We aren’t sure when hog hunting started to rival ungulate hunting in terms of popularity in the United States.
But it really seems to have picked up steam in the last few years.
And there are ample reasons too to justify this sudden fascination with boar hunts, which were almost unheard of, a couple of decades ago.
In most states, you can hunt hogs all year round, day or night, with or without lights. It’s almost like a free reign.
There are no bag limits or hunting seasons. All that you need is a hunting license and a decent firearm.
Further, feral hogs are categorized as vermin, a destructive, non-native species that has just exploded in numbers.
Check your state here.
They are prolific breeders. Given a chance, it is completely possible for one sow to multiply into a family of about 100 pigs in a span of just months.
Think about the hog population in a state like Alabama or Texas with ample supply of food, water and space.
To top it off, the extent of damage that they can do to crop is mindboggling. A passel of hungry hogs can uproot a freshly sown corn field overnight without the farmer even realizing.
Conservative estimates peg the damage at $1.5 billion annually to crop, livestock and health.
Last but not the least, wild pork meat is a delicacy.
And in case your taste buds do not take an inkling for this exotic meat, then it’s some delectable scraps for your dog at least.
No matter what the reason, Big-boar hunting can be as exciting and thrilling as hunting deer or waterfowl can be.
If you’ve never hunted at night before, it’s an unparalleled experience, particularly if your hunting preferences veer towards the use of tactical gear.
So, if you are looking to wet your toes or just trying to protect your farm from being devastated, here’s a brief primer that covers hog-hunting basics.
Why Hunt at Night?
Because hogs are an intelligent species with an astute survival instinct that have adapted to the presence of humans around them.
The smartest workaround was to go nocturnal, when humans are less likely to be active and they can feed and breed unhindered.
That’s precisely what they’ve done.
Even fields with no signs of feral hogs during the day, might be teeming with them at night.
Check this video out below and see for yourself:
That’s why night hunts increase the likelihood of returning home with pork meat for the cooler. Just make sure you have a night vision scope so you can hunt with ease.
First time hog hunters usually have a lot of niggling doubts in their minds.
What kind of equipment do you need for hog hunting?
Can you hunt feral hogs with your deer rifle? Do you need to invest in specialized weapons and tactical gear?
Well, it all boils down to the kind of time and money that you are looking to invest in hog hunting.
At one end of the spectrum, you can make do with a simple feeder, a laser light and a hog hunting light with motion sensors. Cheap and effective, not nearly as exciting as the other option though.
At the other end, there’s a boatload of specialized tactical gear to choose from. Suppressed weapons, thermal optics, binoculars, scopes, infrared lights and the works.
You’d almost resemble a GI on surveillance duty in Afghanistan with some of this stuff.
Not to mention that you’d need pretty deep pockets to even get started with tactical hunting.
Like we mentioned, it’s all about your hunting preferences.
Some like to bait and wait. Others like to go out and hunt their quarry.
Method 1: Bait & Wait
The easiest way to bag a hog is to set up its favorite food at locations most likely to be frequented by it.
Like a freshly sown corn field. Or a wallow, especially during the hot summer months.
(Hogs don’t have useful sweat glands and will often roll about in the mud and water to cool themselves creating a shallow depression in the ground, called a wallow.)
To get the right spot to set up your feeder, look for telltale signs of hog movement.
Like rooting (deep holes in the ground), scat (hogs defecate in the wallows) or slash marks on trees. More on tracking here.
It can look something like this:
You can set up a timed feeder (provided its legal) near one of these hotspots and program it to dispense food at preset times.
Timed feeders can cost you a couple of hundred dollars. But are completely worth the investment because hogs quickly get used to the feeding schedule and within a week or so, will start frequenting the feeder like clockwork.
Here is a great timed feeder which can be hooked up to any hopper or barrel.
You can always do this manually. But it’s backbreaking work that can easily be automated.
Hogs like to eat just about everything under the sun. They are particularly fond of Pecans, fruits, acorns, nuts, chicken, oak mast and other scraps with a generous dose of sugar (the infamous hog sweet tooth).
Some hunters also use commercially sold bait which is touted have a strong, molasses like aroma that attracts hogs. But we personally have never used it and can’t comment on how effective it would be.
Late evenings usually work best for dispensing food because that’s usually the time when hogs are most active and start foraging.
Once the hogs start frequenting the feeder, allow this to continue for a couple of days. Let them get habituated to the surroundings.
On the day three, put up blinds and stay hidden. Use dark clothing, know which way the wind is blowing, conceal your natural body odor and use a motion sensor activated light that will illuminate once the hogs start moving on the trail.
You can also rig an LED light on the underside of the feeder. But it shouldn’t be overly bright or else the pigs will get spooked.
You can also do with a good pair of binoculars on a half-moon night. (Hogs are believed to be less active on full-moons). Else you can use a cheap infrared or LED light to track the animal before you take the shot.
There are mixed opinions on where the actual hunt should take place.
Some hunters put up a stand or a blind and hunt right over the bait. They don’t give a hoot about how the other pigs react to the squealing.
Some, on the other hand recommend setting it up on the trail that leads to the bait since hunting over the bait might lead other hogs to associate the place with danger.
To each their own. Do whatever works.
Method 2: Stalk and Hunt
This is the fun part.
The thrill and the adrenaline rush of hunting wild game at night, often on foot, is incomparable.
The caveat is that you may or may not find a hog each time. There may be nights when you walk for miles without spotting a single one.
Secondly, you’d have to be a lot more discreet and have equipment that allows you to spot the heat signature of a wild hog and differentiate it from that of a deer.
The last thing you want to do is deal with a game warden at night with an injured/dead deer lying a few feet away from you.
Here are some of the equipment that we recommend for hug hunting at night.
- A strong firearm: A free roaming feral hog is an extremely strong animal that has a thick, robust plate of muscle covering its vitals near the shoulder. So, you need to be doubly sure about the shot that you take (the hog should be quartering you) and you need a bloody good firearm. The AR platform, particularly the AR-10 & 15 are quite popular among hog hunters due to the ease of mounting thermal optics and their ability to unleash maximum damage. Think about what you could do with an AR-15 if you come across a passel of hungry hogs. People who shoot from a distance could do great with a bolt-action firearm, like the Savage Axis II or the good old Rugger American Ranch.
- Thermal Equipment: A few years ago, you’d have to pay through your nose to get your hands on a decent thermal monocular. Thankfully, the prices have reduced considerably as the technology has improved. Today, you can get a good quality thermal riflescope to club with your firearm and pick out hogs in pitch darkness at a great distance. Most experienced hog hunters carry both. They use a handheld monocular to find hogs and follow them until they are within range for an easy shot and then use the riflescope to get the right hit. Pay a little extra and you can get a thermal binocular, which is more effective than a handheld mono. You can see up to 300 yards with basic, beginner models while advanced models will allow you to see up to 1000 yards or more.
Learn where to shoot a hog in this I wrote here about shot placement.
Getting Used to Hunting Hogs
Despite all the talks about the reduction in prices for thermal gear, they can still be a sizeable amount of money for the average joe who hunts once a year.
You can always rent some of these equipment and do a dry run to see if it catches your fancy.
This way, you can test the waters before you dive in.
Look for hog hunting agencies in your state who carry out group hunts.
Apart from increasing the likelihood of bagging your first kill, this is also a great way to get some experience on the nitty-gritties of nighttime hunting.
There’s nothing like walking through the fields and woods with a professional to hone your camouflage, defense and offense skills.
We are sure that you’ll love hog hunting as much as we do.
And within no time, it will become your favorite off-season hunting activity.