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Calling California Hunters

Boy, am I at a complete lost about where to find help about this one.

I'm faced wtih the opportunity of going feral pig (wild hog, wild boar) hunting this December on a friend's ranch in the Stockton area. Now, I'm totally counting my hogs before they're shot, but what happens if I have the luck of hitting one? My friend's never butchered one; he says he gives them to neighbors and he's not sure what they do.

Short of bothering his neighbors, are there websites where I can look up how to find people who specialize in butchering wild game? I imagine it's not something I should take up on my own.

Any information about wild game hunting in California is greatly appreciated: where to go, tips on hunting, safety precautions, how to make sure a catch is safe to eat, how to store the meat, experience with curing wild hog (I already have images of homemade bacon and prosciutto dancing in my head).


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  1. I'd probably start by looking at the California Dept of Fish and Game: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/

    Here's a great article (10 years old) that brought a lot of attention to hunting feral pigs in NorCal. It explains the process in concept.

    Tell us how it goes and how's the pig.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ML8000

      I would just Google keywords dressing wild game feral pig or boar. Nowadays with the plethora of info on the web you should be deluged with information.

      1. re: Servorg

        I noticed that the link above is no longer good but found a good replacement link that takes you to the same list as before: http://www.predatorwild.com/topic/386...

      2. That was one of my favorite activities when I lived in the US and in California. Lucky you. Don't wory about butchering the butchering. The key thing is good field dressing.

        1. Whatever you do don't put a shot into the body; such a waste of good meat. Second, pick a ridge overlooking a rutted area and wait for them to come back. They're creatures of almost ritualistic habits.

          If you have any used book stores you can visit, there are several books from the 70s and 80s on dressing different game. I found "Hunting Wild Boar in California" by Bob Robb a good read and very informative.

          Good luck and tell us how it turns out!

          1. Thanks everyone!

            I don't think anyone going on the trip has ANY field dressing equipment. The only experienced hunter has always given the carcass away. I'm a decent shot when only tin cans and paper outlines are involved, but have never taken my skills out into the field.

            So it looks like at a minimum I'm going to have to buy something to hoist the pig onto a tree, bring a knife strong enough to cut it, bring plenty of water and rubber gloves, and get all the entrails and the esophagus out so the meat doesn't sour. I assume that butchering beyond that (including skinning) I can leave to a butcher? Please tell me if I'm wrong.

            Also, is there a good hunting supply store in San Francisco or anywhere in the Bay Area? I'd love to go get some advice along with supplies.

            This is all so exciting; I hope I have something to report back!

            8 Replies
            1. re: Pei

              I strongly suggest you contact one of the wild game butchers in the link I posted and ask them for some guidance. I am sure they can give you some good advice on your questions.

              1. re: Pei

                Other than guns, you can probably get some hunting supplies at Kaplans at a good price.

                1. re: Pei

                  Way OT but Kirby's in Cupertino on Stevens Creek will have the supplies and experienced sportsmen you will wish to talk to.

                  1. re: The Ranger

                    "Kirby's in Cupertino on Stevens Creek "


                  2. re: Pei

                    Yes. You need a small pully hoist, good hunting knife, and rubber gloves. Try for a heart or lung shot. It will all be really worth it.

                    1. re: Pei

                      don't know how it is in cali, but here, lots of smaller butchers/processors will do finish butchering of game (after you have done the field dressing yourself). especially in areas where there is lots of hunting activity, the processor will advertise this right on their sign (deer, boar, bear, elk, moose)-- but you may want to call around to butchers/processors that are convenient to either the field, or your home location, to find out if they process game-- a yellow pages might be more useful than expecting small shops to have a website. lurk on local hunters' websites--better yet, go to country bars-- to find out which shops do the best sausages, etc. you need to inquire about price-- they will probably give you a quote by *hanging weight*-- that is, the weight of the whole animal, minus head and entrails, before it's cut up. obviously, you are not just shopping for a place that can process your meat *cheaply*-- you want the best, and someone who will work with you on special cuts-- but you can get a ballpark idea of what it will cost to process your animal. you also want to make sure you can find a processor who will *hang* your carcass to your specifications. one thing a lot of new hunters don't realize is that if someone gets a lucky shot, there isn't going to be a porkchop party that evening or the next day-- the meat must hang, & age for some time first.

