Why Hogs Make for Great Hunting

The author with the boar he took in Florida last summer with a PARA Elite LS Hunter semiauto 1911-pattern pistol chambered in 10mm with a 6-inch barrel.

The West Texas night surround me it its chilly embrace, while overhead a million hard little stars twinkled. I sat in a hunting blind waiting for a hog to show at the Spike Box Ranch near Benjamin. The Spike Box Ranch is nearly 100,000 acres of a working cattle ranch. It's a rolling land of cactus and mesquite, red sand, and broken rock. I'd hunted this ranch before, in late August when the temperatures were over 100 degrees during the day. But now, sitting in an elevated blind of plywood on a February night, the temps were in the mid-30s and dropping, I wished for a little of that Lone Star heat.

But hot or cool, nighttime is a great time to target feral hogs, as they are nocturnal feeders. My blind sat about 120 yards from a feeder, and I heard all sorts of noise as the darkness fell in around me. Every 10 minutes or so something would crunch through the underbrush or bang up against the feeder. I’d flick on my green hunting light attached to my slug gun, scan the area…and spot another raccoon.

Finally, I said the heck with it—this was going to be a long night and I needed to conserve battery power. No more checking on every little sound. Sit and wait, I told myself.

It was probably an hour later and near midnight, as I alternated between dozing and shivering, when I heard that telltale grunting.

Pig!

I eased my Mossberg Tri-Rail 12-gauge shotgun up onto the window ledge of the hunting blind and pointed the muzzle towards the horizon. I snapped on the hunting light attached to the side of the barrel, and then slowly brought the green beam of light down. There he was, a large boar with a cream-colored coat, and his nose was in the dirt, rooting. He was 100 yards in front of me, and had no reaction the green light.

I took a deep breath and let it out. Then I lined up my scope’s center reticle on the hog’s shoulder and then down a bit, knowing a hog’s lungs and heart are fairly low and forward. I squeezed the trigger.

Through my scope, all I saw was a blast of light. I placed the light’s beam back over the area, and there he lay, right in the spot where I’d shot him—about 230 pounds of Texas boar.

I was hooked on hog hunting—and a great time to be hooked it is. If you want the ability to pretty much hunt all year and keep your freezer full of lean, natural meat—and help out farmers and ranchers—then there’s no better species than hogs.

Feral hog numbers have been surging across the country for a decade now and show no signs of slowing down. Some estimates place the total number of wild hogs at 6 million spread over 41 states. There were just 2 million hogs 30 years ago found in 17 states.

Sows start breeding within their first year, and can have two litters of piglets annually. They’ll eat darn near anything, and can live just about anywhere, from the arid landscapes of West Texas to the colder climes of New York State, and most places in between.

They are destructive beasts. They eat up farm crops and root-up pastures with their strong snouts. A few years ago, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension estimated that the two million or so wild hogs tearing around the Lone Star State were costing agriculture operations $52 million a year.

Nationally, a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture put a very conservative estimate of row crop damage by feral hogs at $1.5 billion annually—and that didn’t include the costs of livestock predation, disease transmission, or environmental degradation the hogs are also causing. What this all means is that you may well be able to locate landowners who would not just give you permission to go on their property to harvest a few wild boars, they’d actually appreciate it. And many of these same landowners would not grant you access to their property to hunt deer or turkeys.

Since feral hogs are not native wildlife, most states classify them as “non-native,” “invasive,” or “nuisance” animals, and traditional hunting seasons and regulations rarely apply. (There are exceptions, so check with your state game agency before setting out on a hog hunting expedition.)

Most states allow—indeed, encourage—the hunting of hogs anytime of the year on private lands. Regulations for public land hunting vary by state and locale, but generally there are two scenarios: hogs are fair game all the time, or hog hunting is restricted to a traditional hunting season. The latter typically means that if you’re hunting during deer season on public hunting grounds, and you come across a wild hog, you can have at it. But again, check state regulations.

Standard deer hunting gear will get you started just fine: a rifle of suitable caliber, a slug gun, or a bow; along with ammunition or broadheads made for big game, plus optics and camo.

This is yet another great thing about hog hunting. Legal hunting methods are many—baiting, hunting from blinds or stands, or in more open areas, spotting and stalking the wild hogs. You can get up close and personal or you can go for some long-distance sniping. Plus, night hunting of hogs is legal in most locales (again, check local regulations).

I've hunted and taken hogs with centerfire rifles, shotgun slug guns, and crossbows. In the last six months, I've added handgun hunting to my hog hunting resume, and have had good luck doing so, including a recent Florida hunt where I bagged a nice 125-pound boar with a PARA Elite LS Hunter semiautomatic pistol in 10mm from a ground blind.