A couple posts ago, I mentioned that my brother-in-law and I took a hunters safety course in order to meet the California state requirements for a hog hunt we planned to attend in mid-November. It has been a month now since that hunt took place, and I finally have found some time to tell the whole story, as it was quite memorable. In fact, it will easily go down as one of the most memorable weekends of my 41 years, and for many years to come.
The story actually begins right after my brother-in-law, Alex, and I passed our exam and received our safety certificates. We immediately drove to a local Big 5 Sporting Goods and bought our hunting licenses. I was particularly antsy, as I did not want to repeat my "30 years in the making" debacle that I explained in my previous post. We bought our licenses for $48, and then also got our pig tags, which were $21 dollars apiece. That's right - in Texas or any other southern state, they will practically pay you to shoot wild/feral pigs, but here in California, you have to buy a tag for each pig you shoot. At least, unlike deer, there is no limit to the number of tags you can buy for a season.
A few days after buying the license and tags, and with just a couple days before we left for the hunt, Alex and I decided it would be a good idea if we went to the nearby shooting range to make sure our rifles were sighted in and we were comfortable with them. This was especially important for Alex, as he only started shooting guns this year, and he has only had a few opportunities to shoot. Both rifles we were taking were borrowed from my father and brother. While I own quite a few rifles, none are sufficiently suited for hunting hogs, particularly the larger ones we were hoping we would get a chance to shoot. So for this hunt, we were borrowing my brother's scoped Remington 700 bolt-action .30-06, and my father's M1903A3 Springfield (Smith-Corona) bolt-action .30-06 with peep sights. Thinking that a scope would be easier for a neophyte shooter than peep sights, the plan was for Alex to use the Remington, and for me to use the Smith-Corona. To tell you the truth, I have always been more comfortable with peep sights than with scopes, so I had no problem using the Smith-Corona, and was glad to have Alex used the scoped Remington. For a case in point, here is the damage I did to the paper with the Smith-Corona:
Problem is, we found out at the range that night that try as he might, Alex could just not figure out how to find a sight picture in that scope. He could, however, find a sight picture in the Smith-Corona, so by the end of the night, we had traded rifles, and he would use the Smith-Corona, and I would use the scoped Remington.
Friday, November 15th arrived, and the hunters began making their way to the hunt. Alex decided to stay home later in the day so he could attend his daughter's birthday party, so I caught a ride with our other two hunters, Damon and Dave. Damon is one of my best friends, and had basically put this hunt together, and Dave is a good friend of his who, by association with Damon, has become a good friend of mine as well. So the three of us made the four-hour drive to King City, California, which is located along Highway 101, about an hour south of Monterey. In King City live the hunting guides Sam, Colby, and Garrett - who would be taking us out in search of our quarry.
Damon, Dave, and I checked into our motel then hit a local restaurant/bar and met up with our guides for dinner. During dinner, Alex arrived, and we all ate, drank, and discussed the particulars of the next day's hunt.
The next day started dark and early. We were up by about 0415 and met our guides in the parking lot of the motel at 0500. After getting gas, we departed in three vehicles - Sam and Garrett in Sam's truck, Colby in his Jeep, and the four hunters in Alex's SUV. We drove east into the coastal range that separates California's immense Central Valley from the smaller Salinas Valley in which King City is located. It is in these low mountains where you will find some of California's best hog hunting opportunities. During the summer and fall, the coastal range is dominated by short grass that has been tanned by California's ubiquitous sunshine, and is dotted by oak trees that provide the acorns on which the wild/feral pigs fatten themselves. There are brushier areas of the Coastal Range, and that was our first stop. After driving for about 45 minutes, we pulled on to a dirt road for another 10 minute drive onto a ranch that was choked with scrubby pines, oak trees, and bushy chaparral. We unloaded from the vehicles, and began walking into the trees and brush. Sam and Garrett had several hunting dogs with them. These dogs all looked like Pit Bulls (but really weren't, I think), and wore kevlar vests that protected their upper torsos and neck. Those boars have tusks that can lay you, or a dog, open. As soon as these dogs were released from their pen in the back of the truck, you could instantly tell that they LOVE what they do! As soon as they were released, they began penetrating the dense brush in an attempt to find any pigs where they nest in the underbrush, or as the guides always call them: beds. The idea is for the dogs to flush out the pigs and then subdue the pigs by clamping on a pig's body part - ears are an apparently favorite target. The dogs enthusiastically went from brush to brush looking for pigs, but as time went on, we all began to notice a common theme: no pigs.
