The Boar Hunters
THE BOAR HUNTERS
By Steve Boehne
In 1970, I was studying at Cal. State Fullerton full time and shaping surfboards; part time = winter, full time = summer, the perfect student job. The guy I worked for, Bob Highsmith owned three surf shops; Plastic Fantastic, Soul Surfboards and Surf Craft Hawaii. The boards in each shop were all priced differently, according to the strength of the name, but I shaped them all from the same blanks. In addition, I started my own brand of boards Infinity Surfboards for which I was trying to find dealers since I didn’t have a shop of my own.
Bob’s Glasser, Gary Turnagel was into hunting. He invited Bob and I to join him Boar hunting up in Big Sur, Northern Calif. Bob was all over that idea; he went to the army surplus store and bought camouflage fatigues and combat boots. This was before the arrival of “gouache” hiking boots. He also went to the gun shop and bought a gazillion dollar hunting rifle. I told Gary I didn’t have a hunting rifle and he said don’t worry; I have an extra one you can use. I said ok, but brought along my little 22 caliber revolver anyway. I put together some old ski clothes because it was February, dead of winter and I knew it would be cold up north.
We left Huntington Beach about noon in Bob’s new Ford Van and got into Big Sur a couple hours after dark.. Big Sur is between Morrow Bay and Monterey Bay. It is one of the most beautiful areas of Calif. where Hwy.1 zigzags along rugged ocean cliffs and the coastal mountains are wild. We took a side road off Hwy 101 and drove deep into the mountains. It was a cold, dressily night with a thick ground fog. Gary knew an old hunter’s lodge where we could have dinner. We parked next to a few rusty old pick-up trucks and walked into the log cabin style building. It was fairly dark inside with a long whisky bar and a fat, bearded bar tender. There were a few tables and two pool tables. Country music was playing from an ancient radio sitting on the bar. Up on the walls, around the entire perimeter of the musky room were mounted nasty looking boar heads, big buck heads with massive antlers and big mountain trout. The boar heads were particularly ominous looking because of their little black eyes, long bristly hair and the big tusks curling up out of their mouths.
Several very crusty guys were sitting at the largest table eating dinner and drinking bottles of Bud. We took a table and naturally, ordered 3 Buds. The place only offered Coors or Budweiser. The menu was small, but exotic. You could get beans and cabbage slaw with beef, buffalo steak, boar burgers, or venison (seasonal). To get into boar mode, we all ordered boar burgers. One of the crusty old guys asked: What-a yawl guys doin up here? Gary was 6’2”, 240 lb. and looked pretty crusty himself because he had grown a neck beard especially for this occasion. He had shaved down to his jaw line and the beard looked like moss growing under his chin. Gary answered: We’re go’n boar hunt’n up at deep creek. The guy answered: yawl be careful, them boar can charge and tear your guts out with them tusks before you can even see’um in the bush. One of the other guys said: Ya, I put six slugs in that one’s head before he quite chargin at my ass. He pointed at a monster head up on the wall. Gary and Bob were really getting into the place, drinkin, huntin tawk and what-all. Finally, a couple-a hours later, we drove on up to Gary’s secret spot at Deep Creek.
Gary parked on a ridge about 25 feet above the creek. We arranged our sleeping bags in the back of the van. It was decided that the two of them would face the front and I would sleep between them on the floor facing the rear. I didn’t sleep much that night thinking about charging boars plus Gary’s 20-second blubber farts were worse than Bob’s snoring. At 6 am Bob’s alarm wristwatch went off and we swung into action. They put their camouflage outfits on and I found an old green sweatshirt. They unwrapped their powerful weapons and handed me an old army rifle. I said: What’s this? Gary said that’s a semi automatic M1 carbine from WW2 with a 10 shot clip. He showed me how to load the clip and stick it into the gun. Man, I was set. From up on the ridge, through the glow of first light we had a perfect view of the watering hole below. Gary and Bob heated a pot of coffee, sat down in their “hunting” chairs and started drinking Baylee’s and coffee. I was perplexed, let’s go get the boars I said. They just answered we’re gonna wait here for’um. I stood there for about 10 minutes then couldn’t take it anymore. I said: well, I’m going down there and find the boars. I slithered quietly down the path to the creek and found that the boars had already been there and left. There were steaming, black boar turds everywhere. Now that I look back on it, Gary’s idea was pretty good; they could have just sat there and shot them boar from the ridge, but they were about an hour late.
