Here we are with Part 8 of the Factory to Table series. It has been a long road and an amazing journey. And while I’d imagined how this series would go, sometimes the world has different plans. Before we jump in though, let me quickly bring you up to speed if you are just joining us.
About 9 months ago, as of writing this, I was thinking about a couple of things while hiking through the densely wooded mountains of North Idaho. One of the things that struck me was the number of different components and pieces that have to come together from all over in order for me to have a successful trip to the range or to go hunting. Between the rifle, ammunition, sling, suppressor, etc. While this is largely taken for granted when we walk into a sporting goods store, all of these products are coming from all over with their own unique histories if you will.
I also got to thinking about what would be a pretty awesome gun for up in these dense woods. Something where shots weren’t very far and you may spend more time carrying a gun than shooting it. So something light, compact and handy as well. And so, I was set on the path of my Factory to Table series.
In Part – 1 I flew out to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and built a 300 Blackout MiniFix with Q LLC. In Part – 2, also while there, I assembled and welded a Trash Panda 30 Caliber Silencer. Next in Part – 3, I drove up north and loaded some 188gr Selous Expanding Subsonic 300 Blackout with Discreet Ballistics. Part – 4 took me to Cole-Tac where I had a hand in sewing up a suppressor cover for my Trash Panda. In Part – 5 I met Edgar, of Edgar Sherman Design and sewed up a sling. Leaving New Hampshire I then drove to Pennsylvania. For Part – 6, I assembled a LEAP Scope Mount with Scalarworks for the Kahles K16i I had gotten. And then in Part – 7, I spent a number of days out in North Idaho, putting in time with the gun, stretching its legs and shooting groups.
While all that may seem like an adventure unto itself, it was just the beginning. The real challenge started when I began my hunt. No matter how much you try or how well you plan, sometimes things don’t quite work out. Luck can always creep in, and it isn’t always the good kind either.
I set out to hunt black bear up in the panhandle of Idaho. Since there are so many up here, it is legal to bait. This is beneficial in that you now have a known distance. As I mentioned earlier in a previous article, paraphrasing a friend, “Hunting with subsonic 300 Blackout is like hunting with a compound bow.” Your range becomes super important and you need to be relatively close. So I began baiting up in the mountains outside of the town of Wallace, ID. After filling my bait, doing a couple of burns, I continued to come back and keep my bait stocked and check my game camera.
It was working. I began seeing a couple of bears on my bait, though neither of them was that big. Under the guidance of a friend, who had taken quite a few bears over the years, he encouraged me to be patient and bigger ones may very well come in. This seemed like a good idea, not so much that I was looking for a huge trophy bear, but I had time. It was still early in the Fall of Bear Season.
As the season went on, I didn’t see any larger bears on the bait. And due to work obligations, I had to leave a few times which kept me from refilling the bait. That resulted in the bait going dry and one of the bears moving on, according to my game camera. Couple this with the fading light of fall, shortened days, and now the bear was largely showing up at night. It was not looking good.
I spent a number of days sitting on the bait, both early in the morning, during the middle of the day, or even the afternoon stretching into the night, camping out and sitting on it before dawn and into the morning. No luck. Then to make matters worse, we got some early snows with more in the forecast. Since the road to the bait isn’t maintained during winter, I had to pull the bait lest it get stuck up there and I not be able to access it.
So what now? Fortunately, that brought me into deer season. Up where I live there is a lot of whitetail deer. At least when you aren’t looking for them that is.
I refocused on deer hunting. Splitting my time between nearby accessible public land as well as occasionally making a trip up to a friend’s 20-acre property, which is a little over an hour north of me. Doing my best to fit all of this in between my other regular responsibilities.
I will say, sometimes you just feel like the deck is stacked against you. I could not get on a deer… Sometimes I would be set up, they would be coming down and then get spooked. Or I’d make a trip up to my friend’s place and after having driven over an hour one way, I’d find out they were doing a bunch of heavy construction at the adjacent property, making tons of noise. On top of that, there was some really strange weather which changed their patterning due to some early snows followed by warm weeks. Not to mention all the pressure on the deer on public land as we neared the end of rifle season.
There I was, in the last week of the season. The rut had started and bucks were out and moving. So I headed back into the mountains on a rarely traveled logging road. Low and behold, I spotted a beautiful buck down the steep hillside from me. It hadn’t spotted or scented me and I was able to get close, probably 40 yards above him. But the place was a mess of trees and brush.
The doe he was chasing knew better and bolted but he lingered for a moment, took a few steps further down the hill and then stopped. It wasn’t the best shot I was presented with, but it was THE shot I was given. The buck was facing away from me with his body obscured by downed trees and brush, with his neck and head exposed. I brought the MiniFix up, took it off safe, brought the crosshairs onto the back of his head at the base of his neck and fired.
