By bowhunting biologist Wade Nolan
What makes a great hunt? Is it shooting a big buck? Or maybe it’s the country. Some guys think it’s the idea that you are not at work for a change. Some hunters appreciate the great food and rustic lodging the most. It’s my opinion that all of that matters but the one factor that usually brings me back are the people putting the hunt on… the guides. I think it’s all about the people.
I’ve been on dozens of guided hunts, I’ve worked with guides and have done the guiding. There is nothing more up lifting than a competent and optimistic guide that you feel isn’t feeding you a line of bull. After all it is hunting which means that you have to hunt.
I’ve had an insatiable desire to bowhunt free ranging hogs for about 20 years. I’ve shot them all over the south and have decided that Florida and Texas are my favorite hog spots. I like everything about bowhunting hogs. I like how they have a great nose and enjoy the fact that they are not easily fooled if the wind is wrong. they are smart no matter where you hunt them. When I’m in Africa I bowhunt warthogs. I can’t get enough of bowhunting hogs.
I like the fact that they are often noisy on their way in and how a squeal or two in the distance perks me up with anticipation. I also like how they give you an audio cue “wheeqq” when the arrow hits home. And lastly I enjoy the way they taste….great. I enjoy that they are both organic and the other white meat. I believe that God had arrows and bar-b-que sauce in mind when he created them!
The other wonderful fact is that they’re population is out of control all over the south. There are millions of them and more every day. If you do the math you’ll find out that there are more hogs in the south than barrels of oil pouring out of the ruptured “Deep Water Horizon”. In time you’ll realize that you have a responsibility concerning hogs. They need controlled… and you own a bow. Are you connecting the dots yet?
Getting back to my primary point about what makes a great hunt I’m going to make a recommendation to help you meet your responsibility on this issue. I discovered a great guy who is also a hog guide that I’d like to introduce you to. He is a Texan and he talks like a Texan. For a while I thought he was out of some book I’d read or maybe he played a supporting role in some spaghetti western with Clint, chewing on the stub of a cigar. As it turned out he was James Foster, a Texas bowhunting guide.
The most striking thing about James was that he has a tendency to become your friend. You almost can’t stop it. Now I know a lot of guys and it is rare that one of these acquaintances crossed over into a real friend. With Foster if happens as quietly as a scorpion crawling into your boot. Before you know it your stung and you didn’t see it coming. He’s no longer your guide…he’s you bud.
One morning after a late night hog hunt he was making me and my son Reed some red-eye gravy to pour over the homemade biscuits he stirred up and he spontaneously broke into a poem. His dark eyes caught mine from under his full head of snow white hair and he said,” Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobo’s and Tramps, Cross-eyed Mosquitoes and Bowlegged Ants, I’m addressing everyone in the room….breakfast is served!” Where did that come from? Well, breakfast, like all of our meals were great. All homemade and plenty of it.
I asked him early on why he was focusing his efforts on guiding bowhunters when the real money would be in the gun guys. It was then I learned that James was a champion bow shooter and that he did it the hard way with a stick bow. He actually won his championships with a Bob Lee Longbow. Back in 91 he won the Texas state championship and began a run on winning that lasted for two more years. He likes bowhunters because he is one…and a fine one at that. That’s why he named his operation” www.stretchastring.com”
James’s operation is centered in he piney woods of east Texas near Tyler. The ranch he hunts is a sprawling spread that covers over 5 1/2 miles of river bottom. There is plenty of water and soggy bottoms where the hogs layup and wallow during the day. The forest is beautiful and not anything like what the word Texas conjures up in your mind. The hard wood trees are big and plentiful. There are Red Pines, cedars, Sweet Gum, Post, Red and Pin Oaks all over the ranch. The land is comprised of rolling hills tangled up with honeysuckle and green briar. I believe there are 27 lakes on the ranch most with great fishing. The meadows are lush and snake down the shadowed bottoms like Diamond Back.
Not a guy to be caught resting James is always thinking. A few years ago he realized that hogs often come in after dark he developed a system called the “Pig Rig” that consists of a solar panel that charges a series of LED lights that ring a feeder like a bracelet. They come on right as dusk and shine all night. Hogs get used to the lights in an instant and he opened up an opportunity to bowshot hogs all night long. He is a big trail camera proponent and he noticed that a lot of the really nice hogs work the night shift. Many of his pigs are taken after sunset and after the moon rises. Check out his web site for wild piggy pics.
