Some people will tell you that hunting hogs in the high heat of summer is a fool’s errand – and so it can be, especially if you shoot a big boar when it’s furnace hot in the bottom of some remote, roadless, hellhole of a canyon miles from anywhere. I have been there and done that. Unless you’re a slow learner, you probably won’t care to repeat the experience.
But summer can be a great time to hunt hogs because they can become easier to pattern. Determining the best way to hunt depends largely upon where you’re hunting them, when you’re hunting them and what the local conditions are. Methods that work in central California may not work in a Southeastern swamp or in the thick South Texas brush country. Most traditional methods of hunting hogs still work in summer (with modifications), and some will always work better than others depending on local circumstances. Here are some of the best ways to target summer hogs without breaking too much of a sweat.
1. Scouting Pays Off
Hogs hole up in thick cover on warm days, so finding them isn’t always easy—but it’s often easier in summer because hogs may be more concentrated in areas that satisfy their basic needs. In the cooler, wetter months, they can scratch out a living most anywhere and may range far and wide. They may eat a bit less during summer because they’re less active, but they still have to eat, and with many natural food sources drying up, they won’t be too far from reliable food sources such as agricultural crops and feeders. They still need water, and this, more than any other factor, can be the key to finding hogs when the weather turns hot.
Hogs may not move far, but when they do, they leave unmistakable sign in the form of tracks, droppings, rooting, rubs, wallows, and hair strands in barbed-wire fences. Guides and ranch owners usually have a good idea of where hogs may be hanging out. Maps can help you pinpoint sources of water, and trail cameras can be a great aid in discerning daily movements. When scouting, remember that the goal is not to bump and push hogs out of an area, but simply to pattern their movements in order to formulate a hunting strategy.
2. Plan an Ambush
Once you’ve patterned hogs’ movements, it’s a lot easier to hunt them. Unless they’re heavily pressured, hogs tend to stick to a home range and travel well-defined trails to and from food, water and bedding areas, and once you know hogs are regularly using these travel routes, you can intercept them. The trick is to get there before they do and set up on a stand site with the wind in your favor. Whether you’re setting up near a trail or hunting from a treestand, ground blind, or elevated tripod or box stand, sneak stealthily into the area in the dark or late afternoon. Take care to conceal yourself, ensure you have a clear field of fire in the direction you expect the hogs to come from and remain as quiet as possible. If you plan to ambush hogs at a feeder, don’t set up too close to it. I once made that mistake on a hunt in Texas, sitting too close to a feeder behind a screen of light brush, and found myself surrounded by about 60 hogs seconds after the feeder went off. It was a dicey several minutes, with pigs milling around within 10 yards of me, before the hog I wanted to shoot presented a clean shot opportunity.
3. Hunt Early, Hunt Late
Daily activity patterns of hogs vary seasonally and geographically. In areas with little human disturbance, they can be fairly diurnal, meaning they move quite a bit during the day. With one notable exception that we’ll get to shortly, these movements occur mostly early in the morning and late in the day. When it comes to hot weather, hogs are a lot like people. They become more sedentary and loath to move around unless they have to. It pays to watch the weather forecast and look for days with a bit of a drop in the temperature. Even small changes in temperature can make a difference. I once hunted an area for two days without a single hog sighting. On the third day, the temperature dropped five degrees and hogs started popping out of countryside like fleas on a dog. When the hogs aren’t moving, still hunting through shaded, sun-sheltered areas, such as creek bottoms, can be productive. Move slowly and noiselessly into the wind. Hogs don’t see all that well, but they can easily pick up movement, and they have a superb sense of smell.
Read Next: How to Call in Wild Hogs
4. Key in on Water Sources
As the temperature rises, water becomes vitally important to hogs. They need reliable access to water not only to drink, but to cool down. Unlike humans, pigs don’t sweat, and they’ll wallow in mud at the edges of stock tanks or creeks to regulate their body temperatures. They’ll often visit the same wallows and water sources repeatedly. Finding and staking out these honey holes – with the wind in your favor – is one of the most productive ways to hunt hogs during the summer. Many ranches that host hog hunters will have stands situated overlooking water sources or move stands closer to water during summer months. Don’t assume that hogs will only go to water early or late. They may make several trips for water during a hot day, especially if the water is near escape cover. The last hog I shot by a stock tank was part of a group that came running toward the watering hole in a single file, maneuvering through brush like an infantry squad, during the middle of a hot afternoon.
