Hunting the wily North American whistle pig

I don’t want this to be a Dr. Phil article, but have you ever set down and thought about why you enjoy getting out hunting, fishing, backpacking and mushroom hunting? There’s something rewarding about getting outdoors, living off the land and feeding your family. But it’s also a good excuse to get out and enjoy God’s creation.

But then I think another factor is that we live in a high-speed world. I know I do. For the last two and a half years, I fly out three weeks and am home a week. On top of that, I have to get in 325 articles per year — just picked up 46 more articles in January — and conduct 40 to 60 seminars per year. And I’m not the only one that lives a high-speed life.

I think a big reason we like to get out is to clear our heads of all of the worldly bull. When you’re outside we don’t worry about psycho bosses, 401Ks, America’s current situation or whatever other stresses you’re currently enduring. When you get outdoors you can escape from it all and live a simple life.

But even then, if you’re a writer, the world tries to invade your quiet time. I remember once I’d been running, gunning non-stop for a few months and came home and took my daughter backpacking. Just me and her. One day I thought uh-oh, I’ve got to get to filming, I had 19 items to test on this trip. I made a commitment on that trip that I was going to get in control of things. Sure, if a company sponsors you then you have to perform but to me getting outdoors is something pure. Some of the best memories of my life are when my family hunted/fished. I want to keep things simple like that and not commercialized.

So with the above said, I just got back home from a whistle pig hunt out in the ranch country in southeast Oregon. I’d just got home from a three-week trip and it was nice to get out with not a care in the world. I’m on Pro-staff with Umarex airguns. They’ve labeled 2022 as “The Year of The Airgun” and are hitting it hard. We were planning a TV show on airgun hunting for whistle pigs. Things didn’t come together but hunting whistle pigs on a regular basis in the spring is a big deal for me, so I took off for a couple of days this week.

If you can get away for a few days or can only slip out for an afternoon, there’s nothing more relaxing than an airgun whistle pig hunt. Just by the very nature of airguns you expect it to be a kicked back fun hunt.

It’s also a great hunt to take your kids on. They don’t have to be quiet, or set still for hours and you won’t be encountering frigid weather. You’ll have some great daddy/daughter talks. It’s the ultimate daddy/kids hunt and hunting with airguns adds the icing to the cake. Plus, airguns are quiet so you don’t even need to wear hearing protection.

If your little girl doesn’t want to kill anything, no biggie. There are a ton of cool airgun targets on the market now. Spinners, shooting galleries and so forth. Or, if you’re on a tight budget take a bagful of tin cans and plastic bottles filled with water. I still like shooting them, don’t you?

I went on this hunt by myself and had a great time even though the hunting was tough. There just weren’t many whistle pigs on this ranch, which is not the norm. Usually there are thousands upon thousands. The plague must have swept through this year, which happens periodically in colonies.

But despite the low numbers, I did get enough shooting to make it fun so I’d highly recommend you go this week. Due to the ammo shortages/exorbitant prices the last couple of years, hunting with airguns is the perfect way to go and almost makes the Umarex slogan “2022, The Year of The Airgun” prophetic!

If you’re a kid on a paper route budget all you need is an airgun and a tin of pellets. But like all of our outdoor endeavors, if you can afford them, these items will enhance the hunt and make you more successful. Here’s some gear I’d recommend.

AIRGUNS

On this hunt I took the Umarex .25 cal. Gauntlet and .22 cal. Origin. I like PCP airguns but they are more expensive and complicated. The cheapest airguns to shoot are the break barrels. I have a Ruger Blackhawk. I’d recommend using a .22 or the .25 is even better. The .177 doesn’t have as much whoomph.

OPTICS

A lot of airguns come with a scope. My Origin didn’t so I put a Burris Droptine 4.5-14x on it. I like higher magnification because you’ll be shooting small game. Make sure your scope is airgun compatible. Spring action break barrels can be tough on scopes. You’ll want binoculars to help find the little prairie rats. I like 10x binoculars.

MISCELLANEOUS GEAR

You’ll want a bi-pod to shoot off of. I use the Bog Adrenaline. If you’re a kid, get two ½-inch dowel rods and tape them together 6-inches from one end and spread them out to shoot off of.

Take a pad to set on. Or better yet a lightweight backpacking chair so you’re elevated and can see over the brush.

All pellets are not created equal. I’ve tested a million brands and JSB are the most accurate. Check out their Hades or Knock-Out pellets. Or their Diabolo Dome shaped pellets work great too.

And lastly, while you’re out in the high desert country, slow down and enjoy your surroundings. I saw a boatload of white-faced ibis on this hunt. One time my 87-year-old buddy Roy shot a whistle pig. I was watching through my binoculars and said you got him. About that time a hawk swooped down and snatched him up so I corrected myself and said: “You had one!”

Once, a badger ran out and grabbed one. Badgers are beautiful but they’re the Michael Tysons on the high desert. Stay away from them.

Now’s the perfect time to grab an airgun and get out and enjoy nature. Have fun.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at smileya7@aol.com.

Post Author: By Tom Claycomb

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