Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hunting Near Hamilton

 This year, after not hunting for a couple years, I bought back in on the deer lease near Hamilton. It’s just now getting cool enough for me to go down there and, just from the two times I’ve been, I can tell I made the right decision. It is a great place to get away from town and be close to nature.
 Almost six years have passed since we first leased this place and there have been a lot of changes. The farmer has cut trees and planted more fields; the fences have been moved around or removed; but the biggest changes have been caused by an invasion of feral hogs. The little devils have nearly exterminated the wild turkeys by eating their eggs and the deer are scarcer. I really don’t care about killing deer and turkey any more, but I do want to get rid of some of those pigs. Mostly though, I just want to walk around in the day and spend some cool nights camped out.
Hogs have already started tearing up the new oat crop.

 Last Monday I took the photo above that shows the new oat crop with a big wallow where the hogs have already started tearing up the field. I went home Tuesday night and returned Wednesday to find the farmer plowing the oats under. When I asked him why he was plowing it under he just told me he had planted the wrong kind of seeds and would have to replant. By late afternoon that beautiful green field was plowed sandy loam.
 I went to a place where I had seen the most obvious signs of pig activity and poured out a bag of corn then watched until after dark. It is legal to hunt varmints and hogs after dark with a light. Several deer came to the field and seemed bewildered by the fact the greenery was gone. They just walked around in the dirt picking at the few green sprigs that were left. After dark a half dozen pigs showed up and ran off the deer. I took a shot using a light with a red lens, but missed.
 There are three other guys hunting with me on 425 acres. Even with the large, cultivated field with no trees or cover, we have found 100 acres per hunter is enough area for safe and enjoyable outdoor fun. We rarely see each other when we are hunting because we have designated areas we hunt. There are also lots of times when I go during the week and have the whole place to myself.
OCT. 29, 2013
Deer season opens this coming Saturday;  the first Saturday in November. The weather is usually too warm for hunting in Texas in November. The mosquitoes and other bugs are still swarming. The snakes are looking for a place to spend the winter and are more active than any other time of the year. Winter comes suddenly in Texas. Fall lasts about a day then it comes and goes but never stays long. One day the wind will swing around to the north and a blast of cold air will dispatch the summer pests and put a chill in the air for a week or so then the sun will be back a couple of days. Before the end of November the first frost will come, the leaves will fall and winter sets in and we get the coldest temperatures in February.
 Deer season in our area ends in mid January and there is no closed season on feral hogs or exotic game. There are quite a few high fenced areas across the state where non-native animals are raised for "canned" hunts. There's no sport to paying big bucks to shoot something like a captive fallow deer. However, it is kind of fun when one of those African critters gets out of its fence and strolls in front of your rifle sights. They are not protected by hunting regulations and some are very tasty.
 I learned to hunt in New Mexico, so I realize a lot of people who read this will be a little confused by the hunting techniques and laws in Texas. For example, comfortable stands to sit in, large capacity feeders with automatic timers and trail cameras are very popular. Below are some samples taken by one of the cameras set up on the west side of our lease.

 The cameras are activated by a motion sensor and at night they use infrared and render black and white photos. As you can see, there's at least one nice buck visiting Chris' feeder. He looks like a four year old that has been getting plenty of protein in his diet.

Friday Nov. 1, 2013 (One day before deer season opens)

 I made it to the lease around 3:00 and the other three guys were already there. I made a quick run over to one of the feeders to fill it with corn and set up my new trail camera. I have decided to go ahead and use a feeder and camera this ear to try and learn a little more about the habits of the feral hogs and the game animal. Besides, I think some of the pictures will be pretty cool.
This picture of a little doe is one of the first I've taken with a game camera. She definitely noticed something out of place when she saw the camera strapped to a tree.
 Friday evening John, the newest member of our hunting party, cooked four huge steaks and a skillet full of potatoes, onions and mushrooms. It was a feast. Welcome to the group John.
 The evening before the hunting season starts is traditionally spent visiting, telling stories, eating and drinking. There's nothing quite like a party around a campfire in the middle of nowhere.

Opening morning, Saturday Nov 2, 2013

 The alarms went off two hours before dawn and everyone made it to their blinds and waited for the sun to come up. The early morning darkness is filled with the sounds of owls, whippoorwills, and coyotes. There had been only a sliver of a moon that night so, when the sun came up, there was lots of activity. All of us saw deer and they were all running and chasing one another. It is just about time for the rut and the big bucks are busy choosing their mates and fighting off young bucks that want to get in on some of the action. The deer are absolutely crazy this time of year an fun to watch.
 Nobody fired a shot the first three days. We are not hunting for meat this early because it is best to wait until the weather is cold. There are at least four trophy size bucks on our lease.

Dec.18, 2013
 I can't believe I let so much time pass before going back to check on my camera and feeder. I had around five hundred photos that included a coyote, bobcat, raccoons, squirrels, wild pigs, and yes, even deer. Below is a sampling. I think the one that shows an ear and part of a head is a curious bobcat. As he climbed the tree to investigate something new, the motion sensor activated the camera and just got the top of the critters head.

The deer all disappeared when the bob cat showed up.
Notice the time stamp is one minute before the one on the picture of the bobcat's hear above.
 Before I went home this time I unfastened one of the panels that keep the pigs out. I hope next time I check on this feeder I'll have pictures of pigs inside the pen. The time stamps may help me determine some kind of pattern so I can be there at the right time to shoot some pigs. THE END

 Here it is May and this lease has proven to be both the most expensive and the most disappointing I've ever been involved with. I actually started to delete the entire entry but decide to leave it just because there are some interesting photos.

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