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Hogs Every Which Way

Hogs Every Which Way

Exciting hunts for wild pigs abound, and any deer rifle or big-bore handgun will suffice for taking them.

By Sam Fadala

Wild pigs are causing mega trouble in America. A national Feral Swine Conference held recently in Fort Worth, Texas, brought pig experts from everywhere. The upshot of the meeting was, “eradication is no longer practical.”

The conference concluded that there are only two states in America: those that have hogs and those that will. Sightings as far north as Alaska support this view. Hogs are intelligent and mobile. They breed a couple times a year, six piglets per throw.

Due to their propensity for wallowing and rooting and the fact that they’ll eat almost anything, wild pigs are causing massive ecological damage wherever they live.

In California alone, wild pigs entered turkey pens, damaged feeders and allowed birds to escape as they got an early start on a Thanksgiving feast. The turkey rancher was very upset.

Wild pigs in California and Texas killed 1,473 sheep, goats and exotic game animals in just one year, according to another report.

It’s no wonder that a new business has cropped up, like the one running this ad: “Notice — Notice — Wild Hog Removal. Are wild hogs destroying your property or your crops? I’ll remove ’em for free!”

Selling wild hog hunting is like having an oil-sludge pool in your back yard with buyers in a shopping frenzy to part with big bucks for buckets of the stuff. The mischievous, smart, tough, resilient, adaptable wild hog is big business in parts of our country, and why not? That’s good old American enterprise. If you can sell a Hula Hoop or pet rock, why not a big old boar? Or for that matter a little squealer that eats great, which feral pigs do.

Wild pigs have even become candidates for “the book.” Hogzilla-fever swept over the hunting population when a monster boar said to be 12 feet long and half a short ton, bit the dust in June 2004. National Geographic magazine ceremoniously exhumed Hogzilla, killed in south-central Georgia, to verify it. It wasn’t a 12-footer weighing 1,000 pounds, but it did go 8 feet and 800 pounds. The nearby town honored the deceased hero with an autumn festival, including a Hogzilla princess and a float carrying a likeness of the old fellow.

Online hunts abound. I found dozens in my search for a good hog spot. I wanted to match a new Marlin 336 XLR lever-action rifle in .35 Remington against Sus scrofa. But it wasn’t hunting season where I live. “Wait a minute,” my photographer brother said, “It’s always hog season in Texas.” We immediately went about setting up a hunt.

I located a wealth of places to go. One outfit offered a “$1 Hog Hunt Special” running from June to November, with no limit on the number or size of hogs that can be taken. There is a $50 per hog kill fee. A dollar covers the hog fee, with meals, lodging and guide running $226 for three days and two nights. The enterprising rancher also offers a special Honeymoon Hog Hunt. All the proud groom pays is $275 for self and bride, plus $35 per hog processing fee. You get the private Sam Houston room with this deal.

Hogs Every Which WayAnother outfit charges $895 for three days and three nights of unlimited hog hunting and fishing on a 25-square-mile patch of Texas countryside with a hacienda-style mansion for accommodation. The food on this hunt is advertised as “savory.”

Or spend a grand for three days, everything included, for “some of the baddest, nastiest and biggest hogs in Texas.” Another place gets $500 for four hogs “of your choice” on a three-day hunt. Sometimes there are trophy fees added. The smart hunter gets it all in writing before sending a check. No surprises that way.

The only help we wanted was access to wild pig territory and a roof over our heads. David Coonrod had just that for about the cost of a modest hotel room in a big city. The president of Big Trophy Adventures (806 778-7632) would pick us up, guide us to the ranch, provide rooms and a place to cook, and escort us to blinds or turn us loose to find hogs on our own. Perfect!

There was one major problem, no fault of our guide. The heavens opened with one deluge after another. Roads were washed out, and rainforest growth was tall enough to hide a pregnant hippo. No way were we going to find a boar in that mass of greenery.

The party consisted of my brother Nick, his wife, Pat, and lifelong friend Dennis Stogsdill. Under normal conditions, the ranch would provide multiple pigs for each hunter. But our foursome had hunted long enough to read the handwriting in the mud. Hogs had plenty of forage — no need to come to feed. And if they did, their visit would probably happen well after sundown.

