It’s a great time to be a hog hunter.

Much of the credit goes to the prolific hogs themselves, with some estimates placing the total number of wild, feral hogs in the U.S. as high as 6 million. That’s better than twice the estimate from just a decade ago. Sows start breeding within their first year, and can drop two litters of piglets annually. Hogs will eat darn near anything, and they can live just about anywhere, from the arid landscapes of western Texas to the colder climates of New York, and most places in between.

For years, wild hogs have been seen as “invasive” species. Legally, they still are categorized as such in most states. But as hunters have gone afield in search of these “invasives,” we’ve also discovered that hogs are smart, wary, and very tough—an alluring challenge for hunters. Their eyesight is their Achilles’ heel, but I’ve been busted by hogs that spotted me at 100 yards or less, and more than once. Their hearing is pretty good, too. I once had a family group of hogs sprint out of their hiding spot at the sound of a pickup truck’s engine being started—at all of 350 yards away.

But the hog’s sense of smell is its No. 1 line of defense, and hogs are reputed to have noses more sensitive than deer or dogs. How such things are measured, I’m not sure. But if the wind isn’t in your favor and that hog lifts his or her nose, and you’re anywhere within 300 yards, get ready … that pig’s about to make tracks!

The proliferation of wild hogs in North America has opened up endless opportunities for avid big-game hunters.

When I was a teenager in the upper Midwest, the gun deer season was the big hunt. Problem was, that much-anticipated event was often done and over on opening morning, and we had another year’s wait ahead of us. Hogs? In most states, you can hunt them year ’round, especially on private lands. No bag limits, either. Your season ends when you stop hunting. Depending on the state, you might need a hunting license of some sort, especially on public lands. But on private lands, with landowner permission, many states don’t even require a license.

Speaking of deer hunting, a trophy boar is as clever, cautious and wily as any white-tailed buck. A big bruiser boar can reach 400 pounds or better in many locales. He’s a loner, especially active at night. And if you corner him, watch out. He will charge, and those razor-sharp tusks can filet a dog or human in a heartbeat.

Another great thing about pig hunting: flexibility. You can hunt hogs from stands near bait, water or travel corridors. You can spot and stalk. In many states, you can hunt wild swine at night using lights, night-vision gear or thermal optics. You can even hunt them from helicopters in Texas.


Hogs are destructive animals. They root-up crops and roto-till pastures with their long, strong snouts. They wreck levees and knock over deer feeders. Because of their unruly nature, your odds are fair that you’ll be able to locate landowners who would appreciate you harvesting a few wild porkers. And many of these same landowners would never let you hunt deer or turkeys on their property.

Feral swine cause alarming levels of damage to vegetation each year. Hunters can help to reduce this burden. 

If you’re a hunter, you likely have most of the gear you’ll need to begin hog hunting: a rifle of suitable caliber, a slug gun, or a bow; good optics; ammunition; and some camo.

So, what are you waiting for? A little more information about guns, gear, tactics and places to hunt?  Fair enough.

While I’m not an expert in All Things Pig, I have taken feral porkers from Oregon to Florida. I hunt them as often as possible, and I regularly try out new guns and gear during my pig hunts. I’ve had some notable hog-hunting successes, several failures, and I keep learning as I go. In future HuntStand coverage, I’ll share my experiences from hunting one of North America’s most notorious big-game animals: the wild hog.

The only way to shake off a dreaded miss is to pick up your rifle and seek redemption.


It was just after 10 a.m. on a September morning at the T Diamond Ranch in West Texas. As I sat atop a tripod stand near a muddy watering hole, the sun began baking the landscape.

The temperature was forecasted to reach more than 100 degrees that day; it had hit 104 the day before. At some point, as the mercury rose late in the morning, my hunting guide offered some encouraging words: “Hogs will likely hit the watering hole, slop around in the cooling mud until they get a nice, thick coating, and then head deep into the shady mesquite to sleep away the afternoon’s heat.”