Try as we might, we could not find a single pig. By mid-morning we had given up on this first ranch, and went to another that was closer to the Salinas Valley. This meant that we were leaving the dense chaparral, and would be in open hill country like previously described. In fact, this will give you a good idea:
The one big drawback to this new location was that the rancher who owned the property didn't allow the use of dogs, so they would have to stay in their pen in the back of the pickup truck. We pulled off of Highway 25 and followed a very short dirt road to a wide parking area near a barn. Ahead of us was a ridge of hills several hundred feet high much like what you see behind me in the photo. As soon as we got out of the vehicles, I heard one of the guides say, "There are some pigs right there!" Sure enough, at least half a mile away and midway up one of those hills was what essentially looked like a group of thick black dots with legs, but you could tell they were definitely pigs.
We quickly geared up, and then got into two vehicles - Damon went with Colby in his Jeep, and Dave, Alex, and I joined Sam and Garrett in Sam's truck. We took a dirt access road to the foot of those hills. As soon as we reached the foot of the hills, we saw the pigs make a break for it and start moving parallel to us. Using walkie-talkies, Sam and Colby decided to split up. Colby and Damon split off onto a road that went severely uphill toward where the pigs were; Sam took the rest of us further down the road in the same direction the pigs were going in order to cut them off. We came to a stop in a narrow valley and got out of the truck with our weapons at the ready. To our right was a ridgeline that separated us from where Colby and Damon had gone. The plan was that if Damon missed his potential shot, the pigs would move right toward where we were waiting and we could take care of business, especially since we would be shooting in the direction of where Damon and Colby were, but we would have a huge ridge of hills between us. After we were talking about this and that for a minute or two, we heard the sharp report of a rifle on the other side of the ridge. A few seconds later, Colby was on the radio letting us know that Damon had shot one of the pigs, but a follow-up shot would be necessary. A few seconds later, the follow-up shot reverberated through the hills. We then got back in Sam's truck and traveled up a zig-zag dirt road to the top of the next ridge line. We parked at a gate with a descending slope to the immediate right, and then Sam sat down at the top of the slope with a pair of binoculars and began systematically examining the opposite slope of a v-shaped ravine. The slope was dotted with brushy trees that wild pigs favor for bedding down for mid-day naps. While Sam was doing his inspection, Colby and Damon pulled up in the Jeep. Colby has a heavy-duty grated platform welded to the front of his Jeep, and loaded onto the platform was Damon's pig:
Damon brought a .308 bolt-action to the hunt, but his scope had been giving him trouble earlier in the day, so he borrowed Colby's bolt-action .25-06. Damon's shot was from approximately 200 yards away at a pig that was walking at a saunter. Try as he might to lead his shot to account for the pig's movement, Damon's first shot got the pig in its hind-quarters. The impact rendered the pig's back legs useless, and it began attempting to continue walking with its front legs. Damon cautiously approached the pig and considered using his rather large Bowie knife to finish off the pig by slitting its throat. But as soon as Damon began approaching the pig, even with its hind legs useless, it began growling at Damon and starting gnashing its teeth at him. Damon reconsidered his idea of knifing the pig, backed away, and put a coup-de-grace rifle shot through the pig's head. So the first kill of the hunt went to Damon:
All of us spent the next hour or so searching around the area you see behind Damon, checking slopes, empty nesting areas with plenty of evidence of pigs having been there, but no more pigs to be found. One place Sam and I checked showed particular promise. It was another v-shaped canyon with us on the one slope looking across at the opposite slope. It showed all kinds of signs of pigs having been there: chewed up ground underneath the trees where pigs had eaten acorns or bedded down, a trail halfway between the top of the slope and the bottom of the ravine that traversed the length of the slope. Sam even said, "Damn, I swear we just missed them!"