5. Make a Drive
A good tactic when hogs aren’t moving is to have a hunter take a stationary position affording good visibility and have one or more companions walk through cover where hogs are known or suspected to be loafing away the day. The driver should move slowly and carefully, preferably with the wind at their back. Hogs may be reluctant to leave the sanctuary of thick cover, but a whiff of human scent may push them to the designated shooter. The idea is to nudge them into moving without sending them into panicked full flight. Safety is a paramount concern when making a drive. Make sure the shooter knows where the driver is coming from and make sure the driver knows where the shooter is and does not stray into the line of fire. Be prepared to shoot quickly. Opportunities may be fast and fleeting. This technique works especially well on long strips of cover with relatively open country on the sides, which the hogs may not want to cross. The first time I did this it worked like a charm, with a large sow trying to sneak past me while the driver was still 100 yards away working his way down a narrow canyon. He never saw the hog, but I did, and dropped her in her tracks.
6. Go Nocturnal
While hogs in some areas are diurnal, intense heat can make them mostly nocturnal except for quick trips to water. In locations with heavy hunting pressure, hogs go almost entirely nocturnal. Pigs are smart and aren’t likely to hang out in the open in daytime if experience tells them that doing so means they’re going be shot at. In the past, a lot of nighttime hog hunting was done with spotlights. With advances in technology and increasingly affordable thermal and night vision optics, along with specialized lights for feeders, hunting hogs at night has become wildly popular in locations where it’s legal. It’s also highly productive. Pigs seem less wary at night, and you can often get much closer to them. A lot of hunting takes place over feeders or on the edges of agricultural crop fields. Many guided operations now specialize in hunting hogs at night and will even provide the needed guns and optics.
7. Spot and Stalk
In the right areas, hogs are a great quarry for the spot-and-stalk hunter. Because of their relatively poor vision, it’s possible to stalk quite close if you move slowly and quietly and keep the wind in your favor, but this isn’t feasible everywhere. Some areas are just too thick with cover and visibility is too limited, but in more diverse terrain, this remains one of my favorite ways to hunt hogs. Find a spot with some elevation, be there at first light to glass areas where you may spot hogs moving from feeding areas to bedding areas and then plan a stalk. The reverse is true late in the day, when you can catch them leaving their beds to feed. With patience and time behind binoculars or spotting scopes, you can sometimes spot hogs in their beds. This translates into an interesting stalk because, where you see one hog, there are probably others you don’t see. I’ve been involved in a couple of rodeos by inadvertently bumping into unseen hogs during a stalk.
Big, old boars, on the other hand, have nasty dispositions and are often loners. In thicker cover, I’ve also killed hogs by stalking up on feeders a few minutes after they were scheduled to go off. A variation of this approach is to drive, spot-and-stalk, especially when you’re hunting large tracts of land and need to cover a lot of ground to find hogs. On ranches where hogs are used to seeing vehicles, they may ignore a truck or ATV if it isn’t too close. I’ve often driven right past hogs that paid little attention to me. If you find hogs this way, don’t stop the vehicle and jump out. The hogs will disappear instantly. Drive on until you can stash the vehicle and make a stalk.
Read Next: Spot and Stalk for Last-Chance Hogs
8. Hunt Hogs with Dogs
Hunting with specially-trained and bred dogs can be a sure-fire way to bag a hog, and there was a time when I did a lot of hog hunting behind dogs. Hog dogs basically come in two flavors. As their name implies, bay dogs are used to pursue and “bay up” hogs up so the hunter can get a clean shot. Curs and catahoulas are popular breeds for this, but one of the best dogs I ever hunted over was a border collie.
The second camp consists of catch dogs, such as pit bulls and Dogo Argentinos, which rush in, grab and hold a hog until it can be dispatched by the hunter. Either approach is guaranteed to pump up your adrenaline level. Because summer heat can be too much for both dogs and pursuing humans, guided hunts in some areas may be limited to early mornings. Some operations offer only nighttime hunts with dogs during summer, and may limit weapon choices to knives or spears. I once killed a hog over dogs with a knife, but that sort of up-close-and-personal encounter isn’t for everyone. It takes, shall we say, a firm constitution.
9. Take Care of the Meat, and Yourself
There are a couple of other important things to consider when hunting hogs in hot weather apart from hunting tactics. Make a decision beforehand on whether you’re after tasty versus trophy. They are not the same thing. For good eating, I prefer to shoot boars weighing 150 pounds or less. Sows of any size are good tablefare, but you need to get a downed animal field dressed and skinned quickly to get heat out of the carcass, and get the meat into a walk-in cooler or on ice as soon as possible.
Finally, take steps to protect yourself from summer environmental hazards. Take plenty of water or sports drinks that replace electrolytes, and stay hydrated. Cover up and use sunscreen, and remember that summer is a prime time to run into things that sting or bite, like ticks, mosquitos, wasps and other assorted nasties, including poisonous snakes.