Ham on the Hoof
hen deer, elk, waterfowl and upland game bird seasons have come and gone, put some pork in the crosshairs.
We were climbing a steep gravel ranch road in Charlie’s Toyota when we saw it, as big as a full-grown bear and on a dead run. Charlie hit the brakes and switched off the engine. There was no time to load the rifle. The shaggy, gray boar had disappeared into the chemise brush, 200 yards away.
“Listen,” Charlie whispered. I heard it, that snorting, wheezing, guttural grunting a sounder of hogs makes on the feed. Trouble was, they’d moved into the tall brush for the day.
The Spanish brought the first domestic pigs to California in the 16th century. Hogs were easily managed and bred fast enough to provide a ready source of meat for their masters. Every large group of Europeans arriving from the Old Country brought more. Herds were allowed to graze in the oak uplands. Escapees soon reverted to the wild.
In the early 1900s, several landowners brought in small herds of wild-strain European hogs. These razorbacks lost little time mixing with the resident swine. Today, their descendants can be hunted from the vicinity of Palm Springs in southern California to the Siskiyous on the Oregon border.
This was my first hunt for hogs in California; on Wilderness Unlimited land, a club that allows access to ranches in both Oregon and California.
As the first morning wore on, I walked a closed road and circled a large hog-backed hill. A lone boar crested a knife-edge ridge 500 yards away. Too far for a shot. A few minutes later, I spotted a 2x3 blacktail buck feeding toward me. Behind him was a magnificent buck. There were no more pigs to be found, though there was sign everywhere I looked.
When I rejoined my partner, he said he’d spotted a herd of a dozen sows and piglets not too far from camp. Wrong place at the wrong time. But tomorrow was a new day. And I knew right where I wanted to be, watching that canyon, with my Winchester Model 70 7mm WSM across my lap.
Instead of driving the road in the morning, I walked up as dawn’s first rays lit the sky. Every few steps, I stopped, raised the binoculars and peered through the oaks, listening. From my vantage point one-third of the way up the hill, I heard a pig in the canyon below, but couldn’t spot it.
Then my radio crackled. It was Charlie. “Turn around and look up the hill behind you,” he said. “They’ve just crossed the road and are running through the trees, a whole herd of sows. Probably twenty of them.”
As I turned, I heard the thunder of hooves on the hillside and saw black shadows in the trees. I scrambled up the slope and focused on a spot ahead of where I’d seen them last. If I figured right, they’d appear in a window in the oaks. I steadied my rifle against a tree.
The first hog into the open was a big sow. The rest were a blur of black bodies, flashing single-file through the trunks of the oaks that grew thicker than cloves on a Christmas ham.
With my crosshairs bracketed one-third of the way up the body on the biggest animals, I waited for a good shot. A dozen pigs passed, then two small oinkers flashed into and out of sight. The next was bigger, its nose now in view. My brain told my trigger finger, ‘Now!’ The rifle bucked and a 160-grain Nosler AccuBond found its mark 85 yards up the hill. Five more pigs rumbled by, then all was quiet.
I found the pig ten yards farther on, a 110-pound sow, probably six months old, packing plenty of lean, organic pork loin and chops.
These aren’t your average agricultural oinkers. Adult wild hogs tip the scales between 100 and 200 pounds. Boars can reach 375. Most European/feral crosses have a coat of long, coarse, dark hair. Boars grow wicked tusks and are not the kind of critters you’d like to run into on a narrow trail.
They feed mainly at night. At dawn, they head for the deepest, darkest cover they can find.
They eat everything from acorns to alfalfa, to rattlesnakes and bird eggs. And they multiply. Starting at six months old, a sow can produce piglets at the rate of two litters per year.
Spot and Stalk for Swine
I call it sneaking and peeking. If you’ve got a good vantage point, a spotting scope can help you locate hogs, but often, binoculars are all you’ll need. You can watch from one vantage point or move from hill to hill. Your best bet will be in the first hour and the last hour of the day. Generally, the herd will bed down for the day, but may get up to move around a little at noon.
Unlike deer, feeding swine don’t stay in one place very long. If you spot animals a long way out, watch them long enough to get an idea where they’re headed. Then meet them there.
If you’re hunting as a party, it’s often better to split up to cover more ground. But hunting should be conducted in a low-impact manner. Stay on roads and established trails, and out of bedding areas. Spook the herd and they’re likely to leave the area or go nocturnal.
Hogs aren’t hard to spot. Binoculars should be worn on a shoulder strap or around the neck for easy access. When you crest a hill, go easy. Take a few steps, then glass the habitat that has just opened up to view.
Hogs aren’t known for superior visual acuity, but too often hunters don’t give a hog’s eyes much credit. As much as possible, use the terrain and the cover of the trees to get in close enough for a shot.
