Before I get too deep into this know that I am not a hog expert, I have been hunting them my entire life but that doesn’t make me an expert. I will only tell you what I’ve seen with my own eyes not what I heard from some random guy that killed hogzilla that turned out to be the neighbors show pig. I assure you the hogs I’ve hunted and killed and learned from are wild, nasty, 100% born free and mean hogs. Now if you want to learn something follow along.
The Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto is credited for bringing the first pigs to North America in the 1500s but there is some evidence of our man Christopher Columbus having pigs with him in 1492 when he landed and now it has even been suspected that Vikings actually landed in what is now Canada years before Columbus but were turned away by the natives so maybe they had pigs too. I don’t know the real story I wasn’t around then despite what my kids and their friends think. All I know is I’m glad somebody had the forethought to bring along living food with them on their explorations because pigs are not native to North America so some pork chop lover brought them and I thank them for it.
Now that you learned nothing in that first paragraph listen up, love them or hate them they are here to stay!! I promise hogs are not taking over the world as some people think, they have been in Europe for a lot longer than they’ve been here and there are still people in Europe doing well, I’ve seen them there, the hogs haven’t killed them, they are not going to eat all our crops and steal our babies away and rule the world. I know I know some of you swear they are but here’s the deal, hogs are only a problem where they are a problem. I know that sounds funny but let me explain, to the people that have hogs and crops they are what will end us all, to the regular hunter they are a bit of a nuisance at times but fun to hunt, to the regular everyday Joe that don’t hunt they are non exsistent. What I’m trying to say is in the grand scheme of things they aren’t that big of an issue but to a select few they are a huge huge issue. The problem is those select few scream to the heavens that they are the devil and will be the down fall of society, and people listen. I often hear the argument that hogs are costing farmers millions in crop damage each year and I agree, but did you know that the whitetail deer cost drivers and insurance companies more annually in damage to vehicles on the highways? I don’t hear the outrage about that, why are we not out to kill all white tails? Oh yeah, they have antlers and we all know the size of the industry that is focused around antlers. I blame Pope and Young Club and Boone and Crockett Club for the antler craze that in my opinion causes hunters to focus more on bragging about big bucks than actually enjoying a hunt.
Don’t get me wrong I will kill a big buck but I would rather have a great hunt than a boring hunt with antlers and trust me hogs can be a great great hunt. My theory is that most folks who hunt them feel they are doing their part to help farmers and they feel better about killing them because most folks don’t clean and eat all they kill.
There are some extenuating circumstances where farmers can kill hundreds a year from their fields and there’s no way all these can be cleaned and eaten and I understand that but to the weekend hunter that shoots one from under his feeder and doesn’t eat it because he isn’t legally required to you are an idiot. That is a blatant waste of very good meat and is down right lazy. I will get cussed by many for this opinion but that’s how I feel. I never understood the killing of an edible animal that is left in the field. I can hear some of you now saying I bet you don’t eat coons they are edible, bet I do! I’m not looking to argue with people over what is edible and what is not. My point is the meat from a wild hog is delicious and anybody that doesn’t clean one they shoot simply just doesn’t want to because they don’t have to. I suspect if the same rules applied to deer that apply to hogs those people wouldn’t clean deer either. To each their own but you are missing several quality meals when you leave a pig in the field no matter the size of the pig. I’m not sure when the theory started that you can’t eat the big ones but this is false. I’ve eaten hundreds of pigs of every size and given away hundreds more, I have never had a complaint about the meat not being edible. It’s not that hard, keep it clean, keep it cold, and treat it like any other meat.
Hogs are very intelligent creatures but do have weaknesses. Their nose is as good if not better than a whitetail, if the wind is wrong you will not get a shot at a pig. They will not tolerate human scent! Second they are not blind as many think, in fact they can pick up movement very well but do not pick up a camoed hunter who is still very well. One of the weaknesses they do have is they are loud, a group of pigs feeding can be heard from a long ways away and this can give a sneaky hunter a great chance to move in close.
