Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back From My Hog Hunt
I am back from my weekend hog hunt up in Parkfield. Despite the weather, we had a great time. It just goes to show you that if you get the right group of hunters together you can make any hunt successful. Be warned, it's a lengthy post!

After a 3.5 hour drive through the wilds of Southern California I made it to Parkfield. We had four hunters for this trip, which made it even more exciting and improved our chances of harvesting an animal. I met up with fellow hunter Howard in Parkfield around 1pm where we briefly shared some hunting knowledge and decided to head on up to camp while waiting for Jeff and Mike. I took him up to camp and we started getting things set up as we watched the black clouds roll in. Fortunately for all of us, Howard brought his easy-up for cover. Jeff arrived a short time later and we got moving quickly to beat the rain. We got a tarp over the fire to keep the rain off of us and little did we know how important that would be in the long run. Mike arrived in camp, we had our introductions and I knew our weekend was going to be fun. With shelter up, a fire started and a weather pattern looking to bring the pain, we started planning for the evening hunt.

Well, we were in for a bit of a baptism. We got to our designated spots and started glassing when the sprinkling began. The sprinkling then turned to a downpour. Seeing as I was the only archer in camp, I was also the only one to stay out hunting until dark. My fellow sportsmen made it a short night and went back to camp. I ventured back at dark to constant rain. Was I ever glad they had the fire roaring and that we had put up a decent shelter. Little did I know that it would rain for 24 more hours!

We all had clothes to be dried around the fire on night one. Between cooking some venison backstraps, baked potatoes and snacking on some turkey jerky we shared hunting stories around the campfire. That's one of the best things about hunting. You get to find out about one another, share your hunting experience and learn a great deal about different tactics for hunting your targeted animal. I learn a lot each time I hunt. I wouldn't have it any other way.  I have to say a big thank you to my wife for not only giving me the weekend to go hunting, but for making some of the BEST cookies for us. They didn’t stand a chance with the four of us staring them down.

The following morning came and the rain was still steady. We gathered up and the rain stopped. Hooray! We geared up and ventured into the hunt zone. Our happiness was short-lived as the sprinkling started again as we hit the river. The river was also running quite quickly. We split up and decided to meet back at camp for breakfast. I found a safe place to cross the river and settled in behind some fallen trees. I am so thankful for good rain gear. Even though it began raining buckets I stayed dry... for about a half hour and then my gear soaked through. I should have dug out my poncho, but I was stubborn and wanted to test out my GameHide gear. Lightweight, but I still got wet. After 45 minutes of waiting for a hog to appear I made my way back to the river. I was dismayed when the spot I had crossed at was now under six more inches of flowing water. I hiked upriver and then downriver and could find only one possible crossing spot. I radioed back to camp to let them know I was on my way so they would be expecting me. I tested the depth of the water with a thick branch, said a prayer and began my 20 foot river crossing. The water was ok to cross in the spot I tested, but it suddenly dropped to about 16 inches of water. I was anticipating the worst as I slowly dug into the gravel and made it safely across. I thanked God and looked back to see the spot where I had crossed now deeper and moving faster. Yep, time for breakfast.

Let the above paragraph about crossing the river be an example to all. I was rash in my decision. I should have radioed the guys, asked them for some help and waited it out a bit longer. I did have my 100' of line in my pack. Or I should have never crossed in the first place thinking that the river might rise. A lapse in judgment on my part could have made for a messy situation. I was fortunate by having the man upstairs keep a watchful eye over me.

The rest of the day was on and off steady rain. The morning was spent talking, stoking the fire and figuring out what we should do to pass the time. Around noon the weather seemed to break. Jeff and Mike decided to head up to the far reaches of the property to blaze some trails, while Howard and I planned on hunting the lower property for a couple hours. Jeff and Mike sauntered off, Howard geared up and I patiently waited for my clothes to dry by the fire. I told Howard I would meet up with him in 20 minutes, so he ventured down the trail. 15 minutes later the rains unleashed on us again.  A short time later Howard was back in camp and we waited word from our friends on the mountain. Over an hour passed and two soggy hunters appeared at the base of the draw in camp. They shared their story of blazing the trail and seeing a sow with piglets close by and the lone black hog disappearing into the thick brush. It was great to hear they had seen some

The rain stopped completely and a plan was quickly devised. Howard and I would hike up and around to the top for the evening and Jeff and Mike to the lower portion. Howard and I filled our water reservoirs, geared up and hit the trail. We trekked for a bit and decided to try a shortcut between two draws. The hike was steep (near vertical according to my tired legs) and muddy. When we got to where an opening in the brush line was expected we found thick scrub. Perfect for a hog to bed down, but nasty for us to try and get through. We stayed below the thick brush and hiked east. We snapped some photos and glassed the property.

