Bow hunting for wild pigs at Lake Sonoma

It’s been a while since we’ve gone hunting. My hunting buddies and I have been disappointed time and time again. Hunting trips are now called “armed hikes”. The pigs knew we were coming, weren’t there in the first place, or were such crafty little ninjas that we couldn’t possibly find or track them.

Investigating some grunting noises

Our last armed hike at the Geysers almost lead to some kills, but the kills would have been due to hypothermia and would have been us, not pigs. It was on that windy rainy near-death experience that we realized how tricky these animals are. We found a fresh pig hoof-print that day. In the middle of a huge muddy puddle. There were no other prints nearby. None. How is that even possible?! The pigs were taunting us.

We decided we needed to step up our game. If the pigs are going to use ninjitsu on us – flying around magically and leaping huge distances – we need to study their craft and train to be ninjas ourselves. Bingels and I aren’t exactly ninja material, but we have an ex-Marine on our team who was gifted a compound bow from his dad. Plus he has a boat! Everyone knows that ninjas use bows and travel by boat. Oh it was on.

Jason, Bingels and I trained hard. We studied and practiced ferociously. Bingels traveled to Asia to learn the ways of ancient ninja masters. He went to the wrong country and instead learned about meaningless sexual encounters. Jason and I shot the bow at least two times. Somewhat accurate at 12 yards, we were ready. It was like a montage.

Show a lot of things happing at once,
Remind everyone of what’s going on (what’s going on?)
And with every shot you show a little improvement
To show it all would take too long
That’s called a montage (montage)
Oh we want montage (montage)

There was some inspirational music; we shot the bow two times; we were ready. I love training by the montage. Doesn’t take long at all.

November 27, a day to live in infamy. Opening day of the archery season at Lake Sonoma. Forecast: 34-degrees, rain, chance of thunderstorms. Awesome. Of course we would need to leave at 3AM to get to the prime hunting grounds by daybreak. Awesomer. Of course I don’t really have any waterproof clothing. Awesomest.

On the ride up to the lake I realized Bingels and Jason had brought some monster pig-killing knives and were talking excitedly about hand-to-tusk combat. I don’t have a monster pig-killing knife. I have a pocketknife best used for cleaning dirt out from under my fingernails. I informed them I would document the action from the branches of a nearby tree. Seriously, that was the plan: Jason would shoot a few pigs with the bow, Bingels would fight off the rest of the charging horde with a combat knife, and I would climb a tree and try not to get gored.

Bingels has been making fun of my unpreparedness for a while now. He might be on to something.

Will and Jason on the boat

The boat ride across the lake was exciting. When we reconnoitered a few weeks earlier it was warm and sunny. The ride took 10 minutes and we ate chips and told jokes. Everything changes when it’s pitch black and raining. Jason put up the bimini, but when the boat was moving the rain just came shooting in the four-foot gap between the bimini and the windshield. There was no hiding. We were all totally soaked by the time we reached our secret hunting site. Well, I was totally soaked. Bingels said he was warm and toasty and Jason said he didn’t even notice the rain.

Looking for pigs

We parked the boat (read: drove it into the muddy shore) and headed off into the darkness. We didn’t really get lost, that’s impossible for such highly-trained hunters, we just went a different way that we didn’t previously know about. It was slow going at first. The darkness, rain, and an irrational fear of being shot by other hunters was keeping us moving slowly and occasionally flashing red lights. Plus the red lights helped us see where we were going.

I don't see any pigs

As the dawn broke we realized we were not exactly where we wanted to be. I pulled out my new GPS – see Brad, I have some cool gear too – and called everyone over to show them where we were. Turns out those bitches at Garmin don’t include maps with their stupid GPS units. All I could show them were some dotted lines on a black background. Awesome. We continued on.

Pig sign!

We found sign under a big oak tree and continued on. Suddenly we heart deep grunting and snorting. It wasn’t very far away! We were close to the nest, where the pigs hang out eating acorns, telling jokes, practicing their ninjitsu, you know, normal pig stuff. We continued on and found ourselves looping back around to the boat. Bingels isn’t really built to carry a backpack around for more than an hour so we split up. I went with him and we sent Jason up the hill to scout things out.

Morning fog

Splitting up wasn’t our best idea. By the time that Bingels and I were heading up the hill Jason was way ahead of us. We picked up the pace when we heard grunting and screaming. Maybe Jason had made a kill! Brad and I came across a highway: a trail with huge deep pig tracks all running in the same direction and all really fresh. We were close. We continued up the ridgeline of the hill.

Pig highway

The next few minutes were a blur. Jason came running back to meet us with a wild crazy look in his eyes holding his Marine K-bar knife. His big knife and shoulder holster were gone. He was holding the bow but his arrows were gone. “There’s a monster pig up there!” Brad pulled out his combat knife. I looked for a tree to climb.

