February 07, 2023
I used to get the wintertime blues something terrible. I'd punch my final deer tag and spend a few days daydreaming about next season—planning new adventures and reflecting on months of beautiful memories. That worked for maybe a week. Then the doldrums of winter would start to seep deep into my bones, and the reality that my next hunting adventure wasn't until spring set into my mind.
It wasn't that I wasn't grateful for a fantastic season and the memories made. It's just that I love to hunt and am addicted to adventure. So, years ago, I found an excellent remedy for my late-winter hunting blues: chasing feral hogs. Here are a few of the things I've learned after years of hunting these elusive animals.
SPOT AND STALK
You can use any number of tactics to hunt hogs. For me, glassing up a lone boar or a group of hogs, referred to as a sounder, and moving in close is my preferred method when hunting pigs. The more time you can spend sneaking in on animals, moving carefully across the terrain while keeping the wind and thermals right, the better the spot-and-stalk hunter you'll become. Typically, when hunting pigs in locales like Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, where the landscape contains impenetrable timber, swamps and brushy bottoms, but lots of open dirt, you will get plenty of spot-and-stalk chances.
I recommend a good binocular—nothing less than 12X—and it doesn't hurt to have a spotting scope and tripod in your pack. Multiple times, especially when hunting the high plateaus, steep slopes and long canyons of Texas, I've spotted pigs from more than a mile away.
When hunting feral hogs, finding them is the majority of the battle. Pigs have terrible eyesight, making them stalkable in flat, open terrain. If you can keep the wind in your face and your feet quiet, you can slip within effective rifle range with ease. Getting bowhunting-close and putting a compound or crossbow to work is typically very doable if you take your time. How you go about your stalk will depend on what the pigs are doing.
Feral pigs lack sweat glands, and in the South, even during winter, temperatures can get warm—as we all know. On warm days, hogs will seek the shade and water. If you find a bedded hog or group of hogs, mark their location on a mapping app, pick some landmarks between yourself and them and then photograph those landmarks with your phone to refer to should you run off course. All that's left after that is to creep in close.
Pigs won't often bed in the open, so be sure to go slow on your approach. When you can see the spot where you believe the pigs are napping, pick it apart with your binos. Look for an ear, a tail or a piece of black, tan or red hide, then plan your next move. One tip: If the wind is howling, hogs tend to bury their faces into the brush, leaving their backsides exposed. If bowhunting, I like to either try to slip an arrow through the thick stuff or wait for the hogs to stand and feed. When toting a firearm, I want to let the hogs stand to eat. Doing this gives me a chance to harvest multiple pigs.
If hogs are up and moving, they are likely feeding, which means their snouts will be pushing up earth. Plus, pigs are noisy when they eat. These factors give you a small advantage when slipping in. Once you've found them, try to predict the hogs' travel route and set up on it. Or, stay low and slow and slip in on them while they are busy eating. During my time in the hog woods, I've crept as close as 10 yards to feeding animals in the wide-open. While moving, be sure to keep the wind in your favor and freeze if a hog looks in your direction.
HUNT 'EM HIGH
I love spending late-winter days over a feeder or water source waiting on pigs. A well-placed treestand makes a great sit-and-wait spot. Most outfitters will set stands over feeders or other popular hog baits based on prevailing winds. Any outfitter worth their salt knows how amazing wild hogs can smell, so when you climb into a stand, the wind should be in your face.
If you're on a DIY hog mission, or paying a fee and then self-guiding, hang your stand in a location downwind of where you believe the pigs are staging. If possible, set a trail camera or two to confirm how pigs enter and exit the area you're hunting. You can also examine trails in the area to glean further knowledge.
While bait is excellent, don't overlook hunting water. If I had my choice to hunt over bait or a natural water source littered with hog tracks, I would take the water every time. Pigs are bright, and some get wise to bait sites. I've had some of my best luck over water sources.
If hunting over bait, the first hour of morning light and the last two hours of the evening are prime times. Evenings are typically better, and I've shot most of my hogs from a treestand with bows, rifles and crossbows after the sun has dipped below the horizon. If you're hunting over water, I recommend a dawn-to-dark sit. One year, in Texas, I shot six hogs with archery tackle in one day over a small pond. Just food for thought.
When hunting from an elevated perch, take scent elimination to the extreme and de-scent your clothes, body, vehicle—everything. Most mature boars will circle a bait site, and some will walk all the way around a water source before wallowing or slaking their thirst. If you take your scent elimination seriously, and run an Ozonics system in your tree, you may be able to get a shot off at Mr. Big before his olfactory system tells him something is awry.
Ground blinds are great, and while I recommend brushing them in, you don't have to go crazy like when hunting whitetails. Most outfitters I hunt hogs with don't blend their blinds in at all, but when going the DIY route, I prefer to put the back of the blind against a wall of brush and add some native vegetation around it.
Ground blinds allow you to hunt in areas where hanging a treestand isn't possible, and it's a ton of fun being on the ground at eye level with wild pigs. It will get dark sooner inside your blind than out, so have a lighted bow sight or a scope with an illuminated reticle. Finally, as when hunting from a treestand, take extreme scent-elimination precautions and use an Ozonics system.
Hunting feral hogs is a blast, and it's a great way to keep your skills sharp. If you're fighting target panic, nothing cures it faster than settling your pin or crosshairs on multiple targets and making clean, ethical shots. It's also an excellent cure for post-deer-season malaise.