He came through the brush and down the small slope leading to the water—the biggest wild hog I had ever seen. He was at least 350 pounds, looking like a propane tank with stubby legs. He hide was white and tan, with several reddish brown splotches. The boar trotted directly to the mud, turned sideways to me at 100 yards and flopped down, his body sinking deep with his head and jowls resting on the mud.

I lined up my scope’s crosshairs right below his ear. I tried to calm my breathing and stop my thinking to focus on the hog at hand. I squeezed the trigger … and missed. And missed twice more as the boar jumped up. He leapt from the black muck with surprising athleticism, despite his bulk, and sprinted into the brush.

I take this hog hunting thing way too seriously, so I truly hated myself at that moment. I’d killed hogs in the 250-pound range, and more than once, but this would’ve been my trophy—my boar of a lifetime. He was easiliy over 300 pounds with a head the size of a basketball.

But I missed. What a loser, I thought.

Having missed his shot at the hog of a lifetime, the author double-checked his rifle’s zero at the shooting range. Sure enough, the VTAC II was drilling 1-inch groups at 100 yards. That revelation didn’t make him feel better.

I arrived at a different stand before dawn the next morning. A couple of hours passed and I was just starting to get sleepy, until I heard grunting and squealing.

At least 20 wild porkers popped out of the mesquite and began trotting across a field some 80-90 yards to my right. A grey sow led the way, followed by a line of many smaller hogs—many only a few months old, others yearlings. The last hog was a dark boar with a stout, triangular head and blocky shoulders. The way he was taking his time, I just knew: This big guy didn’t rush anywhere, for anyone.

I swung my Smith & Wesson VTAC II rifle along the rail of my tripod stand, lined up the crosshairs of my scope on the boar’s mid-shoulder area and squeezed off a shot. And another fast follow-up shot, even as the hog began to sprint.

I fired twice more as he ran (both ultimately misses), my heart suddenly thumping all the way into my throat, but the hog was moving too fast. He crossed behind some trees and then reappeared, his legs churning. The boar hit the ground chest-first as I attempted to line up my scope on him. He tried to rise up, but fell back and went still.

This beefy wild boar is the author’s biggest hog to date, killed at the T Diamond Ranch with NRA Outdoors

My first bullet took the boar mid-shoulder and plunged down and through his heart-lung area. The next bullet hit him about 6 inches farther back—not a kill shot, but a solid follow-up to help anchor him.

My guides pegged him at 310 pounds, maybe more. He was huge! I felt so fortunate that I had been given a second chance at a big trophy boar, and that my shooting had done the trick.

The VTAC II rifle topped with a Leupold Mark AR MOD 1 scope had a lot to do with this success story, but I greatly credit my choice of ammunition for performing on a hog of that size. I used Remington’s Hog Hammer in .223 Rem., firing a 62-grain Barnes TSX bullet. When we cut into the boar, we found the bullet from that first, killing shot.

The Barnes TSX bullet used to kill the author’s hog was later measured on a reloading scale. It weighed 61.5 grains and it had mushroomed to .45 inches in diameter. That’s one tough bullet. 

The TSX bullet penetrated an amazing 16 inches of very solid hog—including his shield (the hard cartilage “vest” covering a boar’s shoulder and chest)—and it pierced his vitals. It passed all the way through and hit the lower shield on the boar’s left side, which actually flung the bullet 3 inches back into him.

I haven’t forgotten the giant white boar, but I’ve nearly forgiven myself for the miss. I hope to have a chance at him again one day … or maybe his bigger brother. If that never happens, I still have my boar of a lifetime.

You’ll find more than 5 million feral hogs tearing up most of the United States. Ready to put a dent in this destructive population? Here are five of the most productive regions to consider for your next hog hunt.

I’m an obsessed hog hunter, so it might come as a surprise to learn that I live in Wisconsin—a generally hog-free state. So, you’ll find me on the road when it’s time to fill the freezer with organic pork. If you’re thinking about heading out to track down your own wild swine, give these locales some consideration.

You want hogs, including bruiser boars capable of tilting the scales at 350-plus-pounds? West Texas is the place to be, especially west and north of Abilene. With long stretches of rolling hills covered in mesquite, prickly pear cactus, weathered rock and red sand, this part of the world is often referred to as “The Big Empty.” There aren’t a lot of people, but it’s filled with hogs.

