If you consider all the states that offer boars for bullets, my preference leans towards California. With extraordinary open mountains, the sunshine state provides a blackpowder hunter with a significant challenge over states like Texas, that often have you hunting in close proximity to feeders.
The RS Bar Ranch stretches over 20,000 steep, dry and mountainous acres in the central Northern California Coastal Range and features year-round pig hunting with seasonal trophy blacktail.
The ranch is visually spectacular with ascents over 7,000 feet. With clear skies, from the top of the ranch you’ll see Monterey Bay to the west, the upper Fresno Valley to the east, and Pinnacles National Monument to the north.
My rifle choice was a .50 caliber CVA Optima Elite with a white Slick Load Saboted 300-grain, .45-caliber Powerbelt Bullet. The 3200 Elite Bushnell scope was adjusted two inches high at 100 yards. This set up gave me the confidence to just point and shoot at a pig that was within 200 yards.
The ranch uses open-air jeeps (no windshields or doors) that can be quite cold if you’re not dressed in windproof clothing. As we stared our climb up one of dozens mountain trails, my guide reminded me what it takes to get a one-shot kill on a boar.
“Just like any kind of hunting, pig shooting is all about shot placement,” said Jarrod Hemphill. “A boar’s vital area is significantly more forward and lower than a whitetail. You can’t shoot them low enough. If the shot is true, I’ve found that pigs really don’t travel any farther than a whitetail.”
My first day found the January weather clear, cold and unbelievably still. The pigs were impressively skittish. After three stalks on boars that were either too young or too spooked, we headed down the mountain for lunch.
Satiated by an impeccable meal and with the jeep prepped for an afternoon of driving, we came across one of the other hunters that needed help to recover a pig in the river bottom. After an hour of busting brush and dragging the boar out of a deep ravine, we were back on the trail.
With the evening closing in, we headed back up the mountain to glass for swine. Although the views were spectacular, my choices were a few sows or small boars. I wasn’t trying to be too fussy, however I did want a fun stalk yet the wind of opportunity had not drifted in my favor.
The next day a heavy frost lay across the ranch’s valley. One of the great weather anomalies in this mountainous region during the winter is that when you get to the top of the trail, the temperature is roughly 30 degrees warmer than in the valley floor. As I stalked an estimated 200 pounder, the wind changed as I crested the ridge and the bore instantaneously busted me at 200 yards.
On my last evening everyone had tagged out. My host, Dudley McGarity, of CVA and his wife, Stephanie, bundled up and joined me in the back of the Jeep. After about five miles, our guide spotted a group of pigs on a plateau outcropping several miles away. “We can get up on those guys, but we’ll have a long drive, and you’ll have a longer walk than you did this morning,” said Jarrod.
After about a half an hour of driving, we stopped at the bottom of the steep ridge and headed toward the small plateau.
Once we arrived at the edge of the rocks, we were faced with a different situation. Thirty turkeys had arrived in the field and Jarrod said he could see others across the ravine, but not on our side. After a quick discussion, and noting the setting sun, we moved to the opposite side of the hill and worked our way around.
In just 50 yards of walking, we realized that pigs had surrounded us. “There’s a sow 30 yards below us in the thicket, can you hear the piglets?” Pigs were on the far ridge, below us, and turkeys were gathered around the tree thicket. I was sure we would get busted.
The three of us (Stephanie stayed about 50 yards behind us) had rounded the other side of the plateau to see the Rios heading up the hill and away. Dudley stopped us and told us to listen, “Do you hear that? I hear pigs, close…just over the rise, a few yards away?” Jarrod, whispered, “I’ll tell you if it’s a bore and which one to shoot.”
With just ten steps to the edge of the hill I saw two large hogs rooting in on the flat 40 yards away. “Shoot the one to the right!” Jarrod yelled in a coarse whisper. Instantly a sea of smoke exploded and a squeal came from the hog, as he ran like a house fire crashing into the brush and falling 50 feet below.
With a quick slide down the hill we found the tusker piled up. Five minutes later Stephanie showed up with the Jeep and we had the 200-pound plus boar back up on the hill shooting photos in the twilight.
Dudley grinned, shook my hand, and said, “You got the hunt you wanted…down to the last second.” It wasn’t easy…but it sure was fun.
Contact: RS Bar Ranch: http://rsbarranch.com