It seems like a week ago that I did the last Gun notes and we were 2 months away from the next. Now we are one month away. we have about 35 hunters signed up so far and should add another 10 or 12 in the next month. I always look forward to these hunts as it gives me a couple of days to clear my head and act normal. Plus I get to see some old friends that I may only see once a year, maybe twice in a good year. The Handgun Hunting Challenge (HHC) has been called “not just a hunt, but a gathering of friends”, and that tells it all. The October hunt is always a special hunt as everything is still green and the brush is thick and we have to really hunt hard for our game. Plus the corn field. That is probably the most popular hunting area of all. It is many acres of extremely thick corn stalks, growing not to harvest, but to feed the hundreds of critters that hang out there. It is so thick that a big hog could easily be 5 feet from us and we can’t see him.

On one occasion Kase and I were easing thru the corn stalks (and I use the term easing loosely as it is so thick you have to part the stalks with your arms and lean your body against them to get thru.) Kase and I heard some crunching, obviously some hogs munching on ears of corn. We pushed our way thru the stalks and finally were able to part the stalks expecting to see some hogs munching away. Instead we were nose to nose with several Australian Water buffalo. We quickly and as quietly backed off. Discretion is often the better part of valor. There were several cows with calves in the group and that could have been interesting. But that is how the corn field is, lots of excitement. In the March hunt the corn field is gone and plowed up ready for the spring planting. But the fall hunt is great.

On another of the fall hunts Sean Harper was maybe 3 feet behind me on a video camera. I heard some crunching noise to one side and stepped thru 2 rows of corn to check it out. But in those 6 feet, I lost Sean. I heard him whispering “where are you, I don’t see you anymore”. And he was no more than 2 rows of corn over from me, maybe 5 feet.

On another of the hunts we had a famous Montana hoodlum there and he brought his daughter with him. He wasn’t as happy about walking thru the corn field. We had told him some stories about how the hogs would knock him down and eat him. Plus a lot of other stories, mostly lies. He was maybe 3 rows over from me and about even with me. We were doing a drive trying to run some hogs out to some other hunters at the far end. As we walked thru the rows, I would pull a large ear of corn off a stalk and heave it up and over figuring it would land with a lot of noise just ahead of this Montana miscreant. Each time I would yell for him to watch out that I had seen a big hog coming his way. I had him so keyed up that if a hog had run out toward him I think he would have had a seizure. By the time we got to the end of the field he was ready to get the hell out of there. He talked for an hour about these hogs that charged him and how he stood still and they didn’t see or hear him and went away. That was mean, but if you can’t screw with your buddy’s head, then something is wrong.

I haven’t had a chance to get with Alan Wilson yet about the game available but he always has a large herd of bull and cow elk at great prices, about 1/4 of what it would cost you out here in elk country. he usually has a lot of red Stag. he has exotic deer by the hundreds, Fallow, Sika and Axis. Lots of exotic sheep also, the merino, Painted desert, Corsican, the very unusual 4 horn and some really nice Dall sheep. Wild boar by the hundreds, and lots of unusual critters like the Muntjac, the little 20 lb deer that has fangs and barks like a deer. Also called the Chinese Barking Deer.

On one of my hunts to Tellico Junction, another preserve a bit farther east in Tennessee, (now sold and in private hands for some big lumber company’s employees only) one of our guys had a drinking problem. Actually he didn’t have a drinking problem. He drank fine. He just had a walking problem. Anyway, he had sat on the crest of a bluff watching for some special critter for maybe an hour. He got tired of waiting and decided to take a nip of courage (he always had a bottle or flask with him). After emptying the bottle he decided a nap was in store. Shortly after nodding off in a drunken stupor, he awoke to a 20 lb animal staring at him from about 5 feet, barking like a dog. He also noticed the animal had fangs, maybe 3” long out of each side of his mouth. Somehow he managed to get to his feet and run like hell down the mountain with the monster fanged creature following him, barking and snapping his jaws.

He told us the story maybe 6 times in the next 2 or 3 hours, each time the fanged monster getting bigger. Each of us knew it was a Muntjac but decided to go along with his story, telling him he was damn lucky the animal didn’t bite him, that they were known to be blood suckers. If I remember right he gave up drinking right after that.

On another hunt at Tellico, Joe Meeks, the owner, had bought a big Nilgai from a ranch in Texas, the Sunflower ranch if I remember right. or some flower name. It was owned by an elderly lady. The Nilgai has stomped and gored a ranch hand to death and the lady wanted him off the ranch. Talking to a gun writer friend later he said there had been 3 or 4 ranch hands either severely injured or killed by Nilgai thru the years. Joe was down there buying exotic critters for his place and she made him a great price. They loaded the Nilgai into the horse trailer with the Nilgai fighting all the way. By the way a Nilgai is also called a Devil Horse, because he has short horns, maybe 9 or 10 inches and is the size of a big horse. And they are extremely ill tempered. On the way back to Tennessee the Nilgai almost destroyed one of the stalls in the big horse trailer. When they got to Tellico, Joe backed the truck up to the gate of his place and put his guys on each side holding 4X8 sheets of plywood to make sure the Nilgai went into the preserve, and not run off in another direction. As the Nilgai came out the trailer like the proverbial bat out of hell, it turned and slammed into the sheet of plywood that Joe and one of his hands was holding up, both horns piercing the plywood and coming close to Joe’s chest. The animal finally went in the right direction but not before letting Joe know he was fair game. .