                      you can separate the soft organs for yourselves when you do the field dressing-- the kidneys, liver, and other soft organ meats (highly perishable delicacies) are traditionally cooked by, & for, the hunting party on the same day of the kill, so you might want to brush up on some of those offal recipes). the head is generally the prize of the hunter who got the killing shot, so that s/he can get started on head cheese while the rest of the carcass hangs (alternately/theoretically, s/he can give it away). you can take the head off yourself in the field, or, if you're not feeling all "lord of the flies," it's totally acceptable to have the butcher do this for you when you take the carcass in, and have them quarter it for your convenience. watch out for the bladder--don't accidentally pierce this organ as you are doing your field dressing-- *duh*, i know, but it bears some repeating ;-)

                      happy hunting

                      oh-- p.s. if you are an enthusiastic sausage maker, you can sometimes request your carcass' scrap from the butcher and do some of the sausages yourself, for a slight discount, if that's up your alley at all.

                      1. re: Pei

                        I just remembered the name of a shop you might try...Traders, in San Leandro. It's not that big a place, but they stock a lot of hunting gear.

                      2. For starters, I happen to live in Stockton, so I'm envious of you and your opportunity. Having said that, you'll need to know how to field dress a carcass. Most important is getting the guts and blood out and allowing the meat to cool as much as possible. Gutting a carcass is messy, especially the first time you do it, but it's actually a fairly simple process. You'll need some string, a SHARP knife (a relatively short blade is better than a honkin' Jim Bowie knife), a ton of paper towels, trash bags, and some water. A gambrel and rope to suspend the hog is nice to have, but not essential. Rubber gloves are also nice to have, and a lot of hunters I know also carry rubber (dairy) boots just for field dressing big game.

                        First (well, after you've confirmed that the pig is dead), hoist the pig by it's hind legs using the gambrel and rope...if you can't get it completely off the ground, get it as high as you can. If you don't have the gambrel and rope, try and arrange the carcass so the head is lower than the body. Slit the throat to drain the blood. Then turn your attention to the viscera: put on your rubber gloves, and start your incision just above the anus, and make a shallow cut toward the head to the sternum. Do NOT cut into any of the organs (that's why a shorter blade is better...and you can get knives made specifically for field dressing that have a hooked blade). You especially do not want to cut into the intestines, or it'll ruin your day (and the meat). Take a length of string and wrap it several times around the large intestine just above the anus to close it off completely, and tie it securely. Once you've done this, cut AROUND the anus. You'll then be able to pull the entire digestive tract out of the carcass, trimming the connective tissues that help keep it all in place. When you've got it mostly out, reach as far up the esophagus as possible, and sever it to remove a huge pile o' guts. The heart and lungs will come out fairly easily, too, by carefully cutting the connective tissues that hold them in place, but again, take care not to pierce them.

                        Put the guts in a trash bag. Alternately, you can bury them, but if you do that, try to dig down a foot or two, don't just kick a little dirt over them and call it good. Then take some paper towels and wipe down the carcass inside and out, trying to get as much blood and stuff out as possible. Repeat with wet paper towels.

                        Practice breathing through your mouth, too. You'll thank me.

                        As for processing the carcass, I can't make any recommendations, but I do know of one place you might try. Sawyer's Meat Service is just outside Lodi on Harney Lane, and I'm pretty sure they'll do wild game.

                        One last word of advice: I don't know what kind of rifle you're using (anything larger than a .270 is fine), but have a backup weapon handy. Pigs, unlike most other popular game animals, have been known to charge the hunter. Once you've wounded a pig at, say, 100 yards, if it charges you, your rifle may not be the best thing to use to anchor it, because it'll probably be sighted in at a much longer range than 75-50-25-10 yards (as the pig approaches). A .41 or .44 mag handgun will work just fine as a backup, but most hunters I know think that anything smaller is too small (and that includes a .357 mag). And a heart/lung/shoulder shot is much more reliable than a head shot - pigs have very thick skulls.

