As a boar hunter in California you are without doubt familiar with, and tired of, the frustration that comes with the pursuit of your elusive quarry. Actually, getting lawful access to land with a decent population of wild boar is a forbidding task, more daunting than the actual fair chase. And it is costly, very costly.
Since almost all stable boar populations in California are located on private land, you need written permission from the landowner to hunt on his land. Thus, landowners control ‘access fees’. Most landowners lease access rights to guides and guide services or operate one themselves. This is driving up access fees. It also limits or almost completely eliminates “open” private lands, that is properties that are not contractually leased to a third party, which then controls access on behalf of the owner of the property.
Note that hunters only pay a fee to access private land. They do not pay for the game. In California all wildlife is owned by the State of California regardless of whether it occurs on public or private land. Correct me if I am wrong.
So, why would you, for example, have to pay a ‘trophy fee’ for a so-called trophy boar to a guide in addition to the access fee? The trophy animal does not belong to the landowner or the guide. It is property of the State and your license entitles you to take it.
Be that as it may, in California access fees, guide fees and to a lesser degree ‘trophy fees’ are ubiquitous and most likely here to stay. What can a dedicated wild hog hunter do to easy the burden on his wallet?
He could, for example, research out of State boar hunts and sign up for one. Many are available at very reasonable, highly competitive fees. There are, of course, travel costs! However, if you live reasonably close to a low cost State, this may be an feasible option to exorbitant fees in California.
You could also hunt public lands only. Not really a good option! Public lands are overpopulated by humans on all kinds of noisy off-road contraptions; they are also subject to excessive hunting pressure and, last but not least, they are outright dangerous to hunt on. Even wild pigs understand that and have moved to private land.
Many hunters therefore join a private hunting club. The club lease access rights to ranches from the owners. In turn, it charges members a fee for the privilege of ‘free’ access to private ranches. It is not an inexpensive solution either. You will pay a hefty initiation fee and monthly membership fees during the entire time of your membership -regardless of whether you hunt or not. This can easily add up to a several hundred dollars per month.
But don’t you gain access to pristine, uncrowded private land with plenty of wildlife that is not spooked by heavy hunting pressure? Not necessarily. These clubs are always in danger of selling more memberships than “their” ranches can comfortably accommodate without driving game away.
Many do succumb to this temptation.
Even if they limit the number of hunters using the property at any given time, there still is increased pressure on wildlife populations on a daily basis. Just talk to any present or previous member of one of these private hunting clubs. They will give you an earful of their experiences with club property almost devoid of wildlife during hunting season.
Here in California we have at least two large private hunting clubs, Wilderness Unlimited and Golden Ram Hunting Club. One recruits new members more aggressively than the other.
What else is left to do?
As I pointed out in my book “Wild Boar in California – Where and how to hunt”, two dedicated hunting friends of mine developed their own solution to this quandary. After each adding up the initiation fee, the monthly club fees, travel expenses to suitable club property for pig and general hunts, out of State specialty hunts and so on, they came to an astonishing conclusion: They could lease access rights to a ranch by recruiting just two or three more hunters willing and able to match their own contribution.
They were in their fourth year of operating their own private “hunting club” when I met them.
Can’t be done any more, you say? Why not?
There are still landowners who can grant access rights to their property. Access leases expire and are up for grabs. There are also plenty of hunters with enough money to contract for access rights to properties. If not in this State, then in neighboring State. You can find access rights for lease listed on the Internet. You have to put a little research effort into finding the offers.
Wild boar hunters from Southern California must travel about 500 miles to reach the best boar hunting areas in California. Why not travel a similar distance to hunt on your own lease?
Add the option of getting a hunting club franchise, a few well heeled hunting buddies and you might find yourself in boar hunting paradise.
Contact me by e-mail if you are interested in more details.