Hunting Memories

Better Late Than Never

I'm not sure when exactly I decided I wanted to become a hunter. I know that it was much later than most. I turn 40 this year and decided that this year I would go hunting! I have always enjoyed shooting sports, mostly target and skeet shooting but this year I bought my first hunting rifle, a used Remington 700 ADL in .270 Winchester with a Simmons 3-9 on top. After sighting it in at the range and doing a couple sub-inch groups at 100 yards, I started to consider the possibilities.

Here in California there is always pig hunting. After scouring the Internet and magazines, I came upon Boaring Experiences run by Kyler Hamann in central California, a couple hours south of where I live in La Honda. Kyler had been very helpful in my preparation through e-mail and finally I was on my way. I left midday Sunday to spend the night in Parkfield and meet Kyler the next morning before dawn.

Parkfield isn't so much a town that I could see but a single street near a creek with an inn on one side of the road and the Parkfield Cafe on the other. The town motto is "Be Here When it Happens." "It" is known to most of us Californians, of course, as the "Big One," meaning earthquake. Parkfield happens to sit right on the San Andreas fault. During our hunt, Kyler would show me both state-of-the-art and antique seismic detecting equipment, long since abandoned throughout the area. Kyler is an original Parkfield resident, his father taught at the elementary school there.

After having a nice burger and fries for dinner at the cafe, I called Sharon who was renting me a room for the night since the inn happened to be full. She met me and took me to a nice three-bedroom home I had all to myself for the night. She warned me not to mind the noises at night — "that's just all the pigs." At first I thought she was putting me on but she showed me the wallow they made in her lawn, the broken fence, and where they had eaten some of the landscaping as well. She said she wished we'd just kill five or six right here.

I spent much of that night practicing dry firing at a 60-second segment on hunting pigs I taped off the Outdoor Life Network. I had read the suggestion in Cooper's "Art of the Rifle," that breaking rule 2 is worth having good trigger control. My field shots at the range were OK but not as good as I hoped. I was doing 4-inch groups kneeling and felt anything over 100 yards for me would require a solid rest.

Kyler arrived about 6 a.m. The sky was clear and full of stars. It looked like a great morning. We put the gear in his SUV and headed out of Parkfield. Not far out of town we unlocked a chain gate and headed up to a 6,000-acre ranch. The road rises through some grassy hills with oak trees and then into steeper and slightly rocky terrain. He put it into 4WD and we continued to slowly climb up the road.

Kyler has a big custom rifle on the seat and the butt stock shell holder is full of .375 H&H shells. I asked him about his "Safari Gun" and he mentioned a trip to Zimbabwe this summer with one of his clients. Being so recently consumed with hunting, I have read a great deal about Africa — books by Capstick, Roosevelt and others. I really enjoyed talking to Kyler about hunting and was anxious to hear his stories firsthand.

Our first stop is a beautiful vista with the sun rising red and the hills turning gray to green at first light. We load our rifles and then glass the rolling hills but so far don't spot anything. We get back in and drive on another 20 minutes or so to another glassing point. From here the sun is now up. We see two blacktail bucks way off in the distance near a canyon wall. One has a tall rack while the other is much smaller. Kyler says they are probably at a thousand yards.

Back in the truck and driving again, Kyler starts to prep me for possibly not seeing a pig this morning. Kyler is also a sporting clays instructor and I've brought my over/under for that possibility. We'll go shoot sporting clays and pick up the hunt in the evening. Not long after saying that, Kyler spots a pig on a hillside off in the distance. I'm not sure I ever saw it from that point, maybe a spec. We picked up the pace and then are quickly out of the truck and heading up a hillside. Kyler can walk fast and it's all I can do to keep up with him without breaking into a trot. He turns and tells me to chamber a round. He said it's probably just a meat pig and I answer back that I'll take what I can get today.

Nearing the top of the hillside we slow down and quietly approach an oak grove. There on the opposite hill a pig is browsing near a larger grove of trees. He's alone and out in the open about 150 yards away. I can't believe it. This is the moment that I had imagined so many times before. There is a nice-size tree trunk there on the hill and I'm able to sit and rest my rifle on my left fist. The pig looks pretty far away to me and I set my scope to 9x. Just as I get him in sight he turns away. My heart is still pounding and I'm not sure if it's from the quick climb or the excitement of being in this position. Eventually he turns a little more to the right, quartering away slightly. My cross hair settles on him, I'm squeezing and then boom, he's off running fast into some brush. I'm sure I hit him and Kyler affirms he heard the hit.

We are off and running down our hill and up the other. Kyler has me step back. He draws his .44 and we slowly approach the brush near where he was hit. Kyler thinks he sees him about 30 yards away. I still can't make him out. Kyler is finally sure so we approach and there he is. He collapsed on a thin game trail about 40 yards from where he was hit. The Barnes 130-grain X bullet hit midway back but exited just above his left foreleg. I'm so happy to have taken my first boar cleanly with one shot. And he's a lot bigger than I thought, with good-sized tusks, maybe short of two inches but a good Russian boar look with grizzled white hair on his snout. He weighed 230 pounds on Kyler's hanging scale.

This was a perfect day for me. My first hunt was a success and now I'm anxious to arrange the next. I sometimes wish I had started earlier but I know that there is plenty of hunting left in this old dog. Now I'm thinking deer.

Submitted by Sean Browne

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