His treestands are all ladders and some set-ups are designed for pig slaying from a ground blind. James understands the wind and scouts the thousands of acres of hog country daily. He also knows the creator of the universe and it shines out of him like one of his LED hog lights. The lodge is a hundred year old ranch house that is just fun to sleep in and it supports everything you’d ever need except wireless internet…which is exactly why you go hunting in the first place, to get away from the click and drag world.
A young lady was recently hunting with James and arrowed a nice pig under the lights. I asked Ms. Stacey Phetteplace to recap her hunt and she did a great job…read this:
“I hunted from a ladder stand facing north overlooking a feeder and large wallow. James Foster (Stretch A String Outfitter) helped me put out extra corn. I arrived at the stand at about 7:30 pm. I heard some hogs in the brush and saw some deer before it got dark. Then at 9:15 pm, a large group of hogs raced in from the north all fanned out. I could see their shapes, and I waited while they settled into feeding. I few times I shined my Hawg-Lite Marauder red light on them so I could pick out one to shoot. This also enabled the hogs to become accustomed to the light. Most of the hogs were the same size, so I chose a black one underneath the feeder 20 yards away.
I drew my Hoyt bow and aimed toward the hog. My sight pins were well lit by the internal light. When the hog’s shape appeared to be in the right position, I dropped down and shined the Marauder light on him so I could see his shoulder clearly. I squeezed my release, and sent my arrow tipped with a four blade Slick Trick broadhead to the hog’s low ribcage. My Lumenok showed exactly where I hit him. It was a good shot. The 120 pound boar ran only 75 yards before expiring. I have shot many sows, but he was my first boar hog.”
Some of the hogs on this sprawling ranch are real Hawgs. An avid bowhunter from Iowa has been down to hunt with Foster a number of times. Aaron McCormick recently took this full size oinker and shares below.
At 10:15 pm I am drifting in a warm trance, bow in my hands, wanting desperately to hear the crunching of corn or the swish of grass that signals I am no longer alone. Then in an instant it happens, in the darkness, a few short yards in front of me something moves. I hear him feeding. It is a boar, a big Russian, and he is only 18 yards away as my heart kicks into overdrive. My friend and guide James Foster knows this scene well with decades in the field pursing hogs and having been here before bow in hand, adrenaline racing through his body. I slowly point my bow up and I depress the switch of my bow mounted light, so it does not startle the hog, carefully I bring the red bow-mounted light (Hawglite Marauder) down, draw back and anchor. Finding the spot low and tight to his right shoulder as he is standing quartering away, I release. Without a sound, the boar races off and crashes off into the darkness going back the same direction he came from. I wait, heart pounding in my ears listing for any sound that will tell me my shot was true. A few short seconds later, I hear a crash but I wait an hour just to be sure. Leaving the shelter of the blind, I look for spore, the red drops that will lead me to my prize.
Unfortunately, I do not find any blood, no arrow; nothing at all…was my shot good? I wonder if I pulled the shot. Widening my search but still not finding any sign, I decide to call it off until morning figuring that I would have a better chance to find him with a little daylight on my side. I turn down the hill and start back through the trees when twenty yard away near an oak tree, I catch a glimpse of him and he is a dandy! James estimated that he weighed around 225 pounds and about 2 ½ years old. There are bigger boars that roamed this property but he was my trophy, one any archer would be glad to have.
Stretch-a-String Outfitters, south of Tyler in East Texas, is one of the only places to hunt free-range wild hogs, archery only, in all of Texas. If you love archery and your passion is to hunt you have to come to East Texas and chase some hogs with James Foster! With over 3000 acres to hunt you will be amazed at the beauty and the vastness of this wilderness on the Tarrant ranch. I highly recommend that you come to experience the excitement of a boar hunt with James Foster. This truly is a hunt of a lifetime. Aaron L. McCormick, D. D. S.
PS: Ask for Fosters Famous Flapjacks for breakfast, delicious!
Here is a tip that you’ll want to pay special attention to if you become a hog bowhunter. These animals have incredible noses. I believe they may have better sniffers than whitetails. I go overboard to make sure my clothes and body are scent free. I rely on Sport-Wash for my clothes and use Atsko’s Hair and body wash for my body and then spray down with no N-O-DOR Odor Oxidizer. I’ve tried the others and believe that nothing has suppressed and eliminated odors like this combo. www.atsko.com
So what makes a great hunt? Plenty of game, beautiful country, rustic but clean lodging or maybe great food? Or is it all of the above plus one of the finest Ol’ Texas bowhunters you’ll ever meet. I think it’s about the people…the rest is icing on the cake…or maybe more appropriately, BBQ sauce on the ribs. If you’re ready to stretch a string, I have an idea for you.