One way to beat their nose is to force them to put their nose in the ground. You can do this by digging a hole and placing bait in the bottom. The pig will root around to get to the bait and by putting his nose in the ground you have eliminated his sense of smell and if the hole is deep enough they can get their ears in it too and that will allow you to draw your bow or move in closer for a shot.
Speaking of bait, there are literally endless things that can be used for bait but good old standard deer corn is as good as anything. I’ve seen hogs eat deer carcasses, all types of road kill, even other hogs so there’s not a lot they won’t eat but having a steady supply of corn will keep them around. There are several commercial products available now that pigs love. I prefer the Elusive Wildlife Pig Oil and Swine Sauce. These products are made by guys that hunt and the product is made to attract pigs not hunters. Too many commercial products smell good to us or have a fancy bottle and that’s great for sells but if it’s not effective in the field whats the point? The Pig Oil is designed for the pigs to rub when placed on a tree or even a telephone pole. It is thick and holds up well in the rain, I think the pigs like it more in the summer to help combat some of the bugs and also the hotter it gets the farther the scent will carry. The idea is that a pig will come to rub the tree and when he leaves he carries that scent into the woods, as the pig rubs other trees he leaves a scent trail and other pigs that pass by will pick it up and follow it to your set.
In Texas there are corn feeders on every 50 acres it seems and hogs know they can get corn anywhere so I like to make my set with some extra attraction. Getting pigs to an area is easy, a simple corn feeder will do that but keeping them there is harder. One trick to keep a pig in the area is to set your feeder to go off multiple times with little corn being thrown each time rather than one time with a lot of corn. Here’s what happens,the feeder goes off for three seconds and the pigs know there’s corn on the ground but not enough for everybody so they will rush in trying to get their fill but most won’t get any, but they know that the feeder will go off again soon so they hang around waiting for the next throwing. I’m not saying pigs can count to three but I can tell you that they understand it goes off three times and after the third time they will eat the corn and leave. Mine goes off three times 15 minutes apart this insures that the pigs will be there for atleast 45 minutes. If I set that feeder off for one time once the corn is gone they know to move along.
Another trick is to set your feeder times for “off peak” times, by this I mean some other time than the neighbors. Every deer feeder in Texas goes off thirty minutes before dark and thirty minutes after daylight, pigs know this. I like to set mine to go off at some time other than that because once the rush is over they know where to come for food. I often set my feeders for midnight because I know my corn will be the only corn on the ground at that time and it works great.
As far as location goes everybody knows pigs like thick areas, this mostly has to do with shade. Pigs don’t tolerate heat well and don’t sweat like us so the thicker the vegetation the cooler the ground will be. A pig will dig out a wallow to lay in during the day in the thickest undergrowth he can find, if water is near there you can bet you will find pigs there in the summer time. I personally think pigs are easier to hunt in the summer because of this. They don’t move around near as much in the summer because of the heat and not moving means they don’t need as many calories so they are not constantly on the move looking for food. You can really get into some exciting hunting if you can get in close into these thickets with a bow or even a shotgun. I prefer a bow because it often leads to multiple shots where a shotgun going off will usually scatter the herd.
Weapons for pigs can range from knives and spears to the biggest center fire rifle you care to shoulder. One of the great things about them is they come in all sizes and you can match the pig to your weapon. I’m not certain why a hunter who shoots a fawn whitetail would be criticized but a hunter who shoots a piglet will get a pat on the back back at camp and told hey that’s a good eater there. Whatever, a lot don’t make sense to me, but either way if you happen to have a .22 mag with you at the time you see a pig then shoot a nice small one to smoke whole on the smoker and if you are sitting in your deer stand watching your feeder with your trusty .270 then you have enough fire power for any swine that happens by. I’ve killed hogs with .22 long rifles, .30-.30s, all range of 22 center fires, bows, trucks, rocks, just about everything you can kill one with. I like that I can try new weapons or bullets out anytime of the year on pigs and also get some good meat at the same time.
