My buddy Rick over at Whitetail Woods posted a great note on his Tuesday's Tips: TT #37 Know Your Limitations. This reminded me of an incident that I had some time ago.
What the Hell do I know.
That cold front we were having was pushing the balmy air out of its way as it caroused its way down the Florida peninsula. I told Cristal it was a perfect day to be out of doors, doing stuff and having fun. I worked in the garden, checked out the bees, and overall kept myself busy for the better part of the morning.
My stomach was chafing itself up against my spine by the time I realized it was well past my time to indulge in, and partake of sustenance. Walking into the house, my lovely and seemingly psychic wife had already prepared sandwiches and drinks, knowing, as women do, the exact moment of my hunger pangs and arrival.
Image Credit: Hoveringdog
As I was licking the last bit of bacon grease, tomato, and mayo off my finger tips, I thought of how fortuitous I was to live on some land, far from the foolishness of subdivisions and McMansions. I made a comment to my wife about it. She nodded in agreement, and offhandedly remarked that, not only had I not shot any of my firearms in quite some time, but that I hadn’t even done any of my usual scouting either. Handing me the keys to the gun safe, she said I should really go and spend some quality time by myself and do a little shooting and maybe some scouting. “Who knows,” she said, “there could be a hog on the prowl somewhere.” Well I certainly didn’t need anymore encouragement.
I grabbed my Ruger #1 in 458WM, a handful of 510gr soft points and headed to the shop. A squirt of carb cleaner down the breech and a couple of tight fitting patches down the bore later, I was off and down the abandoned rail road tracks in search of high adventure. And maybe a hog or two.
Now as many of you may know, I used to do quite a bit of hog hunting. I have probably killed 150 of them over the last decade. As the years have rolled by, I have done less and less, to the point that I don’t remember the last time I went out in search of game. None the less after today’s fiasco, I am resolved to get back in shape and get back out there. But more on that later.
Image Credit: Daniel James
I crossed the property line out back a few minutes later and headed west on the tracks. They are not altogether abandoned, a historical society runs a couple of diesel-electrics with open cars for tourists on the weekends, and the local power utility keeps it clean in case they have to rail something in that cannot come via the roads. So it makes for very easy access to many neighboring ranches. There’s one in particular , less than a mile up the right-of-way, where I have a standing invitation to shoot hog at anytime. That’s where I set out to go.
It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was still high and the skies partly cloudy. There’s been a continuous breeze due to that cold front, and the apparent heat thereby diminished. Ruger in one hand, Randal on my hip, and a 16oz bottle of water in the other hand and I was ready for anything that I could think of.
I think I got about 500 yards or so from my home, when the weight of my .458 started to be noticeable. With the scope its about ten and half pounds or so. Now Col. Whelan thought that a man should be able to hunt all day long with a 10 lbs rifle and not be inconvenienced. I think so too. But I’ll be darned that rifle was getting heavy. My guess at the time was that the Earth’s gravitational field must have increased, but I have since found out that I was mistaken.
I don’t use a sling, so I couldn’t put it over my shoulder. So I did the next best thing and did an African Professional Hunter carry. That is, the rifle was over my shoulder and I was gripping the muzzle end of the rifle.
By the time I hit the kilometer mark I was beginning to question the wisdom of slingless carry, Col. Whelans assertions, and the whole quality time idea. “I must be really outta shape.”, I thought to myself. By then I had sucked down all 16 ounces of water I had brought. I sat down for a while and considered my options. I could go home and forget the whole thing, or I could press on and suck it up.
Like an idiot I decided to suck it up.
I wasn’t far from the ranch anyway, and I really wanted to get out there and scout about. It had been so long, that the act of being out there just over-road any common sense. As if I had any to begin with.
I felt a little better after sitting down, but to tell the truth my arm was more than a little sore. But none the less I kept on going and managed to get to the back end of the ranch without mishap.
I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breath, and the pain in my quadriceps wouldn’t let me think of anything but that. An eternity had passed before I could straighten my leg out. It seemed a mountain lion had grabbed me from behind taken a bite and let me go. My head was throbbing and felt like someone had belted it with a wet sandbag, and my side was beginning to turn different shades of purple. I thought for sure I had broken something somewhere, but no, I was in one piece, a long gash down the inside of my thigh the only evidence of my mishap.
I was in no shape to hump back over a kilometer, but what choice did I have? No communications meant I couldn’t get the boys to come help me, and quite frankly I didn’t relish the thought of waiting a few hours for them to figure out it was time to go find their old man. My Randal is the Airman model, with the hollow butt, and I keep a magnesium starter in there, some wire, aspirin, a scalpel, and a couple of other odds and ends. So in theory I could have built a fire and just waited.
During a drought.
In 90 degree weather.
Great idea, Einstein.
I got myself up and hobbled to the wire. Instead of going over I went through the top and middle strand, the breeze fanning my backend now that my shorts had very little fabric in the crotch area. I still couldn’t straighten out my leg completely and each step I took was as wretched and pain filled as the last.
I guess I was about 200 yards away when I realized I didn’t have my Ruger with me.
A stream of profanity spewed like sulpherous bile from a volcano. I must have gone on like that for at least a couple of minutes, if not more. Really quite colorful in hindsight. I turned around and still muttering curses at anything and anyone I could think of, made my way back to the scene of my almost neutering. There, leaning on the post I had put it on before I tried to climb over the fence, was my #1.
I picked it up with my left hand, and headed back to the god forsaken tracks. I guess I had lost track of the time, because at that moment, I noticed that dusk was quickly approaching. I really wasn’t worried, just miserable. Progress being slow because I was limping, and my side hurt so bad that I couldn’t straighten up.
The sun dropped the last few degrees and night fell. I was at the 200 yard mark again. I was thirsty and the mosquitoes were really beginning to bug me. Big, fat Asian Tiger mosquitoes, considered by many fine sport with an over/under 28 gauge and #8 shot. Misery was officially my new companion.
I happened to look up and I saw a single beam of light far away. I knew who it was. I whistled a sharp piercing note, recognizable to those that know it, followed by three short ones. I sat my hind end down and waited with my annoying Asian friends for my rescuers.
About twenty minutes later Cristal, Blake and Jordan, where surrounding me. I handed the Ruger to Blake, while Jordan and Cristal helped me up. They took turns supporting me all the way back home.
Forty-five minutes later I was showered, medicated, bandaged, and a bowl of hot Italian Wedding soup was poured in me. I felt like a new man! A tumbler of Thor’s Hammer Vodka and ice didn’t hurt either.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this misadventure. First I’ll cover the things done right:
- Everyone knew where I was headed, and we all know several signals to communicate with should the need arise.
- Used basic firearm safety when crossing over the fence.
- I did have, at least, a basic kit in case I needed to spend the night.
What I didn’t do right:
- Physically unprepared. I didn’t realize how bad I have gotten out of shape.
- Pushing on when I should have stopped, taken stock, and made the right decision.
- Insufficient water. No reason to neglect to carry an adequate amount.
On my to do list:
Get back in hunting shape. That means long hikes with the boys with a light daypack and a heavy walking staff.
15 minutes of squats, pushups, and crunches every morning. Assorted calisthenics throughout the day.
Fortunately it was a mild lesson, it could have been much, much worse.
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...