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Slow Texas hunt gives time to think about feeders

Recently I took to the skies and headed to Texas. I love Texas and the conservative values that tend to flourish there. I love the hunting and the fishing and the great food too. I received an invite from a former Marine I served with to come down and hunt “pigs” with them. It was a great opportunity to visit with my former platoon members, and get away for awhile.. I got one more opportunity that I did not expect. The “pig” hunt we were going on was at a ranch and it was for Russian boar, not feral hogs as I had assumed. Furthermore, I knew that much of this type of hunting was done around feeders. For those of you readers that need a crash course, a feeder is a device that slings corn or whatever you put in it at preset times each day to attract the game to the area. 

I am a Virginia boy. We don’t hunt with feeders, around feeders or use feeders. I know our neighbors across the river now use feeders for deer hunting and many other states do allow them. I personally have an issue with the idea, so much so that I nearly backed out of the hunt. However, the opportunity to see my fellow Marines, and get away for a few days was too much to pass up. 

The ranch we stayed at was in east Texas and very down to earth. Bunk beds in a cabin like setting on a pond were standard. The old plank porch was awesome minus the fact that two huge copperheads and a rattler had been shot from it the night before. I wore snake chaps to my stand after hearing that story. The habitat was near Neotropical with high heat and humidity, but lush, scrubby vegetation to include oaks, briars and other smaller trees. It was definitely summertime as the sweat readily poured off the body while doing anything more than sitting in the shade. 

The first day we drove into camp and met the owners allowed us time to find a stand and go sit. I still was not thrilled about the prospect of hunting over corn. It was just “wrong” as I was raised. I climbed up into the stand overlooking the feeder set in the deeper part of the woods and sat, and sat, and sat and sat some more. All the pig or boar tracks coming up to the blind led me to believe this was going to be a shoot, not a hunt. I sat for hours, more than I normally sit or can sit in the woods. Finally, right at dark, after counting a half dozen squirrels and a rabbit that visited the corn pile, a soft grunt was heard. I eased my 30-06 into position and waited. A black blur went by and paused just long enough to snag a mouthful of corn. Then it was gone. I never got a chance to even really look at it. Was it a boar?  Minutes dragged by and then the same critter burst back into view and streaked across the opening to draw fire I suppose. I did not bite. I had no idea how big it was. Surely it was being very careful as usually mature animals will behave. Still I had no real idea how big it was. Then it came sneaking back into view again, this time dancing and never staying long in one spot. I finally gauged the animal to be around 70 pounds, certainly not a huge boar or maybe not even large enough to shoot. I put my rifle down and continued to observe it. The boar was clearly very nervous despite a wind slipping directly away from it to me. It was not until a shot rang out from the other side of the ranch that he finally disappeared but he never stood in one spot more than a few seconds and often dashed back to the woods for a few minutes before returning while I observed him. In fact, it looked all around and rarely at my location. 

I was clearly surprised that no other boars or even deer came to the feeder. This was my first experience hunting near feeders and I expected an easy shoot. The ranch had not been hunted for two weeks prior to our arrival and we had been very quiet in our approach as well. 

The next morning I was back on stand at another location and sat until lunch without seeing one deer or one boar. There were a few doves, some squirrels and a rabbit that came into view to enjoy the corn but no big game animals despite all the tracks on the trails that obliterated my footprints from the night before. I was back out on the stand again during the late afternoon and stuck it out until after dark without seeing more than a few squirrels. That gave me time to really reevaluate the use of feeders and hunting over them. Clearly there were plenty of boars and deer on the place as evident by the tracks but none were using the feeders save the one that was shot and the one I saw. Perhaps they were using them at night only? Well, in Texas hunting boars at night is legal and I went out to observe right after supper. The eerie red glow of the supposedly invisible (to the pig) infrared red light was beamed on the feeder. I sat there quieter than a mouse for hours and never saw one pig, boar or deer use that feeder. The other guys all reported the same thing. Given the lack of pressure that the ranch saw over the past month from hunters and the obvious numbers of tracks of animals I was very surprised. 

The debate came up among us at camp that evening/ early morning when we returned. I am firmly against using feeders to hunt over. Some guys asked what the difference was in hunting over a food plot or cornfield. There are differences as that food is grown and available all day and night long whereas the feeder only goes off to disperse grain at select times. However, hunting over a feeder is not shooting over a feeder as I suspected. Perhaps during times of low natural food supply the feeder would give you a clear edge, but I have to admit it did not make our shooting a sure thing by any means. Of the eight guys in camp only one of us saw a boar that was worth shooting. That boar still only weighed 120 pounds. I saw the only other boar.  

I am glad I went to Texas to hunt. Of course seeing my former Marine buddies was reason enough, but going on that trip taught me never to assume anything about hunting or shooting. I doubt I will ever want to hunt over a feeder. In all fairness I can say that it is not as easy as you might think. The animals don’t just come in on a string, so to speak. I would say they are no more susceptible to the feeder than a good field of corn or soybeans, based on my experience. It was definitely an interesting experience to say the least and it opened my eyes a little more about the debate. 

 

Mark Fike

 

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