How To Hunt Wild Hogs

You are a deer hunter, but it is springtime. Your last day on stand was a distant four months ago. The same amount of time separates you from the next frosty morn with a rifle or bow in your hand. But your hunter’s heart is yearning for the sight of a sunrise through trees, the still of the morning woods, the crunch of leaves as a big-game animal approaches your position. Perhaps it’s time for you to be a pig hunter.

Hog hunting is becoming increasingly popular in the southern Gulf States, where the feral hog population is growing at an alarming rate. A non-native species, feral hogs are aggressive animals that breed quickly and threaten the safety of native wildlife and crop. The current estimated feral hog population in the United States is in the millions; Texas alone currently has a population of almost 2.6 million. With the hog’s current breeding rate, about 70 percent of the population needs to be eradicated annually to prevent further growth.

The rapidly growing population of feral hogs has led to lax hog hunting regulations in some states, particularly those affected by the epidemic, such as Texas and Louisiana. Although regulations vary state-by-state, the majority of the southern Gulf States allow hog hunting on private-land year round; some states don’t regulate hog hunting at all on private or public land.

Some Few Facts

In California, wild hogs have possibly overtaken deer as the game animal most frequently pursued by hunters. In Texas, the wild pig population stands at more than 2 million. In Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and elsewhere, you can shoot them spring, summer, winter, and fall. Wild hogs are found in 31 states, ranging from Maryland south to Florida and west to the Pacific coast and Hawaii. The Northeast seems to be devoid of them, except for New Hampshire, where they’ve been running around the Blue Mountains since escaping from a game preserve in 1893.

Feral hog hunting is a dangerous sport, even for experienced hunters. Beginner hog hunters should be especially careful when tracking the animal; feral hogs can be aggressive, particularly if they feel challenged or if their piglets are in danger. Below are four tips to help make your hunt safe and successful.

In fact, no matter where you live in the Lower 48, you are within a day’s drive—or far less—of a bona fide tusk-bearing, charcoal grill–filling wild hog. And there’s no better time to give it a try than right now. Cool spring days before the heat of summer keep hogs active all day long. Then, as the weather warms, pig activity settles into patterns easily read. Hot days, when water sources become critical, are trophy hog days. Hogs rip habitats to shreds, sully clean streams, compete for food with native animals, and even eat turkey chicks.

The Basics of Hog Hunting

Like deer, hogs are hunted most effectively at first light and last light, they travel in small groups, and they leave behind plenty of sign. Both are cover oriented, although wild hogs seem to be more comfortable ranging far into open agricultural fields. Those habits lead to three main hunting methods:

Use Calls

Feral hogs are notoriously aggressive animals, so using predator calls is an effective way to get them out in to the open. From a downwind position, call to the hogs using predator sounds in short bursts. Feral hogs typically respond quickly, removing themselves from cover. Remember that hogs will be charging, so you’ll want to keep a safe distance when using this method.

Another way to get a hog’s attention is using the recorded sound of piglets in distress. Sows are extremely protective, and are easily drawn into the open if they believe that their offspring are in danger.

Spot and Stalk

Hogs have superb senses of hearing and smell, but their sight is very poor. That’s why stalking hogs after spotting them from a distant road or ridgetop is a common method. To locate hogs in open agricultural country or ranchlands, you’ll need to spend a fair bit of time behind glass—either binoculars or a windshield. Check water sources frequented by pigs early in the day, then make your move before the animals head for thick country once the sun is high

Stand Hunting

Stand hunters are somewhat handicapped by the wandering inclination of hogs, but you can still put your deer climber to good use. Pulling wild hogs into the open with bait from timed corn feeders is an effective and accepted practice in many regions. Also look for wet areas. Pigs have no sweat glands, so they need to cool off in water and wet mud. The hotter it gets, the easier it is for stand hunters to key in on favorite wallows. Hogs may be coating their hides with mud to help cool off or turn away insects. Look for muddy slicks, and give them the sniff test: Hogs urinate and defecate in their wallows, so it’s easy to tell if you’ve found one. Focus, too, on areas where you see plenty of rubbing spoor. Hogs frequently rub their bodies on trees, fence rails, logs, and even rocks. Be alert for rooting. A hog’s tusk can turn over dirt like a spade, and a sounder (group) of feeding hogs can churn acres of earth in a single night. They tear open downed logs with their tusks to get at grubs and termites, and rip apart the soil surface to search for earthworms and insects. If you find a partially eaten rattle­snake in a feeding area, you can be certain it was not the work of a gobbler.

Hunt at Night

As hog hunting has become an increasingly popular method to control the expanding population, hogs have adapted to hunter behavior by becoming nocturnal. This nocturnal behavior means that the best time to hunt hogs is often when they’re feeding at night. Several states allow the hunting of hogs on private and public land, with and without artificial light. Hog hunting equipment such as the Game Alert® Hog Hunting Light, which can be attached to the bottom of feeders and provides momentary illumination when a hog is within range, simplifies the process of hog hunting at night.

Dog Hunting

New hog hunters who opt for a dog hunt will almost always need to go with a guide. But a word of caution: The loose restrictions on hog hunting in many places has led to a number of fringe techniques, from spearing the animals to killing them with handheld knives after they’ve been bayed by a dog pack. Have a frank discussion with your outfitter before you book.

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