|Trip ends in frustration as pigs nowhere to be found
The Sportsmanís Report
The early morning fog melts to opaque as the fall sunlight brightens the day. We look out on the now barren vineyards, a riot of red, yellow and faded greens.
Here and there a tiny bunch of grapes, missed by the harvesters, holds steadfast to the brittle vine like jewels on a dowager queen. We listen for the cluck, hiss and purr of wild turkeys; none are present on this morning.
No matter, we are in pursuit of wild boar. Like all hunters, we are ever aware of what is going on around us.
A giant ‘V’ of wild geese passes over our heads, honking back and forth as if in continuous conversation of goose business.
As hunters-gatherers, we are on the lookout for early mushrooms.
It has only been a week since the last heavy rains, too soon for them to awaken from their warm and dry hibernation. Traveling on dirt roads, already drying in the early sun, we spot small groups of deer.
They’re does and yearlings, the youngest inside the protective phalanx of the family. Roger Pralan kicks the jeep in frustration because he had spotted two bucks bedded down alongside the 101 north of Squaw Rock on the drive to Hopland that morning.
“They are nice ones, lots of horns, not a care in the world,” he said. “How do they know deer season is over?”
Just then an older doe jumped up and danced away, her legs springing her up and down in an unhurried exit. I thought she looked a bit wide in the middle – a fawn for next spring.
We stopped at the Demple Ranch Barn for lunch. The empty grape bins lined up like white artillery caissons, the war of harvest already fought and won.
No pigs were in the springs or other hot spots. There were lots of fresh sign, rooting, rubs and scat, but no pigs.
We decide to try our luck at Salt Point on Thursday, as the rains came earlier there. We may hit it just right for Chanterelle, Amanita and Boletus.
On the ocean bottom, fish are plentiful right now, not as hot as a year ago but good enough. Abalone season ends at the end of November, the die-off last year has had no effect north of Ocean Cove. Crab season begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
I plan to team up with Jed Douglas opening day. We will set pots and maybe do some bottom fishing for lingcod and cabazone while the pots soak.
It is time to harvest olives for the crock. I was looking at some of my favorite trees, and they are loaded this year. I cure five gallons at a time. This year I may try a second five; they will be ready for Christmas.
The fresh, nutty flavor of home-cured olives is excellent. If you would like to explore home-cure recipes go to www.ucdavis.edu/ag/olive cure.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.