I don’t know how many times per year a hunter will say something to me like, “I’d sure like to hunt hogs. That looks like a blast.” Of all of the hunting dreams we may have, a pig hunt is arguably the most achievable. There are a few misconceptions about hog hunts that any prospective pig chaser needs to realize, however.
For starters, you probably will not drive to Texas, knock on a rancher’s door, and suddenly have access to 5,000 acres to hunt. Pigs are big business in Texas and a few other key states, and you won’t hunt them for free. Fine, you probably think, I’ll just find them on public land. While this may be possible, it’s not likely.
This is largely because most of the states that have established populations of feral pigs allow baiting on private land but not public. I experienced this first-hand last fall in Oklahoma. The hog sign was there on the public, but it was old. The pigs were gone, off to the neighboring private land to fill their bellies on feeder corn. For six days I hunted deer, turkeys and pigs on 31,000 acres of public land and I never laid eyes on a single porker.
I’m not saying you couldn’t find a public-land hog or two if you looked hard enough because I fully intend to do that somehow. But the reality is, by far the best bet is to plan to write a check for your first hog hunt. The good thing about having to do that is outfitted hog hunts are some of the most affordable hunts out there. You just need to find the right place to spend your hard-earned money.
Ask Questions, Lots of Questions
Last spring, two buddies and I drove to Texas to bow and gun hunt pigs. It was March, the weather was perfect, and the outfitter assured us we’d be the only hunters in camp for the three days we were scheduled. When we showed up, there were nine other hunters in camp and space was so limited I ended up crashing on a couch in the living room of the lodge.
We also had been assured the hogs would be hitting feeders so bowhunting was a viable option. There wasn’t a single hunter in camp who saw a pig on a feeder, and it was pretty clear the hunting pressure at those sites had been intense.
We did harvest some pigs through spot-and-stalk with both weapons, and it turned out to be a decent trip despite some of the setbacks. Had I asked more questions before the hunt, I’d have found out the outfitter caters almost exclusively to gun hunters. In fact, we were the last group to hunt for the spring and we were the first to show up with archery tackle. Lesson learned.
No matter your weapon choice, ask plenty of questions about the hunting methods, hog limits, etc. Some places allow hunters to shoot as many pigs as they can, others have a strict limit. Know this well ahead of time. Also, make sure to ask about stands and blinds, baiting frequency, stalking options, and if there is any nighttime hunting allowed.
It’s common for first-timers to expect to be overrun with hogs. This rarely happens. Hogs are survivors, and while they can’t see very well, they can hear and smell with the best of them. They also are very smart. Now with that out of the way, I’ll say this: They are still pigs. This means their stomachs drive their movements, and at any decent operation you should get some shots.
Whether you choose archery equipment or a firearm, the shots you take should be good ones. Feral hogs are tough, and too many hunters shoot at whole hogs instead of picking a good aiming point. Four or five inches behind the shoulder is ideal for both weapons.
I’ve seen a few hunters try to head shot and ironically enough these are often the same hunters who show up with AR-15s loaded with cheap .223 rounds. Lots of jaws are blown off and lots of pigs are lost. For some reason, many hunters look at hogs like it doesn’t matter if they are wounded and lost, but I’m not one of them.
I like eating pork, a lot. And every hog hunt I’ve attended has been partially for the experience and partially for the spoils of a successful hunt. Opt for good equipment designed to bring down tough animals with one shot, and brush up on your hog anatomy so you’ll know where to aim.
And on that note, don’t expect to take a 300-pound porker. Hogs are an awful lot like black bears in that while we often hear about the big ones, most of the animals harvested are much smaller than advertised. A 100-pounder is a great pig, shoot every one you can. Ditto for every other pig that crosses your path.
Hog hunts are awesome for first-time hunters, or anyone looking to fill in the downtime of the year with some fun hunting. Just make sure that if you do decide to book a pig hunt, do your research and plan accordingly. If you do, you’ll have a blast and most likely, fill your freezer with some tasty meat.