Wind direction is the biggest consideration. Let them smell you and those hogs will be heading for cover in a hurry. Better to constantly check the way the breeze is blowing and plan your hunt and your stalks to keep the wind in your face.
Hogs are creatures of habit. The same trails are used day after day, season after season, dependent on the food sources. In ranchland, you’ll see dozens of broad trails leading from bedding areas to feeding areas.
In periods between rains, you can scout for fresh wallows. Such places will be visited by hogs at least once a day. A word of warning: bag your boar before he’s all covered with fresh mud.
Guns and Loads
Each year, rifle hunters bag their hogs with everything from the 223 up to the 45-70. Handgunners have bagged boars with the 38 Special and 357 Magnum on up to the 454 Casull and beyond. But many of the lighter calibers are marginal performers at best.
The wild boar is not easy to kill. It has a tough shoulder hide called a shield that protects it from thorns. Your bullet must penetrate this armor and retain enough energy to destroy the heart or lungs.
Most shots taken will be between 30 and 100 yards, but in open country, you may have the opportunity to kill a pig at 200 yards or more. For this reason, as a minimum I’d pick something along the lines of a 260 Remington or a 7mm Magnum, a flat shooting round with a well-constructed bullet that will pass all the way through.
Many shots have to be taken on the run. A well-balanced rifle can help you get on target fast. Keep your scope dialed down to 3x for quick acquisition of the target.
Often the hog won’t drop at the first shot. You want a blood trail and the bigger the hole, the better. That’s why many hunters choose a 30-caliber like the .308 or the .30-06 while handgun hunters prefer the 44 Magnum.
Bringing Home the Bacon
Like other wild game, hogs carry ticks and fleas. These creepy crawlers will be looking for a new home once the pig assumes room temperature. Don’t let it be you.
It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves. Many hogs carry brucellosis or other diseases. Most aren’t fatal to humans, but why take a chance? If you have a nick or a cut on your hand and the hog’s blood mixes with yours, you could catch undulant fever or something worse.
It’s best to gut and skin a hog on the spot. Bring a rope and a block and tackle to lift the animal up off the ground.
However you prepare it, wild pork is outstanding table fare. Lean and natural, it is healthier than domestic pork. Bacon, pork chops, loin and ham are just some of the cuts you can get from it. A wild hog in the cooler can also be turned into hot dogs, summer sausage, pepperoni or breakfast links.
The great food is a reminder of a hunt like no other on this continent. When fall big game and game bird seasons have come and gone, put some pork in the crosshairs.Gary Lewis is published in dozens of hunting and fishing publications in the United States and around the world, as well as in his weekly newspaper columns. These hunting and fishing articles cover a wide range of topics from small game and fish to big game and predators. While he has searched the globe for these exciting adventures, Gary especially likes to spend his time in and write about the state that he calls home – Oregon. To order a signed copy of his book,“Gary Lewis’s Hunting Oregon,” send $$19.50 (includes S&H) to Gary Lewis Outdoors, PO Box 1364, Bend, OR 97709.
More Outdoor News
Park officers get medals for valor
Fishing or Foul Hooking?
04/14/15 -- When sport fishing for black bass, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulations say the fish must willingly take the bait in its mouth. However, it doesn’t say if the hook has to be inside the mouth or not...Full Story
Oregon Weekly Recreation Report04/23/15 -- Summer steelhead class is being offered this year on the Sandy River by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. ODFW and the Sandy Chapter of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders invite you to learn three...Full Story
Shingletown Resort/RV Park upgradedBy Frank Galusha
04/23/15 -- Ponderosa Ridge Resort & RV Park has new owners and is being managed by David and Arlene Williams. The park has been upgraded and renamed as the Living Springs RV & Lodging. It is located just east of Shingletown...Full Story
E. Sierra wardens plan wildlife checkpoint
Oregon: No campground at Parker Meadow04/19/15 -- Due to forest stand conditions in and around Parker Meadow Campground, the High Cascades Ranger District has decided to remove the campground facilities, such as toilets, picnic tables and fire rings. This is due to a large number... Full Story
USFW reopens comment on Fisher listing04/19/15 -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has reopened the comment period on a proposal to list the West Coast population of fisher as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has also extended... Full Story
CDFW urges natural rodent control
Marijuana Wars and the California DFW
04/16/15 -- Just after daylight in September 2014, four California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers and four Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies quietly locked their vehicles and began what was to be an arduous hike... Full Story
The Fuss About Mushrooms
