By Bob Humphrey
It is said that you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Maybe not, but if you’re a hunter, feral hogs do provide a worthy substitute when seasons for more desirable game species are closed.
Not only that, you’ll be doing a good deed. Feral hogs destroy property, commercial crops and wildlife habitat, and compete with wildlife for food. In areas of abundance their status ranges from a nuisance to a significant problem.
The silver lining is that they also provide a great opportunity for recreational hunting. This fact is not lost on outfitters who use hog hunts to supplement their income and reduce the impact on habitat and more desirable species like deer and turkeys. And the independent hunter is much more likely to gain access to private land from a farmer or rancher plagued by hogs.
Because they are a non-native introduced species and often a problem, seasons and bag limits are quite liberal. In many states there are no closed seasons or limits, and the list of equipment and tactics is quite liberal.
One of the more effective techniques is baiting. In states like Texas, you’re just as likely to encounter hogs as you are deer at a feeder. Many ranchers provide year-round feed to their deer, and when the deer season is closed you can still hunt hogs.
You can also still-hunt hogs, slipping through the woods as you attempt to sneak within range. Their senses of smell and hearing are as keen as a whitetail’s, but their eyesight is poor. This makes for a challenging hunt, and a great way to practice stalking and shooting skills, especially for the bowhunter.
In open country, you can spot and stalk hogs, glassing them from afar, then slipping up within range. You can cover a lot more ground by riding the ranch roads on an ATV or Side-by-Side vehicle, stopping intermittently to glass, or do short still-hunts through thicker cover.
Like deer, hogs are most active at dawn and dusk, and at night. Where legal, night hunting offers an added dimension. Some states even allow the use of lights for night hunting.
Feral hogs are tough animals. Larger calibers are advisable for the gun hunter, and shot placement is important, particularly for the bowhunter. Their shoulders have a tough “shield” so broadside or quartering-away shots are preferable.
Their domestic cousins have earned them an undeserved reputation as dirty. Younger, smaller feral hogs make great table fare. And while a big old boar might be best utilized as a shoulder mount, you can also grind the meat for sausage.