Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm CDS-ZL2 Rifle Scope

If you happen to be one of the two people who read my posts, you might remember that I have been preparing to head to Mozambique for a Safari in Coutada 11. The bad news, Mozambique has still not opened. The good news, Namibia has. The significance, I’m heading to Namibia in a week for a leopard hunt with Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris! The rifle I am taking is an MG Arms Ultralight in 7mm Remington Magnum (see TTAG review here).  On top of that custom rifle is a Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm CDS-ZL2 scope. The review of this fantastic optic is now out, and you can find it here.

MG Arms Ultra-Light in 7mm Remington Magnum

Carol and Kerry O’Day have sent me quite a few rifles to review. Their firearms work really well. I once reviewed a first firearm for another custom builder and it didn’t work well. I wrote that. They still don’t speak to me. Carol’s and Kerry’s firearms work. The rifles shoot straight, are light (I need that more and more these days), and they don’t have objectionable recoil – even the .416 Taylor they built for me. This 7mm Remington Magnum did the same. Check it out here.

1b) Whole Rifle I-Phone - Cropped

Breaking the Drought – Part 2

While I settled gently back into my chair, I checked my watch; it was eleven thirty.  I was now convinced of my failure in this morning’s hunt for a buck.  I figured that if there had been one nearby, he probably scented me, or heard me snoring, or saw me strip and re-dress.  I was fairly dispirited, but now my concern shifted to the possibility of losing one of my few opportunities to collect a doe for the freezer.  I listened for any movement, in order to take advantage of the next chance I got to carry the doe home.  I was in this frame of mind when I heard a slight rustling to my left.  I breathed a sigh of relief that the cover scent was again proving its worth, as the sound was coming from directly downwind.  I slowly turned and stood to be able to get a good look over the intervening black berry and privet.  I spotted the tannish gray head of a deer and gently brought my gun to the high skeet position in case the animal turned out to be the doe rather than the yearling.  The deer form took shape as it cleared the brush.  Instead of the doe or yearling, there stood a buck 17 yards away, its rut-swollen neck extended in the classic ‘sneak’ pose.  I had been observing basket eight pointers since opening day, but this deer’s body was half again the size of those youngsters.  He walked with the stiff-legged gate of the mature bucks shown on hunting programs.  I saw three long tines on his left side as I began to raise my 7mm Remington Magnum to my shoulder.  He continued to ease through, acting just like a buck would if he was investigating a hot doe.  I then realized he was probably being reeled in by the combination of the Tink’s urine scent and the living, doe decoy.  I had to aim high on his shoulder to shoot over the brush that now stood between us.

I have read of animals falling from under the shooter’s sights.  Usually the writer is referring to elephants.  However, no African big-game hunter has been more excited than I when this buck dropped at the report of my gun.  Upon later inspection, I found that the 175 grain Nosler Partition had caught him in the spine.  I chambered another round and waited, hardly noticing the doe and yearling now standing frozen 10 yards behind me, looking towards the spot where the buck had fallen.  I heard a gentle rustling and then no sound at all came from where the buck had stood.  I waited another minute, closed my rifle on an empty chamber, and carefully climbed down the ladder.  As I stepped from the lowest rung, I saw that the doe and yearling had not moved.  Now they were staring intently at me.  The doe lifted her right front leg and stomped it sharply on the ground.  I moved slowly along their front, but not until I was within feet of the yearling did they turn, raise their flags and spring into the brush.

I had to circle wide of the hedge that stood nearly as high as my head.  As I rounded the corner of the obstruction, I spotted the form of my first Whitetail buck with more than 2 points to a side.  He was “only” a seven pointer, but in my eyes he was magnificent.  When weighed later, he tipped the scales at approximately 160 pounds on the hoof.  I knelt down beside him and breathed a sigh and prayer of thanksgiving.  How can one not be in awe of such a creation.  I thought of the offerings given by Native Americans at the sight of their kills; offerings to their gods and to the slain animal, offerings that reflected their recognition that the taking of a life meant they would live.  This reflects a different belief system to mine, but one that echos a proper respect for the life taken in order for memories to be borne in the hunter.


