Monday, November 16, 2009

Tioga Boar Hunt '09

It was 7am when I parked my ambulance, changed, and headed home to pick up two good friends, Louis and Eddie, for a wild boar hunt in Pennsylvania. I hadn't slept yet, but I was excited and it kept me up. After a few gear issues, (Eddie forgot his ammo) we headed up Rt 17. It was about a 4 hour drive, and as pleasant as you can make it for three 6 foot men and hunting gear in a Ford Ranger.

Our destination was a ranch in North Central PA. You can find their website here:

We made our way to the office and got checked in, then taken to our living quarters for the weekend. It was a small, cabin like house with two levels, the bottom of which was mostly a lobby type area. A small dining room and kitchen were on the left, and a TV room off to the right, but we didn't spend any time there. At the top of a steep set of stairs were several bedrooms, and we took one with 6 bunks and settled in.

Once our gear was in order, we took off for the range across the street (Ok, it was a dirt path) to the range to make sure we were still sighted in and nothing had been rattled off zero in transit. My Savage .30-06 and the Nikon scope mounted on top were still dead on, so I spent a few rounds practicing kneeling and offhand shots before I was satisfied that I would hit my mark the next day.

Louis had no issues with his NEF 12 Gauge, and we expected none. After all, it was wearing iron sights, not a scope and there is very little to go wrong with a solid single shot gun.

Eddie's rifle was a different story. Eddie is, out of the three of us, by far the worst marksman. He can generally keep his shots within a 14 inch circle at 100 yards and not much better. That's rested, of course. Ed had sighted his rifle in previously, but only to a point, and had expected to fine-tune it here. That was a mistake we'd warned him about. He couldn't seem to figure out how to use the low rest at the range comfortable, and decided to forego the rest entirely. He couldn't seem to get hits at 100 yards, so we moved back to the 40 yard target, and he still had trouble hitting. After about 10 rounds I took the rifle and fired a shot at 40. It hit about 3 inches high, which would be about right at 100. So we knew it wasn't the rifle. Frustrated, he put the rifle away to shoot Louis's Ruger .357 for a bit.

It's a fine pistol, and very accurate with a 6 inch barrel. The .38+P rounds we were shooting were mild, and they hit where you wanted them to at 25 yards. Louis and I left Eddie to shoot some more. After another 8 rounds or so, he'd managed a decent group and was satisfied with the rifle. It was a fine gun, a pre-1964 Winchester Model 70, but the scope was ancient and foggy, with a post reticle that was hard to master.

I laid down for a nap until dinner-Elk stew with buffalo sloppy joes. It was an outstanding meal. We sat up and chewed the fat with the other hunters for a little while after, then laid down for the night. Wake-up was 0600.

The morning was chilly, in the mid 40's but not uncomfortable, and very clear. We followed our guides for the day up the dirt path in my pickup and headed out to the area we would hunt.

Tioga's hunting is "canned", in that the animals are kept in fenced preserves. But it is not as simple as it seems. They have over 1500 acres of land with which to hunt, and our area was at least 300. Fallow deer, water buffalo, white-tails and of course, boar all co-exist in some sort of fantasy ecosystem inside the wire. Both Bald, and Golden eagles flew overhead, and I spotted an osprey once. There were a few Coopers hawks flying around the trees looking for songbirds as well.

Once inside the wire, we split up. Eddie went with one guide, Chase, hunting for a smaller "management" boar, while Louis and I went with the other guide, Carmen, after a trophy pig. They were in contact via radio, and we set out looking for pigs. We didn't find many right away, but Eddie did. We heard a shot ring out below us, and another just a few seconds later. Over the radio I heard that they thought he has wounded "a little spotted pig." Great, I thought. Now we're looking for an angry, wounded pig. This could be interesting.

We saw quite a few fallow deer, and heard of pigs elsewhere on the radio, but saw none in the first hour. I was glassing the pines ahead with a pair of binoculars looking for Eddie's wounded pig, when Eddie's guide said over the radio that a nice red trophy boar was headed our way. We quickly moved to head it off and I spotted him alone, working his way through the trees 100 yards off. I moved up, little by little from tree to tree at a crouch. Finally at 60 yards I took a knee and raised my rifle. I waited until he came out from behind a tree, a good broadside shot, and squeezed the trigger just as he started walking forward again. My rifle bucked, and the pig squealed, then dropped, his back legs useless. He turned and whirled, looking for whatever had hurt him, but found that he could no longer move. I moved up a little closer, and put another shot right behind his shoulder to finish him.

When he'd expired, we walked up to take a look. He was a nice sized pig as far as I could tell. I was upset because my first shot had landed too far back. It took out his spine, but wouldn't have done anything immediately lethal, and I'd ruined some meat. The second shot was a perfect heart/lung and I wished that I'd pulled that off the first time.

