My friend Brad and I spent a few hours crawling around Cow Mountain hunting wild pigs. We were very unsuccessful, but it was an awesome experience.
I should take a step back: I’ve never hunted before. When Sara and I sailed down to Mexico on our sailing adventure, I didn’t even know how to fish! It wasn’t until our lame first attempts let a nice looking tuna escape that I really got serious. I spent all night reading about how to fish, and the very next day the war was on. We got pretty damn good at catching tuna and had some amazing meals.
But I’ve never hunted before. I never really had the opportunity and I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability. Sara’s taking a leadership course with the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy that’s very interesting, and my own classwork through UC Davis was giving me a reason for personal introspection. After thinking a lot about how we interact with our environment and what type of skills I’d like to have, I came to the conclusion that I want to be more involved in what I eat.
I know how to cook, sure, but I want to know where it comes from. I want to learn how to grow veggies. I think it would be cool to understand fermentation and curing and the seasonality of foods. Sounds silly, but do you know when onions are in season? I don’t. It was this kind of thinking that brought me to the conclusion that you should only eat something you can imagine killing.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t suddenly break out in blood-lust. It all started with cheese. My friend and cow-orker Jeff Meyer and I were talking about making cheese. I came very close to buying a cheese press before Sara talked me out of it with stories about how bad cheese smells when you’re making it. Okay, another thing I want to learn how to make is beer. Sara talked me out of that one too, although she loves beer as much as I do. Maybe she was afraid of how awesome homemade beer would be and how we would be drunk all the time and forget to go to work. Ok, fine, then I’m going to kill a pig. Sara was all over it! Proscuitto, bacon, pork loin, sausages, oh yeah, it was on.
I bought a rifle. I’ve never owned a gun before, but what the hell, it seems like something you should do if you’re going to try to hunt a wild boar. Harsh words and even a sharp stick won’t get you very far against a 200lb animal with tucks and teeth. I bought a Savage Arms bolt-action rifle chambered in .308 and a 3-9x scope.
I took the 5-hour California Hunter’s Safety Course online and in a four-hour followup class. I read pig hunting stories and browsed all the interwebs I could. Did you know wild pigs are a menace to society? Seriously! California has classified them as an invasive species that need to be terminated with extreme prejudice. The state even publishes a guide on how to find and take them.
Brad, a friend from work, was also interested in pig hunting, so we studied and talked to hunters and read stories on the interweb and read books and planned and planned and planned. We were totally ready to go hunting. We loaded up on accessories: binoculars, ammunition, knives, shooting glasses, hearing protection. Sara bought me a pair of “Elk Stalkers” for my birthday, awesome hiking/hunting boots. The boots were one of the best parts: sooo comfortable, totally waterproof, and a pleasure to hike in. Yes, I have an awesome wife.
We picked up my rifle from the gun shop (Markells, highly recommended) at 9AM the day after the required 10-day waiting period. We went straight to North Cow Mountain, a BLM region that’s open to hiking, camping, and hunting. They have both a shooting range and thousands of acres of land where pigs are rumoured to live.
Hunting on public BLM land is free. Unfortunately pigs are smart animals and when exposed to hunting pressure they very quickly figure out their lives are better if they stay away from BLM land. Everyone has been telling us that hunting public lands is a losing proposition, but guides and private landowners are looking for $350+ per person per day! That’s an expensive hobby! We decided to try Cow Mountain anyway.
Sara, Mike, and his son Ryan came with us to the shooting range. It was a lot of fun! Sara shot her first gun, Brad’s .22 Ruger, but liked Mike’s Cal-tech .223 much more. Ryan turned out to be awesome with the shotgun while shooting skeet. I dialed in the rifle and felt okay: without trying too hard I was shooting within a 6″ target at 100 yards, which is about the size of a wild pig’s kill zone. Not great, but given how poorly the rifle was boar-sighted (ahahaha, a little shooter/hunter humour there!) I was happy.
Sara, Mike, and Ryan headed back to town after shooting. Brad and I went out into the brush to try to find a pig.
We hiked trails and walked through the woods. We followed a stream and got trapped in some chaparral brush. When I mean trapped, I mean that we could see the path we wanted to get to about 10 feet away from us, but it took us almost half an hour to move that short distance. We climbed, crawled, pushed, and fought our way through, ending up covered in scratches and thoroughly discouraged.
We saw no signs of pigs. The only signs we saw were of pot growers: black irrigation pipe running through the brush. This made us very apprehensive, but it’s not yet pot-growing season and the human evidence (bullet riddled beer cans) were all rusted and old. Plus we were armed to the teeth ourselves.
It was probably really good that we didn’t see a pig. We brought coolers and knives and gloves and some rope, but no practical knowledge or instruction manual. I had previously skimmed through a YouTube video showing how to skin a boar, skipping over the grisly parts (which was most of the video). Brad hadn’t done any better, but at least he was confident he wasn’t going to throw up while skinning an animal. I think it’s fair to say that we would have figured it out, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.
We headed home. Disappointed but exhilarated.