Hog Bonanza on the Ocmulgee – Part 2

Second Window, First Food Plot.jpg

It was nearing sunset when I happened to glance to my right. What I saw made my heart jump; at the end of the trail of peanuts, with its snout on the ground, stood a hog. I gathered my rifle and, slowly, laid it across the window of the stand. The hog was quartering sharply towards me. I placed the cross hairs of my Nightforce scope just behind the on-shoulder and squeezed the trigger. I was chambering a round as I came down out of the recoil from the 7mm Remington Magnum. The shot had flattened the hog, but just as I re-centered the animal in the scope’s field-of-vision, it struggled to its feet and staggered into the dense hardwood forest that bordered one side of the food plot. Before climbing out of the stand, I grabbed my headlamp for the trek into the rapidly-darkening forest.

First Night's Arsenal.jpg

First Night’s Arsenal – .475 Turnbull, 7mm Remington Magnum and a Manurhin in .357 Magnum – A bit of overkill?

Upon reaching the spot where the hog had been feeding, I was heartened to see a large splash of blood. Fortunately, the blood trail was easily followed into the dense stand of Saw Palmetto that made up most of the hardwood understory. I knew that I could/should wait for Woody or Jacob, but I was worried about losing my first hog. I didn’t need to worry. I followed the blood trail for only 25 steps before coming to the dark grey animal that had fallen in mid-flight. I used the barrel of my rifle to poke the animal’s rump. Producing no reaction with my prodding, I then moved around to the head and gently poked its already-glazing eye. Again, no reaction. Not relishing the idea of staying in the dark forest any longer than necessary, I grabbed one of the back feet and started dragging the hog toward the food plot. Needless to say, the 100-pound boar made quite an anchor, especially as it managed to catch on every Palmetto trunk in our path. One last heave deposited my trophy into the middle of the buggy track. Now I was able to enjoy the sights and smells of the sub-Tropical environment of the Georgia Gulf Coastal Plain. Yes, the mosquitoes and other insects were thick in my headlamp’s beam, but I really did not mind too much. The owners and staff of Gum Log Plantation had provided me the opportunity to overcome the long odds of harvesting a feral hog in the daytime.

8) 7mm and Hog.jpg


Lest you think that I was unbelievably lucky to run across the only crepuscular hog that liked to eat his peanuts hot, I need to relate a bit more about my experience at Gum Log Plantation. During my day-and-a-half stay, I sat on three different stands. I saw hogs from two of the stands, including what looked like a large sow on the last night. The shot should have been an easy one to make, but I shot right over its back. I can argue that I was just trying to leave something for the next time I visit, but that would belie my colorful language as I watched it tear across the plot and crash into the forest! Likewise, the other two hunters, Darren and Will, saw hogs from both of the stands that they occupied; Darren harvested a boar of similar size to mine.

What is the point I am trying to make? Just this. There is a reason that most outfitters who go after feral hogs conduct their hunts after dark, using night-vision optics. Hogs are almost always nocturnal. Why, then, are daylight hunts at Gum Log Plantation so successful? I have a few observations that may or may not account for this success. First, Woody et al. bait, but so do many of the outfitters who rely on night-vision optics to help their hunters harvest their hogs.

Rockers in a row

But, at Gum Log, baiting occurs every day regardless of hunters being present or not. Second, the staff refuse to let hunters shoot from the buggies; they want the hogs to associate the buggy noise with food, not the disappearance of family and friends! (As an aside, Darren’s and my boars were covered in fat, with some of the fat being as much as 2/3rd of an inch thick. I am guessing that peanuts might be the cause…) Finally, Gum Log Plantation has a thriving population of feral hogs.

For those of you who desire to [successfully] hunt feral hogs, I would recommend a visit to Gum Log Plantation. If my experience is anything to go by, there is no ‘better’ time of the year to book your hunt. However, my intention is to see if I can convince the owners and staff to let me come down for a combination hog/whitetail hunt this coming Fall. I’ll let you know if they are willing to take me back!

7) Do I Know You!