04/16/15 -- We’ve often discussed this. Everyone who loves the outdoors is passionate about something in particular. It might be ducks over decoys or steelhead, or maybe backcountry hiking. It was bird dogs and...Full Story
How to Describe Car Problems with SoundsArticle by Don Stec
04/15/15 -- Several years ago I did a radio commercial about a woman who gave the following description of her car problem, she said. “My car makes a loud scream like noise when I accelerate, then I hear a loud ka-plunk and the warble... Full Story
‘Preppers’ & Disaster Preparedness Myths
04/14/15 -- We live in a world where civilization, reason and logic are said to be at historic heights, yet so many people today, especially our youth, are making new lows in relevant intelligence and labor under a host of myths and illusions...Full Story
Young artists to focus on invasive species
A Happy Dog is a Panting Dog
04/07/15 -- Bigfoot’s number one pet is the wolverine but for us humans it’s the canine. Americans are projected to spend $60 billion this year on pets! A large portion of this goes to dogs. We all love our dogs and generally...Full Story
Ringing in a New Water Year Revisited
03/31/15 -- It's time to make some water-related resolutions, because October 1 marks the beginning of a new water year. A "water year" is a term used by the U.S. Geological Survey and hydrologists to describe... Full Story
Turtle Bay 'Sweets' exhibition closes May 10
April 2015 CADFW Fish and Wildlife CalendarDate -- Event
Various Days — Guided Wetland Tours, by Reservation, at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). A wildlife naturalist will lead your group, school or organization through the diverse wetlands of the Gray...Full Story
Spring Bass and Houseboats
03/29/15 -- This combination is better than peanut butter and jelly. Add in the possibilities of also catching panfish, catfish and trout, what could be better. Really, picture the setting, a clear crisp bright dawn morning a fresh hot cup of coffee...Full Story
Thieves steal & strip USFS Fire Truck03/27/15 -- On the evening of Thursday, March 19, the Forest Service compound at the Wild Rivers Ranger District in Cave Junction was broken into, with a number of items stolen, including a Forest Service fire engine.. Full Story
CDFW wants reports of wildlife mortality
Traces Left Behind
03/23/15 -- Humans shed tens of thousands of skin cells every hour, leaving behind traces of their presence everywhere they go. Contained in each of these cells is an individual's entire set of DNA, or even multiple copies of...Full Story
Surveying in the John Muir Wilderness!
03/23/15 -- Our day begins at 6 a.m. We wake to a brisk July morning at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Six of us venture out of our canvas tents at Clyde’s Pack Station, located 3.5 miles west of Wishon Reservoir, and begin...Full Story
Gold & Silver: Should I Buy Some?
03/20/15 -- I get a fair amount of email from readers on various subjects related to economic collapse leading to hard-times, social unrest and a lack of monetary exchange. And one particular question that keeps...Full Story
Show Respect and Pass Through Quietly
03/05/15 -- “Quick, roll up the windows!” said Kathy. We had just entered the ten-mile auto tour route at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, when four cars roared by us like we were standing still. Pulling to the side of the road...Full Story
Visit California: Discover Shasta Cascade
03/02/15 -- Thanks to Visit California, this region's many attractions are being promoted even more extensively throughout the world. Visit California recently developed a remarkable Shasta-Cascade site of itineraries highlighting various...Full Story
ODFW art competition announced02/25/15 -- Oregon’sDepartment of Fish and Wildlife announced the annual art competition to select artwork featured on the 2016 Habitat Conservation Stamp, Waterfowl Stamp and Upland Game Bird Stamp...Full Story
Tactical Survival Axe, AKA: ‘The Bruiser’
02/24/15 -- I am not an expert with edged weapons, even though I have a trunk-load of them, including the old Buck hunting knife that my Dad gave me when I was a teenager many moons ago. So with that said, I wanted to share...Full Story
ODFW: Please shed hunt responsibly
02/24/15 -- Much like fantasy baseball, winter is the “hot stove” season for high elevation wilderness adventures. It is time to study and plan for the upcoming summer. But instead of preparing to draft players, we find...Full Story
Open Border & ISIS -- Perfect Storm for USA
02/18/15 -- Back in July, I wrote an article about the potential for ‘biological warfare’ being waged against America by terrorist groups. Now, as we endure a measles epidemic in America, ISIS, the “JV team” (according to President Obama)...Full Story
A Problem Requiring a Different Approach
02/08/15 -- Most survival strategies and related tactics used today draw upon the methods that were used or which worked in past small-scale localized and regional disasters, and will likely work again to some extent in similar...Full Story
Modoc NF has opportunity for Vets01/27/15 -- The Modoc National Forest has introduced a new program for veterans -- the Veteran Ecological Restoration Team or VERT. “I am exceedingly proud of folks on the Modoc who show this depth of... Full Story
Firearms and Disaster Preparedness
