By Cindy Krug
Are you counting down the days until deer and elk season arrives? If so and you wish you had a sure fire way to combat the dog days of summer, here’s the answer, wild hog hunting on the Tejon Ranch located at the southern end of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Believe me, it will really cheer you up during those summer doldrums!
The Tejon Ranch is over 270,000 acres of pristine hunting grounds just north of Los Angeles, California (about 60 miles). The terrain varies immensely, but you can find wild hogs as well as the numerous other huntable animals almost everywhere on the ranch. All hunting on Tejon Ranch is fair chase; there are no high fences, but it is a 100% private hunting oasis. Memberships are sold for spring and fall hunting opportunities for the do-it-yourselfer. Guided hunts for hogs, deer, turkey, bear and elk with great lodging and food can be had as well.
This past weekend my husband, Rich and I invited Michael Deming (CEO of Sportsman’s News) to come down to our neck of the woods to go bowhunting for a wild hog. Michael arrived on Sunday morning and after getting some gear together, we all headed up to the Ranch. The Ranch has two guest cabins that are available to use on a first come, first served basis for its members and their guests. (The cabins are also where all the guided hunters stay during their hunts.)
We arrived at the Cazador (“Hunter”) cabin in the middle of the afternoon. After changing into our camo, we headed out for our afternoon/evening hunt. By 5 pm, we arrived at a high vantage point to glass the surrounding area. Right away we spotted a group of hogs out feeding on a high ridge top. Since the sun wouldn’t set for another two hours, we decided not to rush right over to the pigs, but actually give them more time to get comfortable, out away from the thick brush they had just emerged from. So, we took the longer scenic route over to the pigs, looking for other pigs along the way. We did see a single boar feeding in the oaks, but he spotted us about the same time that we saw him, so he ran off.
As the sun was starting to set and the daylight beginning to fade, we decided that it was time to make a move on the hogs we had spotted earlier. We parked the truck about ¼ mile downwind from where we had last seen them and then headed off in their direction. Within about 10 minutes, we spotted the first pig working our way. We were stuck out in the open when we saw the pig, so we all squatted down using what was left of the rolling hill as cover. We were in plain sight, but the hog didn’t bolt. I can only assume that our frozen demeanor kept us from being a threat to her. She angled toward us on her way back into the brush. As she approached, she got to within 20 yards of Michael, quartering toward him. At that point, Michael couldn’t draw his bow because she would have busted us for sure. Just when she was about to get past us, giving him a chance to draw, she suddenly got wise to our presence. She didn’t really know what we were, but she knew something was up, so she just turned into the brush that was only ten yards to her left. Once she was in there, she was safe because it was too thick for us to follow her in. We were all pretty happy though; the first hunt out and we had a nice hog only 20 yards from us. If we had been rifle hunting, Mike would have been punching his tag by that time with some tasty meat for the freezer.
During the next two days, we saw well over 100 hogs. We had several stalking opportunities, but a couple of times the wind swirled and betrayed our presence. And another time, the pigs were near some cattle that gave us up. We were having a ton of fun though. During our morning and evening hunts, not only did we see pigs, but we saw a few small groups of Rocky Mountain elk, many beautiful California mule deer and two bears.
On the third evening out, we headed to a remote location on the Ranch that we hadn’t hunted before (Remember, this ranch is 270,000 acres! It can take almost two hours to get from one end of the ranch to the other. I have been hunting on Tejon for more than a decade and still haven’t hunted many of the places on the Ranch). We got to our destination at about 6:15 pm. As soon as we got there, Rich (my husband) spotted a large herd of hogs out feeding. The wind was blowing very hard about 30 to 40 mph. A steady wind in your face is just what you need for covering up your scent as well as noise, but holding your bow steady for a shot is another story.
Since the pigs were feeding up on top of a small sagebrush ridge, we were able to sneak up to them by using the next draw to the east. Michael got to within 30 yards of a very respectable sow. He got his bow drawn back to take the shot, but that’s when the wind became a problem. He was having quite a bit of trouble holding the bow steady, but finally mastered that issue. Once the arrow was released, the wind took over and his arrow was really fish-tailing, but it struck the pig in a lethal spot nonetheless. The sow made it down to some brushy cover where we left her alone for about 45 minutes. At that time it was starting to get dark, so we went in there after her and recovered her with little effort. We were all thrilled that Michael had harvested such a nice hog to take home to feed his family. Boars make great trophies, but sows without piglets make the very best table fare.
In our three days of hunting, Michael got to see some of California’s most beautiful country. We went from high desert terrain to rolling oak hills and up to timbered slopes. We also showed him several large lakes on the ranch that members and guided hunters are allowed to fish in. The lakes are loaded with trophy bass and huge catfish and during the spring, there is exceptional crappie fishing.
The Tejon Ranch really has something for everyone. The pig hunting is available year round. There are several options for those wishing to hunt hogs and you don’t have to buy a membership to partake in that, as some weekend packages are available. You can also book guided deer, turkey, bear and elk hunts. The Tejon Ranch is a hidden gem for trophy elk hunting. It is famous for its huge bull elk amongst the folks that know about its’ existence. Last year the average bull scored a whopping 390 inches out of the five trophy bulls harvested! The Ranch only books five trophy elk hunts per year and is one of the very best values out there to harvest a trophy bull of this caliber. $20,000 will get you a guaranteed shot opportunity at a 350 bull or better and if not, you get a free hunt the following year.
There is also some great guided deer hunting and they even offer guided bear hunting. If upland game birds are your passion, there is quail and pheasant hunting as well as chukar hunting. And if gobbling turkeys get you excited, guided spring turkey hunts are also available. This truly is a Sportsman’s paradise and having 270,000 acres as your own private hunting and fishing spot for a Springtime Membership fee of $900 (individual) and/or Fall Membership fee of $1200 makes this a must for all. Big game animals like pigs and deer will be an additional fee. The Diamond Membership for pigs will get you limited guest passes, five pigs, family members access and a years’ worth of fun. For those of you that just want to experience the Tejon Ranch and see if you would like to buy a full membership, the wild pig management hunt is a great way to participate. They do several of these every year. They are 2-1/2 days long and $450 will get you on the ranch for a weekend of hog hunting at its’ best with one hog included. You will of course need your California state hunting license as well as a pig tag. Full details on pricing and membership options can be seen at www.hunttejon.com.