West-Texas is one of the author’s favorite haunts for hunting hogs because of the high density and high odds of killing a fatty.

There’s very little public land here, so most of the opportunities lie in paying a fee to hunt large ranches. However, hog hunting tends to be a relative bargain compared to, say, deer hunting. For a couple of hundred dollars a day, you can secure a guided hog hunt plus food and lodging.

Anytime I’m in West Texas, you’ll find me hunting hogs at the Spike Box Ranch in Benjamin. It’s a 90,000-acre cattle ranch with great hunting accommodations, knowledgeable guides, and no limit on the number of hogs you can bag in a day … or night, as the Spike Box guides are big into hog hunting after dark.

It’s hasn’t received much attention (yet), but the area in and around Alabama’s William B. Bankhead National Forest, near Double Springs, is big and wild and fairly overrun with hogs. Managers at the Bankhead National Forest don’t mince words: Hogs are a significant problem for native wildlife here, and the only good wild porker is a dead wild porker.

It’s legal to hunt feral hogs here all year. Creek bottoms are favorite haunts, as are the large areas of jungle-thick vegetation. The Sipsey Wilderness Area is especially noted for high hog activity.

All you need is a state hunting license of some sort. And some time. The Bankhead encompass approximately 180,000 acres of pretty wild land, and while the hogs are many, they also have a big landscape in which to hide. Plan on doing some scouting beforehand. Property managers can also give you some tips on recent hog activity.

Many people who travel to Orlando, Florida, are there for the Disney experience. But hog hunters in the know use Orlando as a jumping off point. South of Orlando, the cattle country of Florida is a hog-hunting mecca, with a nice variety of public land and for-fee hunting opportunities. The pigs generally aren’t as big as their West-Texas cousins, but they make up for their smaller stature by the sheer numbers of them roaming the cypress swamps, the jungles of cabbage trees and live oaks, and the open cattle pastures.

The average Florida hog isn’t huge, but there are thousands ready to be exterminated. 

A top public hog-hunting area here is the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area near Kenansville, offering 51,000 acres of public hunting land just an hour south of Disney World. There, you’ll find large expanses of dry prairie bordered by cypress swamps, slash pine, freshwater marshes, and lots of Sunshine State piggies.

Many local outfitters offer guided hog hunts, too. Osceola Outdoors in Lakeport, for example, is known for providing prime hog hunts on thousands of acres of private land, featuring dozens of  feeders and hunting stands, and legions of hogs populating the swampy wilds of this awesome landscape.

While there’s always been a handful of hogs lurking in the swamps and thickets of the Mississippi Delta, wild swine populations here really took off in the last decade, thanks in part to Mississippi River floods that pushed large numbers of the porkers east into the Delta. Things are so bad here in places, some crop farmers report hogs following their tractors—as the farmers are planting corn!

If you can find a local property owner who’s willing to let you hunt his or her land, great. But the Delta has abundant public hunting ground, both federal- and state-managed. Properties include the 9,700-acre Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, home to the largest bottomland hardwood habitat in northwestern Mississippi, plenty of wetlands, and ever-increasing numbers of hogs.

This Mississippi Delta hog tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds. 

South of Dahomey, there’s the Sunflower Wildlife Management Area near Rolling Fork. it’s 60,000 acres of state-run public land located within Delta National Forest. Like most public land in the Delta, much of the property is thickly vegetated, with many streams and sloughs, and it typically takes some good scouting to line up a hog.

Most of these public lands in the Delta allow hog hunting as part of an “incidental take.” You can, for example, take a hog while deer hunting on these properties, as long as you have a deer-hunting license and are using a deer-season-appropriate hunting tool. Spring turkey hunters have been known to go afield here with a compound bow or crossbow, with hopes of bagging some bacon to accompany their turkey breasts.