The buck dropped and began kicking some. This prompted me to immediately work the action and squat down for a second to wait. I couldn’t see the deer due to the line of sight from where I was. I heard the kicks die down and stop. At this point I was ecstatic. The buck was beautiful, I was going to wrap up my series, get it quartered and still make it back to town to pick up my boys from school. Winning all around.
I walked a short way laterally but still couldn’t see the buck. If my round hit him in the neck, I didn’t want to jump him, I just wanted him to quietly bleed out, so I kept my distance. Then, as I took stock of my pack, thinking through processing the deer and taking a quick stock of things, I heard a crash. The buck was up, stumbling and then crashed into a mess of downed trees. I ran laterally trying to open up a clear shot. But he was up again and crashed down through brush a little bit further out of sight. It then became quiet again. Not wanting to lose the animal I headed down after it.
Since it had gone quiet, I fully expected to find it piled up on the other side of a small stand of trees, but it was gone. It had made it out of the brush into some widely spaced trees beyond my vision and disappeared. I spent the next two and a half hours searching for it. There was a very small blood trail that lasted maybe 20 yards, then nothing.
I’ll be honest, I was pretty devastated. I’ve never lost an animal and here I lost an incredible whitetail buck. I woke up thinking about what I could have done different for the next week or more. Also during that next week, I went out hunting every single day until the end of the season, to include Thanksgiving Day with my two young boys in tow. But to no avail.
While I was most certainly discouraged, I wasn’t ready to give up. I headed down to Texas to meet up with Todd Huey of Lone Star Boars and Huey Outdoors. It was time to hunt some feral hogs.
If you are unfamiliar with the problem that feral hogs pose, I’d encourage you to read up on it. They are estimated to cause about 1.5 billion dollars in agricultural damage per year. Not to mention they drive off and out-compete natural wildlife, to include eating and destroying many species eggs and young. They are a problem that won’t go away.
Todd Huey is an expert in his field though. He has culled probably over 8000+ feral hogs off of numerous ranches down in Texas over the last decade. He is a wealth of knowledge not only on their patterning and behavior but also on Thermal and Night Vision technology. So much so that he opened Huey Outdoors, which specializes in Thermal and Night Vision optics that he has used and vetted.
We initially tried our luck out in the swamps during the day. While pigs are not nocturnal by nature, the hunting pressure has made them so. But you never know till you try. So we headed through the swamps seeing what we could stir up. At one point we heard some pigs rooting around, but being as dense as the undergrowth was, we never did see them.
So that evening Todd helped me to zero a Pulsar Trail LRF onto the MiniFix. We then set out after the sunset, looking for hogs. Relatively early on we came across a boar tearing up a field. Using a PVS-14 night vision monocular to navigate, we moved up to about 50 yards from him. I quietly set up to take my shot.
The boar was facing us and while it was dark, it wasn’t very far past a full moon. There probably wasn’t too much time for us to act before he potentially saw us. Todd encouraged me to take my shot and I did. Lined squarely up on its head, the only thing really presented…
Being subsonic, and shooting suppressed, I heard the round hit. But not the sound of a round impacting meat. The boar stepped back and bolted for the far tree line. I racked another round in and tried for a follow-up shot. But between the speed it was moving, drop of the rounds and the lack of depth perception in the thermal, I missed. He was gone.
I was frustrated, to say the least. Upon reviewing the footage from the thermal my round impacted his head. Between the stoutness of the boar’s skull, the speed of the projectile, as well as the bullet design, lending itself to expansion versus penetration, the bullet seems to have skipped off its head.
** This also leads me to believe that something similar occurred with the buck. He was simply knocked out temporarily, which is why he looked drunk when he got on his feet initially, crashing into bushes. **
That right there pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. We could not get a break. Either they would spot us coming in the moonlight or the cattle would come to us, thinking they were getting fed and alert the hogs.
Finally, after having been hunting for about 12 hours straight, we got on a small group of hogs just before dawn. I approached from the truck making my way closer and closer. Eventually, I used the Laser Range Finder built into the Pulsar Trail to see how far I was. It said I was 78 yards away. Knowing my zero was at 50, I paced off the 28 yards.
Kneeling down to get more stable and wrapping my arm in the ESD Sling to further support my shooting position, I aimed in. The other pigs had retreated out of sight into the trees, leaving one standing broadside on the edge of the forest. Letting the crosshairs settle on the side of its head, not wanting to try for farther back and run the risk of hitting the cartilage armor plate on its shoulder, I squeezed the trigger.
I heard the thump and knew I had a good hit. The pig disappeared from sight as it rolled sideways. The rest of the hogs scattered deep into the woods. Slowly I made my way over to find the hog dead. One round to the side of the head.
While we can talk about skill and ability all day long, in the end, luck can rear its head, for better or worse. I felt like I was getting stonewalled at every turn this past year. What a journey it had been…
Join me in Part 9 when I wrap up the series. Bringing you my thoughts as I look back over this entire adventure.
You can see the video of Part – 8 below.