                        Good luck, and happy hunting!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ricepad

                          A friend had a big, ugly boar’s head mounted on his fireplace (I mean really ugly). He's divorced now… there might be a connection. Hunting in tule tunnels by a game refuge, he and his quarry almost came face to face. A shot to the head with a .357 mag. caused the pig to pause while the cobwebs cleared, but a rifle shot to the lungs stopped the ensuing charge. I think ricepad has given good advice. Another friend who hunts pigs to eat always shoots the smaller, young adults, usually several. He says the meat on bigger pigs is too tough.

                        2. A game processor in the Stockton area is in Lockeford, Lockeford Meats, in Jackson try Swingels.

                          1. Folks, just a reminder that our focus on Chowhound is pretty narrow -- even here on the Not About Food board, we deal with issues that are food-related, if not quite about food. If you've got suggestions on the more food related aspects of Pei's questions (where he can find a butcher, how to cure the meat, etc), that's great, but topics like hunting and gun safety are really too far afield for our site and would be better addressed on a hunting specific site.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: The Chowhound Team

                              oh no-- my post was deleted along with the rest of the OT gun-related discussion-- but i had a real food-related question for Pei and the other cali hunters-- :) i promise i won't get silly, or veer into pistol calibers, in this post:

                              is there a regular hunting *season* for feral pigs, or any other game, in cali? or is it all private land activity? do folks in cali/sf area eat a lot of game, not so much, or none at all? i ask because of personal experiences i've had with californian diners who are not familiar with game-- are they typical? there also seems to be a dearth of game preparations/recipes in all of my cali-cuisine cookbooks,

                              Alice waters

                              i am so very curious, after some posts in this discussion, about whether or not the left coasters, er. . .got game?

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                There definitely is a dearth of game served in Calfornia, and I'm not sure of the reason. It's served at some special event meals, and a good selection of game is available at Polarica. Maybe locals' tastes don't run to game (heck, it's free range, nu?) but I bet you and I could make a fortune with a decent game restaurant.

                                At the Jean-Talon Farmers' Market in Montreal there is a vendor who sells various game sausages on a stick (for $1.00!). There is nothing that would make me love the Ferry Building Farmers Market more .

                                1. re: Xiao Yang

                                  if you have the venue, Xiao Yang, i'll pack my knives and head out there! can i bring dh? he makes mean venison & boar. :)

                                2. re: soupkitten

                                  There are seasons for all game (albeit I don't know the current regulations regarding feral pigs in CaliFORNIA (!!!!!@). Land ownership has nothing to do with the wildlife and hunting regulations. Land owners cannot hunt out of season and must obey limits.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Actually, there's no season in California for hunting pigs. No bag limits, either. I publish the state Fish and Game regulations, and it has always amused me that after pages and pages of detailed regulations on when, where, how and how many deer you can hunt (and other detailed regulations governing hunting of birds and other mammals), the regulation on wild pig hunting reads, in its entirety:

                                    "§ 368. Wild Pig.
                                    Wild pigs may be taken only as follows:
                                    (a) General Season: Open all year.
                                    (b) Bag and Possession Limit: There is no daily bag or possession limit for wild pigs."

                                    Of course you still need a license and need to follow basic hunting rules, but otherwise, go for it! Wild pigs are basically vermin -- they're very destructive to both forests and agricultural lands, and the state is more than happy to have you kill them.

                                    Speaking of wild pigs foodwise, remember that unlike domestic pigs, wild pigs may have trichinosis, so prepare with that in mind.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Strictly speaking, there IS a season...it's all year. Not only do you need a license, but you need tags, too. Your reminder about trichinosis is dead on, tho...

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        thanks for that info Ruth-- do you have any idea about how broadly popular hunting & eating feral pigs is? or deer, etc for that matter?