California has an anti-gun and anti-hunting reputation, and its politicians have rightly earned both. But there’s actually much fine hunting in Cali, including some excellent hog hunting along the state’s Central Coast region of Monterey, San Benito, and San Luis Obispo Counties, located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Central Coast is a series of low, tree-covered mountain ranges interspersed with agricultural fields, vineyards and deep, vegetation-choked ravines.

While many of the hogs here are typical ferals, there’s also a strong lineage of the Russian boar—introduced for hunting decades ago. Spotting and stalking along the ridges and openings is the most exciting way to hunt these hogs. Setting up near agricultural fields, especially wheat fields, can be very productive as well.

The Central Coast region of California has plentiful public land, and many of its hogs are clearly descendants of the Russian boar.

There are numerous hog-hunting outfitters in the area, with a good deal of public land at your disposal. True, it’s harder for DIY hunters to find hogs on the Los Padres National Forest and its 1.75 million acres or the 280,000 acres of BLM Lands administered by the Hollister Field Office, but the hogs are there.

Cali being Cali, though, it has the distinction of being the most expensive state for non-res hunters from a license perspective. A general nonresident hunting license is a steep $163 (though 1- and 2-day licenses are less expensive), and a non-res hog tag is $77—each. Yes, you need a separate tag for each pig you take, purchased before you take said pig.

Mostly overlooked as a hunting handgun, the author’s experience with the 10mm Auto proves this nifty load is plenty potent on rangy feral hogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a quarter-hour from actual sunset, but already dark in the thick patch of South Florida jungle where I sat sweating, a shiny 10mm pistol within easy reach on my lap. I was hunting the area’s abundant feral hogs, and expecting company at any minute. Any second, actually. And why shouldn’t I? My ground blind was perched barely 25 yards from an active feeder, positioned just so beneath a large palmetto tree. Behind the feeder was a solid wall of tall green vegetation, and the sandy two-track directly in front of me was surrounded by overhanging brush. Even without the lure of shelled corn, the spot reeked of hogginess.

Actually, I had pretty much lost sight of the feeder ten minutes before, as the shadows began overtaking the area. I was just thinking about trying out the green light I had attached under the barrel of my 10mm PARA Elite LS Hunter, a semiauto 1911 pistol, when I noticed a dark blotch off to my right.

On second glance, the news was even better. The blotch was moving.

I guessed the dark brown visitor as a younger boar, maybe 125 pounds. He moved through the brush cautiously, an occasional grunt helping track his progress. The wild pig clearly knew about the feeder, but he also sensed something wasn’t quite right. As he paused behind a thick bush I raised my PARA and poked it out the blind window, in the process making sure my Burris FastFire III optic was ticked “on.”

Suddenly, the boar spun around and dashed back the way he’d come. Damn! I was just returning my PARA to my lap when the indecisive hog darted back into view. It sprinted up the two-track trail then froze, eyeballing the feeder, nose up and testing the air.

I slid the 3MOA red dot of the FastFire III onto the hog’s low-shoulder area, let out my breath and squeezed the auto’s trigger. The hog squealed once, dashed passed the feeder then veered into the inky brush. Just before it vanished, I saw the wounded hog bounce off a tree trunk.

Indeed, with that bounce and his piercing squeal, I knew I’d hit the hog; when my guide showed up a hour later, we used flashlights to find a blood trail and then the hog himself, stone dead just 75 yards from the feeder. The Barnes VOR-TX round, firing a 155-grain TAC-XP bullet, had done a “through-and-through” on the hog, just behind the front leg and piercing the back of his lungs. Mission accomplished.

The author’s PARA Elite LS Hunter handgun proved to be dependably deadly on a handful of feral hog hunts in 2015.

I tried hog hunting with a handgun for the very first time in 2015, using the PARA Elite LS Hunter; to date, I’ve been fortunate to take nine hogs using a 10MM handgun (plus one spike buck). Hog hunting with a 1911 model 10MM has become my new favorite way to bring home the bacon.