I’ve talked a lot about feeders but if feeders aren’t your thing but you’d like to try to attract some pigs you can make a pig pipe. This is a piece of 4″ pvc pipe with small holes drilled in it, then capped off on one end and the other fitted with a screw on cap, filled with corn. You tie this with a short chain around a stake in the ground so that the pigs can roll the pipe and the corn will come out the holes each time the pig rolls the pipe over. This will keep pigs occupied for a long time. Pouring corn or bait out on the ground is also a great way to attract them but I find that consistency is key to getting a pattern on them. They will no doubt eat that corn but they can dictate when they show up and that may not be the time you are there, that’s why I prefer a feeder with set times.
If for some reason you are against baiting all together then you likely will not be the most successful pig hunter but that’s ok stalking them on the ground can be one of the most exciting hunts you can do. Bowhunting hogs on the ground is one of my favorite things to do. The thing to remember when stalking any animal is the wind, that’s no different with pigs. Most pigs are in groups so for everyone you see there’s another one you don’t.
Mid day is a great time for stalking because the pigs are usually asleep in a thicket somewhere, but like human kids, piglets don’t like to take naps and will usually be playing around near the group. More than once while stalking I have seen piglets up moving around and that lead me to the location of the group. Big pigs that are sleeping are not hard to sneak up on but will wind you just the same as when they are awake.
A great place to start a stalk is near water for a couple of reasons. One they love water and you just might happen upon one sleeping in the edges but if that’s not the case there will be sign near the water. As a pig wallows in the mud he leaves a outline of his body and this can tell you the size of a hogs you are dealing with. When they leave the water the mud will rub off on the trees along the trail and give you idea of the direction he is going. This can give you an idea where to set up as they come and go to water.
Pigs are great swimmers and I’ve seen them jump into a river off a high bank and swim across it so they are not afraid to get completely in the water not just the mud. Once on a hot August mid day hunt where temps were nearing 110 degrees I snuck over a tank dam and glassed the edges under the trees where they like to stay cool and in the shadows I could see something out of place but couldn’t make out exactly what I was seeing. I made my way around the edge of the water and glassed again. There were pigs there but only their faces were out of the water. These pigs were laying with their bodies completely submerged and just enough of their snout out to breath. I always always check the water for sign when looking for pigs.
Pigs are very social critters, they have many vocalizations for communicating but not many people take the time to learn them or even know what they mean. Pigs feeding make a certain sound that shows they are content, a sow in heat has a sound to let boars know she’s ready, piglets are constantly squealing about something until momma makes the warning sound of “danger is near”, if you’ve never seen this it’s very impressive. The piglets will be doing piglet things and when the sow detects something is wrong she will let out a grunt and the piglets will respond immediately by running toward her. There’s no arguing or second guessing, all piglets in the litter move fast as soon as she warns them. Most times for me that warning means I’ve been busted by swirling winds but that’s how it goes.
I was recently sneaking up on a group of piglets to try to get a shot with a blowgun and as I lay on my stomach only 10 yards away waiting for a shot I heard the sound of a larger pig coming. I knew it had to be their momma and I was right. 99% of the time the sow will sound her warning and then they all run off but there are times when she wants to fight to protect her babies. I was hoping this wasn’t one of those times. She got to five yards from my left but having no way to maneuver a 5′ long blowgun my only option was to lay there and hope. Luckily she winded me and warned the piglets rather than walking up on me and seeing me because I think that would’ve left me in a fist fight with a mad momma and my only weapon a flimsy piece of aluminum pipe. Would’ve made for a great story but likely also a mark in the loss column for me.
Mothers are very protective of their young. More than once I’ve been chased for either having caught a piglet and it squealing called her in or I’ve turned a sow out of a trap so that she could go raise her piglets and she wanted to fight before she left. I once had a sow trapped that was hell bent on drawing blood, even after the door was opened for her to leave she still insisted on fighting. I told my brother he should likely get on top of the trap with me as I tried to push her out but he said no, I’ll just stand behind it she won’t come around here once she sees the door is open. Guess who ended up on top of the trap with me as we threw sticks and ropes at the circling sow trying to run her away. She finally lost interest but made her point and walked away slowly, looking back periodically to see if we were still safe on our lofty perch.
