Special feral pig hunts on wildlife areas in California
[two_third] Every year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) organizes special feral pig hunts. The following is a brief summary of the most significant special hunts and the rules and regulations that apply to these hunts.
As part of the program to control feral pig populations, the CDFW has set up repeating annual special feral pig hunts on wildlife areas and, in addition, on SHARE properties.
Wildlife areas are properties under the control and management of CDFW. These areas are generally only accessible for hunting at special hunt dates and under specific conditions regarding the game that can be hunted and at what dates.
SHARE properties are private land holdings that are normally not accessible to hunters except during special SHARE hunts for specific big game, upland birds, and for general recreational purposes.
Special feral pig hunts
Most special feral pig hunts take place on public properties that are managed by CDFW or associated public entities. CDFW organizes these annual hunts and oversees the random selection process and the proper administration and execution of these special hunts. Among the most popular are the special feral pig hunts.
These hunts are designed to cull boar populations and to keep the number of feral pigs under control. Hunters enjoy high success rates in excess of the measly 8 percent success rates that are standard for public properties.
Some wildlife areas yield around a 50 percent success rate. Some of these properties are owned and managed by a water district. However, such high rates for public properties are by no means guaranteed. On average, far less feral pigs are harvested even on protected wildlife areas than the above success rate suggests.
Upper Cottonwood Wildlife Area
Moreover, not all wildlife areas are created equal. Some are better than others and some have dismal success rates. I know at least one where no boar has been seen or harvested in a very long time.
The Carizzo Plains Ecological Reserve falls into this category. Don’t waste your time applying for a special access permit to hunt wild pigs there. And do not waste time looking to find wild hogs there. They are transitional at best. And, if there are any transiting at all, they do so to use the vernal pools that exist at certain times of the year only.
Vernal pools are temporary water holes and pools during the wet season. They are not a reliable source of water and mud wallows for wild pigs. Nevertheless, the best and only chance to see a wild hog, if any at all, on the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve is during the wet season and while vernal pools exist.
The Carizzo Plains Ecological Reserve is better known for the elk herds and elk hunting. Information on the Carizzo Plains Ecological Reserve is here.
The San Antonio Valley Ecological Reserve has good wild pig hunting. On the other hand, it is accessible only during special hunt days and with special access permits. Hunting is limited to areas designated for special feral pig hunts and at times described in CDFW [14 CCR § 630(d)(37)]. Feral pig hunts will not be available every year. Check with the office of CDFW Region 3 by email for the current schedule.
The San Antonio Valley Ecological Reserve is located in the San Antonio Valley, east of Mount Hamilton, and south of Livermore.
Junior hunts are another opportunity to hunt on the otherwise closed areas. Overall, this Reserve offers good to excellent feral pig hunts provided CDFW is holding special feral pig hunts at a given year at the Reserve.
Tehama Wildlife Area is approximately 44,500 acres of grassland, oak woodland, and chaparral located in Tehama County about three miles south of the town of Payne’s Creek. The wildlife area is home not only to feral pigs but also to black-tailed deer (winter range), turkey, bald and golden eagles, prairie and peregrine falcons, and other birds of prey.
In addition to hunting, the Tehama Wildlife Area offers outdoor lovers camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, birdwatching. For detailed information visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Tehama-WA or call the Redding office at (530) 597-2201.
Hunters with a G-1 deer tag and an access permit for the Tehama Wildlife area are authorized to harvest boar on the property during the deer season.
The Cottonwood Wildlife Area is another wildlife reserve with feral pigs. The property comprises 6,315 hilly acres. The grassy wildlife area is known for wildlife, bird-watching, and hunting. It consists of two units, the upper and the lower Cottonwood area. They are characterized by steep oak-grassland on the Upper Unit and steep hilly grassland on the Lower Unit.
The Cottonwood Wildlife area has a rich wildlife with feral pigs, black-tailed deer, gray fox, and 100 species of birds. It is located approximately 36 miles east of Gilroy and just northeast of Highway 152. The nearest town is Los Banos only about 10 miles away.
For information call the Los Banos office of CDFW. A comprehensive map of wildlife areas in California is at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit.
Bryson Hunting Ranch and Resort
This short list of special feral pig hunts would not be complete without discussing another property that has an established wild hog population. The owners of the property do not participate in the SHARE program but offer hunters rare semi-guided hunts. I know only a very few California properties that embrace this type of hunting.
Let’s face it, the average wild boar hunter in the state is perfectly happy to go on a guided hunt that virtually guarantees a shot on a wild pig. These “hunts” are usually very short affairs designed and executed to present the paying hunter with a clear shot on a wild boar and to send him on his merry way home in the shortest time possible. Though these hunts are advertised as 2-day hunts, the hunting, if you dare call it so, is normally confined to a couple of hours during which the guide is using his knowledge of the local sounder and often enough a small vehicle with helpers to drive a pig or two towards the hunter and his rifle. More power to you, if you consider that hunting.
The property in question is the Bryson Hesperia Resort and Hunting Ranch near Coalinga (of earthquake fame) and Bradley. This hybrid between a spa and resort and a hunting lodge offers semi-guided hunts for feral pigs. The price for the special feral pig hunts is very reasonable at $ 250.00 per hunt for one hog.
You can expect a detailed and thorough introduction to the ranch, the boar population on it, and good hints on its favorable spots, foraging, and resting places. Anticipate rather detailed hunting information but realize that you are on your own when it comes to the real hunt. But, hey, that’s a small price for a real hunt that pits your knowledge of boar against the mud smarts of your game. It is a true challenge and you can be a proud hunter after you had a successful hunt.
Interested in a real hunt and not just in a hog shopping spree? Then get the details from Dedee and Karin Loftus at 805-472-0163. The property is located on Bryson Hesperia Rd. in Bradley, California.
The feral pigs on the ranch come from public lands not far from the Bryson Ranch. The public land, Fort Hunter Liggett, is known for the highest hunting success rate of any public property in California with the exception of the water district lands mentioned above.
Does that guarantee that a hunter will get a wild pig during a semi-guided hunt on the Bryson Ranch? No, it does not. But an experienced boar hunter has a good chance for harvesting his boar.
Another sleeper boar ranch with excellent wild pig hunting is near Santa Barbara. However, ever since the California Hunting Post published an article or two about the wild pigs on the ranch, it immediately became overrun with boar hunters. The ranch manager and his staff, including clerical personnel that had nothing to do with boar hunting, were flooded with phone calls. The result?
The boar hunting guide and manager stopped answering phone calls. I recently made a test call. Nothing has changed. No answer. No boar hunting. You can search the California Hunting Post for the ranch and try your luck. But I bet you will not have any either.
Only properties participating in the SHARE program may present better results than some of the special feral pig hunts on the list. My next article will have a compilation of the SHARE properties in California. Do not miss it.