Hog Hunting is Perfect for New Hunters by Jon Turner

Hog Hunting in the Southeast
I’m what you might describe as a late onset hunter. Despite having grown up in and around the outdoors, I didn’t get my first real exposure to hunting until sometime in my 30s. What became apparent almost immediately was just how much I had to learn. If you’ve been hunting your entire life, you probably don’t realize all the things that you do (and don’t do) almost instinctively based on your experience. I was fortunate to have made a few friends who were kind enough to share their experience with me. Just after the close of my first deer season, one of my new friends invited me to go on my first wild hog hunt.

Just before sunset, we had only been in the stand for about 30 minutes when a large group of pigs (called a “sounder”) appeared to our right. After hunting for the entire deer season with little success and very few encounters due to my own inexperience, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Twenty or so pigs filed in, one after the other in a single file line with a sort of military precision. They went straight to our corn, and I was able to close out the hunt with a nice size boar. That’s what I saw that day. What I didn’t see was the time, planning and preparation that went into making that hunt successful. My friend had chosen and set up that location, scouted it, baited the site, selected the day and time of our hunt based on the favorable wind direction – and then (quietly) talked an inexperienced hunter through the shot when the pigs arrived.

Maybe I was a bit spoiled after almost immediate success on my first wild hog hunt, but I was hooked. And I knew that my son who was 6 at the time and had struggled through the deer season with me and was on the edge of losing interest, would love it as well. As it turns out, wild pigs have several traits that make them an ideal quarry for newer hunters, presenting an excellent opportunity to introduce new people to big game hunting and to refine skills that will translate to hunting other species as well.

4 things that make Wild Hogs Perfect for New Hunters

Their senses: A pig’s best defense mechanism is its sense of smell. In fact, a wild hog has significantly more olfactory receptors than a whitetail deer or a bloodhound. Learning how to play the wind properly and control your scent is key when hunting hogs and will help prepare a newer hunter for hunting a variety of game that relies on scent for defense. You can also leverage their sense of smell to your advantage by putting out a strongly scented hog attractant or hog bait (where legal). Hogs can detect certain odors from several miles away, which can be used to draw their curious noses to your location. If you can avoid being winded, you can overcome a hog’s other senses relatively easily. Their sight and hearing are not as keen as a whitetail, making them less wary of a slight mistake by a hunter in the form of a slight movement or sound in a tree stand.

Population: If you live in an area without wild pigs, you may never see a pig. Most movement of wild hogs across great distances in the United States is a result of human transport. If you live in an area with wild pigs, you probably have a lot of pigs. Estimates range between 6-10 million feral pigs across the United States. While fewer in number than whitetails, pigs reproduce extremely quickly. A sow pig can reproduce as early as 6 months of age and has a gestation period of approximately 4 months. Each sow can produce a litter of a dozen or more piglets, while the average is typically 4-6. This means that a sow piglet born in January can produce its own litter by October, and those piglets can produce their own litters by the following August. The reproductive rate is one key reason that the population of wild pigs must be controlled, but also a reason that wild pigs offer ample opportunities for hunters. While reports of hogs living as far North as New England and the Upper Mid-West are accurate, the oldest, most established populations can be found in an area that stretches from the Southeast and west into Texas and beyond into California. 

Feeding Habits: A wild hog can be described as an opportunistic omnivore – meaning they will eat what they can find, and they’ll eat almost anything. Their diet will include plants, vegetables, and occasionally other animals. As they can live in such large sounder groups, they require a lot of food. Wild pigs will search across a home range of 4-6 miles to find adequate food sources. If you can locate one of their preferred food sources or offer one yourself (including a game feeder if baiting is legal in your area), hogs become very easy to pattern which makes your hunt much easier to plan. If you’re able to put out your own bait, nearly anything from deer corn to certain kitchen leftovers will work – meaning you can attract hogs on any budget.

Regulations: In many areas of the United States, feral swine are considered a nuisance rather than a regulated game animal. In those areas you can hunt them year-round, with no seasons and limits. The ability to hunt all year means new hunters can hunt more often in a 12-month period, accelerating the learning curve. Additionally, the ability to hunt at night offers even the busiest hunters more flexibility in their schedules to get into the woods. Night hunting also conceals movement in the tree stand, which coupled with a hog’s less acute vision makes hog hunting a bit more forgiving of slight mistakes. When moving around the woods at night, hunters should be mindful that wild boars, and pregnant or nursing sows can be territorial and aggressive when startled. The risk of an unprovoked attack by a wild hog is low but does exist and new hunters should take precautions and consider hunting with a more experienced hunter when starting out.

Make no mistake – hunting wild hogs is not easy. I’ll admit, I may have initially oversold it to my son who used to quote me as saying “we like hunting pigs because they just cooperate.” These are wild animals and there are no guarantees in hunting. Like hunting any other game, despite the best preparation you will still have hunts that never produce an opportunity. But, with proper planning these innate traits of a wild hog do make for a relatively high success rate and a positive experience for new hunters, and hunters looking to hone their skills. If you’re a more experienced hunter with access to land that is home to wild hogs, consider offering a hog hunt to a prospective hunter. You might help them discover a delicious food source and introduce them to a lifelong passion.