Hog Hunting: The Complete Guide
The key to hog hunting is understanding their behavior and characteristics that have evolved them into one of the toughest targets for hunters to take down. Once a hunter is able to understand their strengths and weaknesses, hunting hogs can become much easier.
Hogs have made their way to the top of the list for nuisance animals to be hunted, primarily because of the financial devastation they have cause farmers and ranchers. Their active search for food results in rummaged fields, ruined crops, and even hog-dozed fences. The purpose of this article is to provide a complete guide to hog hunting, including key strategies that lead to more successful hog hunts.
Hog Hunting Discussion Topics
Traits Hog Hunters Should Know
A Hogs Search for Food
Hogs have a wide range of food sources, and their search for food is what puts them on the wanted list for farmers and ranchers. Feral hogs are opportunistic feeders who typically consume 3%-5% of their total body mass on a daily basis. They are primarily omnivorous; feeding on insects, grasses, roots, cacti, and have even been known for eating juvenile domestic livestock, whitetail deer fawns, birds, and various reptiles and amphibians.
Food Traits Hog Hunters Should Know: while hogs are opportunistic feeders with a wide-ranging diet, they prefer an easy meal versus one they have to work for. Thus, the reason they are seen near food plots, crop fields, and deer feeders. In addition to needing food, they also need water. This can be in the form of rainfall, which makes it easier for hogs to root the ground, or it can be in the form of nearby water sources. Hogs are most common in areas near a water source such as a river or pond. Generally speaking, hogs are less commonly seen in areas with little water or rainfall. In the event there are heavy rains, hogs may migrate to the area.
Physical Traits of Hogs
Hogs are one of the toughest and most powerful wild animals that roam. The original feral swine that was imported in the 1500's was a more traditional style pig you see in many stock shows and rodeos. However, in the 1900's, the Eurasian boar was introduced and the hybrid of these two breeds has turned feral hogs into unstoppable animals. The physical characteristics of feral hogs has changed since Eurasian boars were introduced, and they have become even more resilient. Since, Russian boars have been introduced which has resulted in a hybrid that is even more aggressive and unstoppable. Today's boars have a protective shoulder shield, which has been known to cause difficulty for hunters who use lower caliber rifles and bows to hunt hogs. The shoulder shield is fully developed in mature hogs near 8-12 months in age. That being said, hogs will continue to grow in size until they are approximately 5 years old. At this point, they are more likely to regress. The shoulder shield is a key factor in knowing where to aim when hog hunting.
Physical Traits Hog Hunters Should Know: hog hunting with a bow is very difficult, because of their protective shoulder shield. The protective shield is on their front shoulder, and bow hunters must aim slightly behind and below the shield to get better penetration. This happens to be approximately where the heart of a hog is located. We have personally experienced an arrow deflecting off of the shield, which is why arrow placement is so important. An instant knock-down is rare when bow hunting hogs, so it's best to not attempt to track them immediately after a shot. Pressuring an adrenaline-filled hog can result in them running beyond the range of a hunters tracking capabilities.
When hunting hogs with a gun, lower calibers may not be able to fully penetrate the should shield in a mature hog. There is no scientific proof to prove this, but it is best to utilize heavier calibers for hog hunting. Our caliber of choice for hog hunting is a .223 round.
A Hogs Ability to See, Hear, and Smell
Hogs do not have the best vision. When hunting hogs during the day time, they are more likely to identify you as a result of movement or being "sky-lined" versus staying hidden in brush. More importantly, hogs are considered placental mammals, and as a result they have protanopia dichromacy. This means that they only have two cones of color vision and are not able to see higher wavelength colors. While green seems to be a popular color for hog hunting at night, it is on the wavelength barrier of their color vision. This means hogs may actually be able to pick up some green light. A true red light is beyond this wavelength barrier, which is why red is a better light for hog hunting at night. Green appears as a more vibrant yellow color to hogs, while red is a less vibrant, darker shade of yellow.
