Submitted by Anne Verstraete
Opening weekend of rifle deer season in Texas is a really big deal. Small, rural, Texas towns drape large banners across their main street that read, “Welcome Hunters”. The money hunting pumps into rural Texas is astronomical: retailers, feed stores, hotels, cafes, processing plants, taxidermists, gas stations and convenience stores. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, hunting and fishing is a $14.4 billion dollar a year celebration.
If you’re a hunter, you’ve been thinking about it for months, anticipating the big day. Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Academy, and local rifle ranges are raking in the big money helping hunters live their dreams for yet another deer season: hunting licenses, firearms, ammunition, knives, scent-free laundry detergent, deer attractants, deer calls, deer corn, camouflage clothing, and boots, the list is endless. You’ve spent some time practicing at the range. You’ve found the perfect bullet for your rifle and have patiently zeroed-in the scope to perfection: one bullet going right through the hole in the target left by the previous bullet, dead-center bull’s eye each time. At least, that’s the theory. No amount of preparation will compensate for a full-blown case of buck fever.
Opening weekend is a social event. Depending on the size of the lease you’re on and the number of guns that property accommodates, you can bet that everyone will be present and accounted for, along with most of their friends and relatives, if allowed. I would really rather skip that one weekend myself, just for that reason. I really don’t enjoy a crowd when I’m thinking about that buck of a lifetime. In my opinion, the first weekend of rifle deer is a good incentive to take up archery. But I’m there anyway, hoping I just might surprise the old boy on the first day.
Happily for me, the lease we had in Eastland County was also a haven for wild pigs. As each of us started off to our respective hunting spots, one of the guys said if he happened to see the perfect pig, he would shoot it. It would have to be a young sow, about 100 to 150 pounds: the perfect eating pig. We all agreed that would be hard to pass up and walked away excited with the prospect of our deer hunting.
By the time I had arrived back at camp from my hunting blind, everyone else was already gathered and had started a roaring campfire for the evening’s festivities. The guy who had been talking about shooting the perfect pig if he could, did. He said as he was walking the path to his blind, she ran out into the path, stopped to look at him, and he dropped her dead in her tracks with one well-placed bullet. He announced to the group around the fire, “If anyone wants that pig, you can have it, but you have to clean it yourself. I just don’t feel like dealing with it now.” No one else said anything, so I cheerfully raised my hand. “I want it.”
There is nothing better in this whole world to eat than wild pork. It’s not as fat as commercially grown pork, but much healthier for you: no antibiotics or growth hormones, and the taste is identical to what you buy at the grocery store. Over the last 11 years, I’ve become a good wild game chef. There is nothing my family loves more than wild pork: breaded and baked chops, roast, stew, smoked, BBQ, chili, sausage, you name it. It’s all good. I preferred to do my own butchering. That way I could be sure everything was handled hygienically, cut, wrapped, weighed, and labeled the way I wanted it, and no small thing, free of charge.
I asked the guys to each take a leg and help me get the sow hauled up onto the picnic table.
The height of a picnic table makes the chore much easier on a 50-year old back. The guy that shot the pig, said to my dear, old, loveable, ex-husband, “Are you really going to let her do this?” My d.o.l.e.h. said, “Of course. She’s a lot better at it than I am.”
This, the guys had to see. By that time it was dark. Driven by curiosity, ten men, of various ages, shapes, and life experiences, gathered in a circle around the picnic table, and held their flashlights on the belly of the pig to watch. Mouths agape in wide-eyed wonder, no one said a word as they watched me pick up my surgically sharp knife and bone saw to begin my work. Within 5 minutes, the belly was unzipped, the pelvic bone was sawed apart, and with a few swift cuts along the diaphragm and the broad ligaments, the innards slid out easily into the large aluminum tub. One of the guys said, “You must have grown up on a farm.” “No, I replied, but that private school biology degree comes in real handy sometimes.”