Huge Hogs, Exotics and Wild Turkey Abound at Bitterwater

November 27, 2015
By Jim Niemiec
Western Outdoor News Staff Writer

BITTERWATER VALLEY — Hunting really came together this past weekend for hunters at Bitterwater Outfitters. Master guide Clayton Grant gathered his top guides for a meeting on Friday evening, giving each individual instructions on how he had planned hunt(s) for the following morning. Half the group of hunters would be staying at ranch headquarters, located at the top end of Bitterwater Valley, while the remaining shooters would be meeting up at 5 a.m. to transfer to a fleet of 4x4s and ATVs for the short drive to the hunting grounds.

HUGE BOARS FOR A FATHER-AND-SON HUNT — These huge boars were shot on one of Bitterwater Outfitters ranches last weekend. Pictured are Dane and Nick Moll, Tony and Eric Dragt and Cody Clouber, all of Visalia. The biggest boar weighed close to 300 pounds. PHOTO COURTESY OF BITTERWATER OUTFITTERS.

One of the main big game species on top of the list of wild game to harvest were hogs, which have been coming on strong for many ranches in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties after good rains fell in this region this past spring and well into the summer months. Not only are there still stubble fields holding grain, but pistachios are being harvested with lots of nuts on the ground, and then throw in some un-harvested grapes, which all combine to make a huge buffet for hogs.

First to arrive at the ranch the day before the hunt was a hunting party from Visalia, made up of Dane Moll and his young son Nick, Tony Dragt and his  young son Eric along with first time junior hunter Tony Clouber. This team was booked to hunt hogs and for each junior hunter it would be their first taste of big game hunting in California. Other hunters would hunt for hogs as well and then move on to exotics during the middle of the day, while this hunting editor headed off to Pozo Valley in hopes of harvesting a big gobbler for Thanksgiving dinner.

The following morning was the first day of the fall turkey season and also opening day for the second half of dove season. While loafing on the veranda of hunt headquarters dove were piling into a nearby stubble field and then topping off their evening flight by getting a drink of water from the roping arena. Unfortunately there wouldn't be enough time in the morning to take advantage of a huntable number of mourning dove on ranch property prior to heading out on hunts.

Hunting fall turkey can be easy or extremely difficult depending on the ranch being hunted and the behavior of flocked up birds. Our quest was to try to locate a flock birds on a 5,000 acre ranch covered in a variety of oaks, vineyards, head tall sage and chaparral. There was little time in advance of the hunt to locate roosting site(s), but assistance from a cowboy for that ranch at least gave us a place to start looking. By 10 a.m. we had only seen some nice bucks, lots of dove and a couple of coveys of valley quail but no turkeys or tracks. My guide stopped his 4X4 to get a text from Clayton that showed a picture of five successful hog hunters kneeling behind a carnage of huge wild hogs. As the guide texted back, this hunter looked up the side of a shady hillside and spotted movement of a small flock of turkeys topping the ridge.

Unfortunately that small satellite group of jakes and couple of toms disappeared into thick cover, consisting mostly of poison oak, as the pursuit was called off.

Now it was approaching 11 a.m. and getting warmer. From past fall hunts this hunting editor knew turkeys would seek shade soon, but continue to move around under a canopy of live oaks, sage and chaparral. Spotting a lone tom standing in the shade of a stately oak tree, a stalk was planned. It was another satellite group of jakes and toms with the last bird sporting the longest beard of the group. These birds were on alert and moving off up the side of the densely covered hillside but then offering a clear shot between a pair of huge oaks. Off hand at 50 yards this hunter pulled the trigger of the Benelli M2 while aiming at the last turkey as it stopped and rolled  up under a small live oak. It was a lucky shot at that distance, but #4 HeviShot did its job and a 23 lb. gobbler, with a 8.5 inch beard would now make for an awesome wild game feed on Thanksgiving day. 

Back at ranch headquarters the crew was just finishing up on cleaning hogs and exotics from the morning's hunt, as an ATV pulled up with three happy young hunters and a cargo area heaped with more hogs. To say the least the boys and their fathers were extremely happy with the results of the morning's hunt, but were sorry they didn't bring shotguns along to enjoy a good evening flight of dove on the ranch. As WON was departing this hunt party was planning on doing some fishing at the two ponds located just below a new 2 bedroom bunkhouse on the ranch that overlooks the twin ponds and the vast Bitterwater Valley below.

Western Outdoor News talked with Grant prior to leaving hunt headquarters and he had the following to report.

"This has been a great fall of hunting. Our season of blacktail bucks was off the wall with many nice racks harvested and there are still lots of deer around, which should bode well again for next September. Hogs seem to be very strong once again and they are fat. That one hog shot by Dane Moll had to weigh nearly 300 lbs. and it sported some pretty good tusks as well.

With grain and pistachios on the ground, plenty of water around and good breeding conditions hog hunting should hold all winter long and well into the early spring months. We have limited our harvest of gobblers on a number of prime ranches, which should increase the success of turkey hunters looking to harvest a big gobbler come next spring. Weekend hunts are booking up fast for all big game hunts and early turkey hunts, so I would encourage anyone looking to hunt on our 21 ranches, consisting of over 255,000 acres of ranch land, contact us soon at," said Grant.

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Clayton Grant and Bitterwater Outfitters is top notch. It was well run, Clayton was easy to be around and it was a great family feeling. Clayton was just as excited to go hunting as we were. I have heard negative things about guided hunts but I can’t think of anything negative to say about Clayton Grant or Bitterwater Outfitters. Clayton likes to show people a good time and a good hunt.
Stan Lawry