While hogs do have a good ability to hear, they make a lot of noise from snorting and snouting as they travel and eat. Animals such as deer are much quieter and more cautious when they eat, which is why if you drop something from your blind chair, they may hear it. We have literally dropped a magazine while reloading with hogs in front of us, and they did not hear us. Hogs that are roaming through a field and are not actively rummaging around may have a heightened sense of hearing in comparison to when they are pre-occupied with eating and rooting, based on our experience.
A hogs sense of smell is one of their strongest attributes. Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension said a wild pig's sense of smell is so strong they are capable of sensing some odors 5-7 miles away and up to 25 feet underground. Whether you are setting out bait or traps for hunting hogs, you should be conscious of this trait. We have put corn out around a trap and left a trail leading to a trap and going inside the trap. The one mistake we made was we loaded, moved, unloaded, and then set the trap with our bare hands. As you may know, hogs can smell the oils off of our hands, which is why it's best to wear gloves when messing with traps or feeders. The corn that we set out around the vicinity of the trap was gone, but the corn inside the trap and in close proximity to the trap remained. We were shocked.
What Hog Hunters Should Know About Vision, Hearing, and Smelling: vision is a hogs weakest link, followed by hearing and smelling is their strongest attribute of the three. When hog hunting during the day time, it's best not to wear blue-colored clothing. You will most likely stick out like a sore thumb if you do. When hog hunting at night, its important to understand what makes the best light for hog hunting. Their ability to hear is best when they are not rooting around and eating, but be conscious while hunting hogs to not make too much noise. A hogs sense of smell is their strongest trait, and awareness of scent control is very important. When trapping hogs, make sure you wear gloves to prevent from leaving your scent on the traps. When hunting hogs, do your best to put the wind at your advantage and scent-controlled clothing is always a good idea.
Finding a Good Hog Hunting Spot
In order to find the best hog hunting spot, you have to first understand what hogs are after, and why. It's also important to note that wild hogs are primarily found in the southern states, so if you're in the wrong territory they may not even be there.
How Hunters Should Find Hogs
Hunters should find hogs by identifying their ideal food source and conditions; and then hunt a piece of land that meets these criteria, or re-create the scenery on your own piece of land to attract them. It's important to note that hogs should at least be in your area to attract them, putting food out and implementing a water source will not attract hogs if they are no-where to be found in the first place.
Ideal Food Source and Conditions for Hogs
The ideal food source and conditions for hogs include an easy meal to eat, scent-filled bait and a water source such as a pond or river nearby. Apple-scented corn works well for us, but is not always easy to come by. Typical deer corn mixed with apples also works well. If looking for a more natural source, farms with fields of crops are known to be full of hogs. One field on our farm in west Texas is irrigated, and hogs seem to favor that field above all the others.
If hogs are common in your area, but they haven't been around lately, it may be due to the water source. We have noticed that when our ponds dry up and we are in a drought, hogs disappear. As soon as we get a heavy rain and the ponds fill back up, the hogs are back. Sometimes it's literally like clockwork.
The Best States to Hunt Hogs
Hogs are abundant in the southern states, but they are slowly making their way north as the years go by. Our family has a farm in west Texas, near San Angelo. Other family members also have a farm in south Texas, near San Antonio. The farm near San Antonio has always been known to have hogs since the early 1990's. The farm near San Angelo never saw a hog until we were at least a decade into the 2000's. Today, both farms have hogs but the south Texas farm is far more abundant with hogs than the west Texas farm. There are many studies that show hogs are gradually moving north, but this first-hand experience was the most obvious indicator to us.
The best states to hunt hogs include all of the southern states, primarily along the coast line. Hog hunting is common in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, and even on the west coast in California.
That being said, hog hunting in Texas and hog hunting in Florida are the two most popular states for hunting hogs. Hog hunting in Oklahoma, Georgia, and North Carolina follow afterwards. These results may be due to the population volume in each state, as hog hunting in Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri follow after these. Although the state football team is called the razorbacks, Arkansas was listed after all of these states mentioned. These results are based on common search volumes related to hog hunting in each state.