We linked up with Eddie and on our way, saw his spotted pig with another group. It didn't look hit at all, and they hadn't found a blood trail, so he had missed it entirely. We sat behind a stump for the next hour. I threw in a lip full of Skoal and watched a white-tail buck amble past. A group of pigs came over the rise behind me, and when I finally turned and spotted them, they took off. Louis and I moved on, splitting with Eddie once again. Our guide had found a pair of pigs bedded down in a field. They were tired and done running. We got close enough for Louis to get a shot off with a slug gun and open sights, but not close enough to endanger ourselves. Going by his first shot, we maybe should have been closer. He placed the first slug into her neck, and they both took off as if he had missed entirely. The slug passed cleanly through nothing but fat. She barely knew that he'd shot her. Eddie shot twice more soon afterward, with 2 more clean misses.

We tracked her about a mile back, down pine slopes and through a swamp. Carmen spotted her 100 yards out and wheeling back around, coming towards us. We got situated behind a huge stump and waited. She got within 10 yards and stopped, but it was a frontal shot. She might have scented us, but kept going. As she got broadside to the log, she caught a look at me. There was blood in her eyes, and she took 2 trotting steps in my direction before Louis dropped her with a well placed shot behind the ear. She died on the spot. She was no more than 3 yards from me. I realized that my hand was in my pocket looking for shells when he had shot. That pig wanted my bacon.

We trekked back to meet Eddie once again, while Carmen went back to grab an ATV and get our pigs back to the lodge. He fired once when we were walking up the hill, but once again, no pig. He was unable to get a follow-up shot in because some other hunters came up in front, they had radioed their position wrong. Lucky they were in orange.

We sat with Eddie for another half hour or so, but no pigs came through, and we started to walk back to the lodge, so that Louis and I could take a look at our pigs and get more pictures. Eddie was planning on going back out when we got back, but on the way out, I spotted a white head in the bushes. I almost didn't get us stopped in time, my first inclination was to hold my fist in the air in a military "halt", but then realized that I needed to actually say "hold up." Eddie managed to get within 25 yards from it, and finally put it down. He shot once, a little far back in the ribcage, missing the heart/lung but doing some damage to the liver and spleen. It was still on it's feet though, and he put a second shot in just to be sure.

Back at the lodge we learned that my pig was much more massive than we had originally thought. In the woods, he hadn't seemed exceptionally large, but next to some of the other pigs, all in the 200 pound range, his size was exceptional. In a class by himself really. We never exactly weighed him, but they had to use a backhoe to hang it up, and I would guess he was pushing 300 lbs, if not 325. There is more meat in my freezer than I know what to do with, so I will be having a BBQ this weekend if the weather holds, and may give some of it away as well. I still have a deer tag to fill, and no room to put it in.

It was a great experience out there, and a good entry to big-game hunting. I've hunted plenty of small game before, and tried to hunt deer and bear with no real success. I'm hoping this year will be different, and now I have little to worry about with 'buck fever', because I know that I can perform in the woods. Next time I'll be hoping for a one-shot stop.

Happy hunting, and stay safe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Horror and hindsight

I am disoriented and groggy when the high pitched, two-toned call pierces the air. It is dark and I roll over once groaning, then sit up. "WNXX-527, Stony Point Ambulance and Medic One respond to an Motor Vehicle Accident, Palisades Parkway Southbound, between exit 16 and 17. 3 month old infant involved. Time now 0230."

That woke me right up. I cursed under my breath and laced my boots up a little faster, then ran for the ambulance bay doors and cranked them open. We rolled out a moment later. We were right around Exit 15, so the ambulance had to go North past the scene and turn around where there was a spot for it. We would have crossed the median, but there were too many trees in the way. No sense causing another accident on our way. Luckily there were very few cars on the road at such an early hour.

After what felt like an eternity, but was probably less than ten minutes, we arrived on the scene. There was a blue minivan on the shoulder, perched up on a tall rock, and the front end in a small tree, maybe a foot in diameter. Shining my flashlight I can see two adults in the van, huddled over a small, crying baby. That's a good sign.

To a medic, a crying baby is a good baby. Kids cry when they are hurt or upset. It's their way of telling you that something is not right, when many times they are unable to say what. It also tells you that they have a patent airway, and they are breathing, with adequate air-flow to scream. A quiet child who has just undergone major trauma makes me nervous. He may be brave, and perfectly OK, or he may be silently slipping off the cliff that is a child shock profile.

I take the baby from Mom, who is crying and hyperventilating herself, and a quick assessment show's no injuries except a fairly deep, clean laceration on the left side of her chest by the pectoral muscle. Bleeding is mostly controlled. It looked to have been caused by one of the plastic adjusters on the car-seat that she was strapped into. I put her back into the car seat and take it with me. We don't have any C-spine materials that small, and with all her thrashing with the crying, and her parents having moved her, I didn't see a need to stress her more.

Both parents are patients as well, and Tommy is with me so they both climb in the back. They are insistent that we only treat their baby. Mom is hyperventilating and complaining of a severe headache, but refuses to let us look. Dad claims he is sore but nothing else. Neither one will allow us to board and collar. Dad is like a helicopter. As I hold pressure on his baby's wound, he leans in as if in a panic, and says " They baby is dying! The baby is dying, do something!" I am a calm individual and simply told him that nobody would die in my ambulance today. When he continued, Tommy, and our ALS for the night(at least 450 pounds between the two of them) told him that he needed to calm down, or go with the nice police officers that wished to speak with him.

