Here is an update.
We have been shooting for the last 3 months at ranges up to 720 yards to get ready for the upcoming hunts. My 11 year old daughter can hit my 12" steel 9 out of 10 times at 503 yards with the .223, and 8 out of 10 times with the .250 Ackley out to 720 yards on a calm day. Hopes and confidence are very high.
OK, first day of the Jr. Javelina hunt came with my daughter having school, and me having at least a half day of work.
At 10:30AM, I could not stand it anymore and said goodbye to my coworkers and I think I actually left rubber pulling out of the parking lot...
Picked up my daughter at 11:00AM and headed to grab lunch and a shower prior to heading to the field.
We were in the truck by noon and headed out to our secret honey hole for pigs. Got to the spot by 1:00PM, set up all the gear and started glassing. Right away, I found the small herd of antelope with a good buck I have seen on 3 other occasions bedded at 1120 yds. and started dreaming of the upcoming antelope draw we just put in for here in AZ. Watched them for an hour, just bedded, getting up and feeding, and returning to the same spot all afternoon. High winds (15+ MPH) would make longer shots today iffy, and the overcast sky and lower temps than the rest of the week made layering up a necessity.
We set up the binos on tripods, I set up my surveying tripod and sight vice with the AR in it for shooting across the grass plain for when the pigs come out to feed like they have the last couple weeks in a row.....or so I thought. The pigs had a different idea, which is what makes it "hunting" and not just "killing".
Sunset was going to be at 5:49PM, meaning hunting light until about 6:19PM. With the overcast, and mountains to the west, it would be darker even earlier. I had been seeing the pigs come out of the canyon anywhere between 4:45 and 6:00PM depending on the day, so I knew it might be a last minute shot if one presented itself.
As the afternoon progressed, we kept glassing the canyon and the flats where the pigs had been coming out with little to see other than antelope, hawks, and a lot of small birds of various colors and patterns.
5:50PM, sun is down behind the mountains and clouds, getting darker, with still no pigs.
5:55PM turn around to glass to the north where I have NEVER seen pigs in all of the years I have been hunting the area.....and low and behold....I glass up a big pig topping out of the canyon and heading into the flats...with 8 others in tow.....at 980 yards away!!!
Look at my 11 year old daughter and she says, "Let's go get them!" My girl! Grab the binos, tripod, rangefinder and the .250 Ackley as I think the shot might be longer than anticipated and the .250 will have more knockdown and less wind drift than the .223 if we need to stretch out the shot. Hoof it down a dirt road as the darkness is creeping in Set up the bipod on the rifle and try to find a spot she can shoot over the tall grass to the slowly feeding pigs. No shot through the grass, so I pull my binos off my tripod and set the rifle up as best as possible. My daughter gets behind the rifle and we crank the scope up to 16 so she can see the pigs as clearly as possible. Unfortunately, she could not get the rifle steady enough, and we had another quick conversation about hunting ethics and what that means to the pigs as well as the hunter. She opted not to take the shot for fear of a less than perfect shot and not only wounding a pig, and also not spooking them for the next day where we would surely get another chance....right?
Slowly back out and head back t the truck, and I could tell my daughter was disappointed. I explained that missed opportunities are a huge part of hunting, and that EVERYONE has had a similar experience in their hunting career. I also explained that the missed opportunity would make a success even more sweet at a later date. The walk back in the dark was old hat to me, but not so for my little girl. While packing up the gear for the night, my girl was whispering that she made the right choice even though she was bummed. That is a HUGE lesson learned in my opinion, and my admiration for my girl grew even more that night. The drive home was discussion and planning time for the next day, and I told her it was a success just to FIND those little piggies on a regular basis.
Saturday morning we slept in and spent the morning with the wife, eating at Lolo's Chicken and Waffles, and then hitting Cabela's for a gun rest tripod to get the gun up out of the grass for a shot over it in hopes that we would see pigs again. The tripod for the fore end, combined with her bipod for the rear stock seemed like it would be the ticket for a stable shot either sitting, kneeling or standing.
