|In 2012 we were sad to learn that our favorite pig hunting
guide was no longer in the hunting business, so we had to look for new
opportunities. After considering several options, we decided to book
with Bitterwater Outfitters,
operated by Clayton Grant near Shandon California. Clayton was
recommended to us by Bert Claassen, and this helped us make the decision.
Bitterwater does not provide lodging or food services, so we decided that we would pull our travel trailers along, and doing that made it easy to bring the wives and make them comfortable during the day when we are out hunting. I think they found it relaxing, and I certainly appreciated having them along.
We arrived to learn that we were not the only hunting party in camp, something which we were not expecting. There were the two of us, plus another party of 4, and another single hunter with his non-hunting 7 year old son, for a total of 7 hunters. Add in 5 guides, and we made for quite a large group. Too many in my opinion to be hunting together, but determined to make the best of it we pressed on with the Friday afternoon hunt.
So we hit the road, in two 4 seater Polaris Ranger Crews, plus a Ford Crewcab pickup truck. We got into action pretty quickly for some of the hunters, and to keep this brief I won't cover all their stories, but they included charging pigs (twice), 5 dogs barking, close combat shooting, and long searches for a possibly wounded pig.
After some time spent by the guides looking for a pig that was thought to have been wounded, the dogs picked up the trail of another pig and started a chase. Ron and I and our guides Ryan and ranch Manager Mike took off to make a try for him. After some difficulty getting the Polaris down into the creek bed, we managed to get within close range of the pig. The dogs had her bayed up, but they still managed to cover a good distance. The pig would try to make a run for it, but soon a dog would bite her butt and she would have to turn and challenge the dogs. Then she would run again, and then challenge again. A good distance ends up being covered, but the pig loses her ears and a good portion of the skin on her ass in the process. It isn't pretty. Once we got close, the dogs were called off a little for Ron to make a quick and close shot for the kill. It was challenging to shoot while the pig was clear of the dogs.
At the end of the first half day, we had 6 pigs in the bag, and I was the only unfilled tag in camp.
The next morning was a totally different experience. We left camp before light, in pickup trucks, with Clayton and I in a Dodge, and Ron and guide Tom in a Ford. I was happy to not be in the Polaris again. We hunted not too far from camp on the Grant ranch, and stopped to glass what they call the "buffalo field". The first thing we saw were Bison but soon Clayton spotted some pigs in the distance, while it was still so dark that I could not see a thing. We radioed Tom and Ron, who were glassing the same area from the opposite side of the valley. Tom and Ron could not see them, nor could I, and soon they had slipped out of view from Clayton as well. We moved around a bit trying to locate them, but Clayton had a pretty good idea where they had gone, and it was on a neighbors property where we could not follow.
He pulled the truck as close to the suspected draw as possible, and borrowed my rifle to snap a couple of shots, just to make some noise. Almost immediately four pigs broke from cover and headed toward and out in front of us, but still on the neighboring property. But Clayton has seen this before and knows where they will go, and we will be there waiting. We managed to get ahead of them, and in fact we could see them for most of their run, and they were angling toward us and would soon cross our path. At that point we stopped, I jumped out and took a kneeling position, and shot the largest lead pig as she raced across in front of us at about 50 yards. The shot was a good one, and she tumbled head over heels, and landed ON THE ROAD! Clayton never did thank me for saving him a long drag, but he did seem happy enough at the outcome. It was 6:20 AM. We had less than one full day of hunting complete, and 7 pigs in the cooler.
Ron, above, with his Pig, and that of another hunter loaded in the Polaris.
My pig, above. I loved the Dalmation color phase.
This is most of the group of hunters, taking a moment to catch our breath and fill out the tags. Ron is on the far left of the frame. Clayton is nearest the Polaris and is writing. He likes to fill out the hunters tags himself.
We pulled our travel trailers for this trip, and brought our wives along to enjoy some peace and quiet in the hills.
Bitterwater has a nice camp setting for the hunters. This patio is equipped with sink and BBQ, lighting and electrical, fire ring. Some of the hunters set their tents on the pad.
There is also a nice skinning area with walk-in cooler for hanging meat.
The above pic is of the Polaris Ranger Crews that we hunted from on the first afternoon. They are very capable 4 wheelers and can climb better than any truck, hunter visiblity and egress is good, and the cargo bed in the rear handles a bunch of pigs easily. But you sure do get dusty riding around ranch roads.
Here are the devil dog pig hunters. I didn't ask about the breed, but my friend Jeff suggested they might be Mountain Cur, and googling that leads me to agree with him. I think more correctly Mountain View Cur. I approached these dogs with care, because I had seen what they could do with those fangs. But I found they were of extremely friendly disposition, and an ear scratch worked just as it would with a family pet.