If it didn't happen on
the Halff Brothers Ranch, you're not going to read about it here!
Getting the Full Potential from your Combination
by Ernest Stone
For some people a gun is simply a tool for hunting.
For most of us though, guns are a wonderful part of hunting. Owning
a gun collection is a great pleasure in itself. But the guns we
hunt with have special meaning to us. They become a physical reminder
of good times. If you are like me you are always looking for an
excuse to buy another gun and then make it special by taking into
the field. A hunt on the Halff Brothers Ranch will give you the
perfect excuse to buy a truly different type of gun for yourself.
Combination guns are not very common in the United States. We tend
to have only one quarry in mind when we hunt, so we tend to have
very specialized rifles and shotguns. We have elk rifles for elk
and deer rifles for deer. If bird hunting is on the agenda we have
quail or turkey guns. On
most hunts that is the way it should be because there is only one
quarry that we will be allowed to harvest. Hunting on the Halff
Brothers Ranch can be very different. An outing for a deer can very
easily turn into the opportunity to take a beautiful Rio Grande
gobbler. In fact my experience is that it is unusual not to see
turkeys during a hunt on the ranch. Wild hogs are always around
and the chance to harvest a coyote pelt can happen at any time.
Dove and quail hunting can be arranged. In fact two enterprising
and very energetic young men arranged an amazing day for themselves
on the Halff Brothers Ranch this season. The plan was to harvest
Ducks, Quail, Doves, Turkey and Deer all in one day.
Before daybreak they positioned themselves at a pond and opened
a beautiful cool South Texas morning by shooting a limit of ducks.
This is a rare treat because the river has to flood at the right
time to fill the pond. Later in the morning our energetic hunters
shot quail and doves. Then they turned their attention to hunting
for deer and a turkey. They got their chance. There were opportunities
at deer and for turkey. When the opportunity arose for a deer a
shot gun was in hand. When
a tom appeared rifle was in hand instead of a shot gun and an attempted
head shot didn't work out. They were happy and exhausted by the
end day. Part of the exhaustion was from carrying a rifle and shotgun
at the same time. What if you could have a hunt like that and do
it all with one lightweight, short, handy gun and always have the
right gun for the game in you hand. Well you can, the solution is
The subject of combinations guns could fill a book. They come in
all shapes and sizes. At the turn of the century, Holland and Holland
made 8 gauge paradoxes which were primarily for hunting the great
game of Africa but could be used with shot. They are no longer made
and if you want one plan to spend an amount between the price of
a good truck that of a small house to own one. The other end of
the scale includes the little Savage over and unders that only cost
a few hundred dollars and come in several useful combinations. In
between these two ends of the spectrum there are an amazing number
of combination guns. Possibly the most common and useful configuration
is the drilling. This is a three barrel set with the top two barrels
being a double shotgun with a rifle barrel underneath. The shotgun
barrels stiffen the rifle barrel and they tend to be very accurate.
Then there is the 'cape rifle' configuration. This is a side by
side double with one barrel being a shot gun and the other a rifle.
It is referred to as a cape rifle because it was very popular in
the Cape area of South Africa, another place where many different
type of game abounds. The over and under is usually the least expensive
and does excellent service. Baikal, the Russian firm makes a very
reasonably priced, serviceable over and under that comes in interesting
combinations. How about a 6.5 X 55 Swedish Mauser under a 12 gauge
3 inch magnum? How can any dyed in the wool gun nut turn that down?
Combination guns come in any price range and just about any caliber
combination that you can want. Once you have one, make the magic
happen by taking it into the field in a place like the Halff Brothers
Ranch. I promise you it will be great hunting experience.
don't need a gun, I'll just chase the hog down..."
(This article first appeared in the San Antonio Construction
News -July 2004)
If you want to impress someone, take him for a Trophy deer hunt.
If you want to get to know somebody, take her for a hog hunt. Hog
hunting brings out character.
The sport has occasionally gotten a bad rap in Texas, but don't
you believe it. Too often we hear stories concerning over-population;
trapping by the hundreds; and farmers and ranchers killing hogs
and leaving them dead where they lay. Varmints? Damn varmints?
But there is another point of view...
Hunting hogs can be some of the most challenging, the most entertaining
and sometimes, the scariest hunting there is.
And, if you want to develop a solid relationship, or get the measure
of a man, or a woman,... Take them hog hunting...
If you think you can get the measure of a business associate,
figure what you can learn about your wife....
Porkers are a supreme challenge and easy as can be. They possess
an excellent sense of smell but have lousy eyesight and so-so hearing.
They can be wary animals at times but at other times they might
hear a guide running his corn route and run into the back tire of
the truck in their hurry to get to a tasty morsel.
Feral hogs can learn quickly where danger lies, then forget it in
a moment. They can be hunted in the day and in the night. Hogs are
known for running and for stopping, so if the hunter has the lungs
and the heart, hogs can be caught. And they can be hunted from blinds,
trees, trucks and on foot.
But on foot is the most amusing.