Hog Bonanza on the Ocmulgee – Part 1

It really should have been a failure, my first-ever attempt at hunting feral hogs. But, here I was standing next to the 100-pound boar that I had dragged out of the forest. The hog had only traversed through 20-yards of the hardwood/palmetto woodland before collapsing from the wound channel caused by the 175-grain Nosler Partition. Others might have said he stank, but to me the boar was redolent of a wonderful perfume. I took photograph-after-photograph from various angles, including one using the light from my headlamp to illuminate his small tusks.

I rely on Craig Boddington for advice and ideas as a former generation of hunters relied on Jack O’Connor. When I mentioned to him that I was going hog hunting and asked for any pointers, he immediately responded with “Biggest problem will be adequate daylight!” And followed up with “Dang hogs are nocturnal, but hopefully [the hunt operators] are baiting. Light is your only issue, hopefully some will cruise by at sunset!” Given the successful outcome of my hunt, please do not suppose that I am about to cast aspersions on Colonel Boddington’s [extensive] experience with ‘pigs’ – including hunts for Wild Boar, Bushpig, Giant Forest Hog and, of course, many forays after North American feral hogs.

Although I had no previous experience in hunting feral hogs, I am a biologist who for many years carried out research on species of mammals. Data from other scientists, as well as from my own research, led to the following conclusions: 1) mammals are most active at night, particularly heavily-hunted game; and 2) mammals need less food during warm weather, so their activity levels drop precipitously. So, as I stepped out of my truck and into the ~100o of the Georgia Gulf Coastal Plain, I assumed I was in for a disappointing hunt.

What was not at all disappointing was the warm welcome provided by the Staff of Gum Log Plantation, located along the Ocmulgee River near the town of Abbeville, Georgia. Manager Woody, along with Courtney and Jacob, would host my hunt.

1) Woody.jpg

To say that they took good care of me would be the understatement of the millennium. The food was excellent and, since I arrived back home weighing more than when I left, way-too-tasty.

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“Cheese Grits and Biscuit? Yes, Please!”

The Lodge where I would stay was previously the family home of the owners Cary and Peggy Williams. For many years, Gum Log Plantation was used solely as the private hunting destination for the Williams’ family and their friends. Beginning in 2013, the public has been given the privilege of experiencing this destination. With 6800 square feet, three-stories, seven bedrooms, seven baths, two full-kitchens and a fully-stocked wet bar, the ‘Lodge’ looks much more like a ‘Mansion’.

2) Lodge, Opposite Side from our cars.jpg

It took four years to complete and was built entirely out of wood from the property; the finished planks and columns were turned out from two portable sawmills brought in specifically for the construction. Though a Redneck at heart, during my stay, I felt like royalty. But, I digress. Let’s return to what I assumed would be an unsuccessful attempt to see, let alone harvest, a feral hog.

Woody announced that I would be taken to a stand at 5:00 pm for my first hunting session. After unpacking, and a quick bite to eat, we headed out in one of the Plantation’s four-wheel drive ‘buggies’.

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I was dropped off at an enclosed stand overlooking one of the many, huge food plots. I had never been on a property with this many plots, or with plots that worked so well in attracting game animals.

6) First Look at the Food Plot from the First Stand!.jpg

Yet, the plots were not the only areas where one could successfully hunt the resident game species. For example, the two hunters with whom I overlapped spent their first session within the hardwood forests, adjacent to one of the bald cypress swamplands. In fact, there are a total of 21 stands scattered across the varied Gum Log habitat types. Each evening, hunters or no, two 5-gallon buckets of peanuts are poured out in front of every stand.

As we came up to the stand in which I would spend the first evening, Woody drove slowly past the aerie while emptying the two containers of peanuts. After I settled in, I looked out at the row of peanuts that stretched some 50 yards on either side of my enclosure. Regardless of the bait, I was still expecting no activity in the sweltering heat of the afternoon. So, I was quite surprised when only 30 minutes after I arrived the first of four deer made their way out of the hardwood stands into the plot.

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Their appearance, during the hottest part of the day, suggested that there was at least a very healthy deer population. It still remained to be seen whether the same was true for hogs.

Next week, Part 2