Don’t Let The Summer Boar You To Death!
Summer felt like an endless heat wave with the cool, crisp mornings of the fall hunting seeming like a daydream. Without access to a time machine, our best bet was going to have to be year round wild pig hunting. It can break the boredom of summer without breaking the bank. So, it was in early August that we decided to book a hunt for trophy wild boar.
Rio Wheeler for BIGSHOT magazine
Wild pig hunting affords hunters with an opportunity to stalk a trophy and fill the freezer in the process. During our hunt we knew it would be very hot, but we never imagined that temperatures would exceed 115 degrees during those three days. We spent the first two days walking in extremely hot and dry conditions trekking acre after acre and glassing the landscape until our eyes hurt. With the temperature soaring past the century mark the wild pigs were bedded deep in the brush trying to escape the heat. We only saw sows and piglets as they made their way to and from water at dusk and dawn.
With only one morning remaining we returned to camp dirty, defeated, hot and drenched in sweat. Mike, Matt and I sat around the clubhouse table discussing how we should approach our final morning. An uneasy feeling started to take hold of me, the feeling of getting skunked. But the hunt isn't over until you pack up your gear and leave and, like most things in life, the harder you work the luckier you seem to get. For our last morning we decided to take the Polaris truck and cover as much ground as possible in hopes of jumping a boar or possibly spotting from one of the main ridge tops.
We knew that the wild boar were fighting at night because their screaming and grunting echoed up and down the canyon keeping us awake. We also presumed that the fighting was over sows and, if anything can make a boar move in the day, it’s a sow in heat. With a little renewed faith, we headed to the bunkhouses for a few hours of much needed sleep.
The alarm clock sounded early, waking us up for one last opportunity to bag some wild pig. With guns and gear in hand we packed into the Polaris. I rode shotgun and would be first up if we happened to jump a boar. As dawn arrived we began to see the ridge tops covered in the golden morning sunlight and so we began our final push.
After an hour or so of mountain driving we had climbed to the top of the tallest peak. I noticed the brush moving to my left followed by the snapping of branches and then a black pig leapt across the trail. This first pig was then followed by another of roughly the same size before a large black figure made its way onto the trail. It paused to stare at us. My eyes focused on it’s head and I immediately noticed white tusks protruding from its mouth. Without further hesitation this large boar leapt back into the brush chasing the two black sows. Mike told us all to hold on, thinking that we would be able to cut them off further down the trail. The Polaris engine was whining as he stomped harder on the gas.
We made a hard right turn that felt like something out of the Dukes of Hazard and came to an abrupt stop as the first sow ran across the hill to my right, not fifteen yards away. She was followed shortly after by the second female and both were apparently trying to escape their pursuer, the large black male I had just seen on the top of the ridge.
I was now out of the vehicle and standing at the bottom of the hillside. As I began to turn my head, I could see an object beginning to appear. In one motion I shouldered my .450 Bushmaster rifle and turned to face the boar.
For reasons known only to him, he paused again to look my way but this time he took a 250grain bullet for his curiosity. The bullet hit his shoulder with a loud thump sounding like striking a ripe watermelon with your open hand. Fatally struck he then reared up onto his rear hoofs like a defiant stallion. As I begin to lower my weapon he hit the dry earth and came to rest against a large red Manzanita. We all took a brief pause to process what had just happened and then we began walking towards the black wild boar.
He was a large and intimidating looking beast, a block of solid black hairy muscle. He was also missing almost his entire left ear presumably from an old battle injury that had long since healed. His large shoulders also bore the scars of many past battles. Surprisingly, both his bottom tusks remained unbroken and were as sharp as daggers from all of the grinding against his top tusks. The boars’ tusks or 'whetters' measured just over three inches long and he weighed in at 220 pounds. We cleaned the old warrior off and loaded him into the truck. The time is just past eight in the morning as we head back to camp to cape, quarter and get my boar on ice before the temperature rises further.
As we jumped back in to the truck we hoped that good fortune would smile on us again and that Matt would get his chance at a large boar in the final hours of the day. We decided to concentrate our efforts in the southern part of the ranch and agreed to go until we can no longer stand the heat. With Matt now sitting shotgun in the vehicle, I stow my rifle and take out my camera.
We drive past a pond and spot several wild pigs feeding in the shadow of a large oak tree. Mike stops the vehicle several hundred yards away with the pigs paying no attention to us. We begin looking the pigs over with our binoculars. The largest pig is a sow around 120 pounds with several other slightly smaller pigs around her. Mike asked Matt if he would like to stalk up closer and take a shot at the largest pig but Matt declines, he’s come up here for a big boar or nothing at all.
We drive forward scattering the black pigs into the underbrush. The temperature is already unbearable and I’m embarrassed to admit I had already begun to dream of air-conditioning and pizza on my couch. With noon approaching we crest a hill and begin our descent down the shady side of the hillside. At the bottom we drive through a dry creek bed and begin to head up the other side. As we began to climb the hill, Mike quickly turned the truck around making a fast U turn. Speaking very quietly he said, “there’s a huge pig lying in the bottom of the dry creek back there”. Mike told Matt, ‘when I stop in the creek bed, get out and shoot it, it’s about 10 yards off the side of the road’. Matt peers into what looks more like a cave than actual underbrush to spot the pig. He looks through the scope of his rifle but could only make out a black object.
With his rifle now mounted on his shoulder Matt asks, “which end is the head”? Mike answers, “about two and a half feet from the right edge of the figure”. I still couldn't see anything in the dark cave and nothing had moved or made a sound for what seemed like minutes now. But just as Mike finished his words “two feet”, Matt’s rifle erupted with a boom. The bark of the rifle was followed by the sound of Matt working the bolt on his gun. I grabbed my camera as Matt made his way up and around the cave of what appeared to be very thick Manzanita bushes. The large black object had fallen without even making a sound. The bullet had fragmented violently inside the boars’ chest killing him instantly. Matt and Mike each grabbed a back leg and dragged the monster out of its hiding place. We brushed off another battle scared warrior and loaded him into the back of the vehicle. When we arrived at camp we discovered Matt’s Boar was even larger than mine. It’s tusks measured three and a half inches long and it weighed just over 230 pounds.
Another adventure had come to an end and on this occasion despite the heat we had punched two California Pig Tags with boars sporting three inch plus tusks. At the time of the hunt the heat was miserable and had us both questioning our sanity. However adversity makes truly treasured memories and the goal more valuable than something easily obtained. We drove home that blistering hot summer day sweaty, tired, utterly happy and definitely not bored.