Hunting Memories

Central Coast Hogs

Scott Lupien with his big tusker.
One of Dad’s clients, Pete Filanc, generously invited Dad and me to go on a fully guided hog hunt in Paso Robles with outfitter Tom Willoughby. He also invited his father, Jack, and two employees, Harry and Dave. We met at our motel in Paso Robles on Monday, then went to meet our guide in the late afternoon.

Tom has access to eight ranches, totaling 110,000 acres. We met him and his son, Blake, at one of these ranches. Pete, Jack and Dave hopped into Tom’s pickup while Dad, Harry and I went with Blake. We split up and drove around the brushy canyons, stopping occasionally to glass for hogs or to throw rocks into the brush to get them moving.

Blake drove up one narrow finger ridge that was choked with buck brush. When the trail ended in solid brush, he stopped the truck and turned the engine off. As soon as he did so, I could hear brush breaking up the ridge from us. Pigs! We were standing in the bed of the truck, looking out over the cab. The brush was very thick, with few openings, but Blake told us to watch for the pigs in the brush and to shoot if given a chance. I saw some movement and zeroed in with my scope. A small, cream-and-white belted pig appeared in a gap in the brush about a hundred yards up the slope and gave me just enough time to squeeze off a shot. I heard the bullet hit, and saw the pig dash up the hill and into the thick brush. I was shooting Janice’s .25-06 with 100-grain bullets, but the pig didn’t look very big and this small rifle has proven effective on pigs for both Janice and me.

After the shot, four more pigs cleared the brush and made for the top of the ridge. Dad and Harry tried to get shots, but the pigs were moving too fast and were too far away. They escaped over the ridge before either could get a shot.

Blake crawled up the hill, along a pig tunnel, until he got to the area where the pig had been. I directed him to where I had last seen it and he found blood. Then I, too, crawled up the tunnel. There was pig sign everywhere – beds, droppings, tracks – it looked as though this was a major bedding area. Before I got to where Blake was looking, he found the pig and dragged it down to where I was. It was a small sow, about 50 pounds, and Blake felt bad that I had shot such a small one, though I didn’t feel bad at all! He called his dad on the radio to tell him about it, then turned to me and said, "You’re gonna shoot another hog!" They had decided not to count my piglet. Was I thrilled? You bet!

Just before dark, we drove past a barley field that was full of piglets and a few adult hogs. Blake stopped and we got out. We hopped a fence, then stalked to within 20 yards of the feeding pigs. He told Dad to drop the largest, a fat sow, and for Harry and I to shoot after the shot. Dad’s shot dropped the sow and the rest of the pigs started to run. Harry took a shot and then I did too, but we couldn’t hit the running targets. By the time Blake had dressed the pig it was really getting dark, so we went back to the ranch house and met the other guys.

Jack Lupien with his sow.

Pete had shot a very nice trophy boar. It weighed about 275 pounds and had 2-inch tusks! He had it skinned for a shoulder mount. The guides finished cleaning all three pigs, then took them back to Tom’s place to hang in cold storage.

Pete Filanc with his large, brown boar.

The next morning we met the guides at another ranch at 4:45. Blake drove Dad, Harry and me to a spot overlooking a spring in a field. Behind it was a wooded hill. He said there was a grain field on the other side of the hill and that the pigs would come over the hill to get water after feeding all night in the field. We sat and waited to ambush them! A little while after first light, a black sow with five small piglets came through and we let them pass. Immediately afterwards, an enormous brown tusker stepped into the edge of the clearing and surveyed the area cautiously. I told Blake to let Harry take the first shot, and he decided to try to get him closer. He told me to stay put and to shoot if the boar turned back up the hill. I watched the brute through my scope as they started to stalk it. He was only 100 yards away and an easy shot: I wondered why Blake didn’t just have Harry shoot from where I sat. I could see that the hog was getting nervous because he started tossing his head and turned around to go back up the hill. Wanting Harry to take the shot, I waited and refrained from taking the easy shot myself. Then the pig started to run and I squeezed off a hurried shot and missed!

