Friday, November 11, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
In addition to the Eurasian boars, the Native Hunts properties are also home to exotic sheep and American Bison. I had not spent a sufficient amount of time in the wild part of Monterey County to recognize all of the creatures which are apparently indigenous to this region of abundance.
The hunters split off into a couple of groups. Colby and Corey escorted Mark, Rob and I, while Sam and a couple of the other guides took Russ, Dave, and Mike in a different direction. Soon, out guides were using commando-style signals to let us know that monkeys had been spotted in the trees, so the hogs would not be far away. Mark, who is a trained SEAL, can balance a riflescope on his nose while pulling the trigger with his flipper. He is also impervious to pain and so was not bothered by the divot this demonstration left on his face.
Mark took the first shot, as he was clearly our most skillful hunter. He hit his rider-less pig right behind the ear with a .308. It dropped right on top of a sinister map of homesteader’s cabin it’s departed monkey companion had just drawn in the dirt that became this miniature pony-sized boar’s final resting place.
I was hand-signaled into position by Colby when it became clear that there was another rider-less boar on the loose. These monkeys aren’t stupid. Once they saw we had guns, they left the pigs to escape on their own, leaving the pigs confused and vulnerable to even novice hunters like me. Mine started up a draw to the left, but then abruptly tuned back and ran downhill, giving me enough time to track it in the crosshairs of a .270 I had borrowed from my friend Bill Peterson. Bill had told me not to touch the sights because he had it all dialed in. Bill was right and my bullet went exactly where I hoped it would go, which was right into the heart and lungs of that pig for a shot that killed it faster than you can say “That’ll do pig.”
Meanwhile, on another part of the ranch, Russ, Mike and Dave were stalking a cross-strain of pigs that lived among the exotic sheep. These pigs have developed a peculiar talent for herding and cutting sheep and are invariably drawn to them. When they have herded all of the sheep in a given area into formation, they then stand there, waiting for recognition. Our posse recognized them from great distance across the ridge because of the block formation of the white sheep on the green slope. These shepherd pigs are larger than those ridden by the monkeys, which are sort of like the Arabian horses of the saddle-bred hog world.
Russ picked out a fat, self-satisfied porker standing next to his assembled wooly formation. He wiped the irritatingly smug pig-smile off of that hog’s face with a single shot from his 30/06. His wingman, Mike, encountered a stubborn pig that he thoroughly ventilated with his .270. It demonstrated how well it could stand up to a box of ammo before going into a coma from which it did not emerge. The sheep just stood there in Napoleonic formation, despite the random splashing of Mike’s stray shots mingling with the heavy rain. Mike’s white-hot gun barrel hissed in the rain as he advanced on his perforated prey after clicking his precautionary bayonet onto the lug he had had the good sense to weld on after the last hunt. It proved unnecessary on this occasion.
Unfortunately, when our companions climbed up into the sheep pasture to retrieve their prizes, they realized that the area had been baited. They found numerous discarded Woolite bottles carelessly strewn about the perimeter of the open spot where the pigs had driven their charges. This revelation took some of the magic out of the Deerslayer experience we had been trying to gin up.
We all enjoyed a pleasant meal and had our pictures taken next to the public enemies we had slain so that we could claim our rewards in town.
My guide Colby, initiated me into the ranks of those who had successfully discharged a high-powered rifle into a pig by mopping the top of my hat around inside its body cavity during the gutting process and placing it back onto my head, where I kept it proudly displayed for the rest of the trip, including a rather smelly ride home.
I hung around the cleaning shed to photograph and learn how to take down a hog when I noticed that a local 275 pound Eurasian boar was creeping up right behind me, apparently waiting to get in on eating what was discarded from the members of the pig club that hung inverted from chain hoists over large bloody buckets of what had been removed from them. The omnivorous tendencies of these critters include cannibalizing their own tribe and anything else they can get onto the ground, so it is not good to let them sneak up on you in the dark like that.
After confronting and photographing this boar, who acted all nonchalant when I wheeled on him about his sneaky approach, I backed away and retired to scotch, cigars and manly pleasantries in the lodge, while the Native Hunts crew finished up the wet-work
The next day the rain was gone and so were the pigs, as our morning foray produced nothing but curious buffalo breaking up sheep formations.
On the way home just below Paso Robles, I picked up a homeless hitchhiker who’s sign claimed he was on his way to San Pedro. He didn’t seem to like my hat very much and asked to be let out on the shoulder of the 101 after just three exits.
We had our local butcher make loads of bratwurst, hot Italian and sweet Italian sausage. We were able to force our neighbors to consume excessive amounts of pork and guarantee that the carnivorous members of our nuclear family fed almost exclusively on the other white meat for a week before returning to our plant-based diet.
These are the days.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
It was the last of three or four days of decent weather before the storm system of the week was scheduled to take root on Sunday. None of my kids could go because they were facing finals and had run out of study time. It was Tommy and Davey’s pirate birthday party the next day, so it seemed appropriate to go out and get this strange bounty of the sea for the celebration.
As I was waiting I ran into a bunch of guys from Iowa who were out for a convention and just happened to decide to check out the local fishing scene for the end of January, which has mostly been a Spartan affair. These guys had certainly picked up the right night for a bit of exotica.
We had about 35 anglers as we pushed out to the canyon in front of the headlands. Skipper Cory had us drop our squid jigs in 200 fathoms (about 1200 feet) of water, when he metered squid about 2/3 of the way down. We watched a full moon rise in the east behind the boat as we worked the first drop to more that 100 fathoms.
I hooked up, along with a few other guys with lots of line. I was fishing a Torsa 20 with about 40 yards of 40# mono spliced into 80 pound spectra. I hooked that first squid at over 600 feet and it was chore to bring it in. The Torsa was more than a match for the cephalopod, but everyone had to set their drags so you wouldn’t pull the pins out of the tentacles as you pumped the rod and reeled down.
The squid were running about 18 to 30 pounds, from what I saw, and a bite that started really deep at around 6:15 pm started getting shallower and more intense as the squid rose, sunk out and then started coming up in earnest on our third drift through the canyon. By 7:15 it was pretty wide open and the squid had moved up into the top 50 to 100 feet. There were a few free swimmers that would come up into the lights to take bait just below the surface and most people were getting stopped on the way down during the last hour. It was all you wanted. We were done fishing, with all of the rods racked and the cleaning board out by 8:15. The crew worked furiously to clean the squid so that we could slowly motor in and end up tied up and offloading anglers at 9:45.
This is a great way to pull on some really big and fascinating creatures that are quite tasty when prepared properly. I recommend at least 30-pound line and a few extra squid jigs and weights. A great trick is to tie about 2 feet of mono below the bottom ring on your squid jig and attach a 4 ounce torpedo weight. When you get your squid aboard, you don’t have to reach into that mass of angry tentacles to retrieve your jig from its maw. You just pick up the torpedo weight and it backs the pins right out of the squid from a safe distance. The squid stays on the deck and you can drop the rig right back down.
As far as eating these things, they are great, but you need to cut the membrane off of both sides, cut them into squares about half the size of a playing card, and then pound them until they are twice that size, but much flatter. Then I recommend breading and deep frying in oil for about two minutes, or until golden brown. They are great dipped in marinara sauce and are an excellent entrée or cocktail appetizer.
Nick, one of guys from Iowa with whom I hung out, snapped this picture of me with one of the four squid I took home. I would say that this one was fairly typical of what we caught that evening: