|Time, patience, knowledge and other factors weigh in on decision
During the course of spring turkey season and into the beginning of hog season this hunting editor has talked with a lot of hunters about their success or lack of success in the field. Many times the echo of "where can I hunt" bounced off my ears. Having spent years hunting in California for all kinds of game and reporting hunts in Western Outdoor News, success pretty much can be summed up in a few words; knowledge, patience, time and weather.
Let's look into knowledge first and see where it takes us.
Obviously if a hunter is not familiar with an area to be hunted it could take days to learn the pattern of animals, where there is a water source, the right kind of native food for the season and where animals might head during their loafing period. Just last week WON reader Nick Sepulveda of Orange talked with this editor about where to go hog hunting with his new archery gear. He had spent a number of long days down in San Diego County following tracks but didn't see any hogs.
Although there is a population of hogs down in San Diego County many of them are found on private land, Indian reservations or in that dense jungle that follows the paths of creeks, seasonal streams and release water from some of this county's reservoirs. The hog population has not yet grown to the numbers that are found along the western slopes of the High Sierra, the Tejon Ranch, along the coastal ranges or up into the Dye Creek area.
This editor's suggestion was to head up to the coastal ranges and hunt with a knowledgeable hog guide. Guides and outfitters spend a lot of time on private ranches and to some extent on public land in the Las Padres National Forest in order to locate groups of hogs moving through properties. These guides know where there is water, a reliable food source and where pigs will head to find a cooler shaded area or wallow. A good guide will know the pattern of movement of hogs, both for their brief exposure in the early morning hours and again just before dusk when wild hogs begin to move around.
Knowing pigs are basically nocturnal traditionally will put guide and hunter in the right spot just at or slightly before sunrise in hopes of shooting a hog that is following a well beaten path from food to cover. These paths, which are well worn into the sides of hills or through meadows, are used at least twice a day by hogs. Traditionally hogs will only stop using an established travel route when the food source is removed or depleted.
Enter the guide who likely spends at least a couple of days a week out guiding clients. With the peak of the summer wild hog season about to arrive in early June a good guide will scout ranch properties and other options in order to produce for a hunter. A knowledgeable guide will make a hunt move along so much better and most often end up with hunter success.
It has been the experience of this hunting editor, based on information collected over the years, that the likelihood of hunter success for hogs on public land in the southern part of the state is less than 10 percent, while hunter success with an established guide is pretty darn close to 100 percent!
With the cost of fuel continuing to soar, the limited time that most of us have to scout and the fact that seasoned guides and outfitters spend their lives locating game, it's kind of a no brainer to hire the professional services of a knowledgeable guide. When you factor in the amount of money un-guided hunters spends on fuel, food, perhaps lodging and then comes off a mountain on public land shaking one's head after not seeing any game it would be the right time to rethink that approach.
Whenever this editor has opted to hunt or fish in a new area my first step is to locate a good local guide, seek his advise and hopefully tap into his knowledge of the species in quest. For a fact I know that spending a day in the field or on the water with a professional guide/outfitter will provide me with more insight and knowledge of the game or fish pursued than if I spent days trying to learn it all and still only come away with a slightly par experience.
The cost of a knowledgeable guide is more than off-set by the reason we all hunt and fish; and that is to be successful in our outdoor experience. I have hunted with guides that charge less than $200 a day and that included using their 4x4 and gas. Hey they know the roads to use, while it would be easy for a person out scouting in new surroundings to become lost, or at least waste time where there is no game.
The average cost of guided hog hunt in this part of the state is around $600, but there are a few guides charging less. Some guides offer meals and lodging and this usually pushes the cost of a hunt up a hundred dollars or more, but still not as expensive a staying in a local motel and eating meals on the road. Add in the fact that you are likely staying close to the hunting area you save on fuel and travel time, which keeps money in your wallet.
As to the other aspects that add up to a successful hunt: patience, time and weather, these are things that each and every hunter has to either possess or take into consideration. Of all these other aspects the most lacking by this hunting editor would be patience. Time after time I have walked off a mountain or out of goose blind when the game begins to move. Patience is something that each individual needs to have a command of. Veteran Wister waterfowl hunter Frank Theodoropoulos of Tustin probably has more patience in a goose blind than anyone I know and he doesn't start picking up his huge decoy spread until white geese have made their last movement before the end of legal shooting time.
Time is also an individual thing which varies from person to person. Obviously the more time you spend outdoors the more likely you are to be successful, I think this is a given. The final aspect of the success of a hunt is weather and there isn't much anyone can do about that. When it comes to weather related hunts one has to plan for various conditions and make the most of it. A rainy morning during spring turkey season didn't deter this hunter from sitting under a oak tree with huge rain drops falling on my face and fogging my glasses waiting for a wet gobbler to show up, which it did. And then there are those blue bird days spent in a duck blind with nothing flying to those hot days in Cibola hunting dove at the Cibola Sportsman's Club while sweat pours out of your entire body. Summing it all up, just being able to hunt or fish in our great country and neighboring countries is something we all should acknowledge as being something special in our lifetime. So whether you opt to hunt alone or with a guide make the most of each and every venture into the great outdoors.
There are a number of very knowledgeable guides and outfitters that advertise in Western Outdoor News and they all offer up good hunts for a wide variety of game and their prices are reasonable and very justifiable when you consider that you are likely to harvest game on the hunt.
ONE KNOWLEDGEABLE TURKEY GUIDE — Chad Wiebe of Oakstone Outfitters based out of Bradley is one very good turkey guide and rewards his hunters with trophy class gobblers. Guides are worth their weight in gold when it comes to success in the field, as they spend a lot of time scouting and patterning wild game. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC