Splish, Splash… The Hog Was Taking a Bath!

By Chuck Kolesar

There are many things Wilderness Unlimited members come to accept as guaranteed. Well-managed ranches and no crowds are two that come immediately to mind. On the other side, we often face inconvenient road closures with wet weather and the occasional inability to reserve our first choice location. An annual event we all face is the inevitable May heat wave that occurs during spring pig season.

In 1999, my son Neal and I found ourselves in a race against the heat to transport his monstrous Gallatin boar to our butcher's locker. 2000 was no exception! After two previous hunts putting up with unseasonably cool and wet conditions, we found ourselves facing three days in mid-May that were forecast to be in the triple digits.

Earlier in the season I made a bad decision. I canceled a draw pig reservation to convert to a turkey-pig combo on Hill Ranch in pursuit of feathered fare. Pulling into camp we found a father and son putting the finishing touches on a nice pig while settling into a well-deserved dinner. We learned this was the second pig taken and sign was everywhere. Stuck with a one gun reservation, Neal convinced me there might be enough room in the freezer for more pork.

With wet weather threatening to close the roads, we ventured to a remote location we liked. At 11 a.m., Neal spotted 13 pigs crossing a high ridge just as the weather began to turn. We "slipped" our way back to the other side of the ranch, cursing our luck.

Our next hunt presented the same conditions. Just after we pulled out of Williams, the threatening clouds opened up as we approached Mosby Ranch. We stayed on the low side and found some encouraging areas. We found out later that at least two vehicles were stuck on top. The rain stopped for several hours before starting again at 3 a.m. By noon, even the low roads were slick and our departure was in order.

Two weeks later found us facing the dreaded heat wave. With high school baseball season over, I picked Neal up at school and we headed out on Friday with time for an evening hunt. We found several inviting places we planned to pursue on Saturday. As we were heading back to camp, Neal spotted a large boar running into the manzanita. In the morning we headed back in hopes of setting up near his traveling route.

By 8 a.m., the weather gurus' best guess came true and temperatures were in the 90s. We decided the best place to look for pigs might be any shady spot "we" could find to hide. Our down time was passed talking with two new members about, what else, hunting and the weather! At 5 p.m., we headed out to take a stand on a ridgeline where we had found old rootings.

Neal liked the area between two ponds and I chose a point overlooking converging dry creek beds. About 7 p.m., I decided to check out another vantage point. While it afforded a nice view, the setting sun was blistering hot. As I was settling back into my original seat I saw a nice sow just moving into some brush following several brown bodies. I slowly moved above them in hopes of getting a better view. The stalk took me farther out the ridge.

I settled into a position where I could see across the valley. Scattered across the hillside were six black bodies feeding in constant movement. The closest was in the 250-yard range and they appeared to be moving in the general direction of Neal. With a good hour of light left, the thought of a "double" came to mind. With a favoring wind, I could get Neal and be back in time for some "father-son bonding." I dropped down the backside of the ridge and shifted into second gear.

Just as I got to the road, I glanced at a pond about 80 yards down the other side. If you own a water-loving dog you may have observed them swimming. Depending on your pet's aquatic prowess, one thing you can count on is their nose and ears being above the water. About five feet off the pond's shore were several sets of black snoots and ears enjoying, what else, a cool Saturday night bath.

As I dropped into a prone position, one of them must have assumed I wasn't reaching for a bar of soap. In what can best be described as a group of water skiers attempting a beach start, the serene bath scene turned into flying water, pigs, and mud. In seconds they were joined in their Keystone Cops escape maneuver by a group of youngsters waiting their turn behind the earth dam. A group of three slowed down just long enough for me to make the decision to fire.

It was my turn to call Neal on the radio for help. By the time we rejoined, the plan to go back to the ridge was history. We took several of the new members with us to the area in the morning and put two sows, a group of piglets, and a young boar in their field glasses. They moved off out of range before any shots could be taken. The heat set in once again as we left with my sow for the meat locker.

I'll admit it's going to take more than this one occasion to move our annual May heat wave into my personal "look forward to" column. You can bet when it does come, we won't pass by a pond without taking a real close look!

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