Hunting > Adventure

Eye of the Beholder

Quality, not quantity, is the highlight of this spot-and-stalk adventure along California’s Central Coast.

6/5/2013

If you prefer nuisance-type hunts, pursuing hogs along California’s Central Coast isn’t for you. As with other big game in California, the pursuit of hogs requires a tag in addition to a hunting license. Though the season is open year-round and tags are unlimited, they cost $71.54 each (nonresident licenses cost $155.52). Essentially, it’s a “trophy hunt”; you are after a particular animal, be it a trophy boar or mature “meat” sow. This aspect, combined with the area’s natural beauty and spot-and-stalk tactics, makes it worth every penny.

I hunted with Camp Five Outfitters on 60,000 acres of leased property north of Paso Robles, where the pursuit of hogs most closely resembles mule deer hunting. The terrain, grassy, rolling hills, meadows, intermittent stands of trees and brush-choked valleys, is conducive to long-distance glassing-and-stalking. Though some hogs are permanent ranch residents, others travel for miles. The action is best in early morning and evening as they move to lower-elevation grain fields or return to bedding areas.

Before sunrise on the first day, Camp Five owner and guide Doug Roth, Weatherby’s Justin Moore and I glassed from a wedge-shaped hill at the convergence of two valleys with well-worn trails. Within 30 minutes we spotted a large boar a quarter-mile away headed our way. By the time we got within 350 yards, the boar had nearly disappeared in the brush. It stopped just long enough to offer me a shot, but the 180-grain TSX from my .30-.378 Wby. Mag. Weatherby Mark V Accumark RC was low. The boar was unscathed. Minutes later, other pigs appeared on the same trail. We closed the distance to 150 yards and Moore dropped a boar with his .308 Win. Wby-X rifle.

After hours of glassing and unsuccessful stalks, I got a shot at redemption. We cut the distance to 50 yards on about a dozen pigs before the sows and piglets fled. There were no shooters, or so we thought. While discussing our next move I heard what sounded like a hog rooting. The look on Moore’s face confirmed he heard it, too. While discussing it with Roth, a respectable-size boar emerged from the brush less than 10 yards away then turned and fled before I could shoot. I pursued, stopping only when I suspected the hog would cross my path. My instincts proved correct as the boar erupted from the brush and stopped only when I whistled. As suspected, the TSX made short work of tracking.

Having hunted hogs in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas over bait, with hounds and even with night vision and infrared, given the choice, I’d select my spot-and-stalk California hunt as my favorite. Hunters with similar preferences can’t go wrong in the Golden State.

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