Feral hogs number in the millions and are spread across much of the United States. In many states, hogs are such a problem that wildlife departments beg hunters to kill as many pigs as possible. Most states allow hog hunting all year long without limit. Some states even allow hunters to shoot pigs at night. These wily tusked beasts can provide challenging – and dangerous – sport, but these tips can put more pork in the pot this year.
Tip 1: Bring Enough Gun
Bristling with razor sharp tusks and protected by a tough hide covering a thick shoulder “shield” of hardened scar tissue, a feral boar makes a formidable adversary. Leaner and much more muscled than any barnyard pig, a big wild boar can take considerable punishment. While many bowhunters arrow hogs, gun hunters should use high velocity rifles loaded with full-metal jacketed rounds in such calibers as .270, .30-06, 7mm magnum, .308, or similar calibers. With shotguns, use rifled slugs or 00 buckshot.
“Usually, we use a .308,” advised Barry Estes, with Alabama Hog Control (334-301-0179) in Prattville, Ala. “Under certain circumstances, a shotgun makes a great hog gun, if we can get within 25- to 30 yards. I use buckshot instead of slugs.”
Tip 2: Find the Food
Pigs might roam over a home range of about 10 square miles, but typically stay close to the groceries. Many hog hunters put up stands near good food sources. Some states allow baiting for hogs. Opportunistic feeders, hogs eat almost anything including acorns, fruits, roots, mushrooms, insects, eggs, invertebrates, and even carrion. They sometimes catch small animals. Farmers often welcome hog hunters because of the damage they do to crops, such as corn, peanuts and soybeans.
Tip 3: Do the Scouting
With a good pair of binoculars, scan fields and wooded edges for hogs at first and last light. Look for trails from cover to feeding areas and other sign. Pigs also make a lot of noise when feeding or fighting. Stop and listen for pigs rooting, grunting, squealing, or making other sounds to pinpoint their location.
Tip 4: Follow the Signs
Hogs leave abundant sign. They often wallow in muck to cool off and protect their skin from bugs or too much sun. Look for wallowings in soft depressions. After leaving wallows, hogs frequently rub against trees, posts, poles, and other objects. Big boars also scar trees when sharpening their tusks. When rooting for acorns, tubers and other morsels, hogs can make an area look like someone roto-tilled it.
“On public land, I look for areas that have been rooted up,” advised Mike Tussey with Osceola Outdoors (239-253-5876) in Naples, Fla. “I key on wet areas with abundant rooting sign. Sometimes, the tree bottoms are caked in mud where the hogs rubbed against them.”
Tip 5: Play the Weather
In warm weather, hogs seek the thickest, lowest, wettest cover they can find. In dry country, hunt water sources such as creeks, stock tanks or beaver ponds. In the winter, pigs generally head to higher ground to stay warm and dry. On windy days, they often hunker down in the thickest cover they can find.
“When hunting in the summer, look for places where hogs are using water,” Estes recommended. “In the winter, look for food sources and really good cover. They get spooky during deer season because so many people are in the woods.”
Tip 6: Ground Pounding for Pigs
Many hunters kill hogs from deer stands or run them with dogs, but some people stalk them. Like hunting deer, keep wind direction in mind because their sensitive noses can pick up scents from long distances. Move slowly and deliberately without making any sudden movements or loud noises. Keep trees or other cover between the hunter and the pigs. After spotting them, only move when they put their noses down to feed. If they lift their heads — freeze.
“My favorite method of hunting hogs is to spot and stalk them,” said Shaine Nixon, a Texas hog hunter. “They love fields. In the early morning or just before dark, I like to sneak along the edge of a wheat field until I spot something.”
Tip 7: Calling all Hogs
Hogs make considerable noise and may respond to calls. A sow communicates frequently with her piglets to keep them close and away from predators. Hunters can use this to their advantage.
“I often call pigs,” Estes said. “I use a low, pig grunt call. Often, when I come upon several pigs, I drop the sow in her tracks. Frequently, I can call the juveniles back while they search for the sow and safety.”
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