Thursday, March 22, 2012

Florida Boar Hunt 2012 - Omega Ranch

Before I go into the details of our Florida wild boar hunt this year at the Omega Ranch in Volusia County, I want to get on my soap box and go off on a little rant on how hog hunting has become so commercialized in the state of Florida. Years ago, when I was first introduced to hog hunting in Florida by my dad, you could find a land owner anywhere in the state that would charge you around $50 to hunt hogs on their land. If you shot one, they would charge you another $100. The deal was simple; it included them dropping you off at your stand, which typically sat on a feeder of some sort, and if you got one, you would call them up on your cell phone, and they would track it, bring it back to your vehicle, skin it, and quarter it up. Seems like a fair deal, right? I thought so; even after a $20 to $50 tip, it still seemed worth it to me.
Finding a Florida Boar hunt like the ones back in the good old days is almost impossible now. I know because I searched long and hard. I’ve got some Dutch in me so I’m always looking for the best deal, but it’s not all about the deal. I also want a good hunt that is the real deal, unlike last year’s buggy hunt disaster. Most hog hunts I found during my search were anywhere from $200 to $500 dollars for meat hogs and small boars. If you got anything with tusks over 1 ½ inches, plan on paying $150 to $200 dollars in trophy fees. Plus, it is virtually impossible to find a hunt that is not a fenced in 40 acre lot. We used to hunt pieces of land that were 1,000 or more acres. The problem is that people found out that there was money to be made, so just like anything that is a money maker, they wrapped it up, put it in a pretty package and put a big price tag on it. Now we are stuck with guides that buy pigs by the truck load, put them in a forty acre pen, and follow you around during your entire hunt telling you which way the wind is going (as if it isn’t obvious), how careful you need to be because the pigs are so dangerous, and guiding you as to which pigs you can shoot and which ones are off limits because they are “bait hogs” (I’ll explain this further later on in the post). Is it too much to ask, to just let me sit in a tree overlooking a feeder (with feed in it), enjoying the scenery and waiting for a nice hog to wander in? I don’t want to spend my hunt with some guy I don’t even know who is over exaggerating every detail in an attempt to sell me on the authenticity of the hunt that I am paying way too much for.

Alright, now that I got that off my chest, on with the story of our 2012 Florida Boar Hunt.  We stayed in Titusville, Fl this year and I wanted to try and find a place less than an hour’s drive away.  I found Omega Ranch in an add on Craigslist.  It is located in Volusia County between Daytona and Orlando about 45 minutes from the cottage we stayed in.  They were asking $225 and $100 extra for anything with tusks over 2 inches.  It seemed a little pricey to me, but it was close and like I said earlier it doesn’t get much cheaper than this anymore. 
We arrived at the ranch at 4:45am.  The guide greeted us and gave us instructions on being very quiet while entering our stands and informed us of the importance of being scent free, all the while, he was smoking a cigarette.   He also mentioned that when he opened the gate we shouldn’t be alarmed if there are hogs there to greet us.  We were told that these are “bait hogs”.   In other words, they are tame hogs used as decoys to lure in the wild hogs.  You will notice on the video of my dad’s hunt that after the shot is taken only one hog takes off.  The others stick around as if nothing happened.

The morning was a beautiful one and I was taking it all in from a tree stand overlooking a feeder, just as I hoped for.  At about 7:00am the silence was broken by a gunshot coming from the direction my dad was hunting in.  It was so close that I almost fell out of my stand from being startled.  I prepared for spooked hogs to come running in, but after ten minutes of nothing I gave up on that hope.  My new hope was resting on the feeder that was supposedly set to go off at 7:30am.  I knew the pigs would come running as soon as they heard the corn flying, but that hope soon fading as well when 7:30am came and past and the feeder never went off.
We also had to gut our own pigs.  The guide didn't want blood on his hands.
A little after 8:00am the guide came and got me out of my stand and we tried a couple more stands with empty, non-functional feeders.  We also tried “spot and stalk” hunting.  Finally, around 2:00pm I stood in some thick brush while the guide pushed through a swamp in hopes of putting a hog in front of me, and it worked.   I had one come walking in out of range so I stalked up to about twenty yards, drew my bow and waited for a clear shot.  It stepped into an opening and I let the arrow fly.  Whack!!  I was sure it was a good shot.  I found the arrow and it was full of bowel, but I wasn’t concerned because it was quartering at me when I shot so I figured I caught some vitals and it passed through the guts on the exit. 

Unfortunately, after much effort, we never found the pig or even a trace of blood.  It was the first shot at an animal with my new bow, and it was a failure.  To add insult to injury, I now owed $10 into the fishing gas fund because of a bet I made with my brothers.  And, if you thought that was the worst of it, you’re wrong.  I also found out that skinning and quartering the hogs we take was not including in our package so I tied the hog up under the blind and went to town.  The best way to learn is by doing it, right?   The good news is that we got both hunts for a total of $400 instead of $450 and my dad got to take a nice boar home with the satisfaction of knowing he had a perfectly placed shot.
Hunched over under the blind trying to cut up a hog.  I can't tell you how many times I hit my head.  Very enjoyable!

Mom cleaning the pork

Moms camera work of dad taking his boar.  Nice work mom.

My self filmed video of the only opportunity I had at a shot from a stand.  Looking back, I should have taken the shot, but I was certain once the feeder went off bigger hogs would have shown up.  It could have made great video.

