Feral pigs are known by many different names; wild hogs, wild boars, Russian boars or even razor backs. They are hooved animals that range in size from 75 pounds to a high of around 440 pounds for a large boar. They look a lot like the domestic pig, only with longer coarser hair, with the adults sporting a mane that has thick coarse bristles. They range in color from the blacks, grays, reds, browns, to pale tans. They may also have belting or spotting in these colors. Black is the predominate color. Their snouts, which are long, flexible and rugged, are used for the never ending rooting. They will eat most anything they come in contact with, which can include any type of grains, nuts, acorns, roots, mushrooms and even dead animals. Their feet are cloven, similar to a deer’s hooves, but more rounded and flat tipped. The boars can have tusks that can be 3 to 5 inches in length. They use these to establish dominance, and because of this, they have developed a shield comprised of cartilage, scar tissue and callus which becomes thicker and stronger as they age.
Newly born piglets look a lot like “watermelons”
Photo: Diane Hassinger
Feral hogs have a very keen sense of smell, and a good sense of hearing. Their eyesight is thought to be poor and nearsighted. They are quick runners and swimmers, able to run up to 30 mph.The sows can breed as young as 6 months of age, with gestation of around 115 days. They can have litters ranging from 4 to 12 piglets each time. Estimates are that a single sow can produce over 1000 offspring in a 5 year period. That in itself is how hog populations can quickly get out of control, and can cause serious damage to crops and vegetation.
In Alabama you will need a small game hunting license to hunt for hogs. These licenses can be bought for a few day hunt or for the entire year. While you do not need to have the license displayed, you must have it on yourself, and have identification with you. Licensed hunters can shoot pigs year round and there is no bag limit on the hogs. You can purchase your license online at https://www.alabamainteractive.org/dcnr_hf_license/welcome.action.
Hogs often will appear in food plots, hardwood bottoms, or pine woods. You can determine when they have been in an area based on the rooting that may cover a large area. I have been in areas that resemble a rototilled garden, the rooting was that extensive. You may also see trees that the hogs have been rubbing on to scratch an itch, remove the dried mud or even parasites from their skin. These trees may have mud several foot up the trunk, and there may be pieces of hair stuck in the bark. Wallows will be present in wet soils, basically an indentation holding mud or water. Feral hogs feed most heavily in the early morning and late evening, spending the rest of their time sleeping or relaxing in their mud wallows. Since wild hogs do not have sweat glands they use the wallows to cool down and to also rid themselves of fleas or ticks. You may even be able to smell a sweetness like maple syrup when you are near a group of hogs. Keep in mind the hogs frequent some of the same areas as cottonmouth, rattlesnake and copper head snakes. You will probably want snake chaps or boots to protect yourself.
Great spotted hog from Florida.
Photo: Diane Hassinger
The hunting of wild hogs is done several ways; tree stands, blinds, still hunting, with dogs or spot and stalk. Most all weapons have been used to take hogs, from bowie knives to high power rifles. Typically compound bows, cross bows and rifles are the weapons of choice. Feral hogs tend not to be aggressive toward hunters, but they will charge if they are cornered, injured or if their young are threatened.
From the tree stands and blinds, you will need patience. The stands are typically positioned to ambush the hogs either on their way to or from food plots, bedding areas or water. This method is the most common, and great success can be had hunting this way. I recently had 15 hogs around the tree stand I was in. I was able to take my time, pick the hog I wanted, and make a great shot. You also will have the advantage of being up high enough to see where your hog goes after he is shot.
Hog hunting is a great hunt to include the family on. Utilize treestands and blinds to include the kids.
Photo: Diane Hassinger
Spot and stalk is done on foot, going to where hogs are known to frequent. While stalking, you can get away with rustling leaves, but try to refrain from snapping twigs and branches. You can usually hear hogs squealing and grunting from 40 yards away or more. If you walk slowly, stop and listen often, and keep the wind in your favor; you may be able to get within shooting range. Do not expect the hogs to stand still for you though, they are in a constant state of motion. Recently 4 of us stalked to within 20 yards of a herd of hogs, and watched for several moments, undetected. Only one good shot was presented and taken.
Still hunting involves the slow deliberate movements, looking for tracks, listening for sounds, watching for signs. The accepted method of still hunting covers a mere 100 yards in an hour.
Shot placement on a wild boar.
Shot Placement Image; http://www.texashuntfish.com/app/view/Post/10379/Shot-placement-on-hogs
Once you have located your hogs, shot placement is of the utmost importance. Like any animal, hogs will perish quickly with a well-placed shot. Their thick hides, shields and thick fat create a tough barrier for broad heads or bullets. A broadside shot should be placed in the shoulder area, lower is preferred. A broken shoulder will put the hog down, and give you time for a follow up shot if needed. When quartering away, place the shot to penetrate the vitals between the shoulders. A neck shot works well for a rifle. Some employ the head shot, but if you are not confident of this shot, go for one of the larger body targets. If you are hunting for meat, take a smaller hog or two. The larger boars, while impressive, are tougher and less tasty.
I tracked a group of hogs that easily numbered around 100, in every size imaginable. They were making enough noise to cover any sound I was making. I had several groups on 3 sides of me; this was a pure adrenaline rush! Don’t let yourself become distracted by the numbers of hogs, still shoot at a spot on one hog, not just at a group of them.
Yearly, feral hogs do nearly $90 million in damage to crops in Alabama alone, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. This problem isn’t just isolated to Alabama. Feral pigs are in 44 states and at least 4 of the Canadian provinces. They do about $1.5 billion in damage to farm crops nationally each year. This is all the encouragement I need to hunt hogs as often as possible! Whether you are in a tree stand or on the ground, there is nothing quite like hog hunting. Watch out though, it becomes an addiction!