A few weeks ago I went out to San Benito county to scout Laguna Mountain Recreation Area for wild pig. During that first scouting trip we did not bag a pig, but saw plenty of tracks, scat and other sign. This coupled with the beautiful landscape brought us back to Laguna for another shot.
We arrived at Laguna Mountain campground around 9:00PM. Five other vehicles were in the campground – some looked to be hunters, others looked to be weekend campers and hikers. See the previous post on Laguna Mountain Recreation Area for a detailed map.
The next morning I set out after sunrise. I was packing in gear to stay out on the mountain until Wednesday. My plan for the day was to summit the mountain and set up a spike camp near the top, so I could hunt the surrounding areas during the day and return to camp at night.
Terrain and wildlife
The sign on this trip was reminiscent of the last trip I took to Laguna – the entire trail up to the summit had fresh pig sign on it. Half a mile in I found a fresh rooting spot that was no more than two days old. Taking this all into account I think its safe to say there’s a healthy resident pig population.
The terrain at Laguna is rough – thick brush and a steep grade. Add a fifty pound pack and you have yourself a fun day. This combined with the fact that I had been running all over public land for the last three months without seeing a pig led me to drop my guard on our ascent up the trail. I figured my chances of seeing a pig were small, so I tucked my gun in my pack and relaxed, enjoying the landscape and crisp mountain air.
I had stopped to take a breath when my hunting partner whistled for my attention. She pointed to the bushes on my left side and whispered, “pigs!”
No way, I thought. We’re too loud, too smelly, its noon, there’s no way a pig is ten feet from me. Yet, sure enough I take a step to the side and see a piglet pop out of the bushes with its head down feeding. Out pops another, and another, until there are three piglets all within five feet from my boots.
My gun is still in my pack and I have no round in the chamber – I need to change this quick before mama sow comes out. As the piglets start moving closer I move to take my gun from my pack excruciatingly slow, and to my surprise they don’t spook. The wind was mighty favorable, pushing hard against our faces.
I know a herd of pig is thirty feet from me – I can see them moving in the thick chaparral, but the only ones in the open were the three piglets. As I chamber a round, the metallic clang of my action spooks the piglets back towards the brush. It’s a piglet or no food – I take the shot.
With the piglet down, my partner went right to work cleaning him up. I took some time to reflect while she skinned and gutted the pig.
A couple things I would have done differently: had my gun at the ready so that I could have waited to see if a larger pig would have emerged from the chaparral. Because I created unnecessary noise getting my gun ready, I ruined my chances of letting that bigger shot come out. All these things are lessons for next time, but in the meantime I couldn’t be more thankful for the delicious pig I did get.
The air was cold and dropping, so with the piglet cleaned up, we wrapped him in cheesecloth and continued up to the summit. We summited Laguna Mountain and made camp near a pine barren. We hung the pig off a pine bough in the freezing nighttime air and tucked in for the night.
The next morning we made the long a beautiful walk back to the truck. We made it back before noon, and the piglet was still frozen from the cold temperatures when we transferred him to the cooler.
Laguna was cold this time around, with temperatures from the mid-50s to the mid-20s at night. There was frost in the morning that persisted in some spots all day, the ground was wet, wet enough for pigs root. A month ago the landscape was much drier, and the melting frost has made the ground wet enough to root and feed while also bringing in green grass, even without rain.
I shot a piglet this time around, and learned some lessons along the way about always having a round in the chamber even when you’re scouting.
Happy hunting folks.