California Wild Hogs

Want real bowhunting fun?  Experience the thrill of stalking wild pigs amid

the rugged hills of the Golden State.

By Joe Bell

California_Wild_Hogs_2 California_Wild_Hogs_3          

With the June temperatures looming beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I knew a tough hunt was in store for us.  Besides brutally hot weather, my friend Art Cain and I were facing a grueling 2,000-foot climb up a towering ridgeline.  You’d think we were nuts to go climbing such a hill in this weather, but we’d spotted some giant hogs with our binoculars feeding on the tops of these ridgelines.  Each one had its snout buried ear-deep in wild oats.  Even though these hogs were a half-mile away, we could see their huge heads and “teeth bumps” along their jaws.  They were definitely worth the work. 


           As we bounced down the canyon road in the pickup, we glanced at our watches and realized it was still early, 2:30 in the afternoon.  So we decided to pull over and hunt ground squirrels for a bit.  Within minutes we were into the pesky varmints.  After many hits and misses we jumped back in the truck and continued our drive.  Rounding a sharp bend we immediately spotted a group of hogs moseying across the road.  I couldn’t believe it!  What were they doing out in 105-degree weather?

             The answer came quickly as we drove up another 50 yards, stopped the truck and bailed out.  Instantly I could hear water trickling down a nearby ravine.  Art and I grabbed our bows and trotted across a big field toward the creek.


            When we got to the creek’s edge, we slowed to a bobcat’s crawl with our arrows already knocked.  We slinked along and suddenly spotted hooves!  The pigs were on the move.  Art darted forward and I hooked to the left, just in case they were to double back.


            As I worked uphill I crouched to clear an overhanging tree branch and saw pig feet beneath the canopy of oak leaves.  The pigs were 15 yards away and closing in!  I quickly drew my bow as I saw the sight of teeth barreling down on me, from only 10 steps away!  As soon as my fingers hit anchor, the arrow was gone.

           The arrow nicked the pig’s lower jaw and angled forward into its chest.  I ran backward after the shot, but fortunately, the pig veered, charged upward, and stumbled, then slid to the bottom of the hill.  It was all over in seconds!


These Hogs are Different

          In the past few months I’ve talked to several highly experienced bowhunters who just recently tasted the fun of bowhunting California’s wild hogs, and what I heard back was, “Man was that a great hunt,” and “I’ve  never enjoyed a hunt so much.  It was incredible!”  Both of these comments came from guys that have traveled abroad to hunt animals like Rocky Mountain goat, Alaskan moose, giant elk and other coveted trophies.  So for them to say a California pig hunt was great and incredible says a lot.

            Outside California’s crowded megalopolis areas, you’ll find a maze of truly wild foothill country meshed with oak trees, poison oak, chaparral, various water ways and a number of big game, including wild feral hogs.  Because California’s country is rugged with no game fences present, the wild pigs that live here offer a supreme off-season challenge for the bowhunter.  You simply have to hunt these hogs to see what you’re missing!


   When and Where to Hunt

          In California, you can pursue wild pigs year ’round, with no bag limits.  The only thing required is a valid state general hunting license ($100 for non-residents) and a pig tag ($13 for one nonresident tag).  And with no bag or possession limit, these animals are almost considered vermin, since they are considered overpopulated on private lands and do immense damage to valuable agricultural crops.

            My favorite time to hunt pigs is generally during the cooler, sometimes drizzly late-winter and early-spring months.  During this time, your morning hunts end later and evening hunts begin sooner.  This maximizes your hunting opportunity.  But I will say, I enjoy hunting pigs at any time of the year, and I’ve also noticed that during the summer months, food and water is sparser and hogs tend to be more concentrated.  So really, take your pick.

            The Golden State offers public-land hunting opportunity, but it isn’t very good.  In fact, I would highly recommend avoiding the frustration and pitfalls associated with public-land pig hunting.  Instead, save a few extra bucks and book a private-land hunt with a reputable bowhunting outfitter.  For the last several years I’ve hunted on the Tejon Ranch, a 270,000-acre parcel of stunning flatlands, foothills and forested mountains that come chock-full of game of all kinds.  My friend and outfitter Don Smith provides the best wild pig hunting I’ve ever experienced in the state.

            Give it a Try!

          The off-season means downtime for the big-game hunter, a time to work on bow equipment, bow fish and maybe even shoot in a few 3-D tournaments.  But the thrill, adventure and adrenaline rush of big-game hunting doesn’t have to end now.  Spice up your off-season with some rewarding big-game pursuit—the pursuit of California’s wild hogs!