                                        (in danger of veering off topic again) with no bag limit on pigs, i wonder if local food shelves out there accept wild boar meat, the way ones near me accept venison.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          I haven't been actively seeking it out, but game is not very widely eaten in CA outside of hunting circles. Restaurants rarely offer it, and when they do it's kind of a big deal. Think about it; my friend's friend grew up hunting on his family's ranch, and it's never occured to him to try and eat one of his catches. That seems completely crazy to me; if I grew up shooting something I'd wonder at some point whether it was edible.

                                          I hope it doesn't mean that there's something horribly wrong with the wild pigs in his area; I suspect that it's just unfamiliar to a lot of people.

                                          1. re: Pei

                                            Like many foods that contain unfamiliar tastes and scents, wild boar can and often is too "gamy" for a large portion of the population. Those of us that enjoy the unusual, also enjoy that aspect of food.

                                            Also remember that most wild game meat is very blood-rich tissue; the animals don't sit around in a pen being fed a strict diet.

                                            There was a restaurant in Menlo Park, CA that served several game dishes. It recently closed because no one went to it.

                                            In my deer, pheasant, boar, duck and goose hunts, we always eat what we shoot. Fundamentally, I don't understand "sport" hunting or fishing, let alone eradication efforts (bobcat and other predators). So shooting feral pigs in such a way doesn't sit very well with me.

                                            I will guarantee there is nothing wrong with the pigs you bag. Luck! May you drop it with one and not need to follow it.

                                            1. re: The Ranger

                                              Your comment on "sport" hunting reminded me of Oscar Wilde's definition of fox hunting as "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable."

                                            2. re: Pei

                                              interesting! weird, to me, but interesting :)

                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          The CA / Cali / Cal / SFO / Frisco / SF / San Fran discussion has been split over here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5732...

                                    2. You might email Tom Stienstra @ SF Chronicle. Outdoor writer/hunter/fisherman. He'd have some great advice.

                                      for a butcher, Wolfsen's Meat Locker in Gustine could help you.

                                      From what I've heard, those javelinas are dangerous, mean animals. Please be prepared.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                        Most wild pigs that are hunted in California are not javelinas, but are crosses of various percentages between Russian (?) wild boars and domestic pigs that have gone feral. In the wild, some pigs look like they belong in a sty, while others are...well...wild-looking. As was mentioned earlier, too, the smaller pigs make for better eating.

                                        1. re: ricepad

                                          old timer hunters around here (coastal backcountry) always carry a side arm because the wild pigs are so unpredictable and agressive. Maybe groups/families of pigs are different?

                                          1. re: toodie jane

                                            I don't think so...any pig that's been wounded can be dangerous, whether it was in a group or alone when shot. (You may have missed the posts - now deleted - recommending backup firearms.)

                                            Javalinas, which are desert dwellers, can be even more dangerous than the Russian boars, but "Javies" aren't as common a game animal because...well...it's HOT in the desert!

                                        1. re: ricepad

                                          Sadly, it has yet to happen. The owner of the ranch is suddenly swamped at work so the rest of us are just standing by until he gets a free weekend. Darn this economy!!!

                                          1. re: Pei

                                            If you're headed south, try Sander's Meat Locker in Turlock once you harvest your pig and get it field dressed. They butcher game and make the most outstanding sausage.

                                        2. Just another bump to check if Pei has gone on that hunt yet...

                                          1. Pei, Dept of Fish & Game is holding a wild pig seminar in Sonoma County in Duncan Mills, which is not far from Guerneville where you've stayed before. According to announcement, it includes not only hunting practices but also instruction in field dressing and boar recipes.

                                            June 12 2010
                                            Russian River Sportsman Club, Duncan Mills, Sonoma Co

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Thank you so much! Our trip was postponed indefinitely due to a death in the family of the person who owns the ranch. So aside from sending him our condolences, we're looking for other beginner hunting opportunities. This helps a lot!

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Holy whatever! Melanie, I knew you were a great source in the Bay Area and environs but this is really something. Almost a year after the last post too. Is there anything you don't know about in the area?

                                                Lots of admiration for all your contributions here. :o)))

                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                  i had some sausage made from feral pig a few months ago. good flavor, spices, but even with added pork fat, and there was some fat cooked out, it was very dry. maybe it needed more grinding to incorporate added fat?