Hogs are possibly the perfect game animal, whether you are a novice hunter or seasoned veteran. Hogs are smart, tough, great eating and cheap to hunt. Best of all, in most areas you can hunt hogs year-round, so you’ll never again have an excuse to stay home on the couch waiting for the season to open. You can hunt hogs with archery tackle, rifles, shotguns or muzzleloaders. Hogs also are great for old military rifles or handguns of suitable caliber. The important factor to remember is that you need to use ammunition designed for hunting. Military ball, plinking rounds and self-defense offerings may not quickly dispatch the game animal and land you in trouble with the local game warden.
Hogs are quickly becoming a top game animal for hunters, and why wouldn’t they? Hogs are cheap to hunt, very prolific and extremely destructive to the local habitat. A single sow can have 15 to 20 piglets in a litter and up to 3 litters per year. Even if we went with lower numbers, a sow can easily produce 30-plus piglets a year with a 50 percent survivability to maturity. Conservatively, that would mean a 15-fold increase per sow, per year. That equates to exponential growth and destruction.
In the United States, particularly throughout the south, the population has exploded—no surprise there. Each hog can uproot an entire acre of vegetation per day, so a herd of 15 is significant; a herd of 200+ is down right devastating. That has the attention of ranchers, farmers, wildlife biologists, state game officials, and most of all, hunters.
Local laws vary, so be sure to check with your local game and fish department, but most areas consider hogs varmints and want them dead. That means little regulation of seasons, limits, fees and methods of take. Best of all, you are hunting pork. It is friendly to families with a spouse or children who are shy of game meat or think the animal too cute for table fare.
The cost of entry is great for experienced sportsmen looking for off-season opportunities and a great first hunt. For little to no cost, you can take a new hunter on a hog hunt. If you do not know where to find hogs, call your state game agency. I am sure a local biologist will be able to point you in the right direction. Alternatively, there are several exotic hunting operations that focus on hogs.
Those ranches boast high success rates. Some restrict opportunities to spot and stalk, while others have bait sites or chase hogs with dogs. A few even offer opportunities to hunt hogs from a helicopter. Hunting behind dogs is an experience, but not one that I would recommend for first-time hunters. The action is fast, and the hunter has to know his or her place before the dogs get on the pig. This does not lend itself to the neophyte (newbie) in my opinion—but that is just my opinion.
If you choose to plan your own hunt, there are a few necessities you may want to check out. You will need a good set of boots. Depending on your area and time of the year, you may need waterproof boots. I am not a fan of snakes, so I take that into account when selecting footwear as well. If you are hunting behind dogs, you’ll certainly need something sufficient to run across uneven ground.
Hogs have excellent eyesight, so a quality camo is a must. Unlike many mammals, hogs can see color. Be sure to also take that into consideration when selecting your camo pattern in relation to the local vegetation. The nose of a whitetail deer is the stuff of legend, but deer have nothing on a hog. Pigs can smell a single acorn under a foot of dirt. Unless you regularly wear more than 12 inches of dirt, a good scent-control program will up your odds for success.
Depending on the terrain you will be hunting, good optics are an absolute must. The wide-open foothills of California allow for glassing at a distance, while the thick vegetation in the south provides the cover pigs love. They are smart, too. A hog will hole up and let you walk right by—or bust out of the brush and ruin your day with razor-sharp tusks. You will want to find a bad-tempered boar before he finds you.
In many areas, you also can up your odds with a bit of legwork ahead of time. There are dozens of supplements and attractants specifically for hogs. I never have spent much time trying to call hogs, but others I know have had some success. I always carry a squealer call that simulates a young pig in distress. The call will attract hogs and the errant coyote. Speaking of coyotes, I never head into the woods without a cottontail distress or similar call.