Pork on the Table
Tips for taking down wild hogs
Tips for taking down wild hogs
Today, hunting opportunities seldom increase, but there is one exception. Feral-hog populations are increasing nearly nationwide, and that has opened many new and exciting hunting opportunities. Wild pigs have multiplied so much, in fact, that some areas now consider them second only to white-tailed deer in hunting popularity. Since pigs are often considered an invasive species, hunting restrictions are few.
Even though feral hogs have become plentiful, that fact doesn’t necessarily equate to an easy hunt. Pigs are tremendously intelligent, cunning and crafty by nature, and if you’re going to hunt them successfully, you should thoroughly understand their habits and have a few tricks up your sleeve. Having hunted hogs around the U.S. and in several other countries, I’ve developed a few tips that might help you put wild pork on your dinner table.
Look to the Water
Pigs are naturally drawn to wet and marshy areas for two reasons. First, they don’t possess sweat glands, so they often seek relief from midday heat in moist, shaded areas. Secondly, wallowing in mud relieves them of pests—lice, ticks and blowflies—that frequently plague them.
Being omnivores, pigs can find a source of food almost anywhere; thus, water may hold even more importance in a pig’s life than food. With a diet consisting of various nuts, roots, weeds, grasses, berries, tubers, insects, carrion, bird nests, reptiles and even discarded refuse, finding food is rarely difficult for most wild swine. Consequently, sometimes less emphasis should be placed on food and more on water. Look for rubs, scat, tracks and signs of wallowing as indicators of the animal’s presence and movements, which allows you to discover prospective ambush sites.
Other Pig Indicators
Pigs are excavators by nature, tearing up the ground while looking for roots, tubers and insects. They’re so destructive that a sounder of 20-30 pigs can destroy as many as 10 acres of agricultural ground within a week. Watching for signs of ground disturbance is paramount for a pig hunter.
Less obvious indicators of pig activity can be rubbing areas on logs, trees, fence posts or large rocks. As a way of satisfying an itch or ridding themselves of insects and other pests, hogs frequently rub against whatever they can find.
As unbelievable as it might sound, pigs even scratch their itches on telephone poles. Pigs
seem to recognize that the creosote repels bugs and other pests, and they capitalize on that whenever possible. I even read one account where a hunter cut up an old telephone pole into short lengths, then placed them in his hunting area as attractants. Reportedly, that worked very well to draw in pigs. I haven’t tried this technique, but I’ve often thought that chunks of creosote-coated railroad ties would likely work equally well. If you try this technique, however, it would be wise to make sure that using such attractants isn’t prohibited.
Look for Tracks Large or Small
Like most mothers, sows have a particularly difficult time keeping their youngsters in line. Not yet educated to the rules of survival, piglets tend to wander aimlessly, leaving many tracks in their
wake. So, even tracks that appear small could lead you to larger hogs in the family group.
Further benefiting hunters, nursing sometimes depletes the mother pig’s calcium levels, which can encourage longer hours of foraging, including during daylight hours.
In many areas of the country, baiting for hogs is perfectly legal. In those areas, commercial baits are often sold. Various other products can also serve as effective bait, including corn. It’s important, though, to avoid any products that contain salt since pigs lack sweat glands.
For the best baiting results, first determine if there are or recently were pigs in the immediate area prior to putting down bait. Because pigs have such a diverse diet, feed alone often isn’t attractive enough to pull the animals from great distances, but when fresh pig sign is found, baiting often produces results.
Hogs can be extremely dangerous. Their razor-sharp tusks can literally rip a man’s leg wide open, sometimes even severing the femoral artery, killing unfortunate victims. They’re no less dangerous to hunting dogs. Where permitted, only highly trained dogs should be used.
Hogs are typically hunted with a minimum of two dogs. In this case, one dog may be trained to distract the pig while the other moves in and latches on, holding the hog for the hunter to shoot. Under these circumstances, a hunter must be extremely careful to place the shot accurately, avoiding accidentally wounding one of the dogs frantically moving about.
Avoid Scent and Noise
While a hog’s eyesight is extremely poor, its senses of smell and hearing are very acute. Consider using all of the same scent-destroying methods you do while deer hunting, and never forget about your boots. Simply walking into an area can leave behind scent traces pungent to a hog’s nose.
Just like deer hunting, whether still-hunting or hiding in ambush, you must be extremely cognizant of both your noise and the wind direction. To monitor the wind direction, a bottle of indicator powder (offered by several scentelimination manufacturers) can be very useful.
Hunting by Night
Feral hogs are nocturnal by nature, and this sometimes makes night hunting considerably
more productive. Not all areas permit hunting at night, but where it is permissible, it can be a fun way to substantially increase your odds of success. Some light source is generally necessary. It can be a hand-held device or a light mounted directly on your weapon. A rheostat switch, which permits the user to gradually increase the light’s intensity to avoid spooking hogs, is beneficial. A red-colored lens, which is less disruptive than white light, can also be used.
“Wild pigs have multiplied so much … that some areas now consider them second only to white-tailed deer in hunting popularity.”
A hog’s vitals are much farther forward than on many other game animals. For that reason, it’s best on a broadside shot for the bullet to travel through the front shoulder rather than behind it. A shot through the center of the shoulder, in most cases, results in a quick, humane kill. While I generally don’t recommend head shots on most game species, it’s a deadly shot on close-range hogs. On a broadside shot, place the bullet near the ear canal.
Small Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing
Unlike many other game species, trophy hunting is of little importance when considering wild hogs. Everyone has their preferences, but mine is to target good-tasting pork. In this case, passing up an older boar to take home a bettertasting younger hog makes good sense. Wild pork tastes somewhat like domestically raised pork, but in most cases, it has greater muscle tone and considerably less fat, making the meat drier and slightly tougher. Older boars are often stronger and less palatable.
Go Get ’Em
Hog hunts can be done affordably and often during a deer hunter’s offseason. If you’re interested in chasing hogs, but don’t have connections to hog country, research outfitters in Texas, Georgia and Florida. Many other southern states also have excellent hog numbers. Be sure to check references so you don’t get burned.
Once you put some pork on the table, you’ll be hooked for life.