Becoming a tad frustrated, we decided to shake things up. Alex got in the Jeep with Colby, and Damon joined Dave and me in Sam's truck, with Garrett in the front passenger seat. While Colby and Alex stayed to check a few more places, the rest of us in Sam's truck left that whole side of the ranch, and went to the portion of the ranch on the other side of Highway 25. We crossed through the gates and began negotiating the winding dirt roads that took us deep into the tan grasslands of the coastal hills. As we drove along, Garrett looked to his right across a wide shallow ravine that paralleled the dirt road on which we were traveling. Garrett suddenly told Sam to stop because he thought he saw something under a tree. Sam asked him what he saw, and Garrett answered, "I can't tell, but I know it is some sort of animal." As we were on a cattle ranch, there was no telling what lay under those weeping branches. Sam pulled to a stop, and he and Garrett got out and began looking closely at a tree with weeping branches that reached almost all the way to the ground. The tree lay about 250 yards away on the other side of the shallow ravine. Dave, Damon, and I sat in the back in the pickup truck, waiting for instructions. What happened next, seems like both a blur, and also one of the most vivid moments of my life. Sam and Garrett, while never taking their eyes off where they were looking, both made a frantic "get your asses over here now!" motion with their arms. The three of us piled out of the truck while simultaneously jacking a round into our chambers. Damon had already bagged his pig, but in case either Dave or I missed, he was not going to let those pigs just walk away. Dave had a .308 bolt-action rifle that was almost identical to what Damon was carrying. I had my brother's Remington bolt-action .30-06 with the scope. Right when the three of us arrived at the location where Sam and Garrett were standing, five or six pigs of varying sizes emerged from under the tree and began sauntering away to our left. They were about 250 yards away. Sam and Garrett yelled "Fire! Fire!" And we fired. I heard shots going off before I even put my scope up to my face, the air filling with that distinctive sound a rifle makes when it is fired outdoors: Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo. I raised my scope to my eye and put the crosshairs on one of the pigs in the back of the pack. While I prefer iron peep sights, I do appreciate the front-row view a scope affords you. When I fired, my view was filled with the sight of a geyser of dust and dirt spray up directly behind the pig I had just shot at. I instantly realized the rookie move I had just committed: I didn't account for the forward movement of the pig, so by the time my bullet arrived, the target was no longer where my crosshairs had been. I jacked in another round, put my crosshairs a little bit in front of that pig and watched another geyser of dust and dirt spray up, this time in front of the pig. To my horror, I had aimed this second shot of mine too far in front of the pig and had missed for a second time. Less than a second later, while I was still looking through my scope, I watched the pig that had been running in front of the one I aimed at suddenly buckle at the knees and begin squealing that unmistakable sound of a distressed pig. A round fired by my buddy Dave had found its target, and I had watched the impact through my scope. Incredibly, this pig then got back up and started limping in an effort to catch up with the rest of the pack. before we could take any more shots, the pack disappeared into a 15-foot deep ravine, which up ahead, made a sharp dog-leg to the right, as did the road we were on that the ravine paralleled. There was no way we were letting that pack go, so we hurried back into the truck and started driving down this dirt road at what seemed like 60 mph in an effort to cut off those pigs. Within a few seconds, we spotted the pigs at our 1 o'clock. They had exited the ravine, had crossed the road ahead of us, and were now running away from us up a hill. Once they got to the top of that hill, they would disappear over the other side, and we would lose them, especially since Sam and Garrett couldn't release their dogs. Sam slammed the truck to a stop, and we piled out again. So this time, instead of the pigs moving across our view in a direction to our left like before, now they were running away from us. With each passing second, they were getting farther away, but they were essentially a static target. When we began shooting this second volley, the pigs were about 150 yards away. I put the scope back up to my face, chose a dark-colored pig, and fired. I missed again. I chalk that one up to simple adrenaline which caused me to jerk the trigger, instead of squeeze. Even as these pigs got farther away and were