If this sounds like your type of hunt, give Brian at Omega Ranch a call.  (386)479-3266.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Florida Fishing - Veterans Memorial Pier

My brother-in-law, Joe Koeman, and I found some time to get a little fishing in while we were in Titusville, Fl.  The first day we stopped at a bait shop in the area and asked the guy inside if there was any good fishing areas near by.  He told us to wade out knee deep from the shore right behind his shop, cast out a shrimp on a hook, and wait.  He assured us we wouldn't be disappointed.  Well it turns out we were, and the fact that he told us that we wouldn't be made it even worse. 

After casting toward several jumping mullets, not knowing that they are impossible to catch because they are herbivores, we gave up and went about two miles down the road to a public pier.  We went all the way to the end of the pier and the water was still only 2 feet deep.  Have you ever gone fishing in a spot and known that it was hopeless?  It didn't last long before we hung it up for the day.

The next day we drove about 15 minutes from our condo to a pier we found the night before while we were out to dinner with Joe and Theresa.  It was called the Veterans Memorial Pier, and it had fish.  We caught several Sea Trout around 12" long.  Keepers are 15" to 20" and we could not seem to catch anything over 12", which is a shame because I've heard they are good eat'in.  Anyway, it was still fun to do some catching instead of just fishing.  We also caught several other varieties; Blue Fish, Puffers, Jacks, and others that I couldn't tell you what they were. 
Sea Trout


After the sun goes down the pier fills up with shrimpers.  Shrimpers are people who come out at night with nets that have 25’ long handles, and they attempt to catch shrimp one at a time by scooping them up.   I never knew there was such thing as shrimping, but it was very interesting to see.  They actually throw lights into the water so they can see when a shrimp comes swimming past.  A single shrimper will have anywhere up to 5 lights in the water at a time, so with several shrimpers lining the pier, the water is illuminated all the way down both sides of the pier.  It is a sight to see, and to top it off, every once in a while you will see a manatee or two go swimming through the lights.  It is comparable to smelt dipping but with nicer weather and better scenery.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Merry Christmas To Me

As Chad promised in the previous post, there would be more updates of new equipment.  I recieved this Hoyt CRX 35 for Christmas this year from my wife.  Sure, I picked it out and did the purchasing, but it's the thought that counts, and this was a great thought. 

Like every new bow it came with the headache of getting it set up, and if your a Kraker, you don't settle for anything but perfection when it comes to your new toys.  I sent it to Predator Archery right here in Zeeland to have the QAD rest placed on it, a new D-loop, and a paper tune.  After I got it back I noticed some major cam lean on the top cam.  This did not make me happy (even though the bow was shooting great) so I sent it back to Kevin at Predator Archery.  He ripped the bow apart and we both researched the cam lean issue.  Kevin called Hoyt and I read a dozen forums online and we both came to the same conclusion.  It is just a common thing for most Hoyt bows to have the cam lean so we got it shooting good again, and I'm just going to learn to live with it. 
Hoyt CRX 35 - IBO 319 fps / Actual Chrono Results with my set up 306 fps
This is my fourth official bow.  My first being a cheapo Darton that I never hit a single animal with, the second was a Hoyt Intruder which I still have and took my first several deer with, and my last bow was the Hoyt Ultratech which I am happy to say has found a new home with my brother Andrew.  I would like to officially welcome Andrew to the world of archery, and I am happy that my old bow is his gateway bow.  We look forward to hearing stories of success and, since it is a bow, stories of blunder as well. 

The new equipment has sparked a little competition between the Krack Boys (shocker).  Chad has put together a few rules, but in short, we are looking to see who has the first kill with their new equipment.  Losers pay into the summer fishing gas fund.  Good luck suckers!

Some quick shameless promotion goes to Predator Archery.  They do a great job and can help out with any of your archery needs.  Give Kevin a call at 616-748-8928 or Cell: 616-886-8129.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New for 2012!

Every year after the whitetail season closes I fill my mind with thoughts of coyote hunting and usually thinking is all the further I get. As you can tell from the blog this January and February have been filled with nothing as far as hunting or fishing. It didn't help that ice was pretty much non existent this year. I'm not really that disappointed as ice fishing ranks right up there with carp shooting in my book. They are pretty much there to just pass the time until real hunting and fishing seasons come around. (my personal opinion, feel free to strongly disagree)
Thankfully my wife came through with a SWEEEEEET new toy for our 6th wedding anniversary.

This is a used Bow Tech Destroyer 340. Old Bro Bryan found it on Ebay for a great price! I'm slightly sad to see my old bow get set aside, it did it's job and did it quite well. Not to mention that it was really the first bow I owned. (not including my old fiberglass re-curve, and my first 20 dollar compound bow that mom bought at a garage sale) The old Diamond Justice really wasn't even used for my first deer kill, that honor goes to my Dads old Tan 110 Lb bow with 2% let off. The Justice was also given to me as a gift from my wife, and for that reason it'll stick around forever, but it's hunting days are over. I have taken somewhere around 15 deer (probably a slightly high estimate) with the Justice but still am only mildly sad to see it retire.

This new bow will likely stick around a few years longer than old Justice. It is shooting over 320 FPS completely set up. (compared to 260 from the Diamond) And personally I love how it looks especially with the “black ops” finish. Not to mention that it was an anniversary gift from my wife. This bow has already made a few memories and has also already shed some blood. Unfortunately it was my blood..... I'm not quite used to the hard plastic grip and while doing some video target practice with my brothers I let the bow slip out of my sweaty hand at about half draw. It flew back and the cable guard caught my trigger finger and knuckle. The good thing was that it gave me an excuse when I ended up losing the video shoot.

BTW--- This I'm not the only one with new Equipment this year. More stories are soon to follow.