I used to hold a particular despise for stand hunting, until I lay under a white sheet in a field of snow, waiting for geese to drop into our decoys. “Wait a minute,” I said, “if this isn’t the same as having game come to me instead of going to them, then what is it? I learned to appreciate blinds and stands.

And so I sat the first morning, anticipating a view of hogs coming by for breakfast. Never happened. Dennis was in a stand several hundred yards from mine. A lone boar passed him, but he couldn’t get a shot in the thicket. The boar took instant evasive action, heading my way. He’d walk a few steps, look back toward Dennis’s blind, and then dash into the brush. By luck, I found his shoulder in the view of my Leupold 1.75x-6x scope set on 6x. Crack! I could not hear the bullet strike. Dennis could, but he had no way to tell me.

After a respectable time with nothing else showing up — nothing resembling a hog, at least — I got down. The hog had run wild at my shot, his tracks easy to follow in the soft ground. Seventy paces ahead, there he lay.

I‘d been testing three factory loads in .35 Remington: Hornady’s 200-grain Flex Tip; Superior Ammunition’s 225-grain Hawk; and Buffalo Bore’s 225-grain flat point. I just happened to sight-in with Buffalo Bore ammo. I shot only twice at 50 yards to conserve ammo before going to 100. The bullet holes cut each other.

Later, a trio of three-shot groups at 100 yards pumped my confidence to cloud level. The smallest ran just under a half-inch, the largest just over 3/4 inch.

My plan included three hogs, one with each load. The Hornady ammo was up first. The other fodder would have to wait for a later hunt.

The 225-grain Buffalo Bullet worked to perfection, smacking the hog in the left shoulder, expanding, then punching though the other side.

David Coonrod said that some wild pigs roaming his place resemble European boars, while others would look right at home in a barnyard. My boar had a long head and dark, course hair of the wilder variety. In spite of the tough conditions due to the unrelenting rain, we had a great time. We asked David to keep a spot open for us in the fall, when the landscape would look more like Texas than 
the Amazon. 

Subscribe Today!There are at least four great ways to bag your wild swine: backpack hunt (my favorite), spot-and-stalk, stands and hounds.

I love backpack hunting. I can live for a week out of a comfortable pack with a modest supply of MREs, a mountain tent and a sleeping bag. A favorite pack, the Blackhawk Black Gorge, is expandable for carrying a heap of boned hog meat back 
to camp.

Hunters must remember that wild swine have a keen sense of smell, black-bear good, along with hearing at least as sensitive as a whitetail’s. However, their eyes can’t make out a two-legged hunter from a four-legged milk cow at great distances.

Hunting from elevated stands and ground blinds are the preferred methods of taking hogs. While the backpack hunt is more appealing to me, the animals are usually so numerous that concern about only one way to collect them is not practical if their numbers are to be checked.

The sit-and-wait hunter has a full range of choices in how he or she will take a boar. I found my Marlin 336 XLR in .35 Remington ideal, but it’s a hunter’s decision. Any deer rifle or big-bore handgun will do the job. Best bullet choice is one tough enough to penetrate the hog’s gristle shoulder shield that’s equivalent of a flak jacket.

Chasing swine with dogs is probably the most exciting way to catch up to a big nasty boar. Some stalwart souls use spears. Braver (or rasher) hunters wield big handheld knives. Talk about hogs every which way! I’ll stick to my lever-action rifle or a similar smokepole, including muzzleloaders launching fat round or conical bullets.

Handguns shine when a boar is snapping at the hounds from the thicket. The sidearm is ideal because the muzzle can be carefully directed on the hog for the safety of the brave canines. Since the usual shooting distance is no more than a pebble’s throw, any large-bore pistol or revolver will do the job.

So hunters can pursue wild swine every which way, from still-hunting to sitting still. Look at it this way: You aren’t out there to enjoy a great hunting experience; you’re doing the world a favor!

Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.

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