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Sauna Weather Hog

Ramblings by John Higley author's badge for

killed my first wild pig, a toothy, spotted boar in 1965. It was on a hunt with hounds in San Luis Obispo County with guide Eldon Bergman. I’ve never forgotten the commotion when we got close enough to the bayed pig for me to shoot without hitting one of the dogs. It was a scary and exciting few moments, and I’ve been a big fan of wild pig hunting ever since. For three years, in the 1980s, I actually guided pig hunters part time on the Dye Creek Preserve in Tehama County.

In the Dye Creek days most of our hunting was conducted during the cool months from November through April. The weather was not always perfect, unless you like biting wind and rain, but knowing when and where the pigs would show kept the success rate right around 100 percent. The hunts back then were mostly spot and stalk and that’s still my favorite way to hunt hogs.

Still hunting also works very well at times, especially when you know where the hogs are likely hanging out for the day. Keep the wind in your nose, the noise level down, and your eyes peeled and you might find yourself in the pigs’ living room before they know it.

John Higley, author, kneeling at edge of muddy water hole looking for wild pig tracks. San Luis Obispo County.
On a previous scouting expedition, Higley found signs of recent pig use around a small spring. During hot weather pigs won't be far from some sort of water source.

The next best tactic, and one that works well in hot weather like we’ve had in northern California recently, is to sit and wait near some water source for hogs to show up. Pigs don’t sweat. They have to adjust their body temperature by seeking shady, breezy bedding areas or water sources, such as springs or farm ponds where they can wallow in the mud, or wade to get cool. For that reason, waiting near water, or a trail leading to water, can bethe key to a productive, and sometimes short pig hunt.

When the weather is hot, pigs will be largely, but not totally, nocturnal. Most of their on foot activity will take place at dawn, dusk and during the night. The best a hunter can do is get out there and be watching at first light or hang around in the evening until there’s no shooting light left.

I like cool weather for pig hunting but I do make exceptions. For example, knowing Friday the fourth of July was a holiday, I decided at the last minute to hunt pigs during the afternoon and evening of Thursday July 3. I knew it would be humid and hot, and that any pigs in the area where I planned to be might come to water to enjoy a sauna and a mud bath. And, for once, I was right.

John Higley, author, holds shotgun as he kneels behing wild big he killed
Higley got this sow coming to a water source near Whitmore on the evening of July 3.

It was 7 p.m, and I was watching the oak tree dotted slopes around a pond on a small ranch near Whitmore in Shasta County when a pair of wild pigs, one a young boar and the other a nice size sow, showed up on the hillside above. The wind was in my favor so I decided to stalk them and see how close I could get. I wanted to intercept the hogs before they got their feet wet and, as luck would have it, I managed to do just that. My shot was short and accurate and the 140 pound sow gave me something to do until 10:30 that night when I finally had her skinned out, washed down and ready for hanging. She definitely wasn’t rolling with fat, but at least she wasn’t bony, and I know the meat will be very good when all is said and done.

Oh, did I mention it was still quite warm and was going to remain that way all night? That’s not good for the meat cooling process and I knew I’d have to do something or risk having spoiled pork. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. I toyed with the idea of quartering the animal and stacking the meat in our refrigerator, but Sharon, being practical soul, made it known that wasn’t such a good idea.

It was then that I came up with a plan B. Knowing my daughter Meredith and her husband Robert, who live nearby, have a giant ice chest, I borrowed it from them and bought five bags of ice. After putting the carcass on a bed of cubes, I stacked the remaining bags on top. Then I closed the lid as best I could, put a tarp and blankets on top for insulation, and weighted them down so they wouldn’t slip or blow off.

In the morning the meat was cold, and ready for a trip to Clear Creek Grocery and Locker on Westside Road, where it is being cut and wrapped.

Simple as that! My 2013 pig tag, which I didn’t fill during several hunts, expired the last day of June, so I bought a new tag ($21.12) on the third of July and tied it to a pig on the same day. Makes me wish I had bought a lottery ticket too.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro, CA. His articles have appeared in Outdoor California and other fishing and hunting journals. He is the author of two books: “Hunting Wild Turkeys In the West” and “Hunting Blacktail Deer.”

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