BlaserFest-2008, Rio Bonito Ranch, Junction, Texas
The scene was right out of an old western movie, a huge Mexican Hacienda run by a beautiful blond woman nestled in the Texas hill country west of San Antonio where a group of real men had gathered with rifles and shotguns,. We all knew that we were facing a life and death struggle. How appropriate that we were near the Alamo, but this time it was not Santa Anna’s Army we faced, but instead the local vermin, who could be nearly as deadly.
Almost a year ago, Ron Williams and Aleko Jensen suggested to me a BlaserPro.com members and shooters event, later to be dubbed BlaserFest. Ten of us gathered in Texas at the Rio Bonito Ranch (www.riobonito.com) for three days of unlimited Texas hog hunting and a few exotics mixed in just for fun. The dates were March 20-22, 2008; the weather was almost perfect warm, sunny and dry in the afternoons and almost frosty in the morning. We hunted out of stands and ground blinds, starting out on the first evening after zeroing our rifles that afternoon on Rio Bonito’s well laid out range. Taking time to shoot each other’s rifles and watching a few of them change hands permanently with the rifles’ owners being coaxed out of them by the other shooters. Some of the BlaserPro.com members in attendance included Barry Frieler, Dave Thomes, Mike McCoy, Grover Redford III, Jim Wills, Mike Trenholm, Tom Chesterman, Keith Lay, Tony Black and me.
About two hours before dark, we were taken out by the guides to our stands, one man at each location. It was well after dark before we all returned for a late gourmet dinner of wild game taken at the ranch. I saw a bunch of smaller hogs, whitetail deer and a few Fallow deer that evening, but had no suitable shots. A few of the other guys did manage to take game that night, just not me. One thing working against us was the full moon. I did not know that it seriously affected hog’s behavior as much as it did, limiting our opportunities for shots in most parts of the ranch.
Before dawn on the morning of second day of BlaserFest, I was overlooking a large open field. It was unusually cold and at this set no hogs were to be seen. I did count over fifty Axis deer, one of which would easily make SCI Gold, but because of the intervening brush and the number of other Axis and whitetail deer in the vicinity, there was no way for me to make a stalk undetected.
After returning for a late breakfast, most of us enjoyed the chance to shoot Tony Black’s D99 Duo-drilling. Blaser-USA’s National Sales Manager, Keith Lay, brought an F3 Sporting Clays shotgun for us to try out. I cannot ever remember shooting a more amazing shotgun, compact in all dimensions for a 12 gauge gun, smooth and of course, those great Blaser direct triggers. It is clearly the best engineered shotgun I have ever used and I will be buying one in the near future.
The evening hunt of the second day was very productive for me. I saw a variety of exotics and whitetail deer come and go from my blind. Suddenly a Mesopotamian Fallow buck appeared sporting six points on each side, with good mass. As he walked toward my blind, I made the decision to take this one and a few moments later, he was on the ground, falling to two quick shots from my trusty .308 Winchester R93 Timber Tracker, the same rifle that has served me well from Montana to Africa. I was shooting Federal Premium loads with a 165 grain Sierra Game King Bullet. After I secured my new trophy and took a couple of quick photos, it became apparent that the second shot was unnecessary. The first round definitely performed as intended had I waited a few more seconds, the deer would have fallen over dead. Unfortunately, the buck knocked off one of his antlers while trashing around on the ground, possibly as a result of the second slightly low shot, that broke his right front leg. Fortunately, the taxidermist will be able to work with what we have and the mount should come out just fine.
Not five minutes after I was back up in the blind, in came a big Texas hog. I should have followed the guides’ and my fellow hunters’ advice and shot him behind the ear, but I elected to go for the heart instead. That led to a forty five minute, some of it crawling on hands and knees, tracking job to recover him just seventy five yards away. However, it would have been better to drop this guy in his tracks and not go through the excitement of following up on a potentially mad and wounded 230 pound hog!
After a late dinner, Mike Trenholm, Keith Lay, Jim Wills and I went out on a night hunt for hogs and coyotes with one of the guides. We saw a good chunk of the ranch and finally spotted a group of pigs on one of the dumps at 1am. Keith and Jim both picked out a big one and fired, not realizing that they each picked out the same hog! A loud squeal and ensuing charge toward the light had both Mike and I trying to get out the order to “reload men” and shoot again for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, both rifles actions were worked, and two more shots rang out and the sound of the shots, the hog displayed what appeared to be a sixth sense of his impending demise and somehow artfully dodged BOTH shots.
Turning the now rapidly accelerating pig into the bush never to be again. Note to self; do not go into the Texas bush again without my trusty S&W 629, 44 Magnum Mountain Gun on my hip.
Day three was another early morning start for most of the guys, but Mike Trenholm and I elected to sleep in after the late night hunt just a few hours earlier. I also needed to take Keith Lay, back to the San Antonio airport. During the drive, Keith shared with me that he was glad that he made the trip and spent time with our group. It allowed him to take away some new product ideas, as well as input on how to improve Blaser’s US market share and overall customer service. Keith also had the chance to hear new product and caliber ideas from serious hunters and rifle shooters. He killed a couple of hogs to boot.
A leisurely Saturday afternoon and late dinner were enjoyed by all with most everyone gone early the next morning. For those of you missed this year’s event, don’t worry, we are already planning BlaserFest 2009…