In working on North American Hunter magazine for 27 years and North American Television for 23, I’ve been blessed to share blinds, pickups, boats, meals, mountaintops, prairies, marshes, sloughs and even the occasional after-the-guns-are-put-away bottle with some really terrific hunting guides.
Yet it took just one North American Hunting Club Life Member Hunt on the Stasney’s Cook Ranch near Albany, Texas last week to remind me who is among the best it has been my pleasure to hunt with. By chance he’s an NAHC Life Member himself.
Johnnie Hudman is as Texas as Texas gets. He’s quiet and Texas-polite at first, but get to know him and the stories and good-natured jibes start flowing like Brazos River spring water. And even though the hogs weren’t cooperating the way we would have liked during the most recent hunt, the three days I and cameraman Tyge Floyd spent hunting with Johnnie flew by all too fast.
It doesn’t seem possible that more than 20 years have passed since my first opportunities to hunt with Johnnie and his beautiful wife Debbie. (Without a doubt she’s the rose, and Johnnie’s the good natured thorn in that pair!) Way back then he led me to a 281 pound tusker boar on the Nail Ranch where he managed hunting operations at the time.
We spotted that pig about dark the first evening of the hunt. It was too late to make a stalk, but Johnnie was pretty certain that hog wouldn’t move far. Next morning we went back and sure enough the big tusker was feeding in the same sendaro among the mesquites.
I was hunting with a T/C Contender pistol with the .30-30 barrel affixed, though at the range the day before we’d been messing with everything from .22 rimfire up to booming .45-70. The likes of Johnnie, Larry Weishuhn and J. Wayne Fears were giving lessons, and I wasn’t about to miss out!
Johnnie led me to a spot about 75 yards from the hog where there was a good mesquite limb for a shooting rest. I looked through the scope and the hog looked enormous. This wasn’t a pig I wanted to chance wounding, so I said, “Let’s get closer!”
Johnnie returned me a questioning look, but like the super guide he is, he led on. Problem was the next solid mesquite was only 25 yards from the boar. We slipped closer, only moving when the pig’s head was down feeding; freezing any time he lifted it to look, listen and sniff. Finally, we were at the mesquite, and I was steadying the crosshairs behind the boar’s shoulder.
When everything was settled, I took up the modest slack in the trigger and squeezed through. “Click!” My eyes widened. Johnnie’s were wider.
I opened the action. It was loaded. I cocked the hammer and squeezed the trigger again. “Click!” It was far more deafening than any shot yet still the boar fed on. This time Johnnie didn’t even look up.
I examined the gun from muzzle to grip, then realized what was wrong. The selector on the hammer was still in “rimfire” position. I quickly remedied that situation, sighted again and … “BOOM!”
The tusker dropped in its tracks, yet Johnnie continued to fix his gaze on the hog. He never looked up until it stopped quivering. Then he removed his classic cowboy hat, wiped the sweat from his brow and said, “Bill, that’s closer than we generally like to get to hogs that big.”
He fetched the truck, and we wrestled the giant pig into the bed. We wanted to way this monster whole. Back at the meat house we dropped the tailgate and noted that the relaxing of the dead hog’s muscles and organs had allowed it to deposit a massive “leave behind” in the bed of the truck. Johnnie commented to me, “I’ll bet that load weighs five pounds.”
When the hog hung from the scale it read 276 pounds. When I wrote the story for North American Hunter magazine, I reported the hog weighed 281 pounds. I didn’t regret it then, and I don’t apologize for it now!
Of course, super guide was quick to share this story with the assembled NAHC Life Members. He calls it the “Miller Method” of hog scoring or some damned thing. Forget everything nice I just said about him!