Feature Report: Central Coast Outfitters

Central Coast Outfitters: A league of their own

BY MIKE DUFFY/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Apr 10, 2013

Guided hunt with Central Coast Outfitters produces a hefty 200-pound wild boar that was dropped by this author with a single shot from a custom Remington VTR in .308 (worked by Danforth Gunsmithing out of Riverside) shooting a 168 gr. Barnes VX lead free copper round

CENTRAL COAST OUTFITTERS has access to a vast collection of prime ranch real estate that included several ranches averaging 25,000 to 46,000 acres, spanning across much of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties.
SANTA MARIA — Recently, I was given the opportunity by Western Outdoor News to participate in a wild pig hunt with Central Coast Outfitters. Know­ing the reputation Central Coast Outfitters has within the hunting community of being a top-notch outfit, I naturally jumped at the chance to hunt with them. I arrived early evening on the day before the hunt and met with Alfred Luis, owner of Central Coast Outfitters, at his residence. We sat down in the outdoor patio area of his home along with one of his guides, Jeremy Unke and we began talking about hunting, guns, and bird dogs, of which Alfred has several that he uses on his guided bird hunts.

One of the dogs I met, was “Jeter,” a solid liver shorthair that I watched a couple days later work a covey of quail from point to flush like a pro! He also served as my unofficial alarm clock jumping on my bed when “he” felt it was time for me to get up each morning. I had to explain to him nicely that 3:30 a.m. was a little early. I could tell he respected me as he waited until 4 a.m. the next morning before he started jumping on my bed like a little kid. I also had the pleasure of watching Jeremy’s dog “Daisy” (corder collie/hound mix) run in the field. I watched Daisy complete an entire marathon with little effort. Her range and overall stamina was amazing. This dog was a natural tracker that undoubtedly was born in Kenya!  

It was very apparent from our discussions that Alfred was not only a professional guide, but also a very current and accomplished big game hunter with several SCI (Safari Club International) trophies in the books. At a young age, Alfred grew up hunting and fishing in the Los Alamos Valley, the very place he conducts some of his guided hunts today. His first passion was fishing and he needed a way to pay for his excursions on the ocean. He didn’t have to look long before opportunity came knocking. Alfred learned that guiding hunts for wild pigs was lucrative and a good funding source that provided him the means to go fishing.

MIKE DUFFY SCORED this 200-pound boar on a 127-yard shot with a Remington VTR in .308 (worked by Danforth Gunsmithing out of Riverside) shooting a 168 gr. Barnes VX lead free copper round.

However, this proved to be both a blessing and a curse, as he became so busy guiding hunts that he no longer had the time to go fishing. I guess this would fall into the category of a “good problem to have” as it would be the grass roots of what has become Central Coast Outfitters.

Alfred is a straight shooter (in every aspect of the term) and an extremely humble man willing to share his experiences in the field for the educational value they bring, or even for the pure entertainment of telling a story. With over 20-plus years of experience as a licensed guide and avid outdoorsman, he can fill a book.

We hit it off right away and continued our conversation over a fine dinner that he and his family prepared, watched a few hunting videos from hunts conducted by Central Coast Outfitters on a vast collection of prime ranch real estate that included several ranches averaging 25,000 to 46,000 acres, spanning across much of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties. We wrapped up the evening by watching a wonderful production showcasing their global operations in New Zealand before calling it a night.

The Hunt

On the morning of the hunt, we got up early and headed out to one of the local ranches Central Coast Outfitters hunts. Alfred explained to me that the hogs they had been seeing on this ranch were moving later in the morning to and from their bedding areas and food/water sources, which were scattered throughout the ranch as the lack of rain was hindering the barley crops. It was refreshing to hear this as it meant that the guides had been out doing their homework and not relying on where they had spotted or taken pigs months ago. Anyone who has hunted wild hogs with any level of consistent success will tell you that feeding and bedding patterns can change almost daily, especially without a primary food source to keep them in a centralized location.

We sorted out our gear and loaded up into the truck. We were now in “hunt mode” and I could feel the adrenaline flowing as we headed out. We drove a short distance before we came to a small field where I could see several cows grazing. We all got out of the truck and Alfred said we would glass this area for a while and see if we could spot any hogs working in or around the field. As we were getting our gear sorted out and our rifles loaded, Jeremy said “Pig.” I looked up across the field and spotted a nice boar that was standing next to a group of cows. Almost immediately, the hog became alerted to our presence and began walking with an apparent sense of purpose to the nearest brush-line. I was able to get two shells in my rifle when Alfred said calmly, “Mike, use your bi-pod, lie down and shoot that pig.