What an amazing landscape after a rain! It was beautiful and unforgiving. We picked a game trail to make our way down hillside. Halfway through we had to go right through the thick scrub. Howard’s long legs pretty much made it over them. My stubby ones had to go through it. Both of us laughed at our situation and we both expressed how out of shape we were. I don't think it would have been much easier had I been in shape. We found some fresh hog tracks down one of the draws on our way back to camp. At least our hike showed some promise!!

Although we took a wrong route, we talked about it with everyone and learned a great deal about the property, the map and how each of us deals with adversity and one another. We made a great team of four out there.

Mike busted out some great sausages for dinner and Jeff had more taters. Howard home-fried them up for us and we enjoyed a fantastic, warm meal. I have to give props to Mike for bringing the bag of Hershey’s Miniatures, too. I love my chocolate and they hit the spot! Thank you, Mike!

I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so by 9:15pm I was out. I slept like a baby until 4am when I woke up freezing my butt off. I opened my car door (yes, I slept in my car) and I had ice covering the car! It was frigid. I quickly walked to the fire, stoked it, added some wood and watched the flames reach for the stars. Ahhh, fire… it’s amazing what can make a guy happy in the middle of nowhere.

Howard and I were up before dawn, geared up and hit the hot spots. Nothing.

The morning was not productive. We went back to camp to help break down Howard's gear and for a bit of clean up work. After another manly breakfast of eggs, sausages and home fries Howard hit the road. I geared up for one last trek up the hill. It was getting progressively warmer, but I kept my gear on. I knew I’d be sweating anyway, so I constantly made myself aware of the wind. I decided to spot and stalk the draws. I had a southeast wind, so I had to walk to the far draws, hike up to the top and hunt back towards camp. I decided to video tape some of the day. I couldn’t do it during the rain, so this was my opportunity. I’ll be posting the video later this week.

I quietly made my way a third of the way up the hillside and across the draws and found nothing but fresh coyote sign. Honestly, I truly enjoyed the hard work of hiking up the hill and working to find a hog. It gave me a satisfaction of knowing that when I do harvest a hog it’ll taste that much sweeter. Once I got back to camp I traded some sweaty clothes for some dry ones, wet boots for hiking boots and said my goodbyes to Jeff and Mike.

To me this hunt was successful because I was able to meet some great new hunting buddies, hike some hard terrain and got to breathe super clean air.

On Monday I got an email from Howard saying that the evening I left, Jeff harvested a nice boar in the spot both Howard and I sat in. It was a 20 yard shot, too! It would have been a sweet set up for archery.

Congratulations, Jeff and what a great hog. I was happy knowing that Mike and Jeff stuck it out and came away with an animal for the freezer. For me, I saw every animal BUT a hog - elk, bald eagle, mule deer, condor, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail, hawks, lots of birds… and no hog. Next time Mr. Piggly Wiggly, next time.

4 comments:

  1. That sounds like a lot of fun Al.

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  2. LOVE ALL THE PICTURES!!! MY FAV. IS THE TREE WITH THE LIGHT SHINING THROUGH!!! LOVE IT!

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  3. Hey, do you want another hunting buddy?
    Where do you practice shoot?

    I want to go pig hunting soon in Central Cal. Let me know if you'd like to get together and discuss a hunt. My buddies won't commit!

    Best,
    Mike

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  4. Thanks, everyone. Lots of fun, Eric. Tiffany, that's my favorite as well. It was so beautiful out there that morning. Mike, I practice at El Dorado Park in Long Beach and at Archery Outpost in Los Alamitos. Shoot me an email and we can meet up and fling some arrows.

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