After waiting for at least another hour, we saw some pigs running through the trees. The wind kept shifting and they must have smelled us. We waited some more, then went to meet the other guys. They had shot two very large sows, each weighing about 200 pounds. Before that, they’d come across a large boar that disappeared into the fog. Tom had cut loose three dogs to chase it and they brought it to bay. However, before they could catch up, the pig thrashed one dog and escaped. The poor beast was really cut up. He’d caught a tusk in the lower jaw, which was completely opened so that one could fit all four fingers between the lower jawbones and up under the tongue! He also had lacerations on his side and hip that were dripping plenty of blood. This particular dog has no fear of pigs, as is evidenced by numerous scars and one missing testicle from prior encounters!

With only two tags to fill, Tom told Blake to take the pigs and the successful hunters back to the ranch house and to clean the pigs and wait for us. He then took Harry and me to another ranch where he’d spotted two big pigs the prior morning. On our drive to that spot, we came across a herd of sows with piglets, but decided to let them go. We eventually got to a high ridge and got out of the truck. Tom glassed the opposing canyon side below us and found a herd of pigs bedded right where they’d been the day before! They were about three hundred yards away on a steep, sagebrush-covered hillside.

We descended the hill until we were on a finger ridge directly across and about a hundred yards from the bedded hogs. They’d dug out cave-like depressions in the hillside and were sleeping in them. From where we were, we could see one bedded pig, but had seen more from higher up. Tom then saw one stand up and look our way. I told him to let Harry take the first shot and he tried to point out that pig to him. I sat off to the side and waited for the shot, ready to shoot at the pigs when they got up. As Harry was looking for that pig, four more pigs stood up in their beds. He could see them easily and Tom told him to shoot any one he wanted, for all were big! He picked out a fat, gray sow and shot her. With that, more pigs jumped up and all started scrambling up the steep hillside.

Two large black-and-white Hampshire-colored hogs cut out to the right and I zeroed in on the larger of the two. It was running, so I led it a bit by aiming at the head. At the shot, the hog immediately started cartwheeling backwards down the hill! A few seconds later, Harry’s mortally hit sow, which had run up the hill with the rest of the herd, also started back flipping down the steep slope. I watched my pig come to rest under an oak tree and I kept an eye on it because it was still kicking. Then, to our amazement, it got up and started walking down the hill! I ran down the hill to get a clear shot, lost my footing and slid a few feet. Lying on my side, I brought the rifle to bear and fired a round into the beast’s broadside – sending it, once again, rolling down the hill until it crashed into an oak trunk and came to rest.

Tom told us to go to our pigs while he went to bring the truck around. There was no road in the narrow canyon, but he hoped to bring it closer and downhill from the pigs. We went to my pig first and I was amazed at how big he was! I hadn’t realized that it was a large, 250-pound boar. But the real shocker came when I got a glimpse of the head. This brute had monster tusks! They were perfect, sharp, thick and had 3-inch exposed outside the jaw! I was not trophy hunting, since I already have a nice trophy boar with 2-inch tusks, but this was one must-mount beast! Tom told me that trophy boar hunters spend a whole lifetime looking for a trophy of this caliber. Was I lucky, or what? Another interesting fact was that my first shot had hit right where I had aimed – the head. The small bullet had cut a gash between the ears, but had ricocheted off the skull and done no real damage other than temporarily cold-cocking the brute! The second shot had penetrated the chest, just behind the shoulder, and took out the vitals.

With the last tags filled, we went back to town and then to Tom’s place to hang the meat overnight. Afterwards we had a superb celebration — steak dinner at AJ Spurs in Paso Robles and hit the sack early – very tired and very content! Thanks again to Pete Filanc for so generously inviting us on such an awesome hunt!

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