By The Bakersfield Californian
While growing up, my dreams of someday facing an enraged and charging
African lion, Cape buffalo or elephant became a permanent fixture in my mind. Like many other youngsters, I had read nearly every book about hunting on the Dark Continent, but I eventually matured, realizing that my visions were mere expensive clouds in my mind. I resigned myself to maybe finding buck deer instead.
Of course, hunting deer somehow was never the same as chasing (or being chased by) dangerous game. Deer normally do not chase, bite or gore their pursuers, so, while hunting them was fun, I kept looking for something else to prove my manhood.
By the time I returned home from overseas, rumors of wild pigs living in California crept into my outdoor magazine reading. I made up my mind to check them out, and, sure enough, wild hogs were tough, smart and resilient, tasted good and would charge and gore a hunter, without provocation, with their sharp tusks. Plus, their numbers were erupting across the nation.
My first experience with a truly big hog was a bit disappointing. Discretion being the better part of valor, instead of charging me, the boar left his wallowing hole, fleeing toward a large patch of tules 100-yards away. Of course, pigs can't run faster than a rifle bullet, so my shot ended the 500-pounder's run for the cattails, and though he tasted great, the episode left something to be desired.
Over the years, I managed to take an occasional hog, but never one that put me in what I felt was any kind of danger. Oh, sure, they'd snort at me before going on the lam, but most of the time they bolted for whatever nearby cover they could find. I was beginning to doubt the stories I had been told about how fierce they were.
Everyone remembers the adage about "be careful what you wish for, because it just may come true." Napoleon met his fate at Waterloo, and I darned near met mine at Tejon Ranch several years ago when I met Mister Superhog, a 250-pound boar with an axe to grind. He had been mortally wounded when my shot across a windy valley blew several inches off the mark and hit him a little too far forward. Standing with his head in a bush, the angry hog stood 10 yards away waiting for me and the guide to approach.
Loudly popping his ivory tusks, his eyes dared us to come closer, but before we did, to finish him off, something occurred that made me take my eyes off him -- a huge no-no.
A baby hog, no bigger than a squirrel, came running up to me. Down on one knee, I held out my hand and the little bugger licked it! Pigs have terrible vision, so he must have thought I was his mama, because as soon as he touched me, he took off like a shot. The guide and I had a good, but short-lived, laugh.
The huge boar (you know, the "dead" one with both shoulders broken and heart and lungs peppered with bullet fragments) decided that if he was going out he was going to take someone with him, and that someone was ME! As I stood and turned back to him, he was already charging at full speed without any signs of injury whatsoever. An absolute blur, he was almost upon me, when, without taking time to aim, I took the rifle off safety pointed and fired.
Years of rifle practice paid off that day. My nearly straight-down bullet struck his head, passed through and out the bottom of his neck, killing him instantly, his nose coming to rest less than a foot from my shoes. His three-inch cutters were razor sharp and I shudder to think what would have happened had I missed.
Although I finally got the taste of adrenalin I always thought I wanted, I now carry second thoughts about messing with any dangerous game. I'll still hunt them, but with a great deal more respect.
By the way, the wild pigs of America are still there, their numbers expanding into the millions. Texas, for instance, has dramatically altered its wildlife programs to compensate for the hog explosion wrecking farms and wildlife projects across the Lone Star State. Hunters are allowed to take pigs 24 hours a day, from vehicles, feed stands, helicopters, or whatever. It's legal. Here in our Golden State, nothing except sport hunting keeps in check the tsunami of swine that continue to threaten our agriculture and wildlife.
Wild pig season is open year around and hunters need only a current license and wild pig tag to hunt them. Even so, sport hunting is probably not going to be enough to control their ballooning numbers.