Ready for some serious ‘off-season’ fun? Pack your rubber boots, a spacious cooler, and point your rig south for a hog-wild, DIY hunting adventure.
These days there are so many media accounts of feral hogs wreaking havoc on agricultural and other private properties across the nation, it’s easy for many hog hunters to overlook a simple fact: Wild hogs are plentiful on many of our public lands, too! But where should avid hog chasers start their search for the next wild pork fest? Here are four suggestions for eager do-it-yourself hog hunters, info that should help jump-start your next adventure and get you well on your way to tasting porcine success.
APALACHICOLA WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA—Florida Panhandle
If you love hog hunting and haven’t been to Florida, it’s time to make a plan. According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, wild pigs are the second-most-popular big game animal in the Sunshine State. And even better, they are found on most public lands including the expansive Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near Tallahassee. Spread out over four counties and 582,000 acres, the Apalachicola WMA is home to pine palmetto flatwoods interspersed by titi and cypress swamps—and lots of hogs!
Hogs can be hunted here during regular game seasons, using the specific season’s required weapons. Which means that, starting with deer archery and running through deer gun season, you can hunt hogs on this WMA from the end of October right through the end of February. That’s a lot of hog hunting opportunity.
The Bradwell Unit of the Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area—1,400 acres of bottomland hardwoods, swamps, and pine plantations—is rated as one of Northwest Florida’s best public hog-hunting areas. In addition to the regular game season hunt opportunities, Hog Management Dog Hunts and Hog Management Still Hunts take place here on select weekends during May through September.
Nearest City: Tallahassee
Hunter Access: Dozens of public access points spread out over the four-county area.
Cool Side Trip: Military and/or World War Two buffs should spend a couple hours checking out the many exhibits at nearby Camp Gordon Johnston Museum in Carrabelle.
Fort Stewart has an impressively large population of what the locals call “piney woods rooters.” You won’t have to look hard for signs of wild hogs digging up the landscape, and the hog hunting here is very much open to the public. Even better? There is no bag limit for hogs, and the hunting is open all year long except during spring turkey season (check the state regs).
Fort Stewart encompasses some 250,000 acres, including a wealth of pine flats, swamps, upland hardwoods, and bottomland creeks and streams. Hogs can be found most anywhere, but they particularly love the installation’s 90,000 acres of wetlands, which harbor prime locations for hog food and cover.
Hog Hunters must purchase a Fort Stewart Pass and Permit. Using the permit (in conjunction with installation maps), an automated access system allows hunters to confirm the areas they wish to hunt are open that day, via touch-tone phone.
Hunter Access: Enter through the Fort Stewart Main Gate (Gate 1), found off U.S. Highway 84 and on General Stewart Way.
Closest city: Savannah, GA (approximately 35 miles to the southwest).
Cool Side Trips: Civil War history comes alive in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah History Museum (303 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.), Fort Jackson (1 Fort Jackson Road), and Fort Pulaski National Monument (US 80, Chatham County GA), east of the city. There are many other Civil War sites too.
PANTHER SWAMP NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE—Mississippi Delta
Does the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) hold any hogs? Ask local farmers whose lands abut the refuge and expect an earful! Hungry, opportunistic feral hogs literally swarm out of the Refuge during spring planting and late-summer harvests, costing frustrated local farmers all sorts of money—so Panther Swamp is definitely a haven for both hogs and hog hunters.
While the hunting opportunities aren’t quite as plentiful as the hogs, you can still secure some fresh wild pork during one of Panther Swamp’s turkey or deer hunting seasons. A favored “two-for-one” opportunity comes in spring: Spring turkey hunters who use a compound bow or crossbow can also use these weapons to bag a wild boar or sow.
Panther Swamp NWR has one of the largest remaining contiguous blocks of bottomland hardwood forest in the state, at over 28,000 acres. This expansive forest is interspersed with numerous wooded sloughs, cypress-tupelo brakes and bayous, and moist soil areas and wetlands. There are areas of dwarf palmetto that are anything but tiny, and resemble regular jungles. With the right wind, a camo-clad turkey hunter could do very well hunting these areas.
Hunter Access: Enter at the Visitor Center off Highway 149 for maps and directions. There is parking for vehicles and trailers here, too. From the Visitors Center, designated roads, ATV trails and boat ramps provide access to remote locations throughout the Refuge.
Closest City: Yazoo City, MS.
Cool Side Trip: The Mississippi Delta’s all about The Blues, and 30 minutes north of the Refuge is Indianola—birthplace of Blues legend B.B King. The city is also home to the B.B. King Museum, 400 Second Street, Indianola, MS 38751.
DEWEY W. MILLS WMA—North Central Louisiana
As a hog-hunting state, Louisiana doesn’t get the kind of attention Texas does. But, Louisiana hunters actually killed more hogs in 2012 than they did deer, according to media reports—183,000 feral pigs compared to 166,000 deer. A prime state hog-hunting spot is the Dewey W. Mills Wildlife Management Area (WMA), just north of Alexandria, in LaSalle Parish.
“This WMA has an abundance of feral swine,” says Cliff Dailey, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biological supervisor for the WMA. “Incidental take is permitted throughout the hunting season. But legal weapons to use must coincide with the season currently open.”
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The interior of this 61,000-acre property is criss-crossed by a series of roads. Flat and poorly drained, Dewey Mills is wet and muddy, interlaced with bayous and lakes. The forest cover is a mixture of bottomland hardwoods. Translation? A perfect habitat mix for wild porkers.
Hunter Access: The WMA’s Headquarters in located on the north end of the property, at 225 Dewey Wills Hq Rd., just south and east of HWY 28. Maps and directions here for the WMA’s roads, ATV trails and boat ramps. Camping areas are available as well.
Closest City: Alexandria, 20 miles to the southwest
Cool Side Trip: After a hard day of hunting Dewey’s swamps and sloughs, recharge with a craft brew or two at Finnegan’s Wake Pub, which offers live music and outdoor seating, in Alexandria.