Hunting wild pigs on public land: East Cow Mountain

I’m determined to stalk and kill a wild pig on public land. Judging by the pig tag return data, I’m probably not going to be successful. Too bad I’m stubborn.

Brad and Jordon on the ridgetrail

The 2006-07 data shows that only 8% of returned tags were connected to pigs taken on public land, and that includes military bases. The Hog Blog quotes a base biologist saying “30% of the state‚Äôs pig harvest comes from Fort Hunter Liggett, Camp Roberts, or VAFB.” The math doesn’t totally work, either someone’s not filing pig tags, filing them incorrectly, or the biologist is wrong. I think it’s a fair bet to say that most of the 8% of public-land kills are on a military base.

Why do I want to get a public-land pig? Well, paying a guide or landowner $400 for access and another $300 for each pig taken is crazy! With travel costs, amortizing the equipment costs over a few years of hunting, and adding in processing costs, 80lbs of pig meat approaches $14/lb – and that’s assuming that every guided hunt will yield a pig. Now wild pig is yummy, but $14/lb buys me filet minon at Safeway.

I bought detailed topographic maps of all the areas near Santa Rosa. Combining the maps with Google Earth I can then figure out which land parcels are public and determine if there’s any road access to the land. Oh yeah, I bet you didn’t see that coming! There are nice juicy plots of public land that are ringed by private land and totally inaccessible. If by chance there’s accessible public land, I then look at the satellite photos and search for oak trees, or at least navigable terrain.

Cow Mountain is a big swath of BLM land East of Ukiah, CA. The South end of the park is designated as an off-highway vehicle park, so there are lots of Jeep trails and dirtbike paths. The North end of the park has a shooting range and is OHV-free, so that’s where we guess the pigs are. If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall that Brad and I hunted Cow Mountain previously with absolutely no success. Well, we spent more time looking at the maps and decided to try the Eastern half of the park. Our friend Jordon joined us.

Wild turkeys in the morning

Wild turkeys were hanging out by the trailhead. Too bad they weren’t pigs. The sun rose as we hiked into the park. It was a beautiful morning.

Clear Lake from afar

Clear Lake off in the distance.

Rolling hills

Brad thought he saw something moving. It turned out to be a rabbit. I don’t know why Brad and Jordon are standing so close together, but they make a cute couple!

Spotted movement on another hill

Beautiful scenery.

Bluebells

The trail is popular with hikers and horse riders. This is another reason it’s probably not so popular with the pigs.

Horse trough

Of course we didn’t get a pig. The Ukiah park rangers say they haven’t seen a pig at Cow Mountain in more than 15 years. All the guides and hunters we talk to have laughed when we tell them we’ve hunted Cow Mountain. We _constantly_ get the refrain “there ain’t no pigs at Cow Mountain!”. One guide told us that there are no pigs East of Highway 101.

That can’t be true, can it?

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21 Responses to Hunting wild pigs on public land: East Cow Mountain

  1. Phillip says:

    Hey Will,

    Good luck with the public land hunts. It’s a tough row to hoe, but the challenge itself can be a kind of reward (especially for the more masochistic hunter).

    In your search for access to land-locked public land (or mostly landlocked), bear extra caution in mind. A lot of locals in these areas tend to think this land belongs to them, and they don’t give a lot of leeway to folks accidentally crossing property lines. If you get out there, it pays to knock on a few doors and just check in with the neighbors. A little goodwill goes a long ways (no pun intended).

    Your best bets for public land would be to head south and maybe even west. Pigs are spreading toward the foothills down in Fresno and Kern Counties, and those areas probably aren’t getting the pressure you’ll find in the Central Coast areas (like Laguna Mountain, Coalinga, or others). The military bases are still probably the best options.

    You can also find some much more reasonable (much less than $700) deals on private land access down south as well. Let me know if I can help with that.

    But when it all comes down to it, the key to public land success is stubborn persistence. As I’ve mentioned in other places, very few people are likely to tell you if they’ve found pigs on public land. You’re probably going to have to find them on your own. When you do, cherish it. It’ll be a well-deserved victory.

    Good luck out there.

