By Natalie Foster at A Girl’s Guide to Guns
It all began with an email from Nathan Dudney of Dynamic Research Technologies. We had met a few months earlier on a rainy April day at a Starbucks in Memphis. I was on my range tour trip for my website, GirlsGuidetoGuns.com, and he was in town for work. Over coffee that spring day, Nathan introduced me to DRT and its revolutionary new line of ammunition. I was sufficiently impressed with both Nathan and the products that we stayed in touch and I spread the word about the cool things happening over at DRT.
In June I was able to attend a law enforcement demonstration he held near my home in Los Angeles. Between grenade launching and ballistics gel demonstrations, the topic of hunting arose. The email I mentioned above came in early summer. It was an invitation to head to West Texas, which just happens to be my home turf, to shoot some wild hogs. The event solidified over the next few weeks and before I had a chance to think about it too much, I committed.
My hunting background is, well, nonexistent. Now, I did zap a fly with a fly gun a couple of months ago and I have swatted my fair share of mosquitos, but beyond that, I was a total newbie and, honestly, a little apprehensive about killing anything. I didn’t even dissect frogs in high school. Through college and into adulthood I would call my little sister to come and kill spiders for me. It is a fact I am not proud of. Despite all of that, or perhaps because of it, I knew I wanted to hunt. I grew up in a family of hunters, I eat meat and if that was not enough, I met Ted Nugent once, so I felt that I met all the basic hunting requirements.
October rolled around and it was time for me to head from LA to Dallas to meet up with Nathan. I had prepared myself emotionally for the trip but still was unsure as to how I would react to killing an animal. There was a small incident on Puget Sound a few weeks prior to the hunt that put the entire trip in jeopardy.
My fiance and I went salmon fishing with some friends one morning. Admittedly, I slept in the warm cabin of the boat while the men did all the work on deck. I was awakened by frantically giddy exclamations of the guys shouting, “fish on!” That was my cue to grab the camera. After all the necessary photos were taken, I assumed that we would toss the stunning specimen back in to the water as I had done several times before while fishing the Snake River. I was wrong.
Rather than throw the salmon back to the sea, out came what I refer to as a baby seal billy club. As the fish flopped on the deck audibly gasping for water, one of the guys grabbed the club and put the salmon out of its misery. Within moments the fish was sitting there lifeless in a casket of ice. I was in mild shock.
After the trauma of the salmon incident, I almost backed out of the hog hunt. I came up with a dozen excuses not to go, but ultimately I felt that none was as compelling as the importance of following through on a commitment. So off to Dallas I flew. Nathan met me at the airport and drove us a few hours west to the location.
The four-day-long hunt took place at Spike Box Ranch near Benjamin, TX. Guides Erik and Royce greeted Nathan and I upon arrival. Most of the group had settled in by the time we got there. It was nice to see the familiar faces of Joe Meaux of Red Jacket Firearms (also of Sons of Guns on the Discovery Channel) and Iain Harrison of Crimson Trace (also the first champion of Top Shot on the History Channel).
The rest of the group included Jacob Herman of Red Jacket Firearms, Sachal Baig of ATN, freelance writer Mike Herd, the Online Editor for Guns & Ammo, Ben O’Brien, brothers Jonathan and Stephen Owen of SHWAT.com (Special Hog Weapons And Tactics), and finally, my sidearm sister of the group, mounted shooting star Kenda Lenseigne. Red Jacket Firearms provided the AR-15 rifles and suppressors, American Technologies Network Corporation brought the night vision and thermal scopes, Crimson Trace demonstrated their laser sights on the guns and DRT Ammunition rounded out the sponsors list.
I am a bit of a diva when it comes to lodging and Spike Box was built for, well, dudes. It does, however, boast the most important ingredients for a successful stay: fantastic food, clean, comfortable beds and rooms without windows. The window thing might sound a bit counterintuitive but trust me, it comes in handy during a cloudless West Texas day after you have been stalking pigs all night long.
After dinner the first night we decided to get right to it. This was tactical hog hunting, after all, so I geared up in my 5.11 Taclite pants, 5.11 Response jacket and, unbeknownst to me, the worst tactical boots of all time (not 5.11). Though I had owned the boots for over a year, the blisters began to form on contact. I decided to muscle through the pain. Bad plan.
I jumped in to the truck with Stephen, Nathan and our guide Royce and headed to our designated section of the ranch. We made it to our space and tested the night vision and thermal technology a bit further. I asked questions anticipating that the guys would show me how it was done and that I would try my hand at hunting the following day. As it turns out, the guys were chivalrous gentlemen who wanted to let me go first, which would have been great if I had not been completely terrified.
