I am a complete ROOKIE when it comes to hunting. In fact, I have only been on 2 hunts (One wild Pig and One Spring Turkey both successful) so far in 2016. I started this new adventure in late 2015 after having a small child and remembering all the incredible deer hunting conversations I had with both of my grandfathers. Unfortunately, both my grandfathers have passed and my father was never interested in learning the craft. Living in Southern California has made it extremely difficult to find any support with the subject. In fact, when I bring up the subject many colleagues, friends and family look shocked with disgust. These are the same people that have no issues going to In&Out or the Habit for lunch everyday.. Crazy hypocrites! I also live 1.5 hours from the closest hunting store ... Easy to say that Southern Cal is not the place to learn how to hunt..
So I went to Google and typed in, "Hunting School" and found Bitterwater Outfitters in central California. I contacted them immediately, blindly sent them full payment and waited anxiously without any real expectation.
A couple weeks later I showed up to "Headquarters" (Which was a trick to find so make sure you use google not your onboard Navigation) and was introduced to my teacher. The first day was all about the classroom and skills. We went over hunting theory, safety, different animals, CA regulations vs Other state regulations, dressing different animals, private locations to hunt, public locations to hunt and real life experience "Do's and Dont's." The second 1/2 of the first day we spent at the range which is where things started to get fun. We got comfortable with shooting targets at 50, 100, 200 and 300 yards. Focusing on the wind, breathing, different types of ammo, gun handling techniques and etc. The goal was to become an "Ethical" hunter by constantly striving for 1.5 inch groups. This is a LOT HARDER than you could imagine. Afterwards we spent time with moving targets, shooting from different positions and using different aids like shooting sticks. The first day was jam packed to say the least..
The second day I got there super early... Anxious to experience an actual hunt but nervous about the process of actually killing something. My teacher showed up and we jumped into a ranger and headed out. We spent a good portion of the morning looking for signs, quizzes on different animal tracks, focusing on the wind, direction of the sun, angle of the slopes and even where you should be during a deer hunt with lots of hunting pressure on the game. Finally around 10am we found the pigs we were looking for. We spent 20 mins or so getting into position where I could have the best chances of having a clean kill. Perfect shot through the lungs at 171 yards. At the moment I was excited, remorseful and relieved to not let down the guy who spent the last two days training me. We hiked up to the animal and started the field dressing process. We went over things like the favored locations, head pointed up or down the hill, the use of sticks, rocks or other natural aids, types of field dressing depending on how far you are from camp, trophies, packing out the meat, different cuts of meat and ultimately the safe handling of it to make sure it doesn't spoil. I thought this process was going to be the worst but it turned out to be the single event that tied it all together for me.
Since then I went on two hunts and both were successful. The experience with Bitterwater Outfitters, Clayton and my teacher couldn't have been more professional and amazing. The hunting tradition lives on because of their patients, experience and knowledge.
Please feel free to PM if you're in CA and looking for a hunting partner. Been looking at some areas down in San Diego county where their is a fairly decent pig population.