Jim Niemiec's Blog

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When a combo hunt all comes together
The invite from master guide Clayton Grant, of Bitterwater Outfitters (805-610-4521) to come up to the Central Coast for a combo fall turkey, wild boar and perhaps some upland game bird hunting was just too much to pass up on. The drive up the 101 Freeway showed the devastation of those wildfires that blew through Southern California last week. In mark difference to a smoke-filled sky, hills along the freeway were cold black in contrast to the bright blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Clayton had called to talk about how good the pig hunting was in the coastal region, that he had a couple of ranches that had flocks of turkey and that perhaps there might be time on a one-day hunt to top it all off with a little hunt for either dove or California valley quail, as the second season for dove and turkey had just opened.

bitterwaeroutfittersBITTERWATER OUTFITTERS HUNTS HOGS — Wild pig hunting has been outstanding along the central coast. Pictured above is master guide Clayton Grant and WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec with a nice boar shot at the end of a combo hunt day. The shot was just over 100 yards and the 160-pound hog fell to one Barnes copper bullet from Niemiec’s Weatherby Mark V 7mm Mag. PHOTO COURTESY BITTERWATER OUTFITTERS

The plan was to meet up outside of Atascadero and head over to a nearby cattle ranch and vineyard.

“Our clients enjoyed a great deer season on this ranch with some nice bucks harvested. The largest buck taken was a 4X5 thick antlered blacktail buck along with some nice wide 3x3s. While out scouting and hunting deer, we bumped lots of turkey and late in the evening hogs would come out of heavy cover to feed on an abundant acorn crop that was on the ground. I would think that you should have no problem in getting your Thanksgiving Day gobbler and then we can spend the rest of afternoon waiting for pigs to start moving around. We’ll probably see a few of the bucks we passed on this past season, as they are out in the open feeding under oaks for dropped acorns,” said Grant.

The ranch hunted was loaded with ancient oak trees, with hill-sides a golden mix of native grass and star thistle. This region hadn’t received much rain and was pretty much bone dry, but there were plenty of stock tanks, springs and wells that provided much needed drinking water for the abundant wildlife on the ranch. As we drove around looking for a satellite flock of toms to try and make a move on, we saw at least 4 big flocks of hens that numbered between 30 to as many as 75 turkeys. This hunter’s goal was to harvest a nice gobbler, but would opt to shoot a jake IF we could not locate a huntable flock of toms.

The vineyards of this ranch were being harvested which made the turkeys kind of edgy and difficult to stalk. The larger flocks were mostly all hens and jennies, with a few young jakes kind of hanging around, but there were no adult gobblers mixed in with any of those big flocks that were spotted. Trying to make a sneak up on a pretty tight flock of birds was difficult in the vineyards and the turkeys could easily move about under the canopy of vines, irrigation tubes, wire and stakes.

One setup on a group of 7 toms was a wait and see what happens and we were hopeful that the birds would move across an open area that would offer up a shot. Patience is required when hunting the fall turkey season, and finally a small flock stepped out and were fast trotting in our direction. The lead bird had a nice 10-inch beard and the rest of the flock was too grouped up to offer a safe shot of just shooting one turkey. This shooter opted to try for the lead tom as it was running and about ready to take flight. The shot taken was behind that bird, and the flock lifted off into the air like busting into a covey of quail.

thanksgivinggobblerTHANKSGIVING GOBBLER — It was a lucky shot after a long day of fall turkey hunting, but WON staffer Jim Niemiec harvested this big Rio Grande gobbler on a guided hunt with master guide Clayton Grant of Bitterwater Outfitters. This tom was hit with a load of #4 steel Federal Premium shotgun ammo and weighed 22.5 pounds. PHOTO COURTESY OF BITTERWATER OUTFITTERS

It was getting late in the afternoon and there were dove winging across the ranch, but we hadn’t harvested a turkey yet so we opted to pass on the dove in hopes of locating another workable flock of mature toms. Grant felt we still had time to locate another group of gobblers and hopefully end the day with an opportunity at shooting a boar.

We spotted a group of toms working up a ridgeline. The plan was to get ahead of them and hope that they would be within shotgun range as we topped that ridge. We were a tad late and half the flock spotted us and took off running, but fortunately two toms held back for some reason allowing this hunter time to shoulder my Benelli M2, loaded up a Federal Premium #4 steel ammo, with a muzzle velocity of 1600 fps. The shot was on target and that tom just flipped over on its back, while the second tom just stood there until it got nervous and headed down a chaparral covered draw.

The turkey was a 2-year old gobbler that weighed 22.5 pounds and sported a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. It was a head shot so no meat was ruined on its breast or thighs.

It was getting late but Grant said we had another 25 minutes to hunt as we crossed from one section of the ranch to another. Just after clearing a cattle gate, we spotted a group of 15 hogs coming out a nearby creek bottom. With the vehicle stopped, I stepped out to take a shot, but those pigs scattered down into thick brush. After clearing the chamber of my Weatherby Mark V 7mm Mag, we moved ahead a short distance and spotted two black hogs feeding under an oak tree. Seemingly they had acorns on their mind rather that being spooked by the SUV affording time to step around the vehicle, shoulder the rifle to take a 100-yard shot. The Barnes 140 grain, Triple Shock copper bullet was true to its target and that boar just dropped in its tracks. It was the right kind of pig to harvest being that it was jet black, weighed about 160 pounds and Grant estimated that the hog was maybe a 1.5 or 2-year-old tusker… just perfect for eating.

It was the ending to a perfect day of hunting along the central coast and even though we passed on hunting dove or quail, the hunt did produce a big gobbler for Thanksgiving and a fat boar to share with hunting buddies at the duck club, which made for a perfect combo hunt.

Bitterwater Outfitters,, hunts big game, exotics and upland game birds on over 320,000 acres of ranch land in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Based on the number of hens we saw that day, perhaps some 250 birds, those three groups of satellite gobblers numbering from 7 to a dozen long beards, now would be a good time to book a spring turkey hunt with Grant and why not make it a combo hunt by taking an extra day hunting for a trophy boar.

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