Our mid-week hunting trip brings us to Knoxville Wildlife Area, 20,000 plus acres of California rolling hills and oak flats. It is home to mule deer, dove, valley quail, coyote, and wild pig. This particular outing our focus was on the latter, the wild pig. Having followed pig sign south near Lake Berryessa and hearing other hunters’ good reviews, I decided to give it a look for myself.
The day started at about noon – we drove midway to the wildlife area on Berryessa Knoxville Rd. Parking is easy, with signs and maps along the road running through the wildlife area. It is a non-lead ammunition area, and primitive camping is allowed a 1/4 mile from the road.
After a quick survey of the land, we decided to go east, towards the high point on the map in order to find a vantage point. Our route took us straight uphill from the road, all the way to a ridge line connecting a series of rolling hills.
As we approached the peaks of each hill, we glassed the hillsides and moved on after seeing no movement in the valleys or hillsides below. We settled on top of the last hill before the cliff to the east, a monster passable only by mountain goat or rock climber (we are neither).
Terrain and wildlife sign
During our mile and a half walk up the hill we encountered sign from wild pig, mule deer, and had the crap spooked out of us by multiple coveys of quail (so if you’re hunting for quail in November, look no further than Knoxville Wildlife Area).
The ground itself was dry – no green grass, and very few spots of water at the low points. The seasonal creeks running through the valleys were merely pools. We noticed that all the acorns had been eaten, and most of the wild legume ground cover had been rooted up.
We saw instances of wild pig scat, lay spots, and tracks along the game trails running over the ridges as well as along the valleys. These signs looked anywhere from two weeks to two months old, and were plentiful.
That night we glassed the hillsides and valleys attentively at dusk for any movement, to no avail.
Scouting: Day 2
The next day we woke before the sun and glassed one last time for any sign of the elusive pig before we set out to our next location.
After breakfast we started our descent to look for a place that had more water. On the way in we had passed a large meadow with a creek running alongside, and an official wildlife area entrance gate.
We decided to head back to the truck to relocate to that area. As we walked along the valley floor and back to the road we moved through both open meadows and thick chaparral, seeing an abundance of old pig sign in both environments. In the open meadows we saw numerous lay spots and rooting activity, and along the riparian area we spotted one of the freshest prints we saw during the trip.
We relocated to the meadow and found a creek with game trails running along both sides. On one of the game trails I spotted a pile of scat from a large pig compromised mostly of Toyon berries, but was two weeks old nevertheless.
Further scouting of the area surrounding the large meadow revealed a healthy quail and dove population as well as a few private property fence lines that were well marked and easy to see.
Camp for this night would be on the valley floor upwind from the small creek that seemed to be the only clean water site around. At dusk we chose chose a spot along the edge of the creek looking down into it with a view of the game trails that entered it from the hills, as this is where we had seen the best sign. As the night took over we waited in our blind, and after an hour of nothing, out pops a coyote – and another! We had the drop from 30 feet, but we were after pig and they were not here.
Morning time came and went without much activity in the creek except for frost cover and cold toes. After some hot coffee we packed it up, and with fond memories departed until the next time.
We explored a small portion of both the east and west areas of Knoxville Wildlife Area. There was an abundance of old pig sign, ranging from mid to late summer to mid October, but none recent in the areas we covered. If you are looking for quail or dove this would be a great place to walk with a bow or shotgun.
This would be an excellent place to bring a new hunter due to the easy terrain in the open meadow on the West side and the abundant wildlife.
We’re looking forward to returning to Knoxville Wildlife Area when the season changes in a few months to scout new areas and observe seasonal changes and wildlife movements.