Hog Hunting Equipment
The equipment hunters use for hog hunting varies depending on what time of day they are hunting hogs and what kind of challenge they seek. Hog hunting with a rifle can be more effective, but hog hunting with a bow can be more challenging. Some hunters may argue that bow hunting hogs promotes a more level playing field than rifle hunting hogs. The extreme outdoorsman may even take it up one more notch to hunting hogs with dogs.
Best Lights for Hunting Hogs
When hog hunting at night, understanding what makes the best hog hunting lights will help you light up more hogs without spooking them.
Hog hunting lights must be designed with a hogs vision in mind. As previously mentioned, hogs have protanopia dichromacy; which means they are color blind to high wavelengths on the color spectrum. The best hog hunting lights are going to work well for predator hunting and varmint hunting in addition to hog hunting. This is because all of these animals have the same level of color blindness due to them being placental mammals (although not all placental mammals have this trait). The best color for hog hunting lights is red, although green is also popular. Green is a lower wavelength than red, and happens to be right on the transition of a hogs color blindness. This means hogs could potentially see some green light, especially if quality control is not maintained when manufacturing the LED chips. A true red light is over 100 nm wavelength higher than their color blind transition, which gives hog hunters a significant buffer from being easily detected as a result of light color.
There are 4 primary types of hog hunting lights: bow mounted lights for hog hunting, gun mounted lights, hog feeder lights, and light bars for hog hunting. Each of these have their own purpose, and the color of the light is the most important feature to consider when choosing your hog hunting light. The second most important feature is the ability to adjust the intensity of the light. The best hog hunting lights are capable of increasing or decreasing intensity, to prevent from spooking hogs. The right color for hunting hogs and an adjustable intensity can make for one of the deadliest combinations in a hog hunting light.
Prior to purchasing your next set of hog hunting lights, you should read the Guide to Buying the Best Hog Hunting Lights.
Best Caliber for Hog Hunting
The best caliber for hog hunting is .223. The reason being is that hogs have a protective shoulder plate, which is beneath their skin on their front shoulder. An accurate shot can bypass this shoulder plate, but heavier calibers are also able to penetrate through the shield. Mature hogs are typically at least 200 lbs in size, so smaller calibers may wound them but are less-likely to have any knock-down power. Heavier calibers can also work, but once hunters go beyond .30-06, the size of the hole the round leaves may ruin the meat. We have found that .223 rounds have good knock-down power yet minimally impact the meat on hogs.
Best Hog Hunting Bow
The best bow for hog hunting is one with good let off that has a minimum poundage of 50 lbs. Bow hunting hogs is dangerous, as they are known to attack bow hunters if they are able to reach them. It's best to hunt hogs from a tree stand so they do not attack you, and with a bow that has enough power to penetrate through their tough bodies. When we hunt hogs with bows, we typically set our bows to 60-70 lbs. The shield on their front shoulder will stop arrows. We have witnessed it first hand. Every shot taken with a bow must take the shield into account for a clean harvest.
A friend of ours told us a story about a hog hunter who was bow hunting and managed to shoot a 350 lb boar while on foot. The boar took off after the hunter, and the hunter ran up a tree to get away from him. Once the boar realized he couldn't reach the hunter, he backed off and stayed out of plain sight...but didn't leave. The hunter ended up having to call a local farmer to come put the hog down with his rifle. Hog hunting with a bow is a very challenging sport, but it's dangerous, especially if precautionary measures are not taken.
Methods to Hunt Hogs
The most common methods to hunt hogs include spot and stalking hogs in a field, helicopter hog hunts, night hunting hogs, baiting hogs, and hunting hogs with dogs.
Spot and Stalk Hogs
The most adventurous and strategic method of hog hunting is to spot and stalk them. This is the most level playing field of human versus wild hog. In order to be effective, the hunter has to constantly be aware of their surroundings and how those surroundings can be used to spot hogs before they locate you.
