Rifles and Cartridges for Hunting Feral Hogs
- 12 Mar, 2019
Despite their reputation for toughness and ferocity when wounded, rifles for hunting feral pigs need be neither fancy nor powerful enough to down and elephant! However, it is very important that hunter’s of feral hogs understand that they do come in many different sizes and that they are built like an Abrahams Tank. In addition, they populate many different types of habitats. Thus, while small tanks can be taken down with small arms, large tanks require large arms. Therefore, when hunting feral pigs, it is important to always have enough gun with you because you never know when you will run into a really big pig!
As a general rule, feral hogs like to bed in really thick cover and, once they have detected the presence of humans in the vicinity, they tend to stick to that cover until nightfall when they come out to feed. Thus, unless you are prepared to hunt them at night, then you will need to go in after them during the day. However, hunting in “pig cover” is like nothing else you will ever experience short of Grouse hunting. Consequently, because the quarters are tight, the visibility is a few feet to a few inches and the pigs will often lay in wait until the last moment, you need a rifle, that is short, quick handling, and that points instinctively for you. Thus, both lever actions and semi-automatic rifles are both excellent choices for this type of hunting.
In addition, the AR-15 platform has finally gained acceptance among hunters and thus, it is now available in many different chamberings in addition to the original .223 Remington/5.56 NATO and the .308 Winchester/7.62 x 51mm cartridges. Consequently, one of the most popular AR-15 rifles for hunting feral hogs is a CAR-15 with a 16” heavy barrel chambered for the new 6.8mm SPC and, for hunting large to really large pigs. In addition, another excellent choice is the Browning BAR in .308 (not the military version) with a 22” barrel. Both of these rifles are reasonably light weight and they both shoulder very quickly.
Browning BAR .308 Winchester Hog Stalker Rifle
However, although shotguns tend to be very handy for hunting feral hogs in such situations, they are not a particularly good choice unless you are shooting slugs. The reason for this is that feral hogs squabble with each other all of the time. In fact, there is not a single, more quarrelsome, creature in the entire animal kingdom except perhaps hippopotamuses and/or rhinoceroses. Thus, feral hogs have evolved a very thick, very tough, “cape” of skin and hair around their necks and shoulders because feral pigs also have very sharp tusks and thus, they require some sort of armor to prevent serious injury when they are squabbling with each other. Consequently, even large buckshot may not penetrate their hide deeply enough to reach their vitals even at close range with a full choke.
In addition, when hunting feral hogs in thick cover, most hunters prefer rifles with open sights, holographic sights, or red dot scopes because hunting in heavy cover means close range shots and these types of sights enable a hunter to acquire a target very quickly. Therefore, they compliment the need for a compact rifle that points instinctively.
On the other hand, if the hunting pressure on a particular population of feral hogs has been light to non-existent, then they will feel far more comfortable about coming out to feed during the day and thus, you are often able to harvest them at much longer ranges than you could in thick cover. Therefore, because this type of feral pig hunting often requires precision, long-range, shots, bolt action rifles with a variable power scope and a large objective lens are often a better choice. Consequently, your choice of bolt action rifles combined with a 3 x 9 or a 4 x 12 variable power scope should be sufficient for any hunting situation you might encounter.
Last, there is a very wide range of rifle cartridges that you can use to harvest feral pigs. In fact, if you shoot any pig weighing 90 lbs. or less in the neck just forward of the shoulder with a .223 Remington/5.56 NATO round with either a 62 grain or 70 grain bullet at a distance of 75 yards or less, then it will generally drop them in their tracks. However, for longer ranges with the same shot placement on the same sized pigs, a .243 Winchester with 100 grain bullets is a better choice. However, when hunting larger pigs, then bullet weights in the 150 grain to 175 grain range in cartridges such as the .308 Winchester or the .30-06 Springfield are a better choice. But, there are a few places on our planet where wild hogs can reach the 400 to 500 pound range and, for a pig that large, you truly need heavy artillery instead of a rifle! But, since that would defeat the purpose of the hunt, you need a really large rifle instead. Consequently, when hunting hogs of this size, the .338 Winchester or the .375 Holland and Holland is not paranoia but is instead, just good sense!
But, simply choosing the correct caliber is not enough because you also need to select the correct bullet design. Thus, for hunting feral pigs, you need a bullet that is specifically designed with limited expansion in mind and that is designed to retain the majority of its original weight as it penetrates because you will not always be presented with the perfect broadside shot. Instead, you may have to break the front leg bone in order to reach the heart or you may have to penetrate the scull in a forward facing shot. Thus, it is best to use a bullet that is designed for penetration rather than expansion. After all, we are hunting tanks!
However, regardless of the type of rifle you choose, whether or not you choose to mount optics on it, the type of optics you might choose to mount on it, and the caliber, type of bullet, and the bullet weight are all determined by the both the size of the pigs you will be hunting and the distance at which you will be hunting them.
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