tells me that there is a very rare and secret breed of pig that flies in this area and we should be careful not to shoot one (or any quail, hawks, woodpeckers, shotguns, spouses etc. but that is another story). I’m intrigued – pigs that fly? Yup, he tells me they will fly to the water holes in the evening with the doves but because of their rarity, it is a $5,000 kill. Hummmm We arrive at the first dove spot, a pond with reeds growing in the middle and surrounded by lots of trees on the uphill side where we park. We all hop out of the jeep and start chatting and loading up our shotguns. We couldn’t have been there a minute when Frank says – “I don’t believe it, look at that hog that just flew in over there.”
We all think he’s joking but look anyway and sure enough, in spite of all our movement and noise, this boar had just “flown in” on the other side of the pond, probably no more that 150 yds away. Frank says, “get your rifle and shoot it – that’s a nice hog.” JS agrees, “good hog”. So unthinking, I sprint to the jeep, grab the Browning A Bolt II out of its case, slam a round in the chamber plus two in the magazine and put the cross hairs on the hog that is now in the pond so that only the top half of his body is showing. Holy crap, he is part cormorant as well as part dove – that is a very special hog. Frank urgently whispers, “shot him quick before he fully submerges.” I’m concerned about hitting the water so I aim 2 inches above the water at where his shoulder is and BAM.
The hog “stumbles”, runs out of the water and starts up the embankment – once he is over it, we will lose sight of him as he goes into the brush or simply flies away. So I chamber another round with Frank saying – ”shoot him again”. BAM, I hit him in the hind quarter as he starts to go over the embankment and we lose sight of him. As we rush out to and over the embankment, I step in a huge hole, fall over mightily and scatter shotgun shells all about – doh!. We find the hog dead just over the top of the embankment, the first shot having gone through both lungs while the second hit right in front of the hindquarter but fortunately did not get into the belly. You can see the wet mark on his skin to judge how far he was into the water when I shot. The TSSX 110 gr Federal (Barnes bullet) had really expanded even on entry as you can see from the large entry wound on the carcass. The bullet was lodged in the skin on the other side, weighed 110.039 grains - 100% retention, and was very flattened. Compare the “Federal”110 gr Barnes TSSX to the 150 gr. Hornady (also out of a hog) in the picture.
Frank tells me that is the “fastest” pig he’d ever harvested – we’d been dove hunting for less than 2 minutes when the $5000 flying pig was on the ground dead. What a kick although I’d have been more comfortable paying the $5000 flying pig fee if they had let me keep the wings or at least let me get a picture before they were removed and destroyed. The blood spot on the shoulder is where JS cut the wing off before he’d take a picture. Apparently, there is a government conspiracy to keep these amazing pigs secret so I can only show you what looks like a regular hog. Something to do with legions of flying attack pigs being sent off to Afghanistan... We later saw a couple of sows with the smallest piglets I’d ever seen - Frank figured were 5 days old or less so the wings had not sprouted yet.
After the flying pig rush, dove hunt #1 was great fun but quite humbling. We managed to de-fly 7 birds the first evening – there were relatively few flying according to Frank and hitting them was a real challenge for us. No amount of skeet & trap would have gotten us really prepared. Damn doves:
1) ARE NOT bright orange,
2) DO NOT fly in a straight line
3) DO NOT break apart from a single pellet
Furthermore, even after you knock one down; finding the bird is a challenge. “WHAT FUN!” Those birds were consumed for dinner along with Catalina venison burgers. I’m sure any number died simply of “Shock & Awe” due to the noise and vast amount of lead we put in the air for when we cleaned them; we couldn’t find a mark on any number of them.
Dove #2: The next morning just before sunrise we headed out for dove #2 but got way laid by a massive herd of 50-60 wild hogs feeding on the edge of one of the bottom land “farmer fields”. We watched them for a while – an amazing site and at the lead was a large boar Frank figured was 300+ lbs. They headed off for the brush as the sun (and heat) was coming up. Then, before we could get to the river edge to set up for dove, we got way laid again. This time by a herd of antelope – we stalked them but got busted about 100 yds out. The females all got nervous but the buck of the harem didn’t seem to care about us so while the females pranced and dashed in small circles, the buck casually watched as we got to within 40 yds. Then he turned and trotted off with his whole harem behind him. How cool was that!
Finally, we got to a dove spot and we again were humbled. Frank was able to spot them from a fair distance and we learned a lot on anticipating and leading so we did end up with 18 birds by the time the admiral said “enough, my shoulder is going to get sore if we don’t stop.” We saw, shot at and even knocked a few feathers of some Eurasian doves but didn’t knock any down – you got to get them up close or hit ‘em twice Frank said. It was nearing 10 am and getting warm so we did a tour of part of the ranch - drove out a to the old pig camp and saw several sets of hogs ranging from 2 sows with 3 piglets to 11 adults out in broad daylight , a coyote, road runners, a bob cat and all sorts of raptors Stopped back at the camp to clean the birds have lunch, and I check my ‘06 to be sure I hadn’t knocked the scope out of alignment when I fell with it the evening before (nothing in chamber and safely on) - it was still right on, whew.
End part 1, part 2 coming up.