getting dangerously close to the crest of that hill, I took a second, calmed down, took a full breath, took a second full breath, let half of it out, then placed my crosshairs right between the shoulder blades of that same pig, and squeezed the trigger. Again, kudos to the scope, which gives you a wonderful view of events. I watched another geyser of dust, but this time, the dust flew off the back of that pig, and it instantly went down, squealing and kicking up a huge cloud of dust. I lowered my rifle, and yelled - sorry - "Got you motherfucker!" Probably not the most eloquent statement I could have made to express my elation, but after three missed shots, my blood was definitely up. After about 10 seconds or so, my pig stopped squealing, and the dust it had been kicking up began to settle back down to the ground. The rest of the pigs had disappeared over the crest of the hill, and our gunfire had died away. At some point, one of our guides had noticed that the pig Dave had shot back at the other location was not among the group that had crested the hill. Garret and I began walking up the hill to check on my pig, while Sam and Damon accompanied Dave as they walked in the opposite direction to locate Dave's pig. When I got to within a few yards of my pig, it looked dead to me, but a wounded pig can be a very dangerous pig, so I jacked another round into my rifle, and approached with caution. I walked up on my pig, and here was the view that greeted me:
It wasn't moving, and didn't look to be breathing, and its eyes were open. But I have seen photos of what a pig can do to you with its tusks and teeth, so just to make sure, I took the presumably very hot muzzle of my rifle and poked it into one of the pig's open eyes. If it was truly still alive, that would have gotten a reaction. There was no reaction however, and I then knew that this pig was truly dead, and had died quickly. Once I saw the wound, I could see why it had died so quickly. To show you what a .30-06 round will do to you, take a gander at what it did to my pig. Consider yourself warned:
After we dragged the pig back down to the truck and field dressed it, we discovered that the bullet had entered its back, shattered its spine, and had traveled all the way up its back where it lodged in, and destroyed, its lungs. Not the prettiest shot, I will admit, but it got the job done, and I now had my pig. And Dave had his! They had found the pig where it died about halfway between where Dave shot it and where we had pulled to a stop for our second volley. It was time for Dave and me to show off our trophies:
Behind my left shoulder, you can see the beginning of the hill up which my pig attempted to escape.
And how about Dave's pig, huh? Definitely the most interesting looking one that we bagged that weekend.
Here is my personal trophy shot:
Yeah, my pig won't win any prizes for biggest pig ever shot - especially when it is posed next to Dave's - but I couldn't have cared less; I had gotten my pig!
But an unresolved issue remained: Alex had not gotten his pig. Unbeknownst to me, Alex and Colby had crossed onto our side of the ranch, and were about 300 yards behind us when the shooting began. Alex told me that he had watched the entire affair. He couldn't see us shooting, but he could see the pigs running, and geysers of dust being kicked up by our missed shots. Alex had missed being able to participate in the big shootout, and with three of us having now gotten our pigs, helping Alex get his became our primary concern. Problem is, by this time, it was after 3pm, and it was mid-November. Daylight was going fast. The good news is that sundown is one of the prime times for pigs coming out to feed. We decided to return to the ranch with all the dense chaparral at which we had struck out that morning. The guides had gotten big hogs there before, and they were convinced that the dying sunlight would bring them out for Alex to kill. But it was not to be. Just like that morning, there was not a pig to be found. We went back to King City with no pig for Alex, but with a steeled resolve that we would go back out the next morning and rectify this travesty!
Hunting is a physically taxing activity. After going out for dinner, we went back to the motel, my head hit the pillow, and what seemed like almost immediately, my alarm was going off.
As we headed out of King City and back into the coastal range, Alex and I decided to trade rifles. He had gotten some tutorial from guys the day before on the intricacies of the using a scope, and he had figured out how to hold a sight picture. Now that he had rectified this issue, his chances of bagging a pig were much better with a scope than with a peep sight. So Alex would now have my brother's Remington with the scope, and I would be back in possession of my beloved Smith-Corona with its iron peep sights.