About noon, after showers and loading up the ice chest, we head back to the hunting spot that usually produces afternoon pigs. Back out about 1:00PM and we stop about 300 yards from where we saw the pigs come out of the canyon the night before. Start glassing just to be sure, and again, spot game that is not on the menu for the day. About 1.5 miles away, we glass up 16 mule deer, with one BOOMER buck tending does and keeping a smaller buck out of his harem. You could see this buck was quite a bit wider than his ears, very tall, and heavy enough to see the antlers with 10X binos. Drove me crazy, as I have a January archery deer tag and the buck has nothing on his mind than making a future generation...but the day is for the kid. Watched them bed about an hour later in a coulee and then back to the pig hunt.
About 2:00PM, we slowly crept over to the canyon in hopes of spotting the pigs either bedded or moving. Glassed for about an hour and a half, and I crawled down to check out some caves we glassed up. The pigs were definitely using the caves, but not there right then. Hair and tracks all around them, found some great trails, lots of chewed up prickly pear, but no pigs.
4:15PM, drive to a place approximately half way between our usual spot and where we saw the pigs last night. Started glassing and again, spotted game, but not pigs. A coyote out in the open. Hmmm......ranged him at 1327 yds and grabbed the .250 Ackley. Did a quick ballistic shooting solution at 37.25 MOA with a 4.0 MOA wind drift. Dialed it up and settled down prone for a shot at the deer killer. First shot was just left and the coyote ran about 20 yards and stopped to see what spooked him. His mistake. Second shot had him spinning and dropped. My daughter said, "You got him." for confirmation of what I just did. That is the longest shot I have ever taken at anything and to make it was an amazing feeling. It was 4:30PM,and I did not think I would have time to go grab him and get back before the pigs might show up, so I told my daughter we would wait and see what the evening would bring. Back to glassing, both to the south AND north now. Back and forth, slow sweeps, watch the canyon for pigs coming up....back and forth. Sunset at 5:39 again is weighing on my mind. At 5:30, as I turn to the south to get set up again, I spot pigs off in the distance with my bare eyes. Double check with the binos and tell my daughter, "I got pigs." Grab the binos, rifle, new tripod, bipod and a stool and take off down he road to close the gap from 600 yards to hopefully 100 yards. Stop every 100 yards and can pick out the pigs again, but know they must be headed out to feed.
Get to the spot and get set up quickly and glass for the pigs. Can't find them where they "should" be. Glass towards the canyon and see the pigs about 60 yards off at the very edge of the canyon. Get my girl turned around as the pigs drop into the canyon. Grab the rifle and tripod and my girl grabs the bipod and sneak towards the canyon. Get 20 yards from the canyon edge and out pop the pigs. The big sow is at 18 yards and quartering on sharply looking directly in our direction. Sunset at our backs, and the pigs bad eyesight play to our advantage as the pig just stares towards us. Set the tripod and rifle down and my girl places the bipod slowly at the butt stock. She takes aim at the "collar" on the pig with the AR and slowly squeezes the trigger. BAM! The pig hits the dirt and then up and heads down the canyon. Excitement ensues, but now the work is about to begin. Go to the spot of the hit and find blood....and some stomach content from the quartering on shot. That means an exit wound, which is good. Now another education is about to begin....following a blood trail. My girl actually found the first blood, and big smear on a rock on the ground from the pig dragging its hind legs from a broken spine. Followed the blood, and found some smears on grass, rocks, and then.....I almost stepped on it! 40 yards from the shot, after months of practice, miles of hiking, countless hours of glassing, her patience and hard work all came to fruition! My daughter had taken her first big game animal.
Tag it, and a few very quick photos in the canyon, then packed it up to the top for more photos and cleaning and head home after texting just about everyone I know that would appreciate it.
A huge congratulations to my 11 year old daughter on not only her first big game animal, but the first steps down the road of an ethical hunting passion that will hopefully last a lifetime. Also, a huge thank you to her for letting me share in her adventure, and hopefully many more to come.
A little chilly during a scouting trip
Checking the setup on Friday afternoon in anticipation