Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us”. But what is conservation? Is it only specific to minerals, or water? The guiding principles behind this message clearly states that if we do not ethically protect the valuable resources on earth today, the future generations will suffer with the mistakes made and our failure to protect and sustain those natural world assets.
When I think about the future or next generation succeeding, my filter tends to appear a little distorted versus what I thought it was 20 years ago. As a kid, I grew up in an era where being outdoors and enjoying the freedoms that President Roosevelt instilled into us was normal. It was accepted to go shoot birds and rodents that frequented pivot fields where crops and water was plentiful. Then I think about what is normal? Or what is the new normal?
Being an outdoorsman and living in California couples to be nothing short of a challenge. Obviously we live in times now where judgement and prejudice rule the front page of all the news headlines and stories. But, there are pockets of greatness or hidden gems as I like to call them… And that place is home for me. The central coast holds many desirable luxuries that most areas of the state cannot justify or understand. The fall season brings conditions unlike anywhere in the lower 48 where you can enjoy the cool brisk foggy marine layered mornings or the mid 70 degree days at the beach. The vibrant color of green spreads throughout the horizon as the wineries harvest their grapes that they have patiently awaited 11 months for. Wildflowers can be seen in late spring after the April showers provide much needed moisture to make it through the hot summer months. But beyond all those things, the wildlife in the rolling hills is some of the best the state has to offer. And there’s nothing more exciting and tenacious as stalking in on a sounder of wild swine’s.
Wild pigs in California are descendants of the European wild boar and were introduced into Monterey County in the early 1920s. As nature would have it, these pigs bred with domestic pigs resulting in a hybrid wild boar/feral domestic pig. Overtime they have grown into populations where hunting conservation cannot control the wild game mammal. Depredation efforts have become somewhat the norm now as farmers and ranchers just want them gone based on the amount of damage they can do.
I have killed many pigs in my time living in California as you can go buy a tag over the counter and hunt them wherever access is granted or on public lands. I am fortunate to have some great friends in my life that allow me to fulfill my obligation of keeping red meat on the table. Although this story is not about the harvest or the kill, it’s about the experience and the how critical it is to get the next generation interested in the outdoors.
When I arrived at the ranch, it was obvious the family has a passion around hunting based on all the elk sheds and deer skulls laying around decorating the landscape. As I gathered all my gear, two young men show up in a Polaris Ranger ready to go chase pigs on their property. What made it even better was the fact they are identical twins who have an enormous desire to hunt and fish. That evening proved to be very productive and full of action as we chased hogs right up until dark with a few opportunities at 30 yards with the archery equipment. Unfortunately it was too dark to take an ethical shot, so we headed back to the shop all smiles and excited to go back out again. As I drove back home that night, it made me think about being 14 years old again and having that first hunting license and how much of an honor and privilege it was to enjoy the outdoors. I thanked their father that evening and told him there is a lot of hunting potential in those boys.
After having spent all day processing my elk from Montana, Saturday afternoon came around and it was time to head back and try my luck again. As fate would have it, we again were into hogs right off the bat. This time, I asked the twins if they would wear their camouflage and face paint so we could have a better chance at sealing the deal. It was fun watching them suit up and put on their war faces. Although I am not sponsored by Carbomask, they make a great product that is easy to apply and remove. Another evening had passed with multiple encounters but no tusks to prove our value.
Finally, it was Sunday and time to put some pork back straps on the grill. The morning started out with a stalk into roughly 30 pigs feeding up a hillside. There were many mature boars and sows with their litters of piglets hanging close by. I was able to get within 40 yards of the group but could not get a shot on a mature animal so I sat there and watched as they continued up the hillside and out of sight. The difference in pursuing this species of animal is the fact that they are in abundance and can be hunted year round. Could I have shot one of the smaller sows within my archery range? Absolutely, but I was looking for something that has had a chance to live longer than a few years. That late afternoon I was joined with the twins and their father for an evening hunt to close out the weekend. As the sunset over San Antonio reservoir, it hit me again that taking kids into the outdoors is part of our purpose.
Hunting is a vanishing expertise and something that once we take for granted, will be taken from us. Although we came back to the ranch house without any meat, the weekend I had spent trudging through the river with the twins in their cowboy boots, and the excitement of the hunt, was enough for me to be ok with not harvesting. At the end of the day, what is it really about? It’s truly about teaching and mentoring our kids so they are capable to carry those values and morals into the next generation. Being able to share what we all experienced as children gives our future the opportunity for years to come. Take a kid hunting! Let them experience the bend of a fishing pole and the fight of a freshwater trout. These are memories that last a lifetime! And remember, it's not about the inches... Its about the adventure!
Special thanks to Garrett and Justin for their young spirits and short grown knowledge of pig hunting. We will do it again and hopefully success will taste pretty good!