Our guides decided that the chaparral ranch was a dead-end and we would instead concentrate on the area where Dave and I got our pigs the day before. We arrived back at the ranch with the moon still illuminating the dark sky, and began negotiating the winding dirt roads that followed the contours of the coastal range hills. As dawn broke, we did see a tight pack of pigs run up a hill and disappear down the other side, but they were too far away to shoot at or to chase down in the trucks.
We came to a stop on the road along the top of a ridge. This of course means the the ground sloped away downhill on either side of the truck. And these were severe slopes that descended down to a sharp ravine choked with trees and brush at the bottom, with an equally severe slope facing us on the other side of the ravine. So, about 200 to 300 yards away from us was an entire slope that dominated our view. This was one of the primary methods of finding pigs: using binoculars to examine these opposite slopes and the trees and brush that dot them can uncover hiding and sleeping areas, or beds, these pigs frequent. Just like he did multiple times the day before, Sam sat down at the top of his slope and used his binoculars to look several hundred yards across this V-shaped ravine at the opposing slope. Sam sat there for at least 10 minutes, meticulously examining every inch of that opposite slope, while we silently watched and spoke to each other in barely-audible whispers. Damon joined in and looked across ravine with his scope:
While Alex looked across and contemplated his coming task of taking down a pig:
Then, Sam raised his arm to get our attention, and he whispered that he could see a pig. We all began looking through our rifle scopes or straining our eyes to see what Sam spotted across the ravine. To me, it looked like a white rock sticking out of the ground, but Sam had his binoculars and years of experience. What it turned out to be was a pure white pig that was asleep in one of the many beds that dotted the slope. Alex and Damon accompanied Sam and Colby about 100 yards down the slope toward the bottom of the ravine so they could close some of the distance between them and the pig. Meanwhile, Garrett took Dave and me about 300 yards further to the left of where the other guys were stationed. The terrain dictated that if the pig escaped the guns of Alex, Damon, Colby, and Sam, it would have to move away from them to their left, which would bring the pig right into the sights of Garrett, Dave, and me. The orders were, this pig would not be allowed to leave that ravine alive.
Garrett, Dave and I walked along the ridge road, and then turned to our right and walked down the slope so that we were at about an equal depth to the other guys. We then checked our weapons, and waited, looking up the ravine at the other guys as we waited for Alex to take his shot. We waited for what seemed like forever. The reason for the wait can be explained by that photo of Damon two pictures above. See that brilliant sunlight? That was shining right into all of our faces, and it is especially tough to use a scope when facing right into the sun. Alex and the others were trying all kinds of tricks with their baseball caps in an effort to cut down on the glare coming through the scope so that Alex could even see this pig in order to take his shot. Finally, the air was filled by that familiar Pit-Shooo sound that is made by a high-powered rifle fired outdoors, and... Alex missed. Instantly the air was filled with more Pit-Shooo, Pit-Shooo, Pit-Shooo, as Damon, Colby, and Sam joined Alex as they all began shooting at this huge white pig that had been so rudely awakened from his beauty sleep. As expected, the pig began slowly sauntering to their left, right into the waiting guns of Garrett, Dave, and me. When the pig got within our field of fire, he was about 300 yards across the ravine from us. He continued moving to our left as he slowly and diagonally traversed upwards towards the top of the slope. The four guys down the ravine were still firing and missing as we opened up on this pig and also began missing. With my peep sights, I no longer had the front-row view like I had the day before with my scope, but I could see Garrett's and Dave's bullets kicking up dust all around this pig, as well as the dust caused by my own missed shots. Once again, I forced myself to calm down, took careful aim right behind the pig's shoulder, just like a hunter is supposed to, and fired. Garrett was looking through his scope when my shot impacted. I was perfectly lined up with the pigs shoulder, but unfortunately, my bullet was about a foot too high, and impacted the slope right above the pig. One foot lower, and my shot would have sent that pig rolling down the slope to the bottom of the ravine. Instead, it continued its sauntering diagonal traverse up the slope, and was approaching the crest of the slope and safety. Garrett then took a shot that actually caused the pig to kick up its hind legs like a bucking bronco! We were convinced that the pig had been gut shot. But it kept walking, and just like that, it disappeared over the crest of the slope, and it was gone. We bunch of Ahabs with deadly-accurate high-powered rifles, and decades of shooting experience among us, had just let the Great White Pig slip through our fingers. We jumped in the truck and hightailed it back down the road and went to the ridge at the top of the opposing slope where the pig had disappeared, but we found nothing. No blood trail, no discernible tracks, and certainly no pig. It was the ghost pig; it was the luckiest damn pig in California! That bugger had 7 rifles trained on it, and it walked away without a scratch.