I extended my rifle-mounted bipod with a pull-cord allowing both arms to extend simultaneously. I then moved into a prone position and acquired the boar in my scope (he looked a lot larger then he did with the naked eye) just as he reached the thick sage. I heard Alfred say “I have him at 127 yards.” As I prepared to take the shot, I could only see the hog’s right front shoulder and hindquarters as his head and neck were now completely covered by the brush. Once I was steady, I broke the shot “bang”! The report was immediate, making a very distinct “thud” sound on impact. I could see a small cloud of dirt and dust fly off the pig as he took off running through dense brush out of sight. There was absolutely no doubt he was hit hard by a well-delivered shot from my custom Remington VTR in .308, shooting a 168 grain Barnes VX (lead free) copper round (not my preferred choice for hogs, but a good option when hunting in mandated lead free areas).

We waited approximately 20 minutes before Jeremy and I walked down to the area where the hog was standing when he was shot. Alfred stood where I had taken the shot and directed us to the location.

As we began our search, we were astonished that there was not “one” single drop of blood. We searched the immediate area extensively and not one drop of blood was located. As we expanded our search, we were joined by Alfred, who instructed us to search together in a systematic pattern to not only ensure we were being thorough, but to also avoid a crossfire scenario should we encounter a wounded pig (who are extremely dangerous in any situation, but more so if wounded). It was extremely difficult terrain to track in as the brush was very dense and cows grazing along the hills chopped up much of the ground. After searching for 20-25 minutes, Jeremy returned to the area where the pig was last seen and began to search for airborne spore (broken branches, crushed vegetation, hog hair, etc.) that would indicate that a hog (not a cow) had traveled through an area and left such indicators (sign).

ALFRED LUIS, LEFT, owner of Central Coast Outfitters, with guide/tracker Jeremy Unke.

Typically such spore would be knee to waist high, as opposed to being higher if left by a larger animal such as a cow. We continued our search for another 10 minutes when I heard Jeremy say, “I found him over here”! Man, that was music to my ears, as by now I was starting to lose hope that the pig would ever be found.

Both Alfred and I walked over the hill to where Jeremy was standing and found an area encompassing a 2- to 3-yard radius that looked like a crime scene, and under some bushes laid a very nice 200-pound hog. Closer examination of both the immediate area and the hog revealed a well-placed shot delivered approximately 2 inches behind the right front shoulder with no exit wound. We determined that on impact and limited penetration of the round, the internal damage was contained inside the pig due to there not being an exit wound. Once the pig started running, the obstruction (fatty tissue, bone etc.) that was blocking the entrance wound, and was now under a great deal of internal pressure, was dislodged causing the pig to expire quickly.

Without Jeremy’s fine tracking skills it would have been difficult, if not absolutely impossible to locate and recover this animal in such difficult terrain. His overall field experience and relentless pursuit proved to be the deciding factor in capping this already successful hunt with the bonus of bagging a very nice hog. We took a few pictures to memorialize the hunt and then back to work processing the animal and preparing it for transportation to Ben’s butcher shop in Atascadero. I have had several animals processed by Ben in the past and he does an outstanding job caring for and processing your animal to the custom specifications you request. He also makes some of the best sausage in the valley.

Our entire hunt lasted a little over an hour. I was happy to have bagged such a nice hog but at the same time a little dis­appointed that I couldn’t spend more time on this spectacular ranch. Alfred assured me that there was more to come and that this was only the beginning of what I would see. He wasn’t exaggerating and I wasn’t dis­appointed. The next day started out with a tour of another local ranch that was absolutely astonishing. Aside from the vast beauty of this ranch, which was covered with an abundance of live oak, coastal sage, and buckwheat, it is also host to a healthy population of wild game (deer, turkeys, quail and bobcats — we seen all of these species while driving on the ranch property).

It is also home to a very healthy herd of Tule elk. And yes, we saw plenty of these majestic animals as well. Central Coast Outfitters offers limited trophy elk hunts to properly manage the herd, with animals scoring an average of 306 points using the SCI scoring system. Last year, a hunter harvested a magnificent 8x8 bull elk on this ranch that scored 3266⁄8 points! This is definitely a hunt you want to book for a good shot a trophy bull. Unfortunately, because of their popularity, you will have to wait until 2016 to book one of these hunts as all available dates are filled until then.

