A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Feral Hogs
- 13 Aug, 2018
Unlike the North American Peccary, neither Wild Boar nor Feral Hogs are native to North America. However, ever since Hernando de Soto imported domestic pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida and allowed them escape custody, the U.S. has experienced an ever-growing feral hog epidemic which has led many state wildlife management agencies to declare them an invasive species. Thus, many states have no closed feral hog hunting season, no bag limits and, no restrictions on methods of hunting them. Consequently, hunters in these states can enjoy hunting feral hogs year round as well as filling their freezers with the gourmet pork that they provide.
However, feral hogs can be a very elusive prey and thus, finding them is not often easy. So, how does a hunter locate them? The first place to start is with your state's Wildlife Resources Commission who often employ wildlife biologists whom you can talk to by contacting them. Also, because feral hogs are such large a problem in so many areas of the U.S., most biologists will be more than happy to provide you with information on where to find them! Then, a second source for information on where to find feral hog populations is to view the National Feral Swine Mapping System located at: http://swine.vet.uga.edu/nfsms/. Last, a simple conversation with local farmers is not only likely to provide you with valuable information on where to find feral hogs, it is also likely to lead to permission to hunt them on their land.
But, once you know where to find populations of feral hogs, how do you find specific locations to hunt them? Well, the answer to that question is to learn to recognize feral hog habitat. For instance, feral hogs need three things to survive in any given area consisting of bedding areas, food sources, and water sources. But, what does a feral hog bedding area look like you might ask and, the answer to that question is thick cover. In fact, the thicker the better! Thus, prospective pig hunters should look for copses of foliage that are so dense that it would be difficult at best for a human to walk through them. Then, once you have located such a copse, you should circumnavigate the entire copse while looking for trails and entrances into the foliage.
Then, once you have located a bedding area, then you need to locate their food and water sources. Thus, even though feral hogs will eat just about anything including other animals, they are not normally predatory. In fact, feral hogs have been proven to consume over 300 species of plants depending on their location and habitat and thus, they commonly eat herbaceous plants, grasses, roots, tubers, mushrooms, acorns, fruit and, agricultural crops, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and mollusks. Last, feral hogs also need a source of fresh water and thus, they can often be found near creek beds, ponds, lakes and, swamps.
Next, you may be wondering what feral hog sign looks like and, the answer to that question is varied. For instance, although feral hog have cloven hooves just like whitetail deer, a deer's track is noticeably narrower at the front than it is at the back whereas, a pig's track is much closer to being the same width at the front as it is the back and thus, it has a blockier appearance.
In addition, feral hog scat looks different from whitetail deer scat as well. For instance, where deer scat appears as a pile of small pellets with a distinctly fibrous consistency, hog scat appears more as an amorphous pile with a consistency that varies from thin and pasty to thick and fibrous depending on the time of year (which tends to determine feral hog diet) and/or the location and the types of food sources that are available there.
Plus, there are other signs of feral hog’s presence as well such as wallows and rubs. Thus, a wallow is a depression in the ground where rainwater collects and/or groundwater seeps to the surface and creates mud which feral hogs then roll in to help protect their skin from biting flies, mosquitoes, and ticks. In addition, they often use “rubbing posts” to remove the caked mud from their skin as well as their parasites.
Last, it should be noted that once you have located a population of feral hogs, they can be hunted from both tree stands and ground blinds just like whitetail deer. But, in order to do so, you first need to locate their bedding areas, their food sources and, their water sources and then find a location to place your tree stand or ground blind. However, because feral hogs have a wide range of favored foods, hunting any particular food source is very much a hit or miss proposition and thus, a better idea is to place your tree stand or ground blind near one of the entrances to their bedding areas or near one of their watering holes. Or, if you are a really intrepid hunter who does not mind going in after his prey, then you can follow one their pig trails into the brush that makes up their bedding area and then place your stand or blind adjacent to a trail.
So, for the beginning feral hog hunter, hunting feral hogs can be a very frustrating experience because pigs are well known for their intelligence and thus, feral hogs are very quick to become alert to, and adapt to a hunter’s presence. But, for those who choose to pursue this wily game species long enough to become adept at it, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences a hunter can have. Plus, with no closed seasons and no bag limits in many U.S. states, they can be hunted year round and, the meat that they provide is some of the best tasting pork in existence.
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