I have to admit, we were all rather dejected after "Whitey" - we call him that to this day every time we talk about him - got away from us, because now, it was back to square one in finding a pig for Alex. We decided to abandon that side of the ranch, and return to the area where Damon had bagged his pig the day before. We spent the next several hours revisiting places we had gone the day before, and checking a few way out of the way places on that side of the ranch, but we came up empty without seeing anything but a bunch of deer (all females). It was now Sunday around noon, and we had to start thinking of heading back. We had a four hour drive ahead of us and had to go to work in the morning. Time was running out to find Alex a pig, and we had all blown a golden opportunity that had been practically gift-wrapped! We decided to check one more spot before we finally gave up: the slope that Sam and I had checked the day before where Sam insisted that we had just missed them. Why not? It can't hurt to check, right?
We drove up a steep road and parked in the same spot as the day before. The parking spot is on the reverse slope near the crest of flat round hilltop over which you must walk to reach the ravine. Once you crest this hill, the opposite slope of the ravine where the pigs live is then visible. We got out of the vehicles, readied our weapons, and then began walking over the hilltop toward the ravine. Sam was about 20 yards ahead of the rest of us, so he was in a position to see the ravine before any of us could. As Sam crested the low hilltop, he suddenly dropped to one knee and silently but vigorously motioned back at us to get down as well. He then gave us a vigorous "GET OVER HERE NOW!" motion with his arm, and we quickly and quietly moved up to where Sam had dropped to one knee, staying low as we moved out. As we crested the low hilltop, we became privy to the sight that had caused Sam to stop dead in his tracks. Walking slowly along that trail that runs along the middle of the opposite slope was line of between 8 and 10 pigs, walking caravan style, with some bunching up on one another. They didn't seem to notice us, even as we moved forward to the edge of our slope so that we had an unobstructed view of them from across the ravine. It is a rather narrow ravine, and there was maybe only about 150 yards between us and the pigs. The pigs were moving at such a nonchalant pace, that we - all 7 of us - had time to line up abreast of each other; for Sam to put down the X-shaped shooting sticks for Alex to rest my brother's rifle on, and for me to get on my belly, assume a good prone position, and lock the sling on the Smith-Corona around my support arm so that my rifle might as well be resting on a tripod. We all took aim, because, by God, one of these pigs was going down, but we all knew we needed to wait for Alex to take the first shot.
I trained my sights on a small group of pigs all bunched together and followed them as they moved along, which was to our right. Just as I was starting to wonder if Alex was going to shoot, it happened: Pit-Shoooo. Alex took his shot. The noise caused the pig caravan to pick up their pace, but they weren't sprinting. They acted more confused than anything, and sort of seemed to start bumping into each other, as there wasn't much room to maneuver on this trail that was worn into a severely steep slope. I thought I heard a squeal, but wasn't sure. I didn't see any pig fall or begin kicking up dust. We all couldn't be sure if Alex had hit a pig or not. So, our guides told us to open fire. The next few seconds, I could only describe as a rush! I held off on firing and listened to my six compatriots open up: Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, Pit-Shoooo, and by this time, the pigs were really starting to move out! Now things get a little muddy here, but I believe a couple things happened within a split-second of each other. While the firing was commencing, I was setting my peep-sights on a clump of three pigs who were approaching the protective cover of a tree that was growing out of the steep hillside. I put my front sight post in the middle of that black mass of three pigs and squeezed the trigger. Instantly at least one of the pigs in that tight little group began a death squeal and started kicking up dust on the little flat area right behind the tree, which was growing at a practically horizontal angle out of the hillside. To my knowledge, that was the first squeal I had heard at all from those pigs. However, at the very same time two other pigs began a long death roll down the hillside to the bottom of the ravine. The best we can think what happened is that Alex did indeed get a pig with his first shot, but there were so many pigs bunched together, we may not have been able to tell, and once we all opened fire, two more pigs were hit at essentially the same time.
