February 24, 2022
The December afternoon was ice-cold. So far, I had not seen a single deer. The wind direction was perfect, and I hoped a sneaky eight-point I had only seen on my trail camera would show himself. With an arrow nocked, I waited.
Instead of a buck, a mob of 14 hogs — a herd previously only seen on trail camera well after dark — mobbed the free corn. The last hog in line was a chunky boar. Even in the low light, his big, white tusks were visible against his dark hair.
With 10 minutes of shooting light left, I pulled my bow to full power. I waited for the big pig to give me a broadside angle. Finally, he turned. With a sound like a karate chop through a board, my small-diameter arrow tipped with a four-blade Wasp Dart broadhead punched through the near-side shoulder shield and stopped against the offside ribs. Hit through both lungs, the 280-pound Texas boar went down in a cloud of dust just 50 yards from my blind. His bottom tusks were three inches above his gumline. Trophy boars like that are tough to find where I hunt. Wild pigs are hunted year-round, day and night, because they raid farmers’ crops. No deer, but I was proud of my surprise boar.
Millions Of Pigs
Thirty years ago in that same Texas Panhandle county, there were no wild hogs. Today, they are common. Creeks and rivers served as a wild pig highway to expand their range. Like some biblical plague of locusts, nocturnal feral hogs destroy farm crops under the cover of darkness. They root and destroy manicured golf courses on the edge of town. Hogs spook deer, eat supplemental feed intended for deer or livestock, raid turkey nests, muddy ponds, destroy cattle pastures, etc.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are about nine million feral hogs in the country...and that number is ballooning. Texas has more than any other state. According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas has an estimated 2.6 million feral hogs. Wild hogs have been documented in 99 percent of Texas counties. In Texas, you can hunt feral hogs year-round with no bag limit. With landowner permission, it is legal to hunt day or night — with bait, traps, dogs, and even from aircraft. Despite the friendliest hunting rules ever to try to curb numbers, their range is still expanding and their numbers are still growing. It’s literally war on feral hogs.
Texas is not the only state with pig problems. Most states in the Southeast have expanding wild hog numbers. Besides Texas, Florida and California are top destinations for a quality hunt. Hawaii has hogs. Wild hogs show up in random places like southern New Mexico and western Oklahoma.
The good news? Hogs might be the perfect animal for bowhunters. Unlike big deer that bring top dollar, many landowners will grant trespass rights to hunt hogs for little or no money. Some folks refer to them as the “poor man’s grizzly,” as there is a sense of danger that a wounded boar might charge. Hogs are smart and challenging to hunt. Wild pork is tasty. A giant boar’s skull or shoulder mount always garners attention in a Man Cave. Their eyesight is average, but their hearing is good and their nose is incredible — I’ve tried every imaginable form of scent elimination currently available, and I’ve yet to find one that works 100-percent of the time with hogs once they are within bow range. A steady wind in your face is your best bet to get close.
Step one is to look for their sign. A herd of hogs leaves lots of evidence. Look for blunt-toed tracks around waterholes. Wallows on the edge of a pond might be as small as a car tire or as big as a bathtub, depending on the size of the hog. Hogs require water daily for consumption and to regulate their body temperature. A water source is an ideal ambush spot anywhere that water is limited, or in times of drought. Pig scat is round and tubular; not pelleted like a deer. Trees and fenceposts near windmills or creekbottoms will be smeared with mud from hogs scratching an itch or marking their territory. At fence crossings, look for wiry hairs snagged in barbed wire. I’ve tried lots of different attractants and bait recipes, but nothing works any better than corn.
In the summer, I have good luck hunting hogs at windmill ponds. Mostly, their visits are past sunset or in the dark. A trail camera over scattered corn at the water’s edge tells me when to be patient and vigilant. Waiting for a steady wind is essential, as hogs have no patience for human stink.
Glassing early and late in the day, near both cropfield edges or along creekbottoms, is an effective spot-and-stalk strategy. Sows and piglets will travel in herds. Mature boars are loners most of the year. Big boars will typically only mingle with the herd when a sow is in heat. What is a trophy boar? Most veteran hog hunters would say a boar 200 pounds or heavier, live weight. What about teeth? A bottom tusk that measures three inches or more above the gumline is excellent, but some old boars will sport broken tusks from fighting other boars.
My nighttime equipment setup includes a bow rigged with a single, green fiber-optic pin, and a sight light. I limit shots to 20 yards or less in the dark. A flashlight mounted to my stabilizer bushing with a red lens works best. I’ve tried white, green, and red lights, and red seems to spook pigs the least. I wait until my target hog settles down to either feed or drink at close range, and then I draw my bow with the light on its lowest setting and point my bow at the sky, slowly bringing the bow down to illuminate the pig. A button on my bow’s grip lets me increase the brightness of the light if necessary. The red light combined with a sight light and green pin with a large-diameter peep works best for me. Lighted arrow nocks help pinpoint hit location. Look at Elusive Wildlife Technologies (elusivewildlife.com) for all kinds of lights, as well as a bow-mounted light called the Piglet for night hunting.
