Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On the line: Cazadora's first wild pig hunt

The prospects for this weekend's pig hunt were starting to look pretty bad.

Though I normally shoot decently with a rifle, I'd had two lousy sessions in a row at the shooting range, and my hunter safety instructor's words were pounding my head like a bad hangover: If you can't hit your target on the range, you have no business hunting.

You see, this is not only my first pig hunt, but my first big-game hunt. I've never done this before. I have no experience to draw from, no wellspring of confidence to tap.

My nightmare scenario is shooting an animal so poorly that I wound it and lose it, leaving it to suffer until it succumbs to four-legged predators, or leaving it gimpy for the rest of its life. I understand I may not be so lucky as to drop an animal with the perfect shot. Hell, I know from experience on the family farm that even a domestic pig is hard to kill with a gun point blank - I'll tell those stories here some day.

Still, it's really important to me that when I shoot an animal, it dies quickly to avoid prolonged suffering.

That's why Friday's target practice with Boyfriend's .270 made me cranky and Wednesday's made me downright depressed. My shots were all over the place. The problem, I think, is that I was having a hard time holding the gun still. Been a little stressed lately.

So I regrouped. I took one of my favorite anti-stress vitamins (B6), had one less cup of coffee when I got up this morning, went back to bed and slept until noon, then headed to the range.

When I got there, my grip on the gun was much more steady, and the first three shots I fired came out beautifully - not the bulls eyes my Virgo soul craves, but definitely dead pig.

That's what I'm talkin' about! I shouted into the wind.

Then I stuck my nifty sticker over those shots and went back for five more.


Again, not Perfection, but definitely Dead Pig.

I was feeling pretty good about this. Fine, Dr. Caso, I'll stop drinking three cups of coffee a day. Deal.

Then it was back to the bench for another round. I put in three close to the bulls eye and then fired my first bad shot of the day. I could feel myself pulling as I was getting ready to squeeze the trigger. The shot went an inch and a half off the black.

But it still wasn't that bad. It wasn't an ideal shot. But I learned from it. Next time I took a shot, I felt that wobble starting and I stopped myself from pulling the trigger.

Good girl! Lesson learned - no wounded pig.

And when I went to retrieve the target and looked at the back, I was pleased to see how tightly grouped most of my shots were. I had five clustered tightly around the bulls eye, and seven more still in the kill zone.

That's the kind of shooting I'm accustomed to. What was an average shot for my past two outings was now my worst shot of the day.

I was feeling like a smart gambler: Having done well, I was going to quit while I was ahead. I packed my bag and went home, glad to have regained the confidence that had eluded me.

I know now that I can shoot; now, I just have to find a pig.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Phillip said...

Shoot well, and the pigs will come. Or something like that.

Anyway, glad to see you're back in black, so to speak, and feeling a little better about the hunt.

Should be big fun in the central CA hills, and I predict pork for someone's dinner after all is said and done.

Ken said...

We knew a state hunter once, Lavis Cranford. Lavis said that he had to hunt wild pigs on the Hearst Estate. They had gone feral and interbred for several generations. Some of them were tiny and others were tiny tanks. The undergrowth was so thick he had to hunt from horse back and shoot with a heavy calibre revolver. He wasn't getting any long shots and those pigs were getting close and personal. He made my job sound a lot better. Ken

Hunting with JIm said...

Glad to see your back on target Holly...but let's just say I'm glad that i'll be standing behind you...WAY behind you...with my camera rolling continuously. No pressure.

Blessed said...

Looking good!

Jim sounds like the guys I hunt with - with friends like that who needs enemies :)

Good luck and bring home some pork for dinner!

SimplyOutdoors said...

Those shots look like a dead pig to me. It is amazing how different we shoot when we just relax!

Phillip said...

Can't remember who said it first, so long ago, but it rings true...

There's too much focus on "Minute of Angle" in today's hunting crowd. Most of the time, all we really need is Minute of Critter.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Good luck this weekend and can't wait to hear how well it goes.

NorCal Cazadora said...

HWJ: Just for that, I'm gonna get my pig Friday night while you and your pardner are lolling around taking your sweet time getting to the hunt. If you're really nice, I'll open the ice chest so you can get a little B-roll of my dead piggie. Mwa ha haaaaaaaa...

Tom Sorenson said...

Great! I smell bacon fryin'!

Othmar Vohringer said...

Knowingly or unknowingly you stated a scenario that plagues many hunters.

When shooting it is vitally important to relax and not think too much so the brain can do its thing. Many shooters think too much rather than trusting instinct and the brains natural ability to do the right thing.

Also a problem that often occurs and makes for very bad shooting is trying to “will” the shot. This leads to target panic and “trigger happy fingers”. If this condition is prolonged the shooter thinks that he HAS to shoot each time he put the rifle up on his/her shoulder.

And finally, the two best moments to stop shooting is when everything goes just right or when things start to fall apart and nothing goes right.

Stopping when everything goes right leaves you with a good feeling of accomplishment (confidence) that will carry over to the next shooting season.

Keep on shooting when nothing goes right will stress the shooter out and the negativity will also be carried over to the next shooting season leading to self-doubt.

Sounds all good in your article and I wish you luck with your first hog hunt. Take it easy, relax and when that hog comes in think of an oversized duck. Nothing to it, you can do it. :)

NorCal Cazadora said...

There you go? Oink? Quack? What's the difference?

Dan said...

Good luck.

Never had much success with pigs, anyone that has is a master in my book.

I know when I'll miss, I start to shake and its all over but the crying.

When I don't have time to think and go on automatic, the shot always suprises me. I never remember squeezing the trigger, but I must have, because there's the game on the ground.

I'm rooting for you, no pun intented.

Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors said...

"There always hope with lead in the air" as Grandpappy James used to offer.

You'll do fine Holly.

Marian Love Phillips said...

Good Luck Holly - Take a deep breath, relax and pull the trigger! No guts no glory! :)
PS: Instructor did that on purpose to make you mad so you will strive to do better or he's a hogs butt! :)

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks, Marian!

And Jesse, funny you mentioned that. We'll be shooting in the condor range, which means these will be among the last lead shots fired there forever more.

sierraclubsistah said...

Tell us all about it Holly. Don't leave out One. Single. Detail.

Sounds like you've got lots of advice from people who actually know what they're talking about, which leaves me to wish you "Good Luck!"

mmmmmwwah! (air kiss)