Hogs 101: How To Hunt For Your Bacon
You've seen it on television and have vowed to try it. Here's how to get in on the pig-hunting craze.
“Here, hold my Red Bull and watch this.”
Guide Scott Bell first grinned, then aimed his truck at the sizable ditch dividing our north Texas field in two. On one side was us, perched in a pickup; on the other, a sounder of feral hogs hauling piggy-tail away. I added his can to our collection of energy drink and pop cans and braced myself as we took flight—literally.
Both Bell and I let loose with “hell yeahs!” as the pickup cleared the ditch—barely—slamming back to earth with a metallic groan. From there, it happened fast—the truck came to a halt, we slid from the cab, and it was on. I shouldered my Remington R25 GII and aimed, enjoying the range and cutting petals of the Remington .308 Win., 168-grain Hog Hammer rounds. Time to make bacon, Texas-style.
Hogs are an introduced, invasive species. Most experts say our hogs are descended from Spanish pigs brought to Florida and the Gulf Coast shores in the 1600s. Destroying farmers’ livelihoods by eating crops and rooting up land is their favorite pastime; hunting them helps farmers. It also strengthens your current skills and adds new ones.
KNOW YOUR PIGS
Familiarizing yourself with hog anatomy before you hunt is essential. Hogs are low riders, with shoulders higher than their hips. Their hide is tough, and boars have dense mantles of cartilage over their shoulders. That is meant to protect against challengers’ tusks, but it also provides armored protection from bullets. Their shoulders are shorter than those of deer, meaning their vitals are positioned lower.
A hog’s heart sits low in its chest and slightly forward of the lungs. What would be a lung shot on a deer is a gut shot on a hog, and hogs are capable of surviving such an injury. To hit the heart, aim behind and slightly above the hog’s elbow. Lungs are higher; shoot too high, and you hit the shoulder. Some hunters purposely break the hogs’ shoulders, but that often does not result in the quickest kill. Shooting right behind the ear is another option—something many outfitters suggest since it requires less accuracy than a heart shot.
A clean kill is the ethical responsibility of every hunter, so make sure your shot delivers.
UP IN ARMS
Hogs can be hunted with almost anything, depending on the state. The .223 Remington is the most popular rifle caliber, but I’ve hunted them with everything from 10mm to .308 Win. to .338 Lapua Magnum. Ammunition matters; rounds like Hornady Full Boar or Remington Hog Hammer ensure penetration and expansion despite those tough hides.
Bows may also be used, and some states allow knives.
BE A TACTICIAN
Hunting methods differ by state, but in many places, options are seemingly endless, including spot-and-stalk or hunting from blinds and extending to baiting, night hunting, and spotlighting.
Hogs dislike heat, so hunt them at first and last light during warmer months. When it’s hot, hunt over water and shady, muddy spots. Be prepared to fire.
When you flush a hog, he might come at you rather than run away. And remember, hogs may not have good vision but they have a keen sense of smell. They’ll wind you in a heartbeat.
FIND THE SWEET SPOT
As with any game, taking hogs on public land is challenging but not impossible. Talking to local farmers is also worthwhile. “Hogs cost us thousands of dollars in replanting costs,” says farmer Jay Coleman. “They reproduce fast, and it’s a job trying to keep them under control.”
He allows trusted hunters on his Mississippi property, and he’s not the only farmer to do so. If you ask permission and follow the rules, you’ll be welcomed. Outfitters are an option as well. Scott Bell works at the 91,000-acre Spike Box Ranch in Benjamin, Texas.
“Deer hunting is okay, but limited. With hogs, there’s no bag limit. One day in May, we took a couple of groups out and bagged 70 pigs total,” Bell says. “It’s a rush!” Free-range ranches like the Spike Box are the way to go. Hogs there vary from 60-pounders to 350 pounds of bacon on the hoof.
Properties like it have put me on everything from spot-and-stalks with night vision to 1,000-yard shots with a .338 Lapua Magnum—and a freezer full of meat.