Pig hunting in California is a fun and oftentimes easy way of putting meat in the freezer. With California’s rapidly growing wild pig population, hunters need to help control numbers. Wild pigs will disrupt and destroy agricultural lands and can be aggressive towards humans and other animals as well.
About Wild Boars
When a wild boar or pig is born, it takes approximately 7-13 months for a sow to be able to reproduce. Litter sizes in wild pigs vary vastly from area to area and depend on several factors, including, but not limited to, environmental conditions such as drought. The average wild boar can have as little as 2-3 pigs in a litter and as many as 7-8 piglets in a litter.
On average, sows will have 1-2 litters per year. Oftentimes these pigs live up to 8 years and can grow to a whopping 300 pounds or more. Feral pigs are typically not pursued by predators leaving the door wide open for extremely volatile population issues.
Adult wild pigs forage 2-4 percent of their body weight per day. In addition, 90 percent of a pig’s diet is plant-based. This means that farmers with even small populations of wild pigs have their hands full protecting their crops. Unfortunately, there are not many ways to keep pigs away. They will damage any fences or barriers to get to the prize.
California Wild Pigs Seasons and Regulations
Hunting wild pigs in California is open all year long during the general hunting season. Resident and nonresident hunters must possess a hunting license and a pig tag before hunting. Methods of taking in the general season include firearms and archery. Successful hunters must file their harvest report promptly to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Depredation tags may be issued for pigs destroying property or posing a threat to livestock. These tags are relatively easy to obtain.
Hunters may purchase unlimited wild pig tags in California at the time of this article.
Currently, dogs are legal in the pursuit of wild pigs in California.
2020/2021 Wild Pig Harvest Data
According to a report published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 53,923 pig tags were parched last hunting license year. Of those tags, 3,950 pigs were reported taken. The data reported from these tags indicate that 91% of the pigs were taken by rifle, and 96% were taken without the use of dogs.
As you can see from the chart above, Monterey county has the highest number of filled pig tags by almost double the next closest county San Luis Obispo. You can see the full 2020-2021 harvest report here.
Where to Hunt Wild Pigs in California
California has no shortage of public lands available to hunters that contain wild pigs. Private lands are even more fertile. Private land wild pig hunts typically are in or around farmlands and agriculture. With an abundant amount of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and some state recreation areas, there is no shortage of places to choose from.
Wild pigs inhabit 56 counties in California but the highest population is the central coast. Counties such as Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo, and Sonoma counties are among the highest density of wild pig populations. Lake and Napa counties have seen an increased population in recent years as well.
California Public Land Hunts
Public lands in California are managed by federal, state, and local government agencies. Depending on the area, fees may be charged to hunt in these areas. The following are potential places for hunters to find wild pigs on Public lands.
North Coast Region
The North Coast region includes Del Norte, Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen, Shasta, Trinity, Humbolt, and Tehama counties. While wild pigs may be located in each of these counties, two of eight counties have significantly higher populations. Humbolt and Tehama counties hold the honors of best pig hunting on public lands, with Trinity as the third. Below are areas that have proven productive, according to CA Fish and Wildlife reports.
- Tehama Wildlife Area
- Mad River Ranger District
- Kings Range National Conservation
Central Sierra Region (Sacramento Valley)
The Central Sierra region, also called the Sac Valley Region, includes Glenn, Butte, Plumas, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Sierra, Nevada, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, and San Joaquin counties. The better wild pig hunting is going to be along the Eastern side of the region that borders the Central Coast Region. Public land hunting of wild pig is difficult in this area and will often require a booked hunting trip. Notable public land areas are listed below.
- Putah Creek Wildlife Area
- Spenceville Wildlife Area
Central Coast Region
The Central Coast Region produces the best pig hunting in California, mostly due to the wild boar population. With an ideal climate and ample food supply, the Central Coast Region can produce large pigs. Counties in this region include Mendocino, Lake, Sanoma, Napa, Marin, Contra Costa, San Fransisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monteray, and San Luis Abispo. The area offers an abundance of public land hunting, some of which are listed below.
- Big Sandy Wildlife Area
- Lake Sonoma Wildlife Area
- Jackson State Forest
- Upper Lake Ranger District
- Cache Creek Wildlife Management District
- Clear Creek Management District
- Fort Hunter Liggett
- Monterey Ranger District
Southern Sierra Region (San Joaquin Valley)
Similar to the Sac Valley Region, the Southern Sierra Region provides decent wild pig hunting along the western edge that borders the Central Coast Region. The region consists of Tuolumne, Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties. While wild boar can be found throughout the area, western Fresno, Merced, and Stanislaus provide decent public land options. Below are a few options if you are unfamiliar with the region.
- Cottonwood Creek
- Little Panoche Wildlife Area
- Groveland Ranger District
- Coalinga Mineral Springs Area
South Coast Region
The Southern Coast Region is the smallest of the regions in California. While it borders the Central Coast Region on the Northwest corner, public land pig hunting areas are difficult to find. Focus your efforts on the vast national forest lands in this area. A pig may be difficult to locate, but they are there.
- Santa Barbara Ranger District
- Los Padres National Forest
California Private Land Hunts
Hunting pigs on private lands is a little more difficult. Anymore, many landowners will simply allow responsible hunters onto their property to hunt. For landowners, these pigs are more than likely affecting their income or way of life by destroying crops and disturbing livestock.
