Lessons from "The Bottom" to the Top
So one day I’m sitting at home messing around the house and my phone rings out of the blue. I answer and hear my longtime hunting buddy on the other end. He is all excited about an opportunity to hunt pigs at a decent price and wants me to go along with him and his son. Apparently, he read an ad in one of our fishing and hunting magazines and called the guy to see if it was a misprint. You see, most hunting for pigs is either a guided hunt or on private property. Either option will usually empty your pocket in the tune of $400-800! I love to hunt but I just haven’t been able to justify spending that much on my hobby at one time when I have three little ones around the house right now. The surprising thing about this hunt was that the guy was only asking $175. That was definitely within my expendable budget and I jumped at the opportunity.
Now, although I had read a little about pigs, most of my limited knowledge was based on word of mouth and hearsay. Due to the spontaneous nature of the hunt, I didn’t do my normal research prior to heading out after the elusive wild pigs. This would prove to be my biggest mistake! The only thing I had heard about pigs was that they couldn’t see very well and someone once told me that they were a stupid animal and were therefore very easy to hunt. Wrong!!!
Although we would only be hunting for one day, the trip included an eleven-hour drive. So, we made the long drive and checked into a hotel for what ended up being a quick nap. We had agreed to meet the property owner at a small diner a couple of blocks down the road from our hotel early the next morning (not nearly early enough for me). By the time we met up and introduced ourselves it was already about an hour before daylight and we still had a 30-45 minute drive to the ranch. Something just didn’t seem right about that but hey, it was a budget hunt. So we get to the ranch and drive in the oak covered dirt road and everyone gets out of the trucks. The ranch manager, Greg, gave us a hand drawn map of the terrain, pointed out (with his hand) the direction of the last seen pigs, gave us a radio, and told us to give him a call if we needed help getting a pig out of “the bottom”. “The bottom, what does he mean by the bottom?” I soon would find out. Every pig hunting story I had ever read or picture of a pig hunt that I had ever seen included rolling hills and lush meadows. I immediately noticed that this country was the exact opposite! It was more like the pictures of prime elk country. You know; straight up and straight down! Well, to me, it was straight up and down...
He also pointed to an area on the “map” that was labeled as an old apple orchard and said, “If I was you, I’d give that a look”. Of course, we did. For about 2 hours we sat around that small patch of dried out apple trees and waited for our prize to arrive. It never did. So, we decided to start walking around in search of our quarry. About a hundred yards from the orchard was a thick strand of oaks and the grass in front of the strand was absolutely covered with rooting. We crept up to the edge of the timber and slowly worked our way under the canopy. Within a couple of yards, I started hearing the sound of grunts! I immediately went into my super-stealth pig-hunting mode and began burning every nook and cranny with my eyes. I just knew that I was close to a big old boar! The sound was deep and muffled. Not wanting to spook the pig out, I slowly backed out and got the attention of my buddy and his son. We all gathered and made up a game plan to get the pig moving so we could get a shot. My buddy and his son came in from a position perpendicular to my position and when I could see them, I started slowly creeping towards the sound I had heard. When I got to where I had initially heard it, all of a sudden it sounded off again. Only this time it gave its position away! I looked up and there on the branch of an old oak tree was the biggest grouse I had ever seen! Doh! I felt like a total idiot but oh well, how was I to know?
On we went. We soon found out what “the bottom” was. It ended up being about a 1500-2000 foot drop in elevation in a very short distance. From our vantage point, we could see the river that ran through the bottom and it sure looked like pig habitat to us. So, down we went. The trek down was one of the types that if you weren’t careful, and you slipped, you could end up tumbling out of control. But, we made our way down and it wasn’t really that bad…yet. We got to the bottom and found what we thought were fresh tracks and ended up following those around for a while. After a couple of hours of following tracks, my buddy gets a wild hair to go up the mountain in front of us. So, up we went. This mountain was every bit as steep as the climb down to “the bottom”. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, we were spent! We sat down and just took in the scenery. Although we weren’t seeing any pigs, we were definitely in God’s country. The view of the mountains and valleys was breath taking! The grass was a lush green and the sky was as blue as it could be. It was worth the entire trip to just sit there in silence and take it all in. It was about this time while were sitting there that we decided that we might want to learn a little more about pigs because we really didn’t know what we were doing. So, after eating an MRE and rehydrating, we decided to try to reach Greg on the radio to see if he had any other advice on where we should look. We tried and tried and couldn’t reach him so we climbed to the very top of the mountain that we were on. We thought maybe if we got to the top, we might be able to get a better signal. No dice! At this point we started to get a little pissed! What if we had actually got a pig? He had promised us that if we got one where we were, he would come on his ATV and get it back to the trucks for us. I guess we would have had to do it the old fashioned way (actually the only way I knew at the time) and drag it out. But, we didn’t have to worry about that. What we did have to worry about was the fact that we were on top of a very steep mountain, almost out of water and had to go back down to “the bottom” and then back UP to our truck. We pretty much gave up on the idea of getting a pig, and therefore just decided to chalk this one up as a $175 (X3) lesson. If we thought we were spent while we were sitting there eating, we had no idea what spent really was! The climb down was Ok, but the climb back up to our trucks was no joke! At some point, my legs were so tired that I turned around and walked backwards and “pushed” myself up. I would expect that level of exhaustion now, being that I am a little older and am not in tip-top shape. But at that time, I was in probably the best shape of my life!
We never did get in touch with Greg, so we decided to just get on the road and make the long trip home. After a good night’s sleep, the next day I got on the internet and started reading up on hunting wild pigs. I learned quite a bit and actually found out that they weren’t the “stupid” animal that I had originally thought. I learned enough in one article that I actually was mad at myself for not taking a few minutes to research before we had gone on our trip. Had I done so, I would have known that we were actually in prime pig country and we probably had spooked pigs all over the place that day. I have yet to get out on another pig hunt, but rest assured, when I do, I’ll know what to expect and I will be prepared!