The pigs were grunting and roaring. It was quite intimidating. We were surrounded by heavy brush, the rain was making it tough to hear anything clearly, and these pigs weren’t quietly snuffling for truffles, they were crying out for blood. The grunting was like a deep heavy rumbling snore (full of bass, Jason says “like a crocodile”) followed by a wild scream that sounded like a cat being dipped in hot oil. The screaming was loud, like a jet plane. We knew they were ‘up ahead’, but we didn’t know how many there were and Jason said something about being flanked and how there were pigs circling around on our right.

Bingels went over to the flank while Jason and I crept up the path towards the nest. Brad motioned and indicated he saw a pig down the steep hill, but we needed some arrows if we were going to do any killing. Knives sounded really fierce when we were sitting in the nice warm truck on the drive up to the lake, but the noises these monsters were making had me convinced that I didn’t want them close to me. I figured out why Lake Sonoma doesn’t allow rifles or handguns: to even the playing field! I wonder how many hunters the pigs get each year.

Brief splash of sunlight

Jason and I moved towards this big oak tree on top of the hill. Suddenly Jason crouched and started moving to his left. A big black pig trotted out into view on the right side of the tree. I realized Jason was keeping the tree between him and the pig. Unfortunately I was sitting out in the open. Defenseless. Pig food.

I moved left quickly and the pig also ran back behind the tree. Phew. We were slowly backing away and were surprised when it suddenly shot out from behind the tree and ran down the hill on our left. It was big, probably 200lbs. It looked like a wine barrel with little stubby legs. The ground was thundering as it shot down the hill at something like 25mph. Even if we had arrows I don’t think we could have made the shot, it was just too fast. In two seconds it was seventy yards from us.

We were both shaken. If the pig had charged us our dinky knifes weren’t going to do anything. Bingels joined us and with safety in numbers we advanced again.

Pig sign

The area under the tree was totally torn up. Shredded. When it was clear the pigs were gone Jason told us what happened.

He had stalked up to the nest and saw several pigs obscured by branches. One was rooting around in the open. They were grunting and were a lot bigger than he had thought. Jason wasn’t with us when we got our first pig so I guess he didn’t have a frame of reference. He said his heart was beating so loudly he thought the pigs would hear it. The adrenaline was so crazy that when he drew an arrow he wasn’t even looking through the peephole of the bow!

Just as Jason was ready to shoot he heard a sound on his right. He looked and saw another pig staring right at him, its little pig ears lifting up and down as it tried to figure out what to do. It was really close and Jason was totally scared he wouldn’t be able to kill it before it was chewing on his leg. He backed off and hid behind a tree, then aimed and shot at the flanker. The shaft of the arrow hit his shoulder-mounted knife and it snapped the arrow in mid-flight. The pig ran off.

Jason took off the knife and holster and left it on the ground. He moved forward to get a better angle on the pig near the tree, drew, and shot a second arrow. The arrow missed low. He moved again and was getting ready to shoot when the monster pig started roaring. Jason said the sound was echoing around the hills. We heard it way down the hill and it was loud, like a tractor trailer; I have to confess I would have been scared at this point. Jason’s last shot went high.

The original pig and another black pig about the same size then came out into view. They were side by side, snuffling and grunting. The monster pig came out behind them, a mottled black and pink/white boar with huge tusks. He was roaring and grunting and screaming and staring right at Jason. With no arrows and no knife Jason beat a hasty retreat and ran back to us on the trail.

Brad and I were now starting to worry. Jason saw six pigs and a monster hogzilla and all we had were knives. We searched around and Jason thankfully found one of his arrows in the torn-up ground. Just a few minutes later two more pigs ran over the hill and shot down the steep slope on our right. We saw another juicy little 120-pounder start going downhill but stop near some trees, so we stalked up but it had used some magical ninja trick and was gone.

Recovering an arrow at the nest

We continued the hunt up and down hills on both sides of the nest, but despite tons of sign the piggies were gone. We saw some other hunters on a nearby hillside chasing a pig along a ridgeline maybe 400 yards from us, but it was running fast and there was no way we could have made the shot with rifles. We circled around for another hour before heading back to the boat with another rain cloud beating down on us.

We hunted for five hours, covering 3.2 miles and some 1500ft of elevation. I’d love to show you a map, but then I’d have to chop you in the neck. We’re currently planning our next assault.

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4 Responses to Bow hunting for wild pigs at Lake Sonoma

  1. Jingels says:

    You know it’s odd that Brad didn’t mention the “meaningless sexual encounters” that he learned about on his trip… I’ll have to ask him about those. Better luck next time boys.

  2. Great storytelling – cant wait for the next installment
    SBE

  3. see says:

    Is this on private only or is there a spot for public hunters too. That sounds awesome and scary beeing up close to them hogzilla without no weapons left. Must be a real rushed.

  4. sac hunt says:

    I hunted at lake sonoma twice, took a 300lbs boar. You need a range finder and more pratice shooting. great story. Better luck on your next hunt.

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