About an hour in, we found our first herd. I was up to bat. Nathan and Stephen set me up and then backed off. I had a huge hog in my sights and, heart pounding, I took the shot. Squealing that sounded like screams echoed out across the field. It was disturbing, thrilling and confusing all at the same time. Where did they go? What do I do now? Do I only shoot once? Sensory overload set in as the guys told me to continue to shoot. And I shot at anything out there that moved. There were definitely some misses, but Nathan and Stephen said that I had several good hits, as well. I have yet to determine whether they were telling the truth or simply cushioning an insecure first-timer’s feelings.
I had been told that these hogs were tough to kill, but seriously? I had no idea it was going to be as challenging as it was. If I did kill one that night, we never found it. As we headed back to the bunkhouses, however, the guys spotted a coyote stalking some rabbits. They told me to go for it, so I hopped out of the truck, knelt down and took two shots, both of which were solid hits. Thank God. The sliver that was left of my ego had been spared. My first confirmed kill was not porcine, but canine. That fact was a little tough for me to swallow, but the 4 AM factor was in full force and rather than dwell on it, I prepared for the morning hunt and headed for bed.
The following day Erik, one of the other guides, volunteered to teach me how to hunt in a blind. Erik is a storied individual with a molasses-like drawl and a sense of humor the size of Texas. He is also about a foot shorter than me. We made quite the pair.
As we walked up to the blind we were surprised to find a dozen hogs at the feeder waiting for us. With safety as the primary objective, we scrambled up in to the blind and prepped the guns as quietly as possible which, for us, meant detaching from the gun what felt like a 5-ton night vision scope that rattled like a railroad. Needless to say, we scared off the big boys under the feeder.
A few little guys were left so Erik and I set our rifles up in the window of the blind. Whispering, he told me to take the first shot and he would follow up. We each chose a target and, on the count of three, I squeezed the trigger. The pigs scattered immediately and, quickly climbing out of the blind, we stalked the one I hit. Now, ideally the kill I wanted to make, and wrongly assumed I would make every time, was an ethical, one-hit kill. I had no idea how difficult that would be with these wild hogs. My little piggy made it about 25 yards and then expired. Erik tracked the blood trail, which was a little too CSI for my tastes, and found my hog for me. I named him George.
The following evenings and days, which were filled with blind hunts and night stalks, blurred together due to a lack of sleep and far too much Monster energy drink. One day I sat in a blind by myself for a few hours spotting nothing but a perfect West Texas sunset, which, incidentally, made the afternoon in the blind entirely worth it. Another evening I went out with Joe, who insisted that I try the night vision helmet. In my tac gear and night vision I looked more like a tragic ComiCon interpretation of Robocop than a legit hunter. The good news is that I can no longer ever take myself too seriously. With Ben OBrien taking the lead, though, I brought down my largest pig of the hunt with that night vision helmet.
Jonathan and Stephen of SHWAT were wonderful to hunt with, even at 3 am, and really helped me become comfortable as a hunter, despite the Louboutin-like blisters I complained about the entire time. I later had the privilege of being present for an epic co-stalk in which Joe gently nudged a massive hog in the direction of a stealthy Ben who took the pig at 10 yards right between the eyes with a muzzle loader. Apparently that does not happen often. The guys were pretty excited.
I had accomplished the first part of my goal with the hunts, but the mission was not complete. It was imperative to me that I learn how to clean the animal I shot. I felt that I owed it to the pig somehow. I wanted to know that I could do it. And of course, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I wanted to know that I could handle the task of procuring my own food.
This was probably not exactly the task that experienced hunters were standing in line to teach the new girl, but Nathan, Ben and Erik kindly took the time to help me field dress the pig. And it was awesome. There is plenty of documentation of this event that will never see the light of day, but I can tell you that when I showed my brothers the photos I had to pick their jaws up off the floor. Their reaction: “I still don’t believe it happened.” Me: “I knew you would say that so I got video.”
Shockingly, I had no qualms whatsoever about skinning and gutting the hog. I was expecting a nightmare or some sort of pig haunting, but alas, nothing. As my friend and mentor Barbara Baird said sarcastically, “wow, it is almost as if you are genetically predisposed to hunt or something.” Point taken.
Overall, this hunt was the adventure of a lifetime for me. One that opened the door to a world of which I never thought I would be a part. I walked away from Spike Box Ranch with a new view on life (you get pretty philosophical sitting in a blind by yourself for hours on end), new and deepened relationships that I treasure, and much like the first time I shot a gun, a new confidence in myself. My conclusion about hunting could be summed up in the answer I gave Nathan when he asked me how I felt about my trip. I thought about it for a moment and then simply asked, “Can we do it again?”
What surprised me the most was that I did not feel remorse over my kill. I felt respect. Respect for the animal. Respect for food. Respect for God’s creation. And most importantly, respect for myself. I can only hope that more and more women of all ages will feel more comfortable with hunting and take advantage of opportunities like this. I am now on a mission to give them that chance.
Fore more from Natalie – www.GirlsGuideToGuns.com