In the United States, the wild hog numbers are soaring and farmers across the nation are being harassed by these invasive animals. The main problem is that no one really knows the exact number of these feral porkers and they seem to be running around the countries undisturbed. Luckily, the wild hog hunter can help trim their population and hopefully, stop them from conquering new grounds.
The last estimations for our country ranged from 4 to an incredible 6 million wild hogs running around, and these may actually be “positive” estimations. In Texas, we have at least 2 million wild hogs holding captive the state and leading the nation. However, even states like California, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida have a substantial number of wild hogs.
Meanwhile, hog range keeps growing, too. Currently, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine reports 36 states with “established” populations of wild hogs.
SCWDS defines “established” as a state with several known hog populations that have been present for a number of years and with good evidence those populations are reproducing. With such news, is no surprise that the wild hog hunter appeared and that hog hunting is growing fast.
You might think that the wild hog hunter entered the scene because the numbers are constantly increasing and we need a watchdog, but that’s not actually the case. The main cause that lead to an increase in hog hunting is the very destructive nature of these animals. They are causing tens of millions of dollars in damage and entire farmlands are being decimated every year. This is the main reasons why the wild hog hunter puts these animals atop of its wildlife hit list.
Tips for the new wild hog hunter
So, do you want to become a wild hog hunter and get in on the action? If you want to help trim their numbers, here are some tips on how to do things right.
Location is everything
By now, you’ve probably learned that hogs numbers are surging and they are persistent nuisance. However, this doesn’t mean that you can find them everywhere. If you are wondering if they are in your state or region you can quickly figure it out by checking the map or reported signs and verifications of wild hog. The United States Department of Agriculture, provides distribution maps and these are a great tool for the wild hog hunter. You can access it here.
Even more, make sure to check with your local state game agency as they can provide even more accurate information. And last, but not least, consider your state agricultural department. Many farms and ranches are working with them and local biologists to help identify hog damage areas and help reduce numbers accordingly. There are now programs that help match farmers with experienced hunters and trappers to get rid of wild hogs and keep their farming grounds safe.
In some Southern and Southeastern states, wildlife management units have public hog hunting opportunities. However, you still need to read the hunting regulations before you hunt one of these units. Some wildlife units have special “hog-only” hunts while others allow you take a hog but only when a specific hunting season is already ongoing, like spring turkey season. Hog hunting at other times of the year, in such units, is illegal.
Another hunting opportunity is provided by national forests. Make sure you ask around since feral hogs are popping up everywhere these days. They show up and cause damage, long before wildlife officials and game agencies are aware of the new clusters.
Also, before going out on a vengeance, check your hunting regulations. Chances are, you may be required to have a hunting license before you gun down wild hogs. This is especially true, if you are hunting on public lands.
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Those that hunt deer or big-game on a regular basis, are likely to have the needed firearms or other weapons (bows, crossbows, hunting catapults, etc.) to get the job done properly. Rifles, slug guns, handguns in large caliber, crossbows and compound bows — all of them can bring home the tasty bacon.
Now, the wild hog hunter keeps debating on the fact that a hog hunting gun needs to be a .30 caliber or larger and these debate can often become a heated one. The main argument behind this “theory” is that feral hogs are stout and compact with heavy bones and knotted muscles, making them hard to kill. They also carry a protective “vest” of hard cartilage over the chest and shoulder areas that can be one inch thick.
This is why the .30 caliber firearm is the one recommended to deliver a good punch and stop the wild hog for good.
However, the wild hog hunter has managed to kill these feral animals with rifles chambered in .243 Win., 6mm and .270. In fact, a whole lot of hog hunters use the popular .223 Rem./5.56mm AR rifles to hunt hogs with good results.
If you want to go with smaller calibers (or you are forced to do so), then you certainly need the right bullets for the job. You need bullets designed to hold together as they penetrate the hog skin, shield and bone, while at the same time offering enough expansion inside the tissue to provide trauma leading to the death of the animals.
Another debate is the one regarding the shot placement. During our hunting trips, I’ve seen hogs being hit by a .308 Win. bullet in the middle of the body or the rump and they ran away as it was nothing. Not to mention that we never managed to recover those animals.
A .223 Rem. dead square in the vitals, with good ammunition, can drop a 200-pound hog where it stands. My biggest hog to date, in fact, was a 310-pound western Texas boar taken down with a .223 Rem. Hog Hammer round. The Barnes TSX bullet went from right to left and took him through the heart/lung area. He ran about 100 before dropping dead.
What about optics?
The wild hog hunter may want to consider the use of scopes for a successful hunting trip. Many of my friends were never fans of scopes, until they dark crosshair disappeared when they tried to lining it up on coal-black hogs, in low-light conditions.
I can personally recommend optics with variable power settings, in the 1-to-4 or 1-to-5 power range, with an incorporated lighted red or green dot reticle. I currently own a Leupold’s VX-R 1.25-to-4 scope and it’s a perfect match with my ARs and bolt actions. Close in or in heavy cover, the VX-R’s low power setting puts me on hogs fast. The illuminated FireDot reticle is a big help in low light when I am taking a shot on a dark, mud-covered hog. Even so, I can still reach out a couple of hundred yards at higher power.
