Monday, February 15, 2010

Hog Hunt in Parkfield, CA
December 19-20, 2009: I was up in Parkfield, CA for a day and a half archery hog hunt. It was a DIY hunt on private land. I have been very fortunate to have hooked up with a guy who owns some property and has been looking to share the hunting experience. Most of the guys he hunts with use a rifle, but I was up for the challenge of the stick and string.

We arrived on Saturday around 1:30pm, set up camp, geared up and set out for my orientation. It was my first time on his property and Jeff wanted to give me a map, a tour of the land and get me set up for the evening hunt. I also had my camera gear along to try and tape my hunt. That was a challenge. Camera and tripod in one hand, bow in the other and a backpack with enough water for a full day. What can I say, I loved it!

Along my orientation we spotted some single sets of hog tracks and found two different sets of them. Not great pickings for the size of the property, but Jeff knew that could change in minutes. His property is bordered by some great farmland, high hills and awesome oak groves. The hogs were tearing up the acorns, too.

I sat in a makeshift blind for the last hour of daylight and didn't see a thing. Boy, it's pretty awesome to be in the outdoors, middle-of-nowhere at dark in a place you don't know when the sun sets. Fortunately I followed his map well, had my lights working great and we met up for the hike out. It wasn't a hot day, but I got pretty sweaty and fortunately brought along enough clothes for the hunt and for hanging around camp. The temp dropped 20 degrees in that last hour and a half. Always think like a boy scout and be prepared!

We chatted over dinner of venison loin and baked potato's and we both passed out by 9pm ready for the morning hunt.

We both woke up before our alarms went off and were eating breakfast by 5:30am. We discussed the morning hunt and decided I would set off on the lower property and do a slow stalk East to West and he would go up to the top of the hills and spot for me. The wind was perfect for my stalk and I entered the river bottom and began my hunt. I found three sets of new tracks which got me very excited, but found no hogs. Most of the guys that hunt with Jeff are done in an hour. Being an archer I have a bit more patience and spent a couple hours spotting and found nothing.

We met back at camp, Jeff made a great breakfast and we ventured out to scout the upper hills. We discussed the maps and I ventured off alone. I knew that I had a lot of hiking ahead of me as the hills turned into deep ravines across the property. I had lightened my pack and dropped the tripod and packed the camera. I had about five hours to hike, get back to camp for a snack and be out for the evening hunt. I spent about three hours hiking, spotting, snapping photos and video taping before I made it back to camp. Got to use my Bushnell Backtrack for the second time in the field and it worked like a charm!

Yepper, I got to hike up and down these ravines and as the temps started to rise I loved it. It was tiring, but such an adventure!

When I got back to camp we talked about my excursion, the evening hunt and enjoyed a magnificent Kristoff Maduro cigar from Taylor's Cigar Lounge. I was chomping at the bit and wanted to get out an hour before our agreed time. Jeff told me to go ahead and I was off. I was on the trail to the river bed by 3:45pm. It took me a little longer to get ready than I anticipated. I hit the river bed by 4pm and in seconds I heard what I was listening for... a very loud squeal! It scared the crap out me! I didn't know where it had come from so i stopped to listen. I turned around to see a very large black shape moving up the hillside about 120 yards away. I watched and saw a red hog along side this one. Both were shooters.

Here is where the story gets interesting. Jeff and I had decided that if we spotted hogs that we would radio the other guy to give him a heads up. I got on the radio and he called back waiting for my response. He got nothing but static. My radio died in the field and it was my fault. I had put brand new batteries in the other radio and forgot this one. Being the new guy on his property and not being able to reach me, he got his gear one and ventured out to see if I was ok. I climbed up out of the river to spot more than 30 hogs!!! Seriously, thirty - black, red, spotted, young old and they were all 150 yards out. I kept calling Jeff and he told me he would go to the other end of the property to find me. Noooo!!!! I was so pissed with myself. I had been so consumed with getting my first aid, my archery tackle and food ready that I hadn't double checked my batteries. Not only that, but my radios didn't work well with Jeff's. I felt like an idiot. I got closer to the hogs only to have a car go by and scare them to the far end of the property line away from Jeff and I.

I hightailed it over to Jeff's location and gave him the run down. We rapidly made tracks back to my location and decided to hike into the river bottom to find their trail. Wow, did we ever! The bottom was torn up with hog tracks big and small. By the time we got there the sun had set and we had to walk back to camp with my head in my hands and muttering obscenities to myself.

I had to leave when I got back to camp. I packed up, thanked Jeff for an awesome hunt and he invited me back for another hunt. It was a very long 3.5 hour drive back to SoCal.

SCB Tech Tip - Not only do the obvious and put in new batteries and pack new spares, but really make sure that your radios are compatible. I thought they were as they worked in camp, but we never tried them out in the field as we hunted. Stupid mistake. I decided to buy another pair that are the same model as his!

Don't let my story trick you though, I had a great time! I consider it successful in knowing I went out with archery tackle for my first hog hunt, had a great teacher, great hike and spotted hogs! We found out later on that the hogs were heading for the grain that the cows were digesting. That's why we found scattered manure all around. Good thing to keep track of! I am looking forward to getting back out in the next month or two. Still with my bow and this time with a better set of radios and fresh batteries.
I realize I have a lot to learn when it come to editing video, but here's my first try at it. This is video of my first wild hog hunt up near Parkfield, CA.

I cannot wait to go again!

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