Shooting Sports Don’t Need to End with the Hunting Season

The hunter today doesn’t need to put away his gun when he takes out his fishing equipment, as there are many shooting preserves now available. He can even shoot some birds, if he wishes. Many clubs buy birds that are stocked for shooting at some of their clubs. Actually, it takes more skill to test your shooting abilities with a trap or skeet run. And if you are competing with others on a sporting clays course, the competition can be good sport and get intense.

If you’re interested in hunting larger game you may be testing your skills for much larger trophies. Some of the clubs on hunting preserves raise or buy big-game animals for the hunter that can afford to shoot them. It is possible for a shooting preserve owner to raise animals that are normally protected by hunting laws. These animals have to be born and raised completely within privately owned land to qualify. Many trophy animals such as elk, deer, or bison can be raised to trophy size for one who wants one. I mounted a bison that was killed by the owner of a restaurant who wanted the head as a decoration.

Some big-game animals raised for trophies can be legal because they are not native to this country. The list of them is more like the animals you’d find in a zoo: mouflon, Corsican and Hawaiian sheep, Spanish goats, axis and fallow deer. Aoudads are also sometimes available and are rare in their native North African Tunisian desert, but can be easily raised in a protected environment. The mounted head makes a beautiful, large-horned trophy.

The list of game farms that provide these animals can be found online, in adds of hunting magazines or in NRA’s monthly magazine. One hunting preserve advertised big horn sheep, one with big horns, but it was a “domestic, wool-bearing animal” and not the rare trophy found in the mountains of the West.

The biggest problem when you hunt these animals is since they are raised domestically, they become very tame. When you go hunt them they will be easier to find. One hunter said that when they opened the gate to the chain link fence to let in the hunters at one site the animals rushed up thinking they were going to be fed. In most cases, the hunts are arranged in an area of deep woods and a wild terrain so at least you will be in a “wild environment” and the animals might try to hide. Since you’re on privately owned land there are no restrictions on what weapons you use, or need. I had animals brought to me for mounting and butchering that were killed with anything from handguns to long guns to and bow and arrows.

The best animal you can hunt is a wild boar. They are called “wild pigs.” It would not sound as good if they said you were hunting a wild sow, even though are hunting both male and female pigs in these scenarios. There are areas in Texas and some places in the South in wooded lands in Louisiana, or up into Ohio and Missouri that have some wild lands left that have feral hogs that have escaped from farms and have gone “wild.” In Texas, there are some lands that have so many that they have a bounty on them. Pigs are very prolific and have big litters too, so a few escaped animals can soon populate an area.

There was a gun shop near Itasca on Route 53. The owner fenced in some wooded land outside of Galena, Ill. and trapped some feral hogs and released them in the fenced property. He then sold hunting rights for those wild pigs. I became the taxidermist that would mount the heads of any boars that a person wanted. The problem was that the pigs, being from domestic stock, were all different colors. The black ones were no problem, but some were blond, white, brown or spotted. The hunters would want to be able to call their mounts “European wild boars,” so I had to dye the colored ones black. They had a skin that was easily to handle, and for a while I was quite busy, but I had black hands from all of the dyes I used.

Being a butcher and taxidermist, many of the hunters would bring me their animals to butcher, even if they didn’t want it mounted. I found it interesting with all of the different ones I handled I got to try many of the different meats. As with domestic animals, some, especially the males that are trophy-sized game, can have very tough meat. Also, some species have a very strong taste and smell. All animals in the goat family have a naturally strong smell that increases as the animal ages, so if you are hunting on land that have these to shoot, avoid shooting the old males if you are looking for the meat. The mouflon and aoudads are in the sheep family, and the meat is excellent so hunt those for food, if possible. The best meat comes from those feral hogs, especially from the sows. They feed on wild vegetation and the meat has just the right an amount of fat to make the meat flavorful. As with domestic hogs, all of the meat from them is edible. You can have hams, shoulder or loin roasts. I have smoked some hams, which are very good. The boars, if they get too old can too strong a taste. Again, most of your hunting should be for the younger pigs, providing you with the best meals.

I was sorry when that private hunting area in Galena closed down. That black paint on my hands has since come off, but I sure miss the meat.