May 2017

The end of spring was upon us, and the beginning of our 2017 pig obsession was in full swing. A little known wildlife area called Big Sandy borders Camp Roberts (an infamous pig hunting hotspot) on the east side, so with a night to spare, we hopped in the truck and headed down to Big Sandy Wildlife Area.

Getting there

An easy drive down the 101 took us off at the Camp Roberts exit over to Indian Valley Rd. The staging area is small dirt parking lot along Indian Valley Rd., and easy to miss, so check out the map below for exact coordinates. Hunters park at various spots along the borders of Big Sandy, but if this is your first time down, the parking lot is an easy spot to stage.

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Regulations

There’s no camping allowed on the small 857 acre parcel, so we spent the night in the car and ran into no problems. Big Sandy is shotgun only, and definitely in the condor range, so don’t forget your non-lead ammo.

Terrain and wildlife

FullSizeRender (2)Although small, the area is full of wildlife that live in its cottonwood/sagebrush complex. In May while we were there, the Salinas River and its tributaries were running and clear, with dry big sandy washes interspersed. The river bed and its tributaries are surrounded by hillsides, some of which are within Sandy’s borders.

There is a high point at the meeting of the washes that I spent the morning scoping from, as it was one of the few accessible high spots once you get off the surrounding hillsides. The thick brush running alongside the tributaries and washes are where most of the wildlife seems to bed down, yet it is difficult to get a clear view only using optics. The sand makes for quiet walking to get up close.

The sides of the rivers and washes are bordered by higher rolling grasslands that you can walk along. They are thick oat grass and star thistle, making the arrival at a more advantageous position even sweeter after the discomfort.

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FullSizeRender (3)As far as sign goes, recent pig track was everywhere. After following one of the slow flowing tributaries, I came across a wallow so fresh that there were hide markings and hair in the mud. As you can guess, I smelled it before I saw it.

Close to that wallow, I discovered a perfect set of fresh sow and piglet tracks. Walking alongside that set of tracks was another hunter’s boot prints. After the trail went cold, I wondered if he might have got them. There were clear trails and wallows abound, a luxury for those of us used to tracking in difficult substrate.

There was exceptional tracking in the wet sand of not only wild pig, but cottontail rabbit, rodents, deer, bobcat, and coyotes. At one point I spooked a large muley doe out of her bed, and ran into three coveys of quail.

With its abundant wildlife and lively ecosystem, Big Sandy Wildlife is not to be missed.

Happy scouting, and see you in the field.

– M.A.