Why am I so excited about my “new” hog weapon? It’s a great deal of fun. While the 10MM is certainly powerful enough for bigger game, it’s still a handgun—so you have to get relatively close. Good stalking skills are a huge help!  Much like archery hunting, the handgun option also puts a premium on stealth and silence, as well as making sure to use the wind to your advantage. And it also helps to be quick and decisive when the shot presents itself.

While the 10MM is certainly powerful enough for bigger game, it’s still a handgun—so you have to get relatively close.

Developed by tactical handgun guru Col. Jeff Cooper, the 10MM Auto was designed as a more-powerful option to the 9MM, while being a flatter-shooting, longer-range round than the .45 ACP. The first pistol chambered in the new round was the Bren Ten, introduced in the early 1980s. The 10MM Auto was briefly adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the late 1980s, but soon gave way to the lighter-recoiling .40 S&W.

But shooters in the know knew: In the 10MM Auto, you had magnum power in a relatively short, rimless cartridge, one designed to be used in a semiautomatic platform that could deliver substantial numbers of rounds down range, quickly.

ParaGun600 For exciting, challenging hog-hunting action, it’s hard to beat the “up-close-and-personal” experience the 10mm Auto demands.

As noted, I began my 10MM adventures with the PARA Elite LS Hunter, a long-slide 1911 with a 6-inch barrel. Unfortunately, PARA is no more. Bought up by Remington several years ago, PARA was recently closed for good (though some of the handguns can still be found, in stores and online). The industry rumor is Remington will eventually debut several new 1911s based on past PARA models, including a 10MM option. I hope so!

With some practice, I was soon able to drill a target the size of a hog’s kill zone at 30 yards using my PARA. More practice got me to 40 yards, and now I’m pretty comfortable hunting at this distance.

I’ve also hunted with the 10MM Long-Slide 1911 made by Republic Forge, a custom gun maker based in Texas and it’s a great handgun—accurate and comfortable in my hand. I have shot the Glock 20 Gen4 as well, a polymer-framed 10MM that holds an impressive 15 rounds, and found it dead-on accurate and easy to use.

In addition, Wilson Combat, SIG Sauer, and STI International also make some very nice 10MMs.

I’ve mostly used the Barnes VOR-TX ammunition in my 10MMs, for practice and hunting, and it’s a damned effective round. It moves out of the barrel at a stout 1,150 fps, with almost zero drop out to 40 yards, and it punches through hogs with ease.

Other ammo makers with some impressive 10MM offerings include: Sig Sauer’s new V-Crown 180-grain JHP load; Dynamic Research Technologies and its screamer Terminal Shock 105-grain load (1,540 fps out of the barrel); and Federal Premium’s Vital-Shok with a 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP bullet. I’ve used all at the range and they performed very well; I will be field-testing each round in 2016.

If you’re a reloader? Nosler has a number of 10MM bullet options for you: 135-grain JHP, 150-grain JHP, 180-grain JHP, and 200-grain JHP.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A Texas hunt allowed the author to test-drive a Republic Forge Long-Slide 1911, with impressive results.

The Burris FastFireIII is a pleasure to use. The 3-MOA dot is large enough to get on target quickly, but not so big as to obscure your target’s kill zone. It has three manual brightness settings, plus an automatic brightness adjustment setting. The top-mounted battery offers easy access, without removing the sight. Windage and elevation adjustments are accurate and easy to adjust.

On the Republic Forge 1911, I used Trijicon HD Night sights and was very impressed. Extremely visible, the HD got me on target quickly, helping me take a hog at 25 yards that suddenly popped out of the South-Texas brush on a deer hunt, and a spike buck at 35 yards on the same hunt.

Leupold’s new DeltaPoint Reflex Sight is another great option for the 10MM platform, as is Cabela’s Tactical Reflex Sight with Rear Facing Brightness Control, and Trijicon’s RMR sight.

I haven’t gotten a chance to bring down a hog with it yet, but I have attached a Nite Hunter archery night light to the underside of the PARA’s slide, securing it to the mini-rails. It lights up a fine swath of night out to 50 yards, and paired with the FastFire III should be a great combo for an exciting night hog hunt. One of my New Year’s resolutions: bring down a hog with this light and pistol in 2016.