    • gravey says:

      Hey Phillip

      I know that it’s a long time since the last comment, but I’m a’m fixin to try this in Ca. It will probably be my last hunting adventure. I’m from wyoming it’s been a long time since & I have hunted Bear, Deer, Antelope Elk & all the small critters. I’m out here helping my sister right now & I’m planning on building a 7.62 X 54r Russian for a pig gun .
      I have been looking at maps & I will not pay someone to hunt a piece of land while the critters is destroying it.
      Any advice would be helpful. I live in Morgan Hill currently, would sure be nice to get a pig & that would round me out.That will take me out for what I need to do. I have done most of the north American Big ones, However I am getting old now & I feel it is my time to stop. If you get this, I would like to hunt right after the 1st of the yr.

      If not that’s cool, just tell me where to go.

      thanks.

      Gravey.

      • Nicholas geranios says:

        If you live in Morgan Hill your surrounded by pigs. I live in South San jose and am actively looking for land to hunt. Feel free to email me, thanks.

  2. Pingback: Doing it wrong: hunting wild pigs at the Geysers at Will Sitch online

  3. Chris says:

    Will,
    I share your opinion on the guided hunts. The reason the private lands have the pigs are simple. The “guide” traps the pigs using feromones and bait and releases a few pigs before the hunt.

    I saw this several times with duck and pheasant clubs when I was working with the corps. Watch the guided hunts on youtube, the piggies almost roll over for the hunters to scratch their tummies.
    I guess for $1000.00 – $1500.00 they feel the need to produce.

    I would rather hike 10 miles and get skunked than contribute to a retired fireman who is on the public dole for disibility and raking in a few grand on the weekend to pay for the mini-castle and toys.

    It is a shame that Lake Sonoma is archery only. I can’t hit the side of a house with an arrow and don’t want to try my luck pissing off a 200lb boar.

    I am going up to the Mendocino National Forest to try my luck. Camping up there last year we saw some ruts. My wife also saw 3 bears so watch out for them. I am also going to try Cashe creek.
    While I am up north I will ask the rangers to point me in the right direction.

    If need be I will talk to private land owners and offer to share the meat. I refuse to pay good money to sham artist guides.

    My hats off for keeping it real and also sharing your stories and photo’s.

  4. Dean says:

    I feel your frustration bro i have spent the last year trying to get into pig hunting! funny how nobody knows a dam thing. For a animal that people clam is a pest they are well protected. This is what i have learned thus far. new Idra,cotton creek,dinosur point,most of the BLM lands in the south are a big joke! most of them have very little acsess points and the spots that look promising are privite. Fort hunter liggett seams to be the only place that offers a fair shake for an unguided hunt 4×4 are helpful in this area and they have good camp grounds. im sure some of these farmers that might have a pig problem might with permission let you hunt on their land, Better get their before the guids do, lol. Funny how the fish and game know nothing, print nothing,and all of their web pages leed nowhere,but the privite land owners know all. seems to me they might be giving eachother a reach around.Seems to me its all about the money anymore and not about the love of the hunt! I dont think i would feel to good about myself if i didnt earn the kill, know what i mean? maybe if more people quit using these guided hunts? just a thought.If you have any luck out there post it!

  5. Britton says:

    Yes…pig hunting on public land is frustrating and thrilling all at once. Last year I got a deer lease up near Point Arena and unfortunately bought in before the foliage grew in. Shooting lanes ended up being about 50 yards max and I never saw a shooter. That said, I saw a few nice boars and sows while driving in (Unfortunately not on the property I had rights to). I know that the Cow Mountain area is quite shot out and overridden with 4 wheelers and ATVs. I would suggest getting into something over on the west side as I have seen them there and they tend to be an animal that wanders around.

    I am no pro here and I wish I had a ton of more experience to offer to you, but like the messages above, the best pig hunting I have had in Central California (remember that it is lead free and copper needs some serious sighting in before you go). There is actually a ton of BLM and a ton of guided services that are not outrageous. I avoid the places that charge for “Trophy Boars” (pigs that have 2″ tusks or larger). In that area, that is not uncommon in my experience and it is a way for guides to take advantage of clients.

    Look at Hogs Wild or at Jack Ranch. The Jack Ranch is 73,000 acres and you are sure to take a pig home with accommodations for about $650. My buddies have done well on BLM there and I am headed there this May to hunt both private and public land. Hopefully I can update you with some better info then.

    Good luck.

    Britton

  6. Joe says:

    I have killed a pig on Cow Mountain. It took me a while to do it but it can be done.