The boars couldn’t have gone far. I crossed the creek onto a bank of mud and mashed boar turds, then saw a tunnel leading through thick underbrush heading up the opposite bank. As I looked into the tunnel I could see other tunnels going right and left. I was thinking about crawling up into the tunnels, but then I heard a snarling grunt up in the underbrush and basically chickened out. After seeing those boar heads mounted on the walls of that hunting lodge, crawling on hands and knees in a boar tunnel even with an M1 rifle didn’t seem like the best idea. I turned around and headed back across the creek up to the great “chair hunters”. When I got there, they had scrambled eggs started on a Coleman stove and they were laughing at me. I said: What are you laughing at, I just heard a boar down there. Gary said: Shoot your gun. I said: I don’t want to shoot the gun and scare all the boars away! Gary said: Well, just shoot it anyway. So I aimed it down at a boar turd and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened; the damn thing was busted. Those guys thought that was so funny. Since the great “chair hunters” each had their expensive gauche rifles across their laps, I threw down that busted rifle, grabbed my 22 pistol and headed out of camp.
I followed a long footpath in the opposite direction up to the top of a high mountain peak. It took about an hour to get up there, but when I got to the top, the sun was just above the horizon; the valleys were full of fog and the ridges stretched up into the early morning sky. The view was beautiful. I sat against a big granite bolder to just enjoy the quiet scene. After I was there for about 30 minutes, I heard quiet movement behind me. I stood up slowly to peer around the bolder. Just on the other side of the bolder, not six feet away from me stood a big deer buck with massive antlers. He saw me, but because I moved so slowly, he froze. I could have hit him over the head with a stick he was so close. His eyes were big, deep and dark. I truly believe that he knew it wasn’t deer season, because he slowly turned and walked away.
I wondered around in the woods for another hour and eventually went back to see what the great “chair hunters” had done. They were napping after a few beers and their tough morning of chair hunting. We decided to move camp to a small river running down the central valley. After setting up camp I decided to shoot some ground squirrels for dinner. There were hundreds of them everywhere. They had dug hundreds of tunnels to the point that even the paved road was caving in from the excavation. I blasted four of them with a shotgun Gary also had. When I brought them back to camp. I wasn’t sure how to “clean” them, so I cut their bellies open, pulled the guts out and threw them into the river. I thought I should skin ‘um, so I cut the skin around their necks, grabbed hold of their heads and pulled the skin off one at a time. Well, let me tell you, it took about 200lb. of pull to part those squirrels from their skin. By the time I was done I had squirrel blood running down my chest and arms. It was nearly dark and getting cold. I decided to just jump into the freezing cold river and get the bath over with as quick as possible.
The boys had a nice bar-b-que fire going and they were preparing mushrooms sautéed in wine and corn on the cob to go with their thick steaks. I didn’t care, I was having squirrel for dinner. When I put the squirrels on the fire they smelled bad, like something wild. When I tried to eat one it was exactly like biting into an old leather boot that was full of dead bugs and then charbroiled. Luckily, there was another steak in the cooler for me.
The next morning, I decided to shoot some more squirrels. I was kinda pissed at them anyway. I was blasting away when the game warden drove up in his green pick up truck. He stopped and asked me what we were doing up here. I said we were boar hunting, but since we hadn’t gotten any boar, I was hunting ground squirrels. He said please shoot all of them you can. They are under cutting the road and even killing the oak trees. I said I’d do my best to help. He said: they’re no good for nothing, you know last week a couple of guys even tried eating those nasty varmints. I laughed knowingly and said: That’s the most stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!
Then we packed up and headed home.