I wanted to question him about where the hogs had gone and what he’d remembered but because of the low fog and early morning darkness, he really didn’t see where they all went. He scratched his head and thought they went all directions. So we decided to search around and see if we could find their tracks.
It didn’t take long to find several different trails leading in different directions. As we were on the ridgetop, everywhere they went was down.
A lot of times when hogs are startled by a gun shot, they’ll seemingly scatter in all different directions. But if you follow their tracks you’ll usually find that soon after they get under cover of the trees, they’ll start to bunch up quickly. Sometimes they may make several small bunches until they can get the whole group back together. If you follow one hog, or one bunch, and can stay on the trail long enough, eventually you’ll see where they connect back with the rest of the pack.
I decided I’d follow one bunch of 3-4 hogs and see where they’d take me. See if I could ascertain if there was a wounded hog and possibly kill it.
The ground was steep and wet from a recent rain, so staying on this trail seemed like it might work out. Dan stayed near the trucks and I took off trailing. The hogs went down and into the thick forest of black oak, tan oak, and bay laurel, with the occasional big leafed maple. I could see where time to time, another hog would join the pack, slowly growing in number.
I trailed them over a ridge going from the north facing slope to the south facing.
Around here, the north face of a mountain is usually wet, damp, and in the shade most of the winter. On the south side, the country opens up and there’s more and more grasslands. Intermixed with the same trees but the trees are bigger and rounder. They’re not as close together with much more open grassland. It’s called Oak woodlands. Or Oak savannah. As you go from the north to the south side of the mountain, it feels like you could all of a sudden be in another state. It’s exposed to the sun and dries out quickly.
By this time, the hogs had bunched up well. I was obviously following a good number of animals and they were headed somewhere known. I don’t know the mechanism, but they have an uncanny ability to know where to go in a dangerous situation. If they split up, they’ll all head to the same rendezvous point. It’s almost as if they have a pre determined plan on where to meet if they get separated. Perhaps they just follow the lead sow. Perhaps the ones coming behind follow scent. But however it happens, they’re good at finding their way, and each other. These hogs were born and raised here. They know the landscape intimately.
I followed them a long way down hill. They used a steep brushy ridge to go where they were headed. It made sense really. There were many little ridges heading to the south. Some were gentle slopes that I would’ve chosen to go down. Some were too steep and rocky to even try. This one was perfect for an escape. As I followed them, I many times had to crawl under low Manzanita brush. Or drop off the ridge for awhile to go around a particular thick spot.
The trail was good and easy to follow. I’d guess there were 10 or so hogs heading in single file, going down this ridge. The ground had some moisture in it so the trail was well beat in and super fresh.
“Where are they headed?”
I try to come up with ever changing theories about where they’re going. It doesn’t make the most sense to me as they’re headed into increasingly open country. I would’ve expected them to head off the north side into the steepest roughest and brushiest country around, but that’s not what happened.
Perhaps they’re going to go over the next ridge and down across the main river. Up onto the next north facing mountain. It’s quite a hike, but I figure I’ll try to follow them and see what happens. My theory will continue to change as I gain more and more info.
After 45 minutes or so of following them down, the hogs hit the bottom and were now into the grasslands. I was able to stay on trail for awhile as they crossed a small dirt road(more of a jeep trail really) and headed into a large field.
Here, the trail got difficult. I was amazed by how this large group of hogs could seemingly disappear. This happens often on a trail. The substrate and terrain changes, and the tracks are much harder to find and see. I found the occasional fresh track but they were few and far between. The substrate had suddenly turned hard and dry.
Well, at this point, I stopped and surveyed the hills ahead of me. If I were a hog, where would I be going? I saw three likely possibilities. A trail going around the grassy knoll to the right, another heading around the hill at a steady contour to the left, and they could also have spread out and headed up and over the knoll towards a tree covered bench.
Even though it was a change of direction from their original path, I decided to first check the trail to the left as the last good track I found seemed to be pointed slightly that way.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that they hadn’t gone this way so instead of heading back to my last good track and trying to go track to track thru the tough ground, I do like I often do and circled around above the field trying to cut their trail farther along.
As I moved over and around the field, I looked along the tree line for the trail. I figured I’d pick them up coming out of the fields and moving into the cover. I slowly worked along the edge habitat and before I was ready or expecting anything, I heard the hogs bust out of the brush above me. I saw one nice little boar moving across thru the brush and never had time to knock an arrow or even try to shoot. I just watched him go out of sight into the thick brush and around the hill.
I was certainly surprised to see them. I wasn’t ready and as often happens after they’ve been harassed, the hogs were bedded and watchful. Not allowing me to get close before taking off the other way.
Hogs find amazing bedding sites. They’ll reuse them seemingly for generations and when you find a good site, there’s no mistaking it. Huge dug out depressions that could fit multiple hogs. It’s usually in super steep ground under some low hanging brush. Maybe on the uphill side of a large tree or down log.
The hogs will bed in groups of 2-3 sometimes up to 10 if it’s cold. They’ll pack in tight to stay warm and comfortable. I’m amazed by how social these animals are. And I never miss a chance to watch them in their beds if given the opportunity.
I’d never been into this bedding site before. Even though I’ve hunted in the area often, I was very pleased to find this non-typical bed. It was a patch of timber mixed with large black oak and pepperwood as well as a second lower layer of shrubs like Manzanita and Toyon. The hill it was on got a lot of morning sun to warm them.
I find that hogs seem to use the beds that put’s them in strategic spots for whatever foods they’re currently feeding on. Also, when the weather’s cold, I find them on brushy south facing ridges where it’s super thick but low brush that a ton of sunlight can get into. Often it’s in the thick Chamise brush. Or Manzanita.
After pushing them out of their bed, I decided I’d try to follow them again and was able to stay on their trail for several hours but at some point, as the day was getting late, I headed back for the pickup never seeing them again. I find that after I push hogs more than once, they’ll often travel a long way before bedding again. By that time, they know that I’m behind them and will travel far to shake me from their trail.
I never saw a spot of blood the whole day. I felt pretty comfortable saying that Dan hadn’t wounded one of them.