The Panoche Hills is a large area owned by the Bureau of Land Management. If you’ve ever driven down highway 5 from Sacramento to Los Angeles, you’ve passed right by it. It’s a hilly grassland area, which in my opinion, is not all that interesting. It seems like the only reason why this area gets so many visitors is the loose gun restrictions, pretty much the entire area is a huge shooting range.
The entrance to the Panoche Hills is quite nice. It starts with a gravel road onto green grassy hills.
As you drive into the area the gravel road turns into a dirt road, and the hills become less and less green. That’s not to say it’s not a nice drive, it was actually a really fun drive for me and the scenery actually isn’t all that bad.
We ended up parking here in front of this gate and started hiking in.
Technically you can keep going past the gate by car. But the road past the gate looked really steep, I didn’t think my car could handle it. I honestly didn’t think that any car would be able to handle this hill. I thought the only thing that would make it up would be an ATV.
But I was proved wrong later, when we saw a jeep past the gate.
You can barely make out my car in this picture. This was about halfway into our hike. Even with my lens zoomed in and with the final picture cropped a bit, my car is just a small speck in the frame. It shows how vast the hills are in the area.
We hiked until we hit a nice ridge with a big hill as a backdrop, maybe about a mile and a half or two away from my car.
We set up a target to fire slugs at, which we failed to hit. I guess shooting slugs from a short barreled smoothbore shotgun isn’t exactly accurate. Or I guess we suck. Fan had brought clay pigeons and about a hundred shells of target load. So we took turns throwing and shooting skeet. It was a lot of fun, even though we hardly hit any of them. Again I blame the crappy equipment, short barrel and lack of choke is not exactly the right kind of equipment for shooting clay targets. But then again, maybe we really do just suck.
Two very different kinds of shooting equipment.
The clouds rolling through the valley made for a pretty crazy sunset.
Here’s a panoramic view of the sunset and hills from the area where we were planning to spend the night. As the sun went down we realized that it was only 5 o’clock, and there wasn’t much to do to keep us occupied. We had fired off all our rounds, so there was no point in staying. So we decided to just drive back instead of staying the night and driving back in the morning. We ended up eating dinner at Pea Soup Andersen’s and checking out the humongous Bass Pro shop (which I would say is the craziest outdoor sporting goods store in California– it’s GINORMOUS) on our way back home.
Anyways it was a lot of fun. I eventually want to get my hunting license, so I’ll probably be out here again practicing before I get it. I think before we come back though, we should probably have a shotgun that has a better setup for hunting and shooting clay targets.
Things I’m thankful for:
- The various federal lands throughout California– whether it’s National Parks, National Forests, or Bureau of Land Management areas, we are definitely blessed in California with a ton of different recreational opportunities provided by these lands.
- My trusty Subaru– it may not have the off-road cred of a jeep, but it still gets me to most of the places I want to go.