As written by Field Staff Writer AJ Fick:
This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a wild pig hunt in Monterey County near Paso Robles, CA. According to the CA Department of Fish and Game, Monterey County had the second highest reported take of hogs during the 2010-2011 season, accounting for 505 hogs or 14.1% of the State’s total hog harvest. After a six hour drive from Lakeside, CA, I met up with Tim and Jack from the Walkin T Ranch at 6:00 PM on Friday, June 29th, and the word was that recent pig activity was very good.Once we gathered our gear and had a quick discussion about hunting strategy, safety and shooting basics, we hopped into Jack’s truck and headed out into the ranch. Along for the ride was my girlfriend, who was there to experience the hunt and satisfy a curiosity about my recreational activities. (The fact that we were spending the weekend at a B&B in the heart of wine country didn’t hurt either.)
The ranch consisted of rolling hills of grass and barley, peppered with the occasional oak grove. It was beautiful central California landscape that held a good amount of game. As we made our way on the dirt road to the highest hilltop on the land, we stopped on several occasions to glass the valleys and hillsides. We spotted more blacktail deer than I can remember, including two very nice mature buck. Jack and I discussed the history of the property and past hunting success. The largest pig taken was a 297 pound boar. I informed Jack that I was interested in harvesting the pig which tasted best. He said that if we came across a dry sow, that we would take it.
When we arrived at our destination, we were standing in the middle of a barley field near the property boundary that had been destroyed by pigs. It looked as if someone had run a tiller through the field. These animals can be very destructive in their search for nutrition, and I quickly understood why farmers classify them as a nuisance.
Surrounded by rolling hills for miles in every direction, we began glassing. About 1,000 yards to the Northwest, two dozen blacktail lazily grazed. Strait down the hill in front of us, we heard turkeys gobble from within a stand of oaks. This was definitely a fantastic piece of property.
Jack was the first to spot them…
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Accordingly, he is the guide. In the chaparral, about 800 yards to the East, we could see about 20 hogs moving towards us. Between us and the hogs was a natural spring about 150 yards away, which is a crucial source of water for game during the hot and dry summer months. We needed the pigs to come to the water because a property boundary currently separated us from a legal harvest.
For the next hour, we waited. Watching, listening, talking, and simply enjoying nature. A young blacktail grazed within 10 yards of us as we sat in the field of barley. Even after spotting us, it did not seem spooked and continued on its way.
As the day began to end we all started to slowly lose faith that the hogs would make their way to the spring before nightfall. With about half an hour of shooting light remaining, Jack decided to check in with Tim, who was also spotting another area of the ranch about a mile away. He was watching two sow and some piglets. The one sow appeared to be dry. Excellent!
We loaded up the truck and wasted no time driving to the other side of the property. We parked in a canyon about 400 yards away from Tim. Leaving our packs in the truck, we jogged down an old farm road in the canyon towards the hogs. Nearing the hogs, we could see Tim standing atop a hill with the sunset sky at his back, but the hogs were around the corner and above us. Fortunately, we were downwind. As we slowed down to a walk, I chambered a round in my Browning X-Bolt my 7mm Remington Magnum. Before we knew it, we were 30 yards away from the hogs. Shrouded by the barley, and upwind, they were oblivious to our presence. The sky now laden with shades of orange, pink and purple as the last few minutes of shooting light remained, Jack quietly indicated which hog to take. I slowly stood from a crouch and rested the rifle on my shoulder, placing the sow in the crosshairs. After waiting a few seconds for it to turn broadside, I fired and hit my mark. The sow ran 20 yards up the hill and then turned and ran towards us. My girlfriend stepped behind me, and Jack yelled to get my pistol ready. As I unfastened the strap on my .44 Magnum, I hesitantly drew it from the holster as I was in disbelief that this animal could still be alive. But before reaching us, it flopped over and expired.
Back at the barn, the guys from the Walkin T Ranch cleaned and dressed the pig, which was an estimated 125 pounds. I enjoyed a beer and the satisfaction of the hunt, even if it only lasted 2.5 hours. I’m a believer that the perfect hunt ends on the last hour of the last day of the season, representing the climax of the season’s preparation, hard work and long hours spent afield. Much like the summit is the ultimate reward to the mountain climber. Nevertheless, I had a great time and my freezer is now full with premium organic California grown pork.
For more information on the Walkin T Ranch, contact their website: www.hogcanyonhunts.com