As part of their exclusive lease to hunt on this ranch, Central Coast Outfitters is actively involved in the PLM (Private Land Management) Project to promote wildlife conservation in partnership with ranch management as well as various local and state entities. Central Coast Outfitters donates both their time and resources to manage existing wildlife resources on the ranch, build bird boxes for shelter and breeding, create brush piles to provide both shelter and protection for birds and other small animals, and they are actively involved in several other projects designed to improve living and breeding conditions for both game and non-game animals calling this ranch their home. “We manage the animals and habitat on this ranch to preserve its natural resources which is all aimed at producing the best possible hunting experience for our clients,’’ Luis said.

One of their most recent PLM projects was the design, construction, and strategic placement of several “portable” water guzzlers specifically created for turkeys. I was truly impressed by the functionality and craftsmanship of these watering systems that will undoubtedly save the lives of many birds and small game animals in addition to the wild turkeys the systems were built for. Alfred’s enthusiasm and passion bleeds over as he explains their involvement with the PLM projects, which was yet another example of what separates Central Coast Outfitters from the many other guide services operating in California.

We wrapped up our afternoon trip and headed to Los Alamos where we drove straight to a local restaurant called Charlie’s for a bite to eat. Charlie’s is a family owned and operated establishment serving just about everything a hungry hunter would want. Whatever you are in the mood for, you are sure to find it there.

The service is friendly, conversation is abundant, and Charlie himself can be found in the kitchen cooking and running the show. If you’re lucky, Charlie’s mother may even be in the restaurant and will drop by to say hi. If you miss dinner, be sure to try breakfast at Charlie’s. The French toast is outstanding!

I spent the entire next day visiting two other ranches Central Coast Outfitters has exclusive rights to hunt. I honestly saw more quality turkeys, deer, wild pigs (a few really nice trophy hogs) and bobcats in the two and half days I spent with Alfred and Jeremy than I have in the past few years hunting on other private ranches elsewhere throughout the state. Bottom line, Central Coast Outfitters are truly blessed in being able to guide their hunters on some of the most pristine real estate in California.

Central Coast Outfitters also offers limited private annual hunting memberships on a couple of the ranches they hunt. Members who join have full access to beautiful, furnished ranch houses, with full kitchen, living room with satellite TV, a saloon (full bar) with a pool table, game processing area with cold storage, and access to hunt hogs, deer, quail, dove and varmints at no additional charge. For the “do-it-yourself” hunter, this is an extremely affordable option that allows you the experience of hunting on a private, well maintained, working ranch with all of the amenities of a hunting lodge… well, almost (you will have to travel into Paso Robles if you want a spa treatment).

New Zealand

As if their operation in Cali­fornia was not enough to manage, Central Coast Outfitters expanded their operations to New Zealand in 2010 where they partnered with a local outfitter on the South Island to deliver some of the most affordable hunts offered anywhere in the country for red stag, wapiti (elk), fallow deer, tahr, chamois, alpine goat, arapawa ram and wild boar. Several package hunts have been tailored to meet the expectations of every hunter who visits New Zealand and wishes to get the most from their personal hunting experience.

With opportunities to score on trophy animals from every species and a chance to hunt some exotics only found in New Zealand, many hunters find the package hunts both economical and sensible. The most popular hunt is a custom package where you get a chance to pursue the formidable red stag, fallow deer, and tahr in wooded areas, open ranges and breathtaking mountain terrain.

“This is truly one of the most memorable big game hunts you will ever take,” said Alfred. “I would encourage anyone planning a trip to hunt with us in New Zealand to bring their family along as there is something for everyone here.” Whether you go to hunt, relax in the newly built lodge, want to try your luck at catching trophy-sized German brown trout, or plan a white water rafting excursion, New Zealand is a destination you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

For an affordable family hunt structured for any level of hunter or budget, you will be hard pressed to find a better return on investment than the total “hunting experience” provided by Central Coast Outfitters. Whether you’re a novice, a big game trophy hunter, or an avid outdoorsman who wants to pursue wild game (deer, elk, wild boar, bobcats, turkey, quail, dove, etc.) in some of the most private and awe-inspiring locations found anywhere in California or New Zealand, Central Coast Outfitters is the right choice for all the right reasons. This truly puts them in a “league of their own.”

For more information about Central Coast Outfitters and all of the guided hunts they offer in the A and B zones for trophy deer, elk, wild boar, bobcat, turkey, dove, and quail, call Alfred at (805) 922-7923.

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