This is Rufus, he is not the guide in question. But that
hog is very alive...
There was, for instance, one young guide on the ranch, obsessed
with all things hogs and dogs. He literally ran them down on foot.
His story could be a tall tale if it wasn't for the fact that every
word is absolutely true.
This guide was by definition a breed apart but he understood that
hunting is basically no different than any entertainment venue -
and his job was to entertain.
He figured that if people want to pay for an experience he would
try to give them one. If the indelible moment of a hunt was seeing
a man tackle a hog then he had succeeded at his job.
We like to think that a hunt should contain camaraderie, tranquility,
sport, excitement and always the beauty of nature.
Many times harvesting an animal then mounting and displaying the
trophy is just an added bonus.
Good guides understand this and they strive to provide as many of
the conditions as they can for a memorable time.
The challenge is that game can't be controlled. They can be studied,
patterned and anticipated but the experience can - and does - veer
from the expected in a moment of time. This particular guide could
make that moment swerve into twilight zone territory simply by announcing
that he could run down a hog. The fact was that this guide tackled
hogs. He jumped on hogs. He rode hogs. He tripped hogs and almost
always he stuck his knife into their innards when he was done.
This drove the hunters wild!
Sometimes when he caught a hog that was small, he would keep it
alive but he would perform a bit of surgery to relieve it of its
source of testosterone.
He would turn it loose with the plan of returning two years later
to track it down again, when the tusks had grown to three of four
Trophy Hogs - All Natural
Those hogs would have put on two or three hundred pounds and by
all measures they would be trophy hogs.
The blade he used was about 12 inches of homemade razor sharp steel.
He set store by that knife. A day wouldn't go by that he wouldn't
touch up the edge. Sometimes an hour wouldn't go by.
Third only to hogs and horses, his knife was his closest friend.
He carried his knife in an unusual place, hanging next to the snap
of his jeans. Even though he was a tall man, a 12-inch "pig
sticker" hanging from the front of one's waist was not a sight
to ignore. It says loud and clear, don't mess with me.
He claimed that it was handier in that position. When he ran with
the knife flapped wildly, but he always knew where it was.
Running a healthy animal down on foot is a challenge for the athletic.
When the animal is wounded, it is a challenge for a particularly
psychologically unique that is. Some would call
This twenty something kid with legs as long as a post and just about
as thin got so excited his hands would shake at the thought of chasing
When a hunter wounded an animal early in the day, with plenty of
daylight left, he would turn to his hunter and say calmly, "okay
you wait here I am going to go get your hog."
The hunter invariably would point out that he didn't have a gun.
"It's okay he would say, I have all I need right here,"
and he would pat his scabbard confidently.
And then he would go after the hog.
He approached wounded hogs the same way that he did healthy tuskers.
He tackled hogs, he jumped on hogs, he rode hogs, he tripped hogs
and he always stuck his knife into their innards when he was done.
And then he would sharpen his knife some more.
If the animal was wounded late in the day and the daylight was rapidly
dissipating he would take his hunter back to camp for dinner and
then check with the ranch manager. Darkness added a new factor but
the talk always went something like this:
"Boss, I got a wounded pig I need to go get, can I take one
of my dogs?"
The manager asks, "Is he a big boar?"
"No" came the answer
"Well then, don't worry about him til morning, it's late."
"Oh no sir, I don't mind, I'll just get one of my hounds and
it won't be a problem at all."
This is where his hands would start shaking a bit. Just the thought
of chase was enough. The manager would be feeling the energy too,
but of a different sort.
"You better not be bringing one of your catch dogs with you,
he would warn. I don't want those animals loose on this ranch. If
I see or hear one of those catch dogs, I'm going to shoot it. Do
Catch dogs have a bad rap, deservedly so from the point of view
of some. They corner a hog then latch onto it. Literally they catch
it and don't let go. The hunter then has to come and kill the hog.
In the process, hog tusks can gut a dog or a man with a twist of
the animal's head. It's hard on dogs, it's dangerous for the hunter
and most men wouldn't consider facing it.
But the guide would answer, "Oh no sir, I'm only going to use
my red cur, the bay hound."
This red bay dog was an amazing animal. It would run off into the
brush and after a time it would bay twice. Neither dog nor human
was a social talker and two bays to the moon was all it took to
alert his master to his situation. Two bays meant come on in; I
have the animal cornered and its up to you.
At two bays, the guide would charge into the brush and even in the
dead of night he always came back with the hog. No one ever saw
him hunt with a gun.
There are certain types of men who could smell hogs the way kids
can smell chocolate chip cookies baking down the street. Instinctively
these kindred souls knew where to find hogs whether breaking dawn
or approaching midnight.
Not every hog hunt is as exciting as moving into the brush with
that guide, but each one has a certain thrill.
Hunting demands more from a group relationship than a golf or basketball
outing. It is an experience of life and death.
Because of that, it becomes an insightful way to develop relationships
and get the measure of a man or woman - or even a guide with shaky