Hogs will fight to protect themselves and others in their group and are tough animals but the idea that they can absorb 30 caliber bullets and take arrows like a wooly mammoth is ridiculous. If you hit them in the lungs they die, PERIOD, end of sentence!!! I’ve heard stories in camps and cafes across the state of Texas about how Hungover Harry shot a 400 pound boar with his .30-.06 “right in the shoulder” and it just kept walking and didn’t even flinch. No you didn’t Harry, first off you didn’t see a 400 pound boar, second you didn’t hit him there if he just kept walking and third your blood shot eyes tell me you may not have even went hunting this morning. Hogs are not as tough as they get credit for. Some boars do have a thick “shield” on the shoulder that can be tough. This is often thought to be a callus of sorts from fighting but that’s not true. I know of a boar hog that was kept from a small piglet until his death in a pen without contact with any other pigs and he had this shield. I can only assume that it would be there for protection in a fight, not from a fight.
I hunted a ranch that the owner had one way traps around the perimeter of a pasture that was fenced with goat wire. These traps let outside hogs in and discouraged hogs from inside getting out. This fence will not hold a hog that wants to leave believe me. I’ve seen them run through it, jump over it, and dig out of it but given plenty water, food and other pigs most don’t want to leave anyway. I shot a very large boar with a bow and happened to hit him just above the knee joint getting very little penetration. When I relayed this to the owner and told him I thought he would live he said, ” he will be dead by Monday”. I asked what he meant and his response was that 90% of the hogs that are hit somewhere in the body that folks think will live because of their reputation as a tough critter will die soon. He said I’ve seen hogs hit there be dead in minutes, the lack of blood is not to be confused with toughness. Just because he didn’t bleed out much doesn’t mean he won’t die. I took this information and decided to look even more for the hog. With two of us making a grid we found the hog stone dead not 200 yards from where he was shot and not a drop of blood on the ground. He hadn’t been dead long as he was still warm and the shot had been near 36 hours before, but dead none the less. Hogs have fat and that fat can clog up a hole in the hide, the blood goes back into the body cavity and the pig still dies so don’t think just because there’s no blood that the pig will live, if he was hit in a vital organ he will die, go find him. All lungs and tissues are made from the same thing in any animal and when damaged will cause death no matter how big or stinky or ugly the critter they can’t breath with blood in their lungs.
Texas is a great state for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons to me is the hunting. We have a huge variety of animals to hunt from around the world and world class whitetail deer and millions of pigs. I think the pigs are looked at as second class citizens because of the ample opportunities we have here. In other parts of the world the pig is looked at as a great big game quarry worthy of any hunters pursuit no matter your skill level, I agree with those countries. Most Texan ranchers that have hogs don’t want them and I understand that but they don’t hate them so bad that they will allow hunters to hunt them for free so they can’t be too worried about the damages.
Hogs are one of the cheapest animals to hunt. Even though most ranches don’t allow free hunting you can get in some for a couple hundred dollars a day and some even charge by the pig. That’s a reasonable price for hunting, this is an expensive activity we do but it can be done by most anybody that puts some effort into it.
There are several places in Texas on public land that hold hogs. This will require some homework and some foot work to be successful but it can be done. The price of whitetail deer has almost gone too high for the average working man to afford but hunting can still be done. Personally I like the taste of a hog better than a whitetail and the hunt is just as good if not better.
So go out buy some deer corn, spread a little out on the ground near a thicket, pour some Swine Sauce on it and get a feeding area started. Go check on it as often and refresh it and I promise you pigs will find it and when they do they will check and recheck it for more food. The more consistent they find it there the more they will be there. Make a brush blind and kill a hog and enjoy a hunt without worrying about antler size.
No matter your weapon or skill set or how far around the world you’ve traveled hunting, a wild hog is a great animal to hunt and will test your skills and equipment as much any other big game you’ve hunted.