I was actually shocked that he wasn't arrested on scene. The police pulled him out of the ambulance, I believe he had already signed an RMA. He was not carrying a license and driving his fathers car. He claimed that a deer had jumped out and that he swerved, and ended up on top of the low, sloping rock that we found the car on, but there was something off there. When the police took him away from the back, Mom went nuts. Her hyperventilation increased severely, she cried and screamed worse than the child laying on my cot, in a total panic. We let him come back aboard mostly for that reason.

It was an easy ride to the hospital. I made repeated offers to check out Mom, and her head- she refused, though it seemed to be giving her severe discomfort, and she kept rubbing one particular spot. Dad continued to panic, asking me once when the baby finally relaxed, "Is she still alive?? Does she still have a pulse?" I told him that she did. I told him that I didn't even need to feel for it. I could see her heartbeat causing her skin to pulse around the fontanels, and her color was fine. He tried to then grab her head, as if he couldn't see and wanted to feel the pulse I had mentioned. I stopped him and told him that touching a baby's head like that could be harmful, and not to do it again. He leaned back against the bench and calmed down a little longer until we reached the hospital. I gave my report, wished them luck, and said goodbye.

A few days later I was told that a police officer needed to speak with me about a call that I'd worked the previous week. Earlier that evening Tom and I had done an obvious domestic violence case. A woman's boyfriend had pushed her down some stairs and thrown dirty cat litter on her. She claimed to the police that she had tripped over a cat, but it was easy to see her black eyes through the makeup and I don't think the police officer bought it. She told us the truth in the truck, and swore us to secrecy but I wrote up the wounds as I found them, and wrote the Chief Complaint as I'd found it. I figured that he would want to talk about that call, but I was very wrong.

Three days later, dad had spent the day with Mom and her child. Before he returned home for the evening, he asked to hold his child one last time for the night. He then took his beautiful, new, lively daughter, and swung her by her ankles, hitting her head repeatedly against an iron railing. She had died instantly, an he was tackled by a horrified neighbor before he could run. Police were looking to see if there was any kind of precursor or warning to this. They'd found a Leatherman tool in the car, with brown hair that looked like it was from mom's head on the floor of the car. Apparently it had been wrapped up in her hair with the knife blade to her throat. The skid marks show that the car was traveling in excess of 90MPH, on a slight uphill grade. It started to click. Her headache, and her reluctance to allow examination. His panic, not because he was scared for his daughter, but because he had wanted her dead, he had hoped she would die. The crash was attempted murder. He wanted to kill everyone in the car. I felt like I had missed something. Alarm bells were ringing in my head the whole time, but nothing I could place, nothing I could act on. And now a child was dead. I held no sympathy for Mom. To me, she was almost just as responsible for her daughters death. She could have told us, while he was gone. She could have let us examine her, find out for ourselves. She could have let the police arrest him. She could have gone to somebody when she realized what a freaking psycho he was. But she did not.If only he'd gotten a bit more aggressive and I'd hit him, and THEN he'd been arrested, But I wasn't given that opportunity. And I am still left feeling like I missed something.

Neither one of us was ever called into court to testify. There either was no provable connection between the crash, and the savage murder, or they had such an open-and-shut case we weren't needed. I never found out what happened to him, or his enabling girlfriend. A google search showed plenty of stories if the incident but no sentencing info. I hope he rots in Hell. Maybe he's already dead. Even most inmates have a conscience when it comes to children.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Attention Drivers!

I do not turn on my flashy red lights and sirens for no reason. I'm not making a coffee run, nor am I just trying to be cool. I'm way past the point where all that noise and red light will give me a rush. I am responding to an emergency call. Somebody is sick, or hurt, and I need to get there, without dodging your sorry ass because you can't be bothered to pull over for five seconds so I can go through. My red lights do not give me a license to speed, so no, you should NOT simply go faster than I am going to avoid pulling over. That will only piss me off. The lights and sirens are a warning to get out of my way, so that I don't have to worry so much about drivers up ahead making sudden maneuvers while I am en route. Your going faster means that at some point up ahead, I'm gonna have to snake my way through clogged up traffic at a red light, and get within inches of your tiny little car in order to make it through with my big ambulance. It only makes both our lives harder. And I'm still ahead of you. So pull the hell over already.

To the lady who looked at me this morning as I entered the busy intersection with both my sirens and horn going, I hope that one day, if something bad happens to you or somebody you love, that there are more courteous drivers on the road that recognize that there are indeed things more important than making it through the yellow light or getting their morning coffee. Hell, I didn't get mine yet.

And the the not-so-gentlemanly guy who stopped at the intersection, than darted out in front of me as I proceeded through...I don't know if you're an idiot, a jerk, or what, but trust me, the vehicle I'm driving will probably run through your little Honda like a hot knife through butter. I'm pretty sure I'd come out on top there.

That is all.