For the next couple of weeks the Nilgai ran several hunters off the hill. Joe told them he was not for the taking as he had promised him to me. When I arrived about a month after the Nilgai became king of the hill, Joe walked into the pasture with us and one of the guides. I could tell he was slightly nervous, also known as scared shitless. Anyway as we got to the base of the hill, Joe said he would stay down at the bottom and watch for us down there. At the time I hadn’t heard all the stories and even if I had I probably wouldn’t have believed them. The guide took me straight up the hill, and I mean straight up. The Contender stuffed down the back of my pants so I could use both hands to pull my way up the cliff. As we got to the top where the Nilgai was known to hang out, the guide spotted him and told me to be real quiet, as quiet as a dead mouse. Ahead I could see the Nilgai about 75 yards off standing behind some trees that covered most of his head and that was the reason he didn’t see us. He was watching down the hill and both of us could tell he wanted what was down there. I realized it was Joe down there behind a big boulder. He must have made some noise or something and the Nilgai spotted him. The guide told me if I could take a shot, to do so before he spotted us. I was using the prototype of my 450 GNR and had the Hornady 350 grain soft point loaded up to what I considered max for the Contender (this was way before the Encore). I had a spot between 2 trees where his shoulder was exposed and I put the bullet thru there. At the shot the Nilgai screamed like a woman and reared up on his hind legs. He then started hopping like a kangaroo on his hind legs. I stepped out from behind the tree and pitched the Contender down in the leaves and pulled a Grizzly 45 Magnum out of my shoulder holster. I had it loaded with the Silhouette bullets that at the time looked pretty flimsy to me. The Nilgai started hopping toward me (probably wanted to dance with me). I put 2 rounds into his chest at the base of his neck. That turned him away. I hit him again in a Texas heart shot. At that he started hopping down the hill, going into a tumble about 30 yards downhill and rolling to the bottom. We started easing down the hill and again easing is just a word when it is straight up and down. About half way down we just gave up and slid on our asses. As we got to the bottom Joe was still behind the rock. The Nilgai had rolled right over the rock Joe was behind. I noticed Joe was still on his knees and realized that praying is a lot easier when you are on your knees. Joe was still shook up. All he could say was he looked up over the rock and the Nilgai was about 30 yards from him still on his hind legs hopping and coming straight at him. Right then Joe knew he was dead meat.

We checked the Nilgai out and the first shot had broken both shoulders exiting the off side. This was the reason for the Kangaroo hopping. The three 45 caliber Silhouette bullets had done some internal damage to him but the first shot had blown up both lungs so his time was limited but still long enough to give Joe some gray hairs.

On another hunt at Tellico (we were there 28 times over 8 years) as we went over some precautions before heading up the hill, Joe told us to be on the watch for a big red European hog. The hog had cut a hunter a few days before that and chased another off the hill. I wasn’t looking for a hog so I played only minimal attention to him. I was looking for a really big Fallow buck that was somewhere in the several thousand acre preserve. As we got to the top of the ridge and started walking the edge of it so we could see down into the lower areas below us, the guide grabbed my arm saying “stop stop stop!”. Just ahead of us at maybe 15 yards was the big red hog. He was looking right at us swinging his head from side to side. The guide kept muttering “oh shit”. I had the Auto Mag in a shoulder and pulled it out. I had a head on shot and figured I could put one in his head easily enough. This was before I learned not to try to put a bullet in a hog’s head from the front. I took the shot with the Hornady 265 grain soft point that the 44 Auto Mag loved. At the shot the hog squealed and ran to one side. The guide kept yelling “hit him again”. I took 3 more shots at him broadside at maybe 30 yards. But hitting the vitals on a hog hauling ass is not easy. As the hog went into some heavy brush the guide grabbed me by the shirtsleeve and said we could head the hog off as he ran down the hill. We took a similar path but one that was clear whereas the hog was running thru some heavy brush. As we got to the bottom just as the guide said the red hog came barreling out of the brush maybe 20 yards away from us. I shot 2 more times, the first shot hitting a 2” thick tree and passing thru it and hitting the hog. The guide said I had hit the hog good with the second shot and said I had hit him at least 2 times up the hill when we first started this jamboree. He said we needed to follow the hog into the brush. I looked down at the Auto Mag and the slide was locked back, empty. I looked over at my gunsmith, Mike Thompson who had video’d the whole thing and asked him for his Redhawk in 41 GNR. I put the Auto Mag back in the holster and all 3 of us started easing thru the brush. About 20 yards ahead of we saw the big hog. He was lying in the edge of some brush lying with his front legs facing us and his head resting on his legs, much like a dog will lie. As I started walking slowly up to him with the 41 GNR cocked, the big hog just lay there. At first I thought he was dead, but to be sure as I got to about 25 feet of him I put one round into the front of his shoulder. Nothing. He didn’t move a muscle. I continued up with the gun still cocked. As I got to about 10 feet from him I saw him blink and I realized he was still alive and looking right at me. I told him to get off his lazy ass and said something really bad about his Mother and it worked. He came up and at me. I emptied the last 5 rounds from the 41 GNR into him at literally point blank range. He dropped maybe 2 feet in front of me. I looked back at Mike and said “I hope you got that on film” he said he got every bit of it. I have shown the video to several folks since then when they say hogs are easy to kill, just shoot them and they fall over and die. This big hog had 10 holes in him including the first one that had actually glanced off his hard head. We gutted him there and his heart was in tiny little pieces and there was a lot of hard clotted blood in his chest cavity telling us that he had been dead on his feet since the rounds up the hill. He was running on pure adrenalin. I have that hog full mounted and in my trophy room. I felt he deserved that.

