Public Land Expenses Vs Guided Hunt Cost.
I hear so many people bemoan the cost of hiring a hog hunting guide, too much public land with pigs out there they claim. Let's take a closer look at the costs and other intangibles for hunting hog in CA.
Most of my hog hunts this year were to FHL (Fort Hunter Liggett) http://www.jesseshunting.com/fort-hunter-liggett-fhl-hunting-fishing-info-maps, 5 trips in total. FHL is about the best public land success I've seen in CA unless you have a sweet honey hole somewhere that isn't well known.
PERMITS/TAGS. $100 FHL yearly hunt permit
FUEL. $750 for gas, $150 roughly for diesel @ $4.10 gal per trip x 5 trips. One trip with guide to same area would be $150 and I wouldn't be driving all over in my truck hunting and scouting
LODGING. $750 for Gibbs Hall lodging. Some guides have a cabin or camp area so this is hard to compare. There is a campground at FHL for $10 a night so it's almost a wash on lodging. I like the motel thing sometimes and do the camper thing other times.
MEALS. $100 for food each trip approx. Some guides will feed you lunch and sometimes even supper and breakfast. On your own you're buying everything.
HOG KNOWLEDGE. No guide vs guide knowing where pigs are and more than likely a shot the same day arrive. Some public places take years to learn so you can't say when someone will get a hog on public land. I know guys who've hunted FHL for years and haven't taken a pig. I also know a guy who shot a pig on his first and 2nd trip to FHL, he is the exception and had someone with him who knew the fort and put him right on the hogs.
TIME IS MONEY. FHL is about a 5 hour ride for me one way and to get the best area you'll need to take Friday off to get to the window to get a good pig area before they close at 5pm. If you live closer than maybe just a half a day. With a guide you can roll in Friday night or get there earlier with many of them and hunt Friday afternoon/evening. Your call. On private land you're also not competeing with other hunts like at FHL. There's been a few times we've glassed up hogs and started to stalk them only to have another group closer take the shot. Or even worse, knuckleheads who can't shoot worth a darn that are WAY out of range start blasting away, only to run the hogs off. Oh well, that's public land hunting.
LEARNING THE ROPES. Guides also will teach you some tricks to hog hunting, public land is OJT. The learning curve is much steeper on your own. Guides will many times gut, skin and even package your hog for an extra charge. Some will gut it for free. If you've never done it before it's worth it to watch to see how to do it next time. Maybe even jump in to help to get your hands on training. What is that meat processing knowledge worth? I've seen some good pork wasted by a few newbies who didn't know where to cut or to keep the piss sack from exploding all over the hams. Guides usually have a cooler to hang the meat if you're staying the night, on public land you need a big cooler and lots of ice or you get to race home to the butcher. Something many don't want to do after a midnight recovery and skinning session. A nice cold one and shower and bed sound a lot better at that time.
$575 for sure thing vs $1000+ for a maybe, depending on your luck and how fast you can learn the public areas. If it takes 3 years to kill a public land hog, do the math, now you're into several thousand dollars. Even if momma doesn't put her foot down on you spending all that coin and not bringing home any pork, you're gonna start questioning your own sanity.
Which one is cheaper again?
Hogs like water and good food, which is usually found on private land or there is no hunting allowed like in the many state or county parks. Sure hogs may transition areas that are public but you have to be there when they do and hogs are not know to stay out all day, they love the night. That leaves you two choices, hire a guide or tough it out on public land. Maybe do both, hire a guide for your first hunt and then you're a leg up on what to look for and how to skin it once you get one.
TIPS ON USING A GUIDE
BE HONEST. Tell the guide what kind of shape you're in and what kind of shooter you are. Tell them what kind of hunt you want, spot and stalk, sit and ambush etc. If you can't make long shots please don't try and BS the guide, they'll know the first time you start shooting what kind of shot you are. The guides can adjust to make your hunt more enjoyable if you're up front with them. If you out of shape and the guide runs you up and down some big hills you're not going to be able to catch your breath for a steady shot. Same if you have and older partner who can't get around well, he can still hunt from the road.
WHAT'S THE DEALIO? Ask what the whole hunt entails. Do they serve meals or snacks? I heard of one hunter who showed up with literally nothing to eat or drink and he had to run into town to get supplies after a few hours. Ask what the lodging is like, a nice rustic cabin or a run down bunkhouse full of mice that will drive you or your wife nuts and you'll be sharing with others? Warm showers or out under a hose for bathing? Ask to see pictures if they don't have them on a website to look at. Ask when the hunt starts and ends, be very clear on this as some have shown up at noon Friday expecting to hunt that afternoon on a 2 day Sat/Sun hunt and the guide refused to take them out. Some guides will stretch a 2 day hunt into a 2 1/2 day hunt. Others will stop Sunday afternoon so no late hunting that day. Make sure you both are clear on when you will be able to hunt.
MEAT CARE. Ask about field dressing, skinning your pig and if they have a cooler to hang the hog after you skin it. Do they offer to cut and package the meat and how much if they do?
AIM SMALL, MISS SMALL. This is a huge tip, check your gun's zero right before your trip and check your scope screws. I've seen a couple trips ruined because a hunter had a new rifle or ammo and he didn't check it before leaving. Same for loose scope screws, you can't hit the broad side of a barn with a wobbling crosshair. Also ask if you need lead free ammo, many hog hunting areas now require the non lead ammo. Non lead ammo DOES NOT shoot the same as lead ammo as far as your rifle zero, you'll need to re-zero your rifle.
ON THE UP & UP. Make sure you sign the guide's log, if the guide dances when you ask and he can't produce his guide log book he's probably not licensed. CAVEAT EMPTOR, buyer beware. Checking the state's licensed guide list isn't 100% since that list is not current. Also, a guide cannot hunt while guiding. If your guide brings along family or friends to hunt while they're supposed to be guiding you it's not a good sign he's looking out for your best interest. You are the client, that is his first responsibilty as a guide. I heard one client complain the guide's high school buddy showed up to shoot quail all around them one morning. How many hogs do you think they saw that day?
PAYING. Most want a deposit to book your date and the rest of the money when you show up. Be wary of someone wanting all the money up front, there are a few rip offs out there who get caught every year selling hog hunts to land they don't even own or have permission to hunt on. Larry Hamilton and his Hunt Club is one well known hog guide rip off artist in CA. Larry advertises in the newspapers along the Central Coast. The DFG has fined Larry for guiding without a license and I hear he's still running his ads. Do a Google search on your guide and that will pop out reviews and and complaints usually.
TIPPING. Most generally agree on tipping that you should start at 15% per hunter. IF the guide goes out of his way to pull your stuck truck out or any other chores he wouldn't normally be doing then add in some more love. If he took the extra time to teach you about certain things, show them you appreciate it. Same for if the guide is a turd, take some off and tell them why. Any good worth a hoot would use that feedback to improve their business if they really care.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
Click here for our Hog Hunting Forum
for any questions you may have or you can read the posts and search for guides and info.
Click here for our CA Hog Hunting Info
page. This has info and pics on how to hunt hogs, butchers list, recipes, taxidermist list and more.
I hope the above helps you sort out how you want to learn hog hunting in CA and how to have an enjoyable hunt. Good luck and make sure and take plenty of pics, you sure earned it.