Boar Of A Different Color
Wild hogs come in every size, shape, and color. Some look more like domestic pigs — with floppy ears, a short nose, and a fat body — while others look more like true Russian boars, with a long face and big tusks. Some regions favor one characteristic over another…sort of a gene-pool roulette wheel.
I’ve seen lots of black-and-brown ones; football-sized to calf-sized. I’ve seen and shot a few spotted ones, too, and I’ve even seen a solid-white one. But a big boar I encountered in spring 2020 was unique.
From the canyon rim and with my unaided eyes, I thought it was a stray cow. The distant animal was a reddish color; feeding on the valley floor in broad daylight. My watch said it was 4:30 p.m. Through 10X binoculars, it looked more like a sand-colored aoudad sheep, which wouldn’t have surprised me because wild aoudads often roamed that canyon as well. It wasn’t until I cut the distance to a quarter-mile that I could tell it was neither a cow or aoudad; it was an odd-colored, red pig — and a big pig at that!
A careful stalk through a patch of prickly pear cactus set up a 25-yard shot. The big boar was totally unaware of my presence; his nose plowing up dirt for a snack and the wind steady in my favor. My 450-grain arrow found the boar’s heart and he only made it 40 yards. I never got him on a scale, but I think 300 pounds was a fair estimate of his size. I’ve seen cinnamon-phase black bears, but this was my first cinnamon hog! It was an unexpected encounter on an April afternoon when I was scouting for turkeys.
Hogs Eat Cows?
Hogs are omnivorous. That means they eat both plant and animal matter. Most of us think of hogs eating corn from timed feeders or raiding crops like wheat, milo, or peanuts. But they eat eggs from ground-nesting birds, small animals, and they also feed on carcasses.
Years ago, I remember trailing a 10-point whitetail buck I had shot at sunset the night before, but given my errant shot placement, I’d decided to wait until the following morning to trail him. When I found that buck stone-dead in the creekbottom, a herd of hogs was eating his carcass! Recently, and it’s happened more than once now, I’ve stalked hogs in a very unusual circumstance.
I glassed the herd of 15 hogs wandering down a wooded Panhandle creek. It was late afternoon and the sun was sinking. I could just see the tops of several black hogs’ backs near the creek. About six hogs were huddled together, and they were obviously tugging at something given the noises they were making.
When I peeked over the creek bank at 30 yards, I realized the hogs were mostly inside the body cavity of a large, deceased cow! As I prepared for the shot, the gentle breeze shifted for just a moment. The lead sow snapped her head up, grunted loudly, and charged across the creek, taking the entire mob with her. I’ve since glassed hogs at that same rotting cow carcass multiple times.
I shot my first feral hog with a bow in 1988 in the rolling hills west of Albany, Texas. In the 30-plus years since that first one, I’ve shot a lot more. These adaptive beasts are as much a part of hunting culture today as deer and turkeys. When there’s no money to travel or time to chase more glamorous species, feral hogs are always close to home. They are a nuisance to farmers and ranchers, but darn near perfect for bowhunters.
The author is an accomplished bowhunter and outdoor writer/photographer from Claude, Texas.
An average-sized, 100-pound feral hog is not difficult to penetrate with most broadhead/arrow combinations. However, big boars are different. Some mature boars can weigh over 300 pounds. Their hide is tough and often caked with mud. And on the biggest males, it is a true test to punch an arrow through to the vitals.
I’ve peeled back the thick hide over the shoulder and chest area — sometimes called the shield — of several jumbo boars. That layer of hide and fat measured over two inches thick! That’s two inches of wiry hair, mud, and fat before the broadhead ever reaches the ribs and vitals.
For this reason, consider medium to heavy weight arrows with sturdy, fixed-blade broadheads. I prefer arrows with a finished weight of at least 450-500 grains. Small-diameter arrows with a high FOC (front-of-center) aid with deep penetration. My current arrows — Victory VAP TKO shafts — have a 95-grain, stainless-steel insert combined with a 100-grain broadhead, so almost 200 grains up front.
I get excellent penetration pulling a modest 60 pounds from my compound. A few quality fixed-blade broadheads I’ve used on big hogs in recent years have come from companies like Wasp, Iron Will, Solid, Slick Trick, NAP, Muzzy, Silver Flame, and G5.
Out of my stickbows, I prefer even heavier, 500 to 600-grain arrows tipped with file-sharpened Zwickey or Bear Razorhead broadheads. Study hog anatomy photos. Their heart sits very low in the chest. Wait for a broadside or slight quartering-away angle, and then aim at the heart and lungs to avoid their stout front shoulders.