There are three main options available to hunters when trying to hunt private lands.
1. Ask for Permission – Asking private landowners for permission is the first and least common way to gain access. If a landowner allows access to their property, it’s always a great idea to get that permission in writing.
2. Hunting Clubs & Association – Hunting clubs often have leases with private landowners that grant access to their members. Search for local hunting clubs in your area and reach out to them to check membership fees and rules.
3. Hire a Guide – Hiring a professional guide service to take you on a hunt is a great way to gain access and knowledge of wild pigs. These men and women do this for a living and have a deep understanding of wild boar movements and behavior. This option can also be costly but will result in harvesting your animal more times than not.
Equipment Needed for Pig Hunting in California
Hunting wild boar is not typically difficult with a basic understanding of pigs. Unlike hunting deer in California, pigs are not very smart and have not so good vision. They can however smell very well and can catch a scent from miles away.
Sport hunting wild pig must be done with a license and tag in the state of California. Hunters 12 years or older with a valid license and tag may take pigs with firearms and archery. Pigs may not be trapped in California.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the following fee and tag regulations apply.
|Wild Pig Tag||$25.92 Resident $86.97 Nonresident||Resident and nonresident licensed hunters, 12 years of age or older at the time of application, may purchase an unlimited number of Wild Pig Tags. Tags are nonrefundable and nontransferable.|
Fancy hunting gear is not necessary when hunting pigs. Oftentimes you may even use the same firearm used during deer season. There are a plethora of firearms that can be used for pigs, however. Some of the most popular are listed below.
- 264 Winchester
- 260 Winchester
- 30-30 Winchester
- 300 Win Mag
- 250 Savage
- 7mm Remington
- 8 mm Remington Magnum
- 357 Magnum
- 44 Magnum
- 45 ACP
- 20 Gauge
- 16 Gauge
- 20 Gauge
- Broadheads are Required
The firearms listed above are only some of the common guns to take wild pigs. There are much more available. Being in California, ammunition is not always readily available. Choosing a firearm with more available rounds may be advantageous and should be considered.
If you’re willing to pay a small additional fee, there is the option of purchasing ammunition online. Stores like ImpactGuns.com can sell you ammunition but must go through a licensed dealer.
Additional Pig Hunting Gear
- Hunter Orange (recommended)
- Scouting Scope
- First Aid Kit
- Pack with Frame
- Meat Bags
Of the listed items above, the most useful will be hunting binoculars and or a spotting scope for hunting. Like most hunting trips, preparation and stalking are a large part of the hunt. Pig is no different and it can sometimes be difficult to get an ethical shot when they’re grouped.
Something to consider anytime you are in the woods is safety. Carrying a good waterproof lighter or matches and a quality GPS unit is recommended. One item that just may save your life is the Garmin In-Reach Explorer. While not a great GPS unit, it does have the ability to send messages and alert first responders to your location. For more information on the In-Reach Explorer, read the full review here.
Tips for Hunting Wild Pig
1. Identify Tracks/Scat – Wild pig tracks oftentimes look similar to doe. Pig tracks are slightly wider and more rounded. Also, most adult pigs are going to be heavier than your average doe. Depth of the track should be considered if trying to differentiate between the two.
Pig scat is the more identifiable of the two signs. Pig scat is round and elongated similar to the shape of a dog’s droppings. Imagine something between a dog and a bear poop. Identifying the forage in the scat may indicate where the pig is feeding.
2 Roots/Wallows – California wild pigs will root around looking for food such as roots and bulbs underground. They also use mud to cool themselves and deter insects since they don’t have any real cooling mechanisms internally. Look for these areas while scouting and hunting.
A good place to check for these signs of pigs is around ponds, springs, and creeks. Look for wet mud splatters and fresh track leading to and coming from watering holes. This will help you determine if there are active pigs in the area.
3. Tree Rub – Pig will oftentimes use trees and brush to scratch themselves. Looking for rub marks on the trunks of trees is another great way to know if there are active pigs in your hunting location. This is another great way to estimate the size of the wild pigs in the area based on how high the rub marks are.
4. Hunt the Wind – This method of hunting is true for most hunts. Animals, and especially pigs, can smell far better than humans. As we stated earlier wild pigs can smell us hunters miles away. Stay downwind when hunting to decrease your chances of being noticed.
5. Stand Hunting – Stand hunting can be especially effective when you have found an active feeding or water hole. Like most animals, pigs will return to these areas for water and food. Setting up a stand or ground blind can prove beneficial. Watering holes are great spots to hunt wild pigs, especially in California. With many years of drought, pigs will need this water to both drink and cool themselves in our extremely hot and dry seasons.
Final Thought – Hunting Pigs in California
Like most animals that we take, wild pigs in California should be field-dressed and cooled as soon as possible. This is especially true when hunting in hot weather as pigs can spoil somewhat quickly. Hang and cure your pig the same as you would deer for the best meat.
The final consideration with wild pigs is disease and parasites. Pigs have been known to contain diseases that may be transmittable to humans. You may or may not be able to notice meat that is contaminated. Just keep it in the back of your mind when caring for your meat.
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