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.