Bowhunting Wild Hogs on Public Land

If you want to bowhunt wild hogs on public land, plan a DIY trip to Oklahoma or a few other nearby states.

Bowhunting Wild Hogs on Public Land

Jordan Egli of Blue Heron Communications with his 350-pound wild hog that he shot with his Hoyt Redwrx and Burris Oracle bowsight.

Never before had I thought of a DIY public land hunt for wild hogs. Of course, I always knew in the back of my mind that it was possible, but living in Pennsylvania, it just seemed like I would need to book through an outfitter to make it happen. Television and online shows usually show nighttime hunting or shooting hogs over bait piles set up by the landowners. This always led me to believe that hog hunting was best left to the experts and the paying customer.

That all changed when I was able to head out to northwest Oklahoma on a whitetail deer hunt at the Chain Ranch last November. I set out to shoot a deer on the ranch but by day two, I borrowed a truck and headed to a nearby patch of public — alone — to chase some wild hogs.

In preparation for the season and my trip to Oklahoma, I installed the new Burris Oracle rangefinding bowsight (see sidebar) on my bow. Two days later, I shot my biggest whitetail buck — in Maryland — with this bow setup. On the ground in Oklahoma, I tested the setup’s — and my — long-range ability, touching off shots, and hitting a hog target out to 100 yards consistently. I was hoping for a chip-shot, but I was also quite confident with both my gear and my abilities, if a long-range shot presented itself.

The Burris Oracle bowsight adjusts and accounts for elevation, giving you an accurate range with no glass in the sight.
The Burris Oracle bowsight adjusts and accounts for elevation, giving you an accurate range with no glass in the sight.

Finding Wild Hogs on Public Land

After a day of target practice and having shot a doe on the first day, I made my way 45 minutes north to the Canton WMA public ground. This mere 15,000-acre public land is home to an abundance of feral hogs and I made it my mission to take down at least one.

I had done quite a bit of research, including speaking with several guides and buddies who hunt wild hogs on a regular basis before I headed out on this trip. I had a good idea as to what I was looking for, but wasn’t exactly sure if I was going to find it.

Finding tracks was the first and easiest part of the hunt, even though I may have mistaken a few hog tracks for deer tracks along the way. A recent snowstorm made its way in the weekend before I arrived; and as the snow melted, the deer and hog tracks looked the same. Still, it was obvious the tracks with shorter front to back leg spacing that were scattered aimlessly on the property were made by hogs. As I moved along the property line separating a farmer’s wheat field and an acorn flat on the public land, I noticed multiple craters along the way. These craters were a sign of the hogs rooting and gave me an idea that this could be their current food source.

As I continued, I wanted to make my way down toward a nearby pond. The temperature was cool, but I still wanted to see if there were any wallows. For those that don’t know, a wallow is where the hogs go to roll in the mud, which helps to keep insects off of them, as well as acts as a sunscreen to help with direct sunlight and heat in the warmer months. When I made my way to the swampy bottom, there were tracks everywhere. Still, I wasn’t as confident with this spot as I was back where I first came across the craters, so I made my way back.

As I walked the property line back, I heard my first hog grunt. It sounded deep, but I didn’t really know what deep was or had another experience to compare it to; I just knew that it was a hog. At that point, I began to glass the horizon. I glassed amongst the trees and grass until I finally laid eyes on a drove of hogs, which happened to be on the private land side of the fence.

Crossing the Line

The hogs were crossing back and forth under the fence, but wouldn’t spend much time on the public land before jetting back over to the private. That was until one daring sow made her way back toward the cedar thicket on the public side. As she did, I immediately went to full draw.

At full draw, I watched the first hog move out of frame, quickly. But following her was another hog about the same size. This hog, however, made the mistake of stopping. Next, I simply hit the button on the Oracle bowsight to get a range: 87 yards was the reading. Now, this all happened quickly and had I tried to range with a rangefinder, then adjust my bowsight accordingly, I may not have had this same opportunity. This new setup of mine substantially cut down the shot process. I was presented with a broadside shot at 87 yards. I took a breath, squeezed my thumb release and let my arrow fly. Immediately the hog squealed and dropped to ground. I had just shot my first hog and I did it alone on public land.

