After all, I had developed a really close relationship with the Ruger Super Redhawk over a four-day hunt for European boar and feral hogs at Caney Creek Lodge.
Travis Noteboom of Crimson Trace Corporation (crimsontrace.com) had invited Todd Masson, editor of this magazine, and me for a guided hunt on this fine exotic game ranch/bed and breakfast. The lodge and ranch are located between Houston and Dallas, near Teague, Texas.
A number of media and manufacturers were guests on this "First Annual Crimson Trace Hog Hunt," the idea being we would network, try out new equipment, get writing ideas and have some great hunting. And the opportunities were certainly there for all that.
The ranch boasts a multitude of exotic species, besides being a world-class corporate retreat and reception center, but its claim to fame is its hog hunting. With 600 acres under high fence and 5,000 acres of free-ranging for feral hogs, just about any hunting situation can be arranged for any hunter's preference.
Randell Pence, executive sales director for Ruger Firearms, brought a crate of the big Super Redhawk revolvers in .44 Remington Mag. and .454 Casull. We arrived at the lodge on Monday afternoon, and took the guns, outfitted with CTC LaserGrips, to the range behind the lodge.
Since I've fired a number of .44 Magnums, I wanted to experience two new things - the Super Redhawk and Dick Casull's infamous bone-jarring magnum version of the .45 Colt cartridge, the .454 Casull.
This cartridge, developed by Casull to be an ultimate hunting round from a handgun, has held the position of the " most powerful handgun in the world " to quote a line from a movie we all know and love. And until a couple of years ago, the .454 Casull, built on the stout Freedom Arms five-shot revolver, retained that title. The cartridge can be loaded to higher velocities with heavier bullets and much greater down-range energy than the .44 Magnum.
Peter Pi Jr., vice-president of CorBon ammunition, supplied cases of .44 Magnum in 300 grain and .454 Casull in 335 grain flat-nose bullets. I asked Pi for ball-park velocities of the two rounds, and he said 1,400 feet per second on the .44 and 1,600 feet per second on the Casull.
CorBon, of course, made their claim to fame years ago by filling the niche in hunting and self-defense ammo with more powerful ballistics. CorBon, in other words, like the .454 Casull and the Ruger Super Redhawk, is synonymous with horsepower in a handgun.
I can only say I'm glad Noteboom and his boss, Lane Tobiassen from Crimson Trace, had spent some time on their corporate range back in Oregon, sighted the guns, and tuned in the LaserGrips to hitting point-of-aim. I'm glad someone else took most of the abuse, and I didn't have to shoot the gun very much to get it hitting exactly where I wanted, about 2 inches above point-of-aim at 40 yards.
Make no mistake, the recoil on these guns is fierce. The Super Redhawk in .454 Casull comes with a 7 1/2-inch barrel, carries six shots (as opposed to the Freedom Arms five-shot cylinder) and weighs a very "carry-able" 53 ounces unloaded.
After two cylinders, my hand and wrist were feeling the effects of approximately a ton of muzzle energy, and I was glad to see the bullets striking exactly where I wanted them. I had confidence in the gun and my ability to shoot it, and I was afraid if I shot it much more, I was going to develop a flinch.
Hunting hogs on this ranch is similar to hunting deer or bear in many states - it is done from either ground blinds, or elevated tree stands over bait. The two main guides for the ranch are Scott Schick, a transplanted Californian ("Texas is better for rednecks "), and a garrulous, humor-filled East Texan with a Louisiana name, Rusty Broussard.
Broussard carried me with Pi and his 8-year-old daughter, Abbie, to place us on stands. When he dropped me off, he pointed at a 14-foot double ladder stand attached to a tree looking over a clearing with a large automated feeder. As I settled myself in the stand, he poured out five gallons of corn, warned me not to track an animal too far and get lost in the dark, jumped in the Kawasaki Mule, and sped quickly out of sight.
Justin Bounds, owner of the lodge along with his wife Beth, had given the assembled hunters a safety and tactics briefing earlier.
"Hogs are pretty much nocturnal," he said. "Like deer, your best hunting occurs early in the morning and late in the evening, just around dusk.
"If you shoot a hog, don't track it too far, let Scott or Rusty come find it for you; we don't need hunters wandering into other hunters' areas or getting lost. We'll get back to you and help you find your game."
Being the first day, we were late getting to the stands. It was about 5 p.m. when Broussard put me out, and knowing it didn't get pitch dark until 8:30 p.m., I was prepared for an hour or so wait.
I was entertained, however, by four piglets about the size of rabbits that had run off the few grains of corn as we drove up. The temptation of the yellow pile of grain was too much, and they came back out to begin gorging themselves on the bounty. I watched them with as much interest and fun as I have watched yearling deer playing in a food plot while waiting for one of their big relatives to show themselves.
I didn't have long to wait. At 6:45, with the shadows starting to lengthen in the woods, a whole herd of hogs and piglets burst from the far edge of the clearing and ran across it in a large, swooping curve. They stayed together in a train of nearly 20 with the leaders changing direction, causing an undulation in the train as every hog followed the steps of the one in front of it. The line would bow and curve as they ran in almost ballet-like maneuvers - and that is the only time you will ever hear me apply such attractive descriptions to something that runs and acts like a hog.
They ran out of sight, leaving me to wonder if maybe they wouldn't come back, when they swooped back across the clearing in the opposite direction, still forming a train and curving across the opening, again disappearing in the woods.
