Two years ago a good friend of mine called after we’d lost contact with each other for nearly 10 years. He’d never hunted before and he told me that he was now interested in getting into the sport and had just finished taking his hunter safety course. After the initial shock that he’d actually passed the course wore off, I found myself contemplating the method by which he was going to accidentally injure me. You see, my friend Dave was never one to follow the rules and was a bit of a daredevil. As we caught up, however, I learned that he now had three kids, had started a very successful construction company and even got his pilot’s license. They don’t give those licenses to just anyone, do they? He owns a twin engine plane and flew up with his family to see us, and I thought, “Wow, 10 years can really change a person.” After a few visits with him I could see that he had really matured and I was far more comfortable with the thought of taking him hunting.
He let me know that he had a friend named Brian who had received an invite from another family friend to hunt hogs on their 7,000-acre ranch. Since neither of them had any hunting experience, they asked me to come along and show them the ropes. I was anxious to accept since hog hunting is my favorite thing to do, and getting to hunt the animals in California for free is rare. Here was the plan: Brian and his friend would hunt together the first evening and Dave and I would hunt together. Dave was hunting with a Marlin .30-30 with open sights and I was using my Winchester Model 94 in .44 Rem. Mag. I also brought my Remington 788 in .308 Win. topped with a 4X scope just in case the terrain was open.
When we arrived at the property we could see that we’d have our choice of terrain to hunt. There was a meadow with a creek running through the middle of it that was about 900 yards wide and stretched as far as the eye could see. On the west side was a pine and oak tree line that started right where the rolling hills began. Dave and I headed straight for the hills to look for hog tracks and beds. As we quietly walked, I whispered to him what to look for, and pointed out tracks and droppings wherever I saw them. I also explained what our goal was. We wanted to quietly get to the top of the highest hill we could see so that we could glass the area and do a spot-and-stalk on any hog we saw. Dave was having trouble with the whole walking quiet thing, and I kept giving him tips on how to watch each step to avoid crunching leaves and breaking little twigs. We finally made it to the top of the hill and just as I reached for my binoculars I heard this god-awful noise that can only be described as the tearing of a Velcro strap. I turned to look at Dave, who was … indeed … casually pulling on a Velcro strap! That’s what was holding his canteen. Words wouldn’t come to my mouth, and all I could do was stare at him in disbelief with my mouth wide open. When he saw my disappointment he said “What? I got thirsty.” To which I replied, “There isn’t a pig in this whole meadow now that doesn’t know we’re here.” He thought I was exaggerating, but I asked him if he thought a dog on the far end of the meadow would have heard that. He agreed that a dog would have heard the noise, and I explained to him that a pig can hear just about as well as a dog. I wasn’t sure if he believed me, but I told him we’d just try again at the next hill.
We walked for approximately a half mile to reach the top of the next hill that overlooked another meadow. The hill was approximately 500 feet above the meadow so it was a long, steep climb. The weather was warm so we were both sweating, like the quarry we were after, when we reached the top. Now you might not believe this next part, but I swear that it’s absolutely true. Just as I reached for my binoculars, Dave got thirsty again! When he saw the shear look of horror on my face after I heard that Velcro again he said “What am I supposed to do, not drink all day?” To which I said, “Do you mean to tell me that you couldn’t wait just a few minutes while we glassed this meadow first?” He sheepishly said yes, and I told him that he needed to A.) Get a quieter water source, like a camelback. B.) Use my water for now, and C.) Never, ever bring Velcro into the woods again!
I was a little frustrated and told Dave that we should start working our way back to camp. We saw a lot of hog sign but it was all weeks old. Back at camp, we learned that our host had pointed out a large boar to Brian, but he hesitated on the shot and it walked into the brush out of view. After seeing only old tracks, this encounter was very encouraging to me. The next morning, the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., but I was already awake and anxiously waiting to get out there. I jumped up and started throwing my clothes on when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. I said, “Hey guys, time to get up” and Brian then sat up in his bed and said, “What time is it?” When I said that it was “4:30 and time to go” he asked why we had to start hunting so early and I said because we had a 2-mile walk to get to where I think the hogs were, and that our best chance of seeing them in the big meadow was first thing in the morning. He laid back down and said that they’d catch up with me later. I was bewildered at their attitude, but happy that I’d get a chance to hunt on my own after what had happened the previous day.
I followed the creek north for approximately 1 mile before I started heading west into the hills. I meandered around for a couple of hours looking for some fresh sign and found none. It then dawned on me that I needed to just glass the big meadow by the creek. It gave me the best vantage point and was most logical since the hogs had to cross it to get from the neighbor’s alfalfa fields to the area where they were likely bedding. I glassed the meadow for approximately 30 minutes, all the while appreciating how green and beautiful the area was. I felt myself getting very sleepy and decided to rest my eyes for a while. I laid back in the grass for a few minutes and just when I felt myself drifting off, I remembered that I wanted to take a picture while the lighting was still right. I sat back up, took a picture and as I was putting my camera back in the case, I saw a large boar running across the meadow approximately 600 yards away. He was heading for the trees and was in a hurry to get there. I knew that even if I ran as fast as I could, it was unlikely that I’d get a shot before he got into those trees, but I took off anyway. I ran as fast as I could toward the same spot he was heading and there was a small knoll between us that gave me cover. Once I reached the knoll I knew I’d be approximately 200 yards from him assuming he didn’t change directions and didn’t keep running when he reached the trees. I knew that was a lot to assume but I was trying to be positive. When I reached the knoll I started walking again to catch my breath and avoid being heard. When I reached the top of the knoll I could see that he was just heading into the trees, but I was so out of breath that I couldn’t settle my scope’s crosshairs on him for a clean shot. Just as he was about to move out of view he made a u-turn and came back in the open and started digging for something. I put my rifle on a tree branch and still couldn’t get my crosshairs to settle. OK, I admit that I am very out of shape. I realized that I had a little time since he was occupied digging, so I got into a prone position and waited for my composure and breath to return. I finally got my crosshairs to settle and made a perfect heart shot. The hog spun around twice, not knowing where to run, and then just dropped. He weighed 195 pounds.