The call for cease fire was given, and immediately, Garrett and Damon bounded down the steep slope on our side toward the bottom of the ravine. I wanted in on this action, so I got up, slung my rifle across my back, and bounded down the horribly steep hillside as well. As I approached the bottom of the ravine, I couldn't see the bottom because of the thick brush growing in it. When I was within about 10 yards of the bottom of the ravine, two things happened simultaneously that scared the shit out of me. First, one of the pigs that had begun a death roll down the hillside, finished its death roll to the bottom of the ravine at the very same moment I was reaching the bottom of the ravine, and second with my view of the bottom of the ravine still obstructed by thick brush, I could hear noises that told me there was a wounded pig down there, and it was PISSED OFF! I unslung my rifle and felt for my hunting knife attached to my belt, and then jumped into the ravine. I arrived to the sight of Garrett plunging his hunting knife into the throat of the wounded pig, and then sawing back and forth as he opened up the pigs throat, leaving it quickly bleeding out and gasping for air. A few feet away stood Damon with a peculiarly stunned look on his face. He wasn't stunned because Garrett slit the pig's throat; remember, Damon had every intention of slitting his own pig's throat just the day before. No, what had stunned Damon is that when he and Garrett had arrived at the bottom of the ravine, that wounded pig was on its feet and charged them, gnashing its teeth as it went. Garrett met the charge and stuck his boot out to kick the pig in the face. Instead the pig bit down on Garrett's foot. Garrett got his foot loose, then really did kick the pig in the face, and then essentially tackled it to the ground and trapped it onto the ground by driving his knee into the pig's neck. Garrett then took out his knife and was just beginning to plunge it in when I arrived.
So, in our efforts to get a pig for Alex, we now had 3 dead pigs instead, and yes, we had extra tags just in case. Two were in the bottom of the ravine, but one was still on the trail, halfway up an impossibly steep slope. Nevertheless, I wanted in on whatever action was left, so I followed Garrett up the slope to retrieve that pig. On the way up, I found a super-cool pig skull, complete with tusks! I gave it to my son when I got home. Garrett dragged the pig down the slope to the bottom of the ravine. There were now 3 pigs to get to the vehicles. Sam and Colby drove back around and parked their vehicles at the entrance to the ravine, and Garrett and Damon began carrying the two smallest pigs out of the ravine, like this:
Yes, this pig was gut shot. Those are its intestines hanging down. We think it might have been hit by a bullet that passed through a pig in front of it.
So the two smaller pigs were carried out in the fashion shown above, but the third pig was going to be more of a challenge, as it was the biggest pig shot during our two-day hunt. It was a sow that we estimated at about 200 pounds:
She was going to require a carry technique with a little less finesse. She would have to be dragged to the vehicle, actually; a job taken on by Alex and Garrett :
Once the pigs were at the vehicles, it was time to take stock of our catch. The day was such a roller coaster. It started out slowly, then we missed our golden opportunity, then more hours of coming up empty, and then, with one chance left, with one last area to check before we packed up and went home and had to tell Alex that sorry, we tried, that we couldn't get him that one pig he sought...
He got three!
So in the end, the four of us bagged six wild pigs, and a freezer full of pork for months to come. It was the adventure of a lifetime that I hope to do again!