As deer season faded away and winter settled in, I started to get excited about wild pigs. I live in an area with a large population of feral pigs, but there is little public land that offers a good chance of hunting success. So, it is best to know someone with a hog infested ranch. I put in a phone call to my friend Tommy who manages a ranch here in Northern California, in a rural valley that runs down to the coast. The terrain is mostly rolling oak woodlands with open meadows, interspersed with draws and creeks. I was happy to receive permission.
The ranch is about an hour north of where I live. I called my friend Alex to see if he wanted to take me hunting on the ranch, and he said yes. A few weeks later my mom dropped me off (thanks, Mom!) with Alex and we drove up from his place. Our plan was to hunt that day, stay the night, hunt the next morning and then come back. After talking to Tommy, we headed out to do some scouting. We drove part way up the road but had to stop because of mud, so we got out and started walking. It did not take long for me to notice how much pig sign there was—the hills looked roto-tilled. It had just rained, which made for perfect stalking.
We hadn’t gone 200 yards from the truck when we spooked a bedded boar. We tried to follow him for a few minutes, but he disappeared. A few minutes later I looked up to see a black blob on the hillside and my binocular confirmed that it was a sow with piglets. We tried to get a closer look but lost track of them. It was exciting to see so many pigs so soon, even though I wouldn’t kill a sow with young. After looking around for a little while, we headed off to search for other pigs.
The author in his northern California hunting area.
We were almost to the top of the ridge when I looked back the way we had come to see the same sow and piglets rooting in a patch of shade. Alex looked with his binocular and said he could see another pig with them. After watching them for a little while, we decided there was a good chance for a stalk on this second adult pig, whether it was a boar or sow. We were able to cross most of the distance to them, until we got to a creek where we could see the pigs rooting 50 yards away.
We dropped our packs and began slowly moving forward. I was in the lead and could see just the back of the pig as it fed in a little dip in the terrain. As I closed the gap, my heart began to pound, and my legs began to shake as I wondered if I was going to be able to do this. I stalked to within 15 yards and could see the top of the pig’s vital area. She was a medium-sized dry sow. When she turned, quartering away, I drew, held, and let down; the shot didn’t feel right to me. In a few moments, she turned and was facing away, so I crept to five yards and got ready for a shot. When she gave me a quartering away angle, I drew, hit anchor, held for a few seconds, and released. My arrow hit with a thump and buried to the feathers.
The sow thundered away. I could see a foot of my arrow sticking out of the off shoulder. As the pig disappeared into the trees, Alex and I cupped our ears and listened. We soon heard crashing and squealing for a few seconds, and then silence. Alex turned and gave me a high five. We went back to our packs and ate a chocolate bar in celebration of my first pig.
After 20 minutes, we began to move forward slowly. At first, we only saw a few drops of blood, but there got to be more and more. I looked ahead and saw the sow where she had fallen 100 yards from where I had shot her. We could hardly believe this had happened only two hours into the hunt. I walked up to her and silently thanked her for her life.
Upon field dressing her, we found that my arrow had passed through the liver and both lungs. After taking photos, I began dragging the pig back to the truck.
When we got there, we hung the carcass in the shade and headed back up the hill to see if we could find Alex a pig. Tommy had told us of a place on the ridge where the pigs funnel down into the meadows to feed at night. When we got there, we found a very large trail that passed by some redwood trees with low hanging branches that offered good ambush spots. Alex decided to sit there, so I elected to sit on a little knoll that overlooked a large part of the property. As the evening wore on, I started to get quite cold and wasn’t seeing anything, so I was happy when I saw Alex coming down the road. It was getting late in the evening, so we started heading back.
We hadn’t made it very far when Alex grabbed my shoulder and pulled me down. We had stumbled into two big boars feeding and somehow they had not seen us yet. Alex dropped his pack and began moving in. The pigs were 50 yards away but feeding in our direction. Alex crept to 17 yards but wisely decided not to shoot as it was getting dark. A few seconds later the wind shifted, and the pigs took off.
Back at the truck we loaded the sow and drove down to the farmhouse, where Tommy has a great butcher shop set up. An hour later we had the pig skinned and quartered, and headed up to the 30-foot yurt where Tommy had kindly offered to let us stay. We ate bear sausage and chicken soup for dinner. With a full belly, I fell asleep thinking that it had been a perfect day.
The next morning, we awoke to fog and started hiking up the hill in the dark to where we planned to hunt. When the sun came up, the way the fog looked from above was beautiful. The hills looked like little islands in a sea of mist. We started hiking north, glassing the hills. At one point we found fresh rooting all along the road. We expected to see pigs, but instead, we only saw two coyotes and lots of deer. Later, we made our way down to the ranch house, where we talked to Tommy and ate biscuits and gravy. It was getting late by that time, so we headed home.
Back at my house, my brother and I cut up and ground most of the meat. In celebration that night, we enjoyed a dinner of pork sausage around the fire with friends.
Demetri lives in Northern California on a sheep ranch, where he is home-schooled. He spends most of his time enjoying bowhunting, bow making, honing his archery skills, and surfing. This article tells the story of his first successful pig hunt which took place in January, 2018 when he was 14 years old.
Equipment Notes: On this hunt, Demetri carried a 43-pound Kanati longbow, carbon arrows, and 300-grain Cutthroat broadheads.