The wild hog hunter using ARs may prefer a holographic or red dot type optic. These re ideal picks for ambush hunting from a close distance when multiple shots are fired and where a low-power optic with a wide field of view really comes into its own.
Know your “enemy”
The hog has a great sense of smell and a pretty good hearing, but limited vision. Scientists have proven that wild hogs have a better sense of smell than most dogs and when they wind you, they will not stay around to greet you. They will run at top speed in the opposite direction.
Speaking about their hearing, their ears will let them know if something doesn’t sound right. To put it simply, if you make noise and they hear you, they will head for cover in no time.
As said previously, their eyesight is their weak spot and the wild hog hunter uses it to his advantage. However, don’t think they are almost blind since they can often spot you at 100 yards and even less. Although they can see moving objects beyond 100 yards, they cannot recognize what they are actually seeing. Even so, if you make the mistake at showing yourself along a tree line in an open field, they will dash to cover even if you’re at 200 or 300 yards away.
If you use proper cover, such as shades and shadows, they will have a hard time spotting you. The wild hog hunter will often use the bush and take his time, putting it within as close as 40 yards of them.
Food and shelter
Wild hogs require three things to thrive: food, water and shelter. Similar to us if you think about it, but with a clear distinction, they do not require a specific food source. They will eat almost anything they can find, from acorns to roadkill.
They prefer to bed in heavy cover and the wild hog hunter needs to check for trails in and out of said cover, as well as vegetation tunnels they build. However, the passages they are using are so thick, that you would have a hard time getting through it. Chances of you getting close to a hog sleeping inside its shelter are slim to none.
I remember my first wild hog guide telling that if they would just stay put in their shelter, we would have no chances hunting them. Luckily, they need food and water so sooner or later, they have to get out.
A new wild hog hunter should scout his hunting area for agricultural fields and watering holes. The fields are prime feeding grounds for wild hogs, especially if they are surrounded by thick vegetation that offers the perfect cover for them. The hogs will usually head for the fields in the evening and they often return in the same spots, early in the morning when heading back to cover.
Watering holes are also perfect hunting grounds since hogs need a lot of water. They also like to take mud baths and they will relax in a cool mud bath not only during the evening, but also during the hot summer days. They will linger around, rolling in the mud to cool off before going to sleep.
If there’s a swamp in your area, you’re in luck! Swamps are irresistible for wild hogs and you can often find them wallowing along streams. Scout out trails and corridors the hogs use to get in and out of the swamp and set up an ambush.
Hunting methods recommended for the new wild hog hunter
The following are the most popular hunting methods and they will help you bring home the bacon.
Stands near feeders
Most deer hunters already use these setups, especially in the South and Southeast. If you plan to use the same method for feral hogs, drop some corn or douse the area with some sweet bait (fruit-flavored or sugary liquids). They love this bait and all you need to do is set it up and wait.
Some will install their stands near water or along the edges of the fields. These work just as well, and you should consider them if the environment allows you to set them up.
I’ve used these successfully and they can be very effective. However, you need to watch the wind carefully since no blind can protect you from the hog’s fine sense of smell. Make sure you set your ground blind up downwind of the feeding grounds and travel routes. Even more, consider some scent-masking products if you want to increase your chances of dropping a hog or two.
Spot and stalk hog hunting
The wild hog hunter opts for these methods in open vistas and steep, and hilly terrain. Spotting and then stalking can provide good opportunities to find singles and groups of hogs at a distance.
The main challenge remains for you to get close enough to get a kill shot. Good optics are required, comfortable clothes and booths, and proper physical shape overall. It can be quite a fun method of hunting, but it’s not for everyone.
In areas where wild hogs can be find in great numbers, walking logging trails and farm roads may prove to be an effective way to jump a few hogs. The time for still hunting is in the early hours and that particular hour before dark settles.
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Should I hunt during the night?
During hot days, wild hogs will go nocturnal since they prefer a cool climate when having their meals. Peaky bastards, I know! That being said, if you live in a state where night hunting is allowed, you may bring home a lot of fresh bacon.
I personally know a few hog hunters that spent thousands of dollars on state of the art, night vision gear and scopes. If you have that kind of budget, by all means, go for it! However, most folks don’t have that kind of money and they need to figure out and usually improvisation comes into play.
As a new wild hog hunter, you can buy a LED light that can be attached to a rifle or scope and I personally used one with 300 lumens of lighting power with a green light that reached 100 yards. I can recommend the Nite Hunter rifle-mounted lighting system, since it can be mounted easily on an AR rail or atop a scope. It uses a rechargeable battery and it can help light up your hogs at 125 yards or even better.
Another solution I recommend is mounting motion-sensor lights near a feeder or watering hole. These will turn on when a hog gets close. All you need to do is wait for the unlucky pork to trigger the sensor. There are so many models on the market, that it would be impossible to recommend some. Trial and error is my preferred method when going with sensor lights.
While this article will not provide you with field practice, it will certainly give you the theory basis to start your journey as a wild hog hunter. Join our ranks and help us get rid of these invasive animals that cause nothing but troubles. Your rewards will be time spend in nature and a good quantity of fresh pork, and perhaps some good hunting stories.
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