By Eric Christensen
When I was a little boy growing up in a small cowboy town in Wyoming, I remember often watching old westerns with my dad on TV, thinking about someday visiting some of those magical settings. Hot desert terrain with tumble weeds rolling by, with dust devils turning up the dirt in barren landscapes.
Years later, we finally traveled to central Texas to do some hog hunting with Howard Tiden, owner of Arrowhead Outfitters. My vision of what Texas would be like was shattered as we drove down HWY 90. I thought I was driving through a rain forest. Tall, lush, green grass grew tall and as far as I could see in every field. All the trees where full of new leaves. Large prey birds could be scene scanning the country for a meal or perched on top of the large trees that lined the highway. Lakes and ponds were plentiful, dotting the fields as we traveled to our destination.
Howard has been operating pig hunts for over 25 years in Texas. We drove 20 minutes from a town called Cameron to the property that held the groups of wild hogs. We drove by a few old barns and found the house we would call home for the next few days. You could see a cleaning and animal preparing area in the back of the house, with a large metal tube frame and several hoists with gambles that allowed you to drive your truck through and hoist the animals out of the truck to skin and clean them. Two old chest coolers were next the hoists to keep the meat cold.
Howard just recently added a couple more guest rooms onto the house. The house is built within a few hundred yards of a large pond in a beautiful field, surrounded by thick foliage. The guest house has five rooms and can accommodate 5-8 hunters comfortably. The cooking is done at the lodge and we were served local cuisine style meals. The locally caught catfish tasted superb and all the meals were very good. The lodge is not extravagant by any means, but is ideal for a Texas pig hunt and does well to make you feel at ease.
The first evening that we were able to hunt was spent learning most of the boundaries and setting out corn rows before the feeders to keep the pigs coming into that area. The ranches are several thousands of acres in size, with lush grasses and foliage. Thick brush and open fields made up most of the landscape, a perfect setting for pigs to flourish in. Tall oak trees towered over the dense brush and littered the property. Small rolling hills and creeks were hidden from the main road’s view and it was beautiful to find them popping out as we surveyed the land.
The creek’s had immense trails of pigs using the bottoms to reach different fields to feed each night. I’ve seen elk make wallows during mating season, but I had never seen pigs wallow in the wild. The wallows were rich with fresh mud and surprisingly larger than I had expected. Blinds were staged in eye-sight of the wallows and needed to be hunted cautiously as the wind in the bottoms can be unpredictable. Howard explained how most of the pigs used the landscape to travel to and from feeding grounds. You could tell his years of hunting the ranches has taught him where to place the blinds and his hunters. The blinds were constructed well, with easy access inside the blinds and placed strategically with the surrounding forest.
We sat on a blind the first evening overlooking three large fields that the pigs frequented often. Checking shooting lanes and distances was cut short when three whitetail deer appeared and started feeding in a dry creek bed. They were at 250 yards and their eye sight caught our movement very quickly. I’m so amazed that wildlife has developed their senses over evolution. I could barely see the outline of these deer and yet, they could see me move in a dark, blind, 2×2 hole several hundred yards away. The whitetails kept our attention for several minutes before feeding off. Enjoying the green, plush sight of our elevated blind, made waiting for pigs to feed by, very enjoyable.
After 45 minutes in the blind, Ray and I heard rustling just behind our location. All of our attention was fixed on the bushes 100 yards to our south, hoping for a group of pigs to slowly work their way from cover. The sound was faint and sporadic and made us start to think a ground squirrel was gathering food on the forest floor. With no sound for several minutes, our attention changed to the north, where we could see the empty fields. Fifteen minutes passed. Suddenly a small, colored pig came feeding out of the bush, followed by 4-5 more larger pigs.
I told Ray to start burning memory and fixed my gun out of the south window trying to remain silent. Having never been around wild pigs, I figured their vision was much like the Javalina I’ve hunted in Arizona. But, these pigs were on to us very quickly. They jolted a few yards and started a steady pace away from our blind. Luckily, there was a small 2-track road a few yards from the edge of the pigs that travelled directly away from us. I set my Leupold scope to trace the edge of the road, hoping a larger pig would venture out and down the tire width lane long enough for me to squeeze off a shot. I watched as dark black on light brown bodies came in and out of focus among the tall grasses. It seemed like it would get dark before an adult pig would finally break from the cover.
A few seconds later, a large female finally emerged on to the road. Her hesitation in looking in our direction for a brief second gave me the chance I needed. I focused the crosshairs just behind the front shoulder and slowly squeezed off a round from my 7mm Magnum. I watched in delight as the dark colored female fell into the tracks, motionless. I was grateful for a clean kill and didn’t have to worry about tracking her through the thick brush.
We made our way to the downed pig as our evening hunt quickly came to an end. I was pleasantly surprised at how large the female pig was. Shortly after darkness took over the old road, we heard Howard driving back to our stand. We loaded up the pig to take it back to the lodge for dressing. We drove the truck under the hoist and I prepared the legs to accept the gamble’s arms. Lifting the pig’s weight slowly and high enough for the truck to drive away allowed me to work the hide off the animal and remove the insides. Gut buckets are available to contain the waist and bones during preparation. It was effortless to take care of my pig and the chest freezers next to the skinning station were perfect. Being able to freeze my meat and keep hunting was a great bonus.
With over 100,000 free ranging acres to look for pigs, Arrowhead Outfitters has very unique wild boar hunting opportunities. Most operations make you pay for a certain amount of pigs, even sometimes by the size of pigs taken, but not at Arrowhead. Their hunts are not only all inclusive, but you can also shoot as many pigs as you want to take care of. That’s right, you can shoot all the pigs you can take home with you! This unique set-up is a blast and made me start planning another trip to bring my kids along to start their hunting career in Texas. The great opportunity for success is a perfect setting for kids to have fun shooting at animals without the pressure of a hard-to-draw tags. I can’t wait to go back down and hunt with Arrowhead Outfitters in the future.