01/19/15 -- With the start of the new-year, there always seem to be several articles that come out promoting guns as part of a preparedness solution. And it’s an unfortunate fact that firearms have become almost synonymous with Prep... Full Story
Getting Kids Hooked
01/06/15 -- Now, more than ever, we need to get our kids involved in the outdoors. Many kids are becoming softer and lazier with each generation, losing touch with nature, depending on technology to instantly learn everything, presumably...Full Story
Local kayak shop offers classes
12/31/14 -- Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness Center will be the scene for kayak paddlers who want to participate in skill and safety programs presented by ACA (American Canoe Association) certified instructors. Classes will...Full Story
Survival Using RVs
12/26/14 -- Over the past year many people have reached-out to me asking the same question; ‘What can people do to survive a catastrophic event besides sailing to an island on a bug-out boat? This was of course a natural... Full Story
For the Love of Ducks
12/23/14 -- With the north wind blowing off snow-covered Mount Shasta, it was brutally cold that December afternoon in 1960. Sitting in the back seat of our family car, I spotted an enormous flock of snow-white birds feeding in the... Full Story
Disaster Preparedness Strategies – Part II
11/25/14 -- Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Disaster Preparedness articles written by Capt. William E. Simpson, USMM. The first was an attempt to simplify the subject of disaster preparedness by focusing on risk...Full Story
Disaster Preparedness Strategies – Part I
RV Collision Repair Requires Multiple Skills
11/10/14 -- I do not know of any other vehicles that require as many multiple occupational skills to repair than a collision damaged RV, specifically motor homes and travel trailers. Steel and aluminum are used in the structural ...Full Story
Redding vacation planning guide available
Making Friends With The Neighbors
10/14/14 -- There are few animals in nature that match the majestic beauty of a stallion running wild and free. They rule their territory by day and by night. Recently, my wife Laura and I decided to change adventures...Full Story
10/08/14 -- Southwest of Mt. Lassen lies a remote and largely forgotten piece of Cascade foothill region. Dark basaltic cliffs and pinnacles adorn inhospitable river canyons, carved by what is now Mill and Deer Creeks, through bad...Full Story
Tall Trees and Emerald Waters
10/06/14 -- Kathy and I recently attended the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) fall conference on the aptly-named Wild Rivers Coast. Stretching from Port Orford, Oregon to Klamath, California, the Wild.... Full Story
How to Comply with Tow Chain LawsBy Don Stec
09/13/14 -- One of the most common mistakes trailer owners make is: Failure to properly attach a safety chain between a trailer and the towing vehicle. There seems to be a consensus by the general public that simply...Full Story
Above the CanopyArticle and photos by Steven T. Callan
09/06/14 -- Having had the pleasure and privilege of diving in California’s kelp forests from San Diego to Monterey, I would describe it as a surreal, almost religious experience -- witnessing underwater cathedrals rising...Full Story
Trinidad Sea Kayaking
09/03/14 -- The thing I love most about guiding and coaching sea kayaking is sharing unique experience with others. The ocean is dynamic. It’s full of life and energy. One hundred yards from shore and you’re...Full Story
Lassen National Volcanic Park
07/21/14 -- Lassen National Park is one of the best kept secrets in the National Park system. It may be hard to call a place that has over 400,000 visitors a year a secret but compared to Yosemite’s 2.5 million and the 9.4...Full Story
Peak Bagging in WinterBy Jim Broshears
02/11/13 -- Peak bagging, according to peakbagging.com/ refers to climbing mountains. When a summit is reached, it is “bagged”. You don’t have to go to exotic locations to enjoy this sport, or even be an elite mountain climber...Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork – Part III
04/09/14 -- Our search for Tuck’s lost meadow continued in 2013. After three previous trips and multiple days of searching, you might be wondering why we don’t just call it a day. Or possibly question why we have not... Full Story
The 'Death Wobble' -- Be Safe Not Sorry!
03/31/14 -- Death Wobble is not to be confused with a front-end shimmy or a wheel balance problem. A Death Wobble (DW) is very common on vehicles with a solid front axle. It has earned its name, not from mechanics but by vehicle... Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork -- Part II
03/10/14 -- Our return to the Middle Fork of Feather River would take place in August of 2012. Having nearly 10 months to plan the next exploration, we, of course, waited until the last minute decide our course of action... Full Story
The Mystery of the Middle Fork -- Part I
02/15/14 -- Part #1 Exploring the Middle Fork of the Feather River -- Stories about hidden valleys, waterfalls, canyons and fishing are part of outdoor folklore. Most of these tales begin with “When I was a kid we went to this place” and...Full Story
BLM seeks input on use of OR public lands01/30/13 – Resource Management Plans or RMPs are a process in which the BLM is working with communities, to gain innovative ideas and to identify the latest natural resource research on how your Oregon public lands will...Full Story