After cleaning the hog and taking a few photos, I started making the mile-and-a-half trek back to camp to get the ATV. When I was a half- mile from camp I looked back and saw Dave and Brian approximately 500 yards behind me, coming form the same area where I’d shot the hog. When they came into camp, I asked them if they saw the hog, and they thought I was joking. Apparently, they never even heard the shot. When we rode back to where the hog was they got very excited and anxious to hunt again. Due to the warm weather, however, I spent the rest of the day skinning my hog and then drove into town to get it in a cooler.
When the alarm went off the next morning, I got up and started getting dressed, and again, I noticed that I was the only one doing so. “Where’s all that excitement I saw yesterday?” I asked. They both moaned and rolled over. Just as I was walking out of the RV, they told me to wait because they wanted to go, too. I told them they had 5 minutes to get dressed. They got dressed quickly enough, but then they asked me to wait again so that they could make some tea. I seriously thought they were joking, but sadly, they weren’t. I said that I’d wait for them to heat the water, but they’d have to drink it on the way because I was already 15 minutes later than I wanted to be.
Our host became ill over night and was unable to hunt, so the three of set out for the same location as the previous morning. When we reached the spot where I shot the hog, I told Dave to sit at the tree line and watch the meadow. I was going to place Brian 200 yards north of him, and I was going 200 yards north of him. Dave asked whether I thought that was a good idea because he said he wasn’t convinced that any pigs were going to go to that spot again. I asked Dave how long he’d been hunting and then went on to explain the difference between 28 years of hunting experience and zero years of hunting experience. Dave then looked over my shoulder and pointed to the spot where I’d told him to sit and asked “Aren’t those pigs?” I turned around and there were three hogs trotting single-file toward the tree line. They were approximately 200 yards from reaching the spot where I’d told Dave to sit, and approximately 500 yards from us. They were slightly angling toward us. The sun was still below the horizon, there was no wind and we were in tall grass so we could walk with very little sound.
I told Dave and Brian to follow me and then we started doing a very fast walk to get in range before the hogs got to the trees. When we were 100 yards into it, I realized that there was no sound behind me. I turned around and there they were—Dave and Brian walking along like they were on a lazy Sunday stroll approximately 50 yards behind. I waived them up but they still just walked. I ran back to them and said “We have to hurry, what are you doing?!” To which they said, “We’re trying to sneak up on them.” I said “Do you see me trying sneak up on them? In this dim light and at this distance, they can’t see us so we’ll start sneaking when I think we need to. Just do what I do.” With that, I took off again but they continued their stroll. I was ready to pull my hair out when I went back to them and asked why they weren’t staying up with me. They both said that there was no reason to stay up with me because they could watch the action from were they were. I then said that I was there to teach them how to hunt! I told them that I’d already gotten a pig, so these pigs were for them. They looked at each other in disbelief and said, “Oh, OK. Let’s go!”
This time when I took off they were on me like glue, but now the pigs were at the tree line when we were still 250 yards out. I told them this was as close as we were going to get and that they needed to get themselves into a prone position. Dave knew that he couldn’t get a shot at that distance with his .30-30 so he just stood and watched. Brian sat down and but wouldn’t get into a prone position because there was dried cow dung on the ground. “I don’t want to mess up my shirt,” he said. I then called him a “city boy” and told him to aim for the lead hog since he was the biggest.
The hogs were now walking slowly into the trees and we had approximately 20 seconds before they were going to be out of our sight. I had my crosshairs on the lead pig in case Brian missed, and suddenly, I heard a click. I then heard Brian say, “Oh, I forgot to put a bullet in.” As he was loading his gun I started a count down. “Brian you have 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …,”
He waited too long and the pigs eventually moved off out of sight. Fortunately, the grass had dew on it so we could clearly see where they went. I told them to follow me closely as we headed into the trees. We were now walking on dried pine needles and staying quiet was a challenge. Approximately 50 yards into the woods I thought, “Wow, these guys have really learned to be quiet.” I turned around and saw that Dave and Brian were nowhere to be seen. I completely gave up on them at this point, and just started hunting rather than trying to teach them. Another 50 yards into the trees I heard a grunt and looked up a very steep hill and there were two of the hogs approximately 150 yards away. I aimed at the same hog that I’d missed a few moments earlier and shot. He dropped instantly and rolled half way down the hill toward me. It was a very exciting hunt and I was very happy, but I still felt bad that I was the only one walking away with anything.
I haven’t seen Brian since that day 2 years ago, but Dave and I continue to be friends and have had a chance to do some bird hunting together. He’s come a long way since then and we plan on deer and duck hunting together this year. When I think back at the less than brilliant things I did when I first started hunting, it made it easier to have patience for these two newbies. All hunters are “noobs” at one time and all have learned from trial and error or with the patience of family and friends. Besides, it always feels good to help others into our circle.