Tellico Junction was sort of like Wilderness Hunting Lodge in that they let you hunt however you like. On one hunt as we got to Tellico, there were 6 or 8 other hunters, all black, getting into 2 mini vans heading out. Most of them had arms and legs bandaged up and were limping and helping their buddies into the vans. I asked Joe what was going on. He said they were from Detroit and wanted to kill the hogs with big stabbing knives, almost as long as a machete. They told him they wanted to do it all themselves and under no circumstances was Joe to intervene or help them out. Joe said no problem, making them sign a waiver before they went up on the hill. Joe said they sat down on the porch and heard a lot of excited yelling as they had got into a big group of hogs. Then the yelling turned into screaming, then into wailing. Then back into screaming. Joe said they might have been having a prayer session as he heard a lot of “Oh Gods”. A bit later one of them called back to the house on a walkie talkie that Joe had them carry along. They asked for help in no uncertain terms. Joe said he reminded them to that they said no help was needed. Their response was “screw that, get us the hell off this hill!!!” Joe’s guides went up and carried all 7 of Detroit’s finest off the hill. The hogs had cut them up pretty bad but some were cut by some big knives that were swinging in every direction. They spent the next 2 hours getting bandaged up and getting out of Tennessee and back to Detroit where it was safe. Let it not be said that Tennessee boys don’t have a sense of humor.

On another hunt at Tellico it rained hard the whole hunt. The first day Colleen decided she wanted a big Merino ram, the ones with the real thick fluffy wool. She had a 30-30 Contender with her and we got onto a big ram just before lunch. At maybe 50 yards she took a shot at him. We saw water fly off his shoulder where she hit him. He went down and got right back up and trotted off. Colleen muttered something about how I needed to learn to reload better. We got back on the ram and she took another shot at him, same thing. At the shot he fell and then got back up. We went into camp for lunch and then back out that afternoon. She managed to find the ram again and we noticed s small spot of blood on his shoulder, so we knew it was the right sheep. She got one more shot at him, more a mid ribs shot this time and the same thing. It had started raining real hard now so we called it a day. The guide said he knew where the ram would bed up and we could find him in the morning.

The next morning we were up early, had breakfast and back out into the rain and mud. This time it took a couple of hours before we spotted the ram with the tiny blood spot on his shoulder and another on his rib cage. Just as Colleen was getting ready to take a shot she handed me the Contender in 30-30 and asked for the 44 Auto Mag. This time she again hit him on the shoulder and knocked him down good. He flopped a bit and got back up. Colleen called him a couple of nasty names and said something about his Mother and hit him at least one more time with the Auto Mag. I told her as she was flinging lead at the ram to be careful and don’t hit the horns as the sheep had a great full double curl. The sheep started straight down the hill in front of us. Colleen handed me the Auto Mag back and asked one of the guys with me, Tom Thomasson for his S&W 629 in 44 magnum. As the ram got to about 40 yards below Colleen shot him in the back of the head, not caring one bit if she blasted the horns to pieces. She just wanted that damn sheep on the ground.

We got the ram back to camp and as the guide started gutting him he called us over. He showed us 4 bullets embedded in the thick wool. In bad weather like rain the sheep excretes lanolin into his wool, making it pretty much waterproof. it was like shooting thru a wet greasy mattress. two of the bullets had gone far enough thru the wet wool to slightly break the skin and caused the tiny spots of blood. If she hadn’t decided to take the head shot the ram would probably still be out there running in the rain.

So now you can see why I enjoy these hunts. Always something exciting going on. If you can, join us, even if you are not from Detroit, do so. Call Sandy at the lodge at 931-979-4050 and sign up. I guarantee you will enjoy it. Until next time, God bless.

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