Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Melting The Day Away - Saturday Hunt Recap
After pulling up the weather app on my phone and reading the high numbers, I knew that I was going to need my 3-liter water bladder filled for my Saturday hunt. When Josh Adams and I had locked in the hunt, we decided to combine hog hunting and coyote hunting - all with our bows. All week long we had been preparing for this hunt and the weather was supposed to be one thing - HOT! Not only would it be hot, but we would have to hike in and set up and try to secure some shade right away as the area we were hunting had few trees. The scrub oaks and tall weeds were all we had. We welcomed the challenge!

Our game plan was simple; Find a spot, glass, hunt and scout out the area, but most of all enjoy the day. I made the long drive out to the hunting spot and met up with Josh at 6:00 AM. We were both raring to go, got his truck loaded up and hit the road. Almost as soon as we hit the trailhead we spotted a large coyote beating feet back up a side hill. The day was already looking promising!

I had been to this spot a couple times before, but this time I wanted to venture to the lookout point in a different way. We hit a high ridge and started hiking at a fast pace. At 6:15 AM it was already peeking into the high 70's and we just wanted to start hunting! Thank goodness I have been working out because Josh is like a mountain goat. We traveled a mile on the ridge in no time and that guy cruises. After stopping for some water and glassing the area for fifteen minutes, we stuck to our game plan and hit what I like to call Coyote Ridge. This ridge is loaded with coyote scat and the last time I was here we had spotted a yote making his way into the dense underbrush. Another eighth of a mile of hiking and we were overlooking a deep valley with fingers everywhere.

The morning was perfect. It was quiet, we had a great spot and we were hunting. Even the black flies and the heat didn't really bother us. We expected both to be nasty. Josh posted up in the shade of a bush and I about twenty feet away in the shade of the hillside. It was time to start glassing!

We hadn't been sitting for ten minutes when we heard a rustling behind us. I quickly turned to see ears and a tail of a coyote bearing down on Josh's position! He stopped a mere 10 yards away behind a clump of wild mustard. Here's the photo showing where Josh was and the red circle shows where the yote stopped.

What a start to our day as the coyote came within a few yards from Josh!

It was crazy! I told Josh and he got his bow ready, even though we figured the dog was long gone. After waiting for a few minutes, we knew he had disappeared, but it was an exciting start! As we glassing the valley below, we watched as the coyote made his way into an opening around 300 yards away. I let out a few fawn in distress calls and we waited. Nothing came in, but it didn't matter. We were having fun just being out there.

We sat and talked about married life, our backgrounds and the differences between NY and CA when it comes to hunting. We had great conversation and by 8:00 AM the shade was starting to disappear. We found one last bush to hide behind for another half hour while we strategically planned our next move. Instead of diving into the valley, we decided to hike an adjacent ridge to a spot where there was still some shade, and the birds were flying around snagging bugs. It was also where I had located hog sign before. When 9:00 AM hit, we were hiking and burning boot rubber.

As we made our way down the ridge, we found a few spots where the hogs had been rooting around the week prior. The great thing about seeing this wasn't just knowing that the hogs were here, but it was seeing the look on Josh's face when HE knew they were there. It was awesome! I probably have that same look. We searched and searched for a trail that they could be using and couldn't find one. We knew they had to be finding a way to feed under the scrub oaks and dropping off into the shade of the valley, but there were no trails. Josh ambled off ahead of me to look for sign and I stopped to think. In my experience of hunting hogs, I knew that they would want to find access to the lower canyon quickly. I turned around and low-and-behold not ten feet away was the opening of the trail. It was like the heavens opened and this trail was gifted to us. I called Josh over and our faces lit up. We had found the trail they were using! The week-old rooting, the bedding area and the zig-zagging torn up trail heading deeper into the small ravine all gave us hope.

A single track amongst others Josh found.
By this time, the heat was cranking and the sunshine made us feel like we were cooking. We hatched a new plan to see where this trail went, but also to figure out another entry into this ravine. The way we had come wasn't good because our wind was being blown straight downhill. If we came in the other direction we'd have  a chance. We surveyed the land and locked in a plan of what we needed to do. We dropped over a steep embankment and followed the path of least resistance. Hunt smarter, not harder, right? We hadn't been down there a few minutes when Josh let out a 'Hey, I've got tracks!' I scooted over and sure enough, Josh had found some very obvious hog tracks. There had been a heavy rain the week prior, so we knew these were fairly fresh tracks underfoot. Our mere hopes of hunting more often in Southern California were now looking more realistic.

Our water bladders were now more than half empty and we wanted to get out of the heat. The only obstacle facing us now was the hike straight up the foothill we were standing on. There was no shade and we had more than half a mile to cover. Josh took off first and I followed close behind...for a few minutes. I quickly realized that all of the hiking/walking I had been doing with a weighted pack was great for my quads and hamstrings, but my calves were weak. I mean REALLY weak. They were burning and my pack only weighed around twenty-five pounds. My weakness rapidly hit me and I had to stop more often, drink more water and pace myself. This was the reality that hunting provides and I was only hiking up a foothill in SoCal. I knew that my training needed to be improved because the Colorado mountains, with her evil sidekick, High Altitude, were going to be much tougher on my body. Even so, we made it out rather quickly and about ran out of water. We both had deemed the day a success and were already making plans to get out there again.

Back at the truck, Josh offered to buy lunch at a place up the road a piece. I accepted knowing it would give us a chance to process the day. I'll tell you what, if you are ever out in Oak Glen, CA you have got to hit up El Mexicano II. It's a very quaint restaurant that if you blink you will miss it. On Josh's recommendation, I ate THE best carne asada burrito I have ever eaten (and I have been known to eat mucho burritos). Washing it down with a Pacifico was excellent. We had burned up many calories on our hike and at that moment, I couldn't think if a better way to replace them. The food was superb, the service excellent and the conversation fun.

We had a great day and now that we know where to go on our next outing we will hopefully have an even better story to tell. With Summer fast approaching, it will be harder and harder to hunt these hogs. We have a few more weeks where we should get some rain and it'll be in our best interest to get out there right after. Once the desert heat starts cooking that spot, we'll have to wait until later in 2012 to hit the spot up hard. Even so, I am excited for what 2012 has to offer.

5 comments:

  1. That sounds like a great day in the hills! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Great post Al! Hunting with friends is always a good time even if you don't get anything. And free lunch always makes the day better!

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  3. I love that feeling when you're hunting and suddenly find all the sign you've been waiting for. In some cases, especially on public land, it's almost as exciting as actually finding the animals, because now it means you've got a place to hunt hard, with purpose. Maybe you'll get one, maybe you won't, but finding obvious, fresh sign provides motivation like nothing else.

    Now you just need to get in there and hunt your butts off while the animals are still there.

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  4. Sounds like I missed out! We'll have to hit it again soon, especially with this rain we got coming. Might be able to get on them hogs.

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