By Mike Deming
When most people think about California, it consists of beaches, perfect weather, Disneyland, big cities, traffic and many other things, but not usually hunting. However, the Golden State offers some excellent hunting if you know where to go. The Tejon Ranch just south of Bakersfield is one such place.
I was introduced to the Tejon Ranch back in 2005 to do an off-season wild hog hunt. I say “off season” because usually January through mid-April has no big game opportunities in my home state of Utah as well as many of your home states. I jumped at the opportunity to do some spot and stalk action on some wild hogs. We hit the 270,000 private acres behind locked gates for a two and a half day guided hunt. The mountains were breathtaking and extremely steep and we were able to put our optics to work locating groups of hogs which would be in a position for us to put a stalk on. This wasn’t a harvest, but a true hunt for the entire time we were there with the ability to buy additional tags. We had great success and I’ve been hooked on the Tejon Ranch ever since.
We always plan an annual trip to the Tejon Ranch in February or March to get us through the off season and this year was no different. Pro-staffers’ Rich and Cindy Krug live in the Bakersfield area and have this Sportsman’s Paradise as their backyard as well as a season membership for the ranch. So, I invited them along for the trip to join myself and cameraman John Wooge of Las Vegas.
Although I love the challenge of spot and stalk archery hunting for wild hogs on this ranch, I had taken two monster trophy pigs during a late summer hunt the previous year with archery tackle and decided to fill this year’s tags with my bang stick. Rich and Cindy were going to stick with their bows and since John had never harvested a big game animal, he also chose his rifle.
We all decided to let John have the first crack at filling his tag, with all the rest of us getting different camera angles on the filming. As the first evening started to wind down, the pigs became very active and just about every ridge we glassed had numerous pigs on them. We made several attempts at getting close and even fired a couple of shots, but John quickly found out that getting a wild hog in the crosshairs and connecting is way more difficult than mashing the record button on the camera while having them in the field of view. His last comment of the night was, “I have a lot more respect for the job your guys do in front of the camera, now that I’ve been there”.
The second morning our guide, Brian Meadows, had us out early and in one of his favorite honey holes. We were seeing numerous hogs, but they were high up on the mountains with no shot opportunities for John. We drove up an old road and busted a big group of pigs with several quality boars in it, but it was obvious to me that John wouldn’t be able to make this happen since everything was going down so quickly. John grabbed the camera as I grabbed my rifle as we bailed out of the truck and looked for an open shooting lane. I dropped to the ground and just as John said he was on, I touched off a round. It hit the mark and the biggest boar of the group changed directions. It took one more round to anchor him for good. WOW! That happened so fast and we captured the whole thing on camera. Things seem to happen that way a lot when we visit the Tejon Ranch. There’s never a dull moment which is why we always want to go back. By the end of our hunt, John had finally connected on a huge sow. I filled my second tag out of the same group and Rich and Cindy broke off on their own to fill their tags as well as film the adventure. Filled tags and lots of fun is the name of the game at the Tejon Ranch.
While we were there, I talked with Brian Grant who is the Vice President of Ranch Operations about the possibilities of hosting our next story contest. He was excited to participate and we are super excited to have them as our sponsor for this next event that kicks off with this issue of the Sportsman’s News. So, we will be doing our annual migration to central California in February or March of 2014 and we will be taking one lucky winner along with us. This trip will be a three and a half day trip and will include one pig tag with the ability to purchase a second. The winner will be able to choose their weapon of choice for the hunt and we will once again be filming the event for an upcoming episode of SNTV. This will also be a feature cover story for the Sportsman’s News. If you are interested in joining us for this trip, send us your stories. All the details can be found here. It is sure to be an exciting adventure as always.