Well, I am back from my hunt at Tejon Ranch. It was an experience, something I wish everyone had the opportunity to do.
After having my buddy opt for knee replacement instead of a hunt, I headed out solo on Friday morning. Got to the ranch, and at noon, they cut us loose. First problem though, apparently it had been misting/drizzling all night, and the roads were crap. I did have a 4x4 that my buddy gave me to use, but he had normal street tires on it. I was limited to the main canyon there, but the road through it is almost 15 miles, so plenty of room to spread out. I drove for a while, looking for pigs on in the draws. At 1:15, barely an hour into the hunt, I found some fresh rooting, and thought the draw looked nice, and decided to take a walk.
Headed up a nice draw, kinda flat at the mouth with tons of mast bearing trees. One thing I noticed here, I have never seen so many acorn, nut, other type of food trees. Unbelievable. Found that it split into 2 draws, and one had a firebreak in it. I chose that one, paralleling a thick creek bottom. I walked about 5 minute when I heard what I thought was more of a growl/meow, like a big kitty. Coulda been a pig, I thought, so I sat listening. As I sat there, I look to my left, and on the road 50 yards away are a nice 3x3 and 4 does (Those were the first of probably 50 deer, and 15 bucks or so, I saw, all within 100 yards). Well, a few minutes later, I hear a squeal, so no question, pigs! I look around, and there is a nice clean path though the creek to a level plateau on the opposite side. The wet leaves were silent, made for great creeping.
I followed the trail, and after 50 yards, peeked over, and there they were. I saw a sow with some piglets walk away across another draw, and a second pig. I slowly moved to a tree in front of me, and started seeing more pigs. They were within 40-50 yards, no clue I was there. Got the shooting sticks ready, and started scoping them. I need to add here, that the only pigs they ask you to hold off on are wet sows. Now, being inexperienced with pigs, and being insecure about making a mistake, I cranked the scope up to 9x to identify them. I now had 4 pigs, all about 120-160 pounds, feeding all around me (Oh, and I hear a noise behind me, and I turn to see the does had walked up to 20 yards and were staring at me). I looked over the pigs, and all 4 had teets. Only one was sagging, but still, I wasn’t sure if they were “wet”. After 10 minutes, and them closing to 20 yards, they started to leave. They walked down a trail at 15 yards. I finally said screw it, I don’t think those are wet. The biggest walked into my shooting lane, I throw up the scope. $*%^&!!!!! A scope at 9x and 15 yards isn’t a good idea, all a blur. I quickly tried to adjust it, but she made me. Off she went across the draw. After they were over the little ridge, I slid after them. Crested the next ridge, and I see some walking up the ridge, and hear a huff/snort as the dominant sow charges into the trail, looks right at me, and takes off up the ridge. I hear a noise to my right, and 20 yards away in the tall grass, starts the conga line. Another 15-20 pigs follow her lead, walking by me and up the ridge. I think I was biased by the size of the original sows, so I let the whole parade go by without raising my gun. I tried to get back on them, working them till dark, and lost them.
So, I beat myself up pretty good back in camp, not knowing if I’d get another chance. I drank some beer with a couple guys I knew, trying to come up with a plan (And more questions). Second day came, and while I saw probably 30 pigs, they were all at 500+ yards. I did see a couple of bull elk, lots of turkeys and deer, and some beautiful country. Called the guys at the end of the day, quite disappointed that I’d blown it Friday. Talked to them, and got another pep talk. Feeling a little bad, because my 6 year old son was calling every hour asking if I had shot anything yet. More beer with my friends, and decided, as they said, why leave pigs to go find pigs. I also talked with a guy skinning a nice boar, and he gave me a place to go the next morning, he said “guaranteed”. Couldn’t hurt.
Sunday, last day, only have till noon. I started at sun-up, glassing the hills where I’d seen the 25-30. Nothing for the first 45 minutes, so I decided to move. Headed to the “Guaranteed” spot. As I was driving, passed a couple guys with a pig in the pickup, and told them where I was headed. Oh, that’s where they shot it….. $*@#^ . Still give it a try, get to the spot, and looking for a place to pull off I see another truck coming out of the canyon, pig in the back. $*%&!!! Just got it right down the road, where the other guy in the truck also got one yesterday. Well, that’s 4 pigs in about 18 hours from there. I was dismayed, but still sat where the guy told me to go. After 15 minutes, and 2 more trucks passing the road below, I said screw it, gotta get mobile and spot some pigs.
So, I get in the truck, and head down one firebreak that had been mentioned by someone else. Not 5 minutes later, I go past some massive wallows, through a small patch of green field, and round a corner into an oak flat. I just pulled off the edge of the road to bino, shut the truck off, and immediately see pigs walking through the oaks at about 100+ yards. I jumped out, off the edge of the road, and threw up the gun. Now, since Friday, my 2 friends both told me to stop thinking, and “just shoot any damn pig!!!”. Well, there were 7-8 in this group, all decent sized, no piglets. One glanced at me, but they kept walking. Most were bunched up, but there was one trailing the group by about 5 feet. I put the crosshairs on that one, took off the safety, and squeezed the trigger. Click! (Remember, nothing comes easy) So, I rack in a round, take aim again, and bang! Dropped him in his tracks.
Ran up to him, and was surprised to see a big boar. I had taken their advice, and hadn’t thought about anything, including the fact that the big guys are usually the last in the group. Anyway, he was still kicking. Thought it may be nerves, cause the shot looked perfect (turns out I spined him), but when I kicked him in the a$$, he reared his head and squealed. I took one more Coup de Grace’ in the back of the head, and he was done. As I sit here now, I am going to check the one tusk later. I think it was already broken, but I need to see if I shot the damn tusk off when I plugged him in the head.
So, he turned out to be a really nice one. 185 pounds dressed, big enough for the “Big Pig” of the weekend on the north side. Gutted him, and luckily I had brought a gambrel with me. In the hour I was messing with him, nobody drove by, so I had to load him myself. I was able to hoist him up into a tree, and back the truck under him. Got him skinned and quartered back at camp, and headed home. The pleasant surprise was yesterday when I was deboning him. I have heard from everyone that a big boar would basically need to be entirely ground up for sausage, because most were really rank. He definitely was the most unpleasant thing I have smelled, while standing over him. Nasty! However, not wanting to waste good loins and backstrap, I cut some off. Took the whole loin, simply S&P and browned it in some olive oil, and threw it in the oven. It was melt in your mouth delicious, and 100% serious, flavor-wise, tasted just like a pork loin or chop from Costco. Gave it to my buddy who was helping me, and he agreed. His family raises and butchers hogs in Arkansas, and he hunted pigs there, and says he’s never had a boar taste that good.
So, since the meat is good, gonna keep all the backstrap and rest of the loin. Left one hind quarter to make into a ham, and bringing in the rib cage to the butcher, he said he might be able to make short ribs. And the rest will be made into some great sausage. So, my freezer will be full, and most importantly, It will be mostly with animals I killed myself.
Sorry for the long story, but I don’t get to tell too many. Oh, and thanks to Ed for the copper ammo. Worked like a charm.....