Common mistakes when spot and stalking hogs include not being conscious of your scent and the wind direction, sky-lining yourself rather than blending in with the surroundings, and being impatient rather than waiting for the perfect shot opportunity.
When we spot and stalk hogs, we typically do so near food sources we know they have been in the past. These areas include deer feeders, crop fields, and ponds or rivers among many other options. Once we spot the hogs, we do our best to stalk them by taking soft steps and staying in the brush or on a tree line to maintain camouflage. We focus on playing the wind and do our best to not make any sudden movements, even if a pestering fly is on your face. Once close enough for a shot, make sure it's a good one. If you're successful, you'll down a hog and the other hogs will scatter in all directions because they don't know where you are. When we've been successful before, we typically harvest multiple hogs because some take off in our direction without knowing we're there. On the flip side, if hogs know you're there they may also charge you. Having a tree nearby you can climb is always a plus in this case.
Helicopter Hog Hunts
One of the most action-packed and thrilling methods of hunting hogs is via helicopter hog hunts. Although it is an expensive method, the experience is irreplaceable. Helicopters are able to cover more land faster than any other hunting vehicle and they can sometimes push hogs out of the brush and into the open.
There are many west Texas farmers who hire helicopter hunters who take out the hogs on their property in an effort to prevent them from damaging their crops. I can speak for west Texas farmers only, but I would not doubt other areas in the state and other states would do the same.
Night Hunting Hogs
Pressured hogs may not come out during the day, which is why night hunting hogs can be the best option for many hunters. The key to night hunting hogs is to have a hog hunting light designed to take advantage of a hogs weaknesses.
Most of the time night hunting for hogs is done from a pickup truck, high rack, top-drive vehicle, ATV/UTV, or even sometimes from a deer blind. Recent technology allows hunters to utilize thermal scanners and scopes to locate hogs, but they are pretty expensive. The downside to these is hunters have to be 110% confident the body they see in their thermal scope is a hog, because if it's a cow you're going to have one angry rancher. Although we have not been involved with this, it has happened in the past to local ranchers.
Utilizing bright lights for night hunting hogs is the safest option, because you can see what you're shooting. If you're not able to identify the target you're shooting at, you should not take the shot.
Baiting animals is not legal in all states, so we recommend checking your local regulations prior to attempting this. Baiting hogs with corn came about accidentally for our family. We set our deer feeders out, and after checking game cameras we noticed hogs were eating all the corn after the sun went down. We've put together an article on our personal favorite wild hog bait attractant. Mix it together, set the bait out and wait for the hogs to come. For better scent throw, we recommend putting it in plastic bags and hanging from a tree. In order to keep hogs coming back time and time again, we recommend burying some bait 3-4 ft deep. You'll have more hogs in no time, there is no doubt this bait will help make your hog hunting trips more successful.
Hunting Hogs with Dogs
Arguably among the most dangerous of all hog hunting methods, hunting hogs with dogs can be an action-packed experience that will get your adrenaline rushing. Hunters typically use several dogs with good endurance and smelling capabilities to bay the hogs up. Two of the most common species for bay dogs are black mouth curs and catahoulas. Once these dogs have bayed the hogs up, the hunter comes in with his catch dog. The catch dog typically has less endurance than the other dogs, so he stays in the truck with the hunter until the hog is bayed up. The catch dog goes for the hogs throat and pins him down, allowing the hunter to stick the hog with a sharp knife.
Hunting hogs with dogs can be dangerous, especially if the dogs are out-matched by an enormous boar.
One time we were hunting hogs with dogs and our bay dogs ran a boar hog across a river. We didn't know they crossed the river until we released our catch dog and he took off swimming. The catch dog pinned the hog down, and we had no choice but to swim the river ourselves to prevent the hog from harming our dogs. By the time we stuck the hog and he expired, the dogs were so tired that they could not swim back across the river. We held onto each dog, and swam them one-by-one across to the other side of the river that night. We were dog-tired, no pun intended. Experiences like these can make hunting hogs with dogs a physically draining experience.
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