    • Will says:

      Joe, it’s totally not fair to say that the impossible can be done without giving us any details! Where did you get the pig/sow? What time of day? What time of year? How big? What range was the shot? Other pigs around?

      Dude!

  7. Glenn says:

    Ive been traveling up to cow mountain and enjoying the range up there for years, last winter i saw the hide of a small pig that someone had skinned and left on the dirt road. It gave me hope , first sign of a hog ive ever seen up there.

  8. Mark says:

    Thanks for the stories. It’s inspiring to see others persistent to hunt pigs on public land.

    As far as public land being completely surrounded by private land, I would guess that the private land owners’ would have to provide and easement for access ( legally). Of course, it’s always easier to catch flies with honey rather than vinegar, so knocking on the door and asking would probably be much more fruitful.

    I plan on exploring California’s public land for pig hunting and I look forward to more of your adventures.

  9. Antonio DiConza says:

    I’m a service memeber hoping to maybe hunt some pigs out in California when i come home on leave. I understand from reading these articles that theres good hunting for pigs out on the military bases. I was hoping to maybe find something a little closer to the lake county/mendicino county area. I myself am not made of money and really dont want to pay for more than I need to for the tags and the hunting license by going on a guided tour, so private land is something I’d like to do. If anyone happens to have any information maybe to where good areas close to Mendicino and lake county thats good for pig hunting please let me know. The information would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Alan says:

    There ARE pigs on Cow Mountain. I used to ride dirt bikes in south Cow Mountain. On one ride, about 8 years ago, I came across a pair of pigs very near the trail. I almost ran into them with my motorcycle, I had to brake! They took off running of course but were so startled (as was I) that had I a gun I would of had time to get off a few shots! I guess those rangers don’t know everything that is going on in their park. A series of Youtube videos shows an Australian hunter who does his pig hunting using a dirt bike (due to favorable terrain).

  11. myke says:

    My property backs up to the base on Cow Mountain, if I threw out some bacon/peanut butter I would have at least 3 on it within 12 hours. The reason “nobody sees them”, most of the BLM is crawling with ppl yet pockets like the ones that backs up to me are full of hogs.

    • Shawn thor says:

      Myke or any one in the northern california that will you give access or permission to hunt on your land please contact me @ shawn916@live.com I’m a license hunter, respectful of the property and rules that are set by the owner and I can hunt wit either a rifle or bow depending on what the owner wants and have been looking to hunt pigs in northern California for the past 5 years but no luck and no source for access to private lands but I’m not rich and only earn a decent living so I cant pay the asked fees of 300-700 just to hunt

  12. Monk510 says:

    My brother-in- law dad and his friend go out wild pig hunt every year on BLM land every time and bring home pig on every hunt. They shot the pig early on the morning around 6-7 am or late 6-7 pm waiting nexts to water hold. The BLM land is next to cash creek casino off of Hwy 16 and Hwy 20 on left hand side. Hope this will help you guys who love to hunt wild pig like I do. As for me now my work have hold me back from hunt now

  13. Joe Thomas says:

    I am totally archery oriented. I have taken bull & cow elk, 3 nice black bears, over 30 deer, various upland game birds, and a coyote with both traditional archery gear and compound bow. I just moved down from Montana (a year ago). Feel like a duck out of water not knowing where to hunt the elusive pig, or where I can get reliable info. Has anyone heard favorable reply on the Stoneyford area? I would trade expert carpentry skills for an opportunity to hunt a private ranch or farm. I’m in Mendo county, and it’s a little dicey creeping around in the hills around here. Thanks and good hunting. Joe

  14. Aaron says:

    Yea south cow has pigs..like Allen said you need a dirt bike to get 2 them… Trail 25 and 23 If I remember correct…they head south tward hwy 175 .. Ton of pig trails in that area…

    • Pedro Cruz says:

      Hi Aaron
      I’m a new hunter and I have a tag for a pig but I don’t know where to go hunting. Do you know or recommend any public land to go use pig and bear tags?
      Pedro Cruz

  15. Houa says:

    Hi I was wondering if anyone know are there still anymore pig in this mountain. And are there any new update.. pleased post it up.. think you

  16. Danny Wojton says:

    Hey guys I went to lake berryessa on sat I seen lots of signs of pigs there with no luck if anyone has information on where in general area they have seen pigs in past that would be very helpful I will share all my info if I bag one to help some hunters out

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