A modern guide to guns and hunting

Prolog: a hunter is born

“What in the HELL did THAT?!”

My uncle, my two cousins and I had decided to spend the day on a wonderful and picturesque golf course in San Juan Bautista (a small town about 100 miles south of San Francisco). It was a typically glorious spring day in Northern California: the Windex-blue sky was totally cloud free, the sparkling sun made the grass glitter, the lakes shimmer, and kept us comfortable in the shade of the mature oak trees that dotted the rolling hills. And the only thing spoiling this otherwise idyllic day was that I was playing some of the worst golf of my life.

Now mind you, I wasn’t harboring unrealistic expectations here. Long gone were the days when I had the time and inclination to play and practice often enough to delude myself into thinking I was some kind of player. Nowadays, when I golf, I generally consider the day a success if I don’t lose any clubs, break any bones, or run the golf cart into a tree. But today, my quality of play was just simply nauseating, particularly off the tees. We were well into the back nine when I finally hit my first really nice tee shot, which rose majestically over a barranca and beyond a line of tall trees that hid the fairway from our view. Even though I couldn’t see my ball finish, I’d played this course before, and I knew it was perfect.

My happiness was short-lived, though. Upon reaching the landing area of the fairway, I discovered that my “perfect” drive had imbedded itself into one of several strips of mud, right in the middle of the fairway. It looked like someone had taken a roto-tiller to the golf course, right where my ball had decided to land. And this, of course, was the provocation for my above outburst.

My uncle Bob chuckled good-naturedly at my dismay, and replied, “Pigs. Probably rooting for grubs.”

“PIGS?!” I replied in amazement. “And you mean to tell me that the golf course just lets them DO this?”

Now it was my cousins’ turn to laugh at me. Scott, who is a state park ranger, and infinitely more knowledgeable than I on most matters of nature, informed me gently that feral pigs and wild boar are a major source of agricultural and property damage in California. (I would later learn that they are prevalent in all but two of California’s counties, which is amazing adaptation considering they’re not even a New World species.)

As I listened to Scott talk, the wheels in my mind began to turn. “Pigs, huh?” I said rather vaguely. “So…are we allowed to, uh, hunt them or anything?” Revenge was only one of several motivating factors here. If what Scott said was true, I reasoned, then by hunting these wild pigs I’d be doing a favor to farmers, property owners and possibly even the environment. I would also be learning a few things about a pastime that, sadly, goes largely overlooked in modern times.

Besides, as my scorecard would surely attest, I really needed another hobby.

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