This strange running across the clearing and through the woods continued twice more, but finally, hogs dropped off and cautiously made their way to the elongated stream of corn sitting on the ground about 35 yards in front of me.
Once two or three made it safely to the corn and began feeding, the entire group couldn't stand it, and as more and more gathered to feed, I got to witness the table manners of, well, hogs.
The grunting, snorting and outraged squeals as smaller hogs and piglets were pushed aside to gain a more tempting morsel of corn was a sight to behold. I was so enthralled with the sight of 20 hogs fighting over corn, climbing on one another, nipping and biting, I took out my camera and began taking pictures. I had little fear the shutter noise would disturb them; I figured the folks back at the lodge, a half-mile away, had to hear this racket.
I picked out the one larger hog in the whole group that had the misfortune to stand out with a large white splotch on its shoulder among a conglomeration of blacks and dirty reds, and chose it for my prey.
Resting my wrists on the front rail of the stand, sighting the long barrel of the Super Redhawk on the white spot, I squeezed the grips, activating the laser.
The instant stream of red light caused nervousness in the herd, and they began moving about. They didn't want to leave the food, but the dancing red laser made them shift, and my target with them.
Noteboom and Tobiassen had warned us if we had to shoot at dusk, the lasers were an invaluable aid, but we needed to aim above the hogs, and bring the light down on them as we fired. I totally ignored all that, of course, and pointed "right there amongst 'em" as Jerry Clower used to say.
They didn't run off, but they danced around a bit. As soon as I let the pressure off the laser switch, they settled back down for their evening meal at the hog banquet table.
As my porker stopped moving, and the rest quit pushing each other around, I lined the sights again on the side of the white spot, and activated the laser at the same time. The front and rear sight, and the laser's dot all aligned on the shoulder of the hog as I squeezed the trigger - just as his herd mate decided he liked the corn under "my" hog's snout better than the corn under his own.
The term "greedy hog" really has no meaning until you get to watch 20 of them feeding out of the same pile. He shoved my hog, making him move as I fired.
I pressed the trigger smoothly and the hammer fell on the 335-grain CorBon, igniting a flame that leaped out the end of the barrel about 2 feet. I remember thinking at the time the recoil wasn't really that bad, even if my hands did jump about a foot upwards, which reinforces what everyone knows: You never feel the recoil or hear the noise of a shot fired at game.
Instantly, the entire herd took off, forming into another train as the lead hogs ran into the woods. I could see my hog in the middle of the pack, running a bit sideways, a dark red stain on his right side, a little far back. The bullet had fired completely through the hog, leaving big holes and an excellent blood trail.
Broussard, Pi, Abbie and I ended up trailing in the dark, until the blood practically stopped. One helpful aid was the SureFire flashlights (surefire.com) we had all been issued by Dick Williams of that company. SureFire is one of the most popular lines of tactical flashlights in the world today with our military and police agencies, and I can see why. The powerful E1L pocket model we were using made blood stand out on the dark ground, the bluish light actually making tracking easier.
Broussard found the hog. Like any good tracker should do, he showed the guests up by figuring the hog had doubled back. We loaded my hog and PI and Abbie's own pork prize, and headed back to the lodge.
Once there, we skinned the hogs out with what is rapidly becoming a favorite tool, the Al Mar Nomad skinner (almarknives.com) presented to us by Gary Fadden, president of the company. I was amazed at the razor-edge sharpness of this knife straight out of the box. You frequently hear knives being described as "shaving" sharp. This is truly the first one I have ever seen I would actually try to shave my face. It would literally shave the hairs dry off my arm. I've been a huge fan of another popular brand of knife for years, and this knife is better.
We found the Super Redhawk Casull had done its job well, punching through the back of the lungs, and coursing downward out the other side through the gut. The hog weighed 78 pounds, and traveled about 300 yards after I shot him. These are amazingly tough creatures to bring down.
The Ruger Super Redhawk comes in satin stainless in the .44 Magnum and in a low-glare stainless target grey in the .454 Casull/.45 Colt. The .44 Magnum comes in 7 1/2- or 9 1/2-inch barrel lengths with rubber and Rosewood grips. The .454 Casull/.45 Colt comes in 7 1/2-inch barrel length, and with rubber and black laminate grips.
I hunted another day with the Casull, and took another hog, but the recoil was starting to work on me, so I switched to one of the 9 1/2-inch Redhawks in .44 Magnum. I fired 50 rounds through it before I took it out after trophy hogs the next two days - but that's for another column.
I found my hands and wrist were not bothered in the slightest by the ample recoil of the .44 Magnum - the weight and design of the Super Redhawk soaks the recoil up of that round far better than it does with the Casull.
But I just can't give up the abuse. I'm needy without it, and I've got to have one. After carrying the gun for four days, and shooting almost 200 rounds of both calibers, I find myself missing what had become a good and trusted friend. Besides, if the recoil is too much to handle, I can shoot .45 Colt for practice.
And there's always the possibility of Magnaporting.
Caney Creek Lodge can be reached at 254-739-0128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gordon Hutchinson's best-selling novel, The Quest and the Quarry, a generational tale that parallels the lives of a line of trophy bucks and the youth of a farming family who hunt them, can be ordered at thequestandthequarry.com or by calling 800-538-4355.
The novel was recently chosen as a book of the year by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association.