Now, I know many people oppose taking a shot at that distance, but I am not a hunter who takes unethical shots. In fact, I never doubted that shot in the least because of my confidence in my gear and abilities. Confidence comes with knowing your gear, practicing with it and being comfortable with the shot. Of course, none of this works if you do not spend the time getting familiar with your tools and the gear you use regularly. Though I had the Oracle sight for only a few weeks, I had spent countless hours shooting the bow. I was confident in my shot, and I couldn’t have been more fulfilled to walk those 87 yards to find this hog had been double-lunged and had gone less than 10 yards from where she was hit.

At full draw, the author was able to use the Burris Oracle bowsight to accurately range a wild hog in one swift motion.
At full draw, the author was able to use the Burris Oracle bowsight to accurately range a wild hog in one swift motion.

Finding Opportunities on Public Land

After heading back to the Chain Ranch, I learned that some of the other guys in camp were also hammering hogs. Jordan Egli of Blue Heron Communications shot a giant 350-plus-pound hog with his bow, and one of the guides, Lincoln Mulherin, had also shot a big one.

Oklahoma has a lot to offer for both public and private wild hog hunting. Oklahoma, however, is not alone. Just south of Oklahoma, is one of the most overpopulated wild hog regions, the state of Texas. Here, you will find large tracts of land overrun with feral hogs on both public and private properties. I was told that there are often so many hogs in Texas that most land owners offer up their property to hog hunters and allow nearly anyone to hunt them to get rid of the nuisance animals. For those looking to hunt public land in Texas, the Davy Crockett National Forest, Sabine National Forest and Angelina National Forest are all overrun with wild hogs.

Other hunters claim Northwest Florida has a lot to offer to the public land hog hunter. Locations such as the Yellow River WMA, Eglin Air Force Base WMA and parts of the Blackwater WMA and Escambia River WMA can provide outstanding hunting opportunities.

Just north of Florida in Southeast Georgia lies some of the most populated hog properties in the country. The Altamaha WMA, Clayhole Swamp WMA and Paulks Pasture WMA all hold a number of wild hogs and offer exceptional hunting opportunities.

Aside from these three states, several other states provide great public land hog hunting as well. Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina for example, also have a feral hog population that has spilled into their public lands. Most states wildlife websites offer detailed maps of their public lands with an insight as to what species of game are available to hunt in each area. I would suggest starting there, and then asking around on local forums or social media groups to get some better insights or ideas as to exactly where these hogs may be before making a trip out of state. Most hunters are willing to help other hunters, especially when it comes to hogs, as they have worn out their welcome across multiple regions.

No matter where you choose to hunt, be sure to pay attention to local and state laws regarding hunting wild hogs and other game. Night-hunting, year-round hunting and in some states, hunting without a license, can all offer you some great opportunities, and also provide an inexpensive way to hunt wild hogs. Hey, if a guy from northern New York can do it on his first trip to Oklahoma hunting public land, I am certain you can, too.

The author with his first-ever wild hog, shot on the Canton WMA in northwest Oklahoma.
The author with his first-ever wild hog, shot on the Canton WMA in northwest Oklahoma.

Sidebar: The Author’s Hog Gear

Since putting the Burris Oracle rangefinding bowsight on my bow, I have been able to rapidly range, aim and shoot within 1 to 2 seconds. Normally, the same shot process with separate equipment pieces would take me an additional 10 seconds. It would also require much more movement. Although the shot process is different, once learned, it’s well worth it. I rely on my gear to work for me, and I’m impressed with what this bowsight offers.

Burris Oracle
Burris Oracle

I have shot many arrows in my time and multiple broadheads. When I want to know if something works, I find a way to get it and I put it to the test myself. I truly enjoy shooting the micro-diameter Storm arrows from Element Archery. However, for this hunt, I wish I had gone with a little heavier arrow; my bow was producing a hefty slap, and I’m certain a heavier arrow would’ve helped to suppress the noise.

Element Archery Storm
Element Archery Storm

I have shot every broadhead known to man. Okay, that’s not exactly truthful, but I have shot a lot. In 2018, I bow-killed 18 deer with roughly eight different broadheads. When I first tried the G5 DeadMeat broadhead, I was a skeptic. However, I read online reviews from others who had been using them. Many bowhunters claimed they shot like field tips, probably because they did! Accuracy is paramount, and this broadhead performed well for me on an 87-yard hog shot.

G5 Deadmeat
G5 Deadmeat
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