The scar on the underside of Eric Ruiz’s forearm forms a rough, pale, pitted crescent against his skin. It is a hunting souvenir, and like all good souvenirs it keeps the memories of one particular experience alive in the mind of its owner: in this case a wild hog hunt that Eric took part in a few years ago.
“A lot of people think that a javelina and a hog are related,” Eric explained. “But javelina are peccaries; they are two different things.”
He gestured to the scar on his arm – it’s around three inches long and even fully healed, it looks painful.
“That’s a hog cut,” he smiled.
“There is times when they are dangerous. You can kill them with a 22 up to a .270, but that time we were hunting with dogs. He was about 200 pounds, and I went to grab his ear…” He moved his hand in a slashing sideways gesture. “… and he sliced me.”
Ruiz is 37 years old and has been working as a professional hunting guide for over ten years. Previous to that he worked in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Beeville, initially as a Correctional Officer and then as a Kennel Sergeant, where he trained dogs that were used for tracking down various kinds of escapees.
“It was basically pack-dogs,” he said. “We had what we called ‘free-world’ chases, and ‘prison chases. A ‘prison’ chase was when inmates would escape from prison, and ‘free-world’ was basically when the local law enforcement would call you and say ‘hey, this guy ran away from me on the highway’ or some felon would do something to a cop on the road, then we would go after them.”
Since 2001 Ruiz has swapped man-hunting for hunting guide. He specializes in hunting deer and game birds, such as duck, quail, doves and wild turkey, and according to him, the hunters that he works with fall into very distinct types.
“Some people like to shoot birds,” he said. “And some people like to shoot deer. There are still people who go shooting for meat, but a lot of now is for the challenge of the trophy. I like to shoot birds.”
Ruiz uses a Yildiz .410 shotgun, a gun that is often described as ‘economical’ and elegant, for hunting quail. Bobwhite Quail, so called for their distinctive ‘bob-bob-bob-white’ call are common in Texas, and hunted both for sport and their delicate, delicious meat.
“For turkeys we go to a 12 gauge shotgun, either automatic or pump, with chokes to control the scatter. With quail you want it to scatter, but with turkey you want it tight. On a turkey there are two little balls under the head, and that is where you are aiming at. ”
Ruiz’s favorite guns are his Ruger rifles. He owns a Ruger I 22-250, and a Ruger II 25-06 both of which he describes as ‘beautiful’.
“But I think a .270 Winchester or Remington rifle would be best for deer,” he said.
“The most difficult thing about hunting whitetail is their sense of smell; they are always looking out for danger. The bigger the animal the harder it is to kill it…you would want to hit vitals. Basically heart, lungs, just behind the shoulder. They have keener senses, they become nocturnal – they are not going to come out during the day like a young buck. They get smarter. Winchester and Remington are the oldest make of gun, they last a long time and you have don’t have much problems with them. But I think that the optics that you use are almost more important. A lot of times, when you shoot your gun, the optics don’t hold. You can go Zeis, Leupold, Swarovski or Nikon. It’s always important to spend some money on your optics.”