Going Hog Wild

There’s an old saying that if a feral sow has a litter of 12 piglets, 13 will survive. Here’s how you can do your part to help control the country’s out-of-control wild pig population — and have some fun in the process.

Going Hog Wild

Feral hogs are becoming more of a problem in Land Between the Lakes, with officials in Kentucky and Tennessee working with local counties to try to get a grip on things. 

Kids can be stupid. I vividly recall spending lazy summer days loafing around my cousins’ farm a few miles from the small rural town where I grew up. Like most pre-teens, we were in a constant state of boredom and looking for any excuse to break the monotony. We’d go horseback riding (my favorite), explore the surround fields and forests, skip stones on the pond, play cowboys and Native Americans … and we’d tease my uncle’s hogs. Yep, those 300-pound, ill-tempered porkers fenced in next to the barn. 

“Hey, check this out!” one of my cousins exclaimed as he slid off the top rung of the wooden gate and dropped into a pen that housed a huge female hog and her litter of a dozen young. While another cousin distracted the anxious sow, cousin No. 1 sprinted over and grabbed one of her piglets by a hind leg. The two-fold result was predictable. The piglet let out a God-awful scream and momma hog responded with murderous intent — attempting to run down the fleeing intruder. The laughing youngster dropped the piglet and leapt over the fence just in time to avoid a mauling. I learned two things that day: My cousins are crazy, and hogs response aggressively to the distress screams of their young. More on that in a minute. 

Pursuing wild hogs is gaining popularity among hunting circles. Because of the proliferation and wide-spread dispersal of these feral animals, access to them has never been better. Many landowners open otherwise closed doors to those hunters willing to help rid them of these destructive vermin. In most states they’re regarded as pests and season parameters and bag limits are nonexistent. Hunting them can be challenging and fun — and properly cared for in the field they make excellent table fare. 

By some counts wild hogs, the progeny of those that early American settlers introduced as a free roaming source of protein as far back as the 1600s, are now estimated at more than 6 million and rapidly expanding — inhabiting at least 35 states (and counting). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these eating machines cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damages each year (most of it to agricultural crops).  Wild hogs eat a wide variety of foods — and leave a lot of damage in their wake, often destroying entire agricultural fields or food plots. They also disrupt native vegetation and make it easier for invasive plants to take root. Hogs devour food set out for livestock and occasionally eat the livestock as well, especially lambs, kids and calves. They are also known to prey on wildlife such as deer and quail and will eat earthworms, insects, fish, rodents, bird eggs, lizards, snakes, frogs and carrion. Guess that’s where the expression “eats like a hog” got its roots. 

In 2014, Congress appropriated $20 million to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to implement a collaborative, national feral swine management program in states where there is a recognized feral swine population. The goal is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal health and human health and safety by reducing feral hog populations in the United States. In states where feral swine are emerging or populations are low, APHIS cooperates with federal, state, tribal and local entities to implement strategies to eliminate them. The goal is to stabilize and eventually reduce the range and size of feral swine populations in the United States and territories in accordance with management objectives of states, territories and tribes. 

This is obviously an ambitious undertaking. And the jury is still out on how effectively these burgeoning populations can be controlled (or eliminated). A female wild hog can begin reproducing at the tender age of 6 months and give birth to an average of 1.5 litters per year. Those litters often number close to a dozen young of which half will likely (on average) be sows. It doesn’t take a math whizz to see the implications. But hunters can do their part to help keep numbers in check on the local level — albeit on a much smaller scale — and that’s where the fun starts. 

Chances are good that hunters who live south of the Mason Dixon Line can locate hogs just a short drive from their homes. In Texas alone hogs are estimated to number in the millions and the Lone Star State has become a Mecca for hunters targeting wild hogs. Other top destination states include Florida, Georgia, California and Missouri. But hogs can be found throughout the South and West and in some Midwestern and Northern states as well. 

Opportunities exist on public lands, but the best hog hunting is often found on private holdings, where access is often just a request away. In some cases, a small trespass fee will open the door to hog heaven. Also, many outfitters are willing to tag them on as a bonus animal at little or no charge should hunters tag out early on a deer or turkey hunt.   

There are several ways wild hogs can be hunted, the two most common being the use of bait and spot-and-stalk. These are the methods I most commonly deploy, but with a twist. As my cousins and I learned, hogs — both sows and boars — respond to the distress cries of their young. They also respond to other auditory cues, such as the distress cries of prey species and even the sounds of avian scavengers. Hunters armed with the proper mouth calls, or better yet, an e-caller loaded with a variety of sounds, can capitalize on this tendency.

Wild hogs are equal-opportunity scavengers/predators, known to prey on white-tailed fawns. That’s why using the recorded sounds of a fawn in distress can be affective for luring them out into the open for a shot.
Wild hogs are equal-opportunity scavengers/predators, known to prey on white-tailed fawns. That’s why using the recorded sounds of a fawn in distress can be affective for luring them out into the open for a shot.

Come and Get It!

Baiting is effective for hogs because, well, they’re hogs. Corn feeders purposely put out for drawing in these swine, or more often, for luring in deer, are commonly used where this practice is legal. Agricultural fields and food plots are other food sources where pigs can be located and patterned. Hunters wait in ambush, typically in elevated stands — most often the same ones they hunt deer from — with those crepuscular hours after daybreak and before dusk being the most productive. Hogs typically spend their days in heavy cover within proximity to these food sources. And that’s why using mouth calls or an e-caller can be effective. 

If I’m hunting hogs over bait, or near other food sources such as foot plots or agricultural fields or water sources, I prefer to hunt the waning hours of the afternoon. I typically get into a treestand or box blind two or three hours before dark and sit still for an hour to let things settle down a bit. If no hogs show up within that time, I put the mouth call or e-caller to work. 

The methodology is like calling coyotes or other predators, and, in fact, some of the same sounds used for calling coyotes, such as various prey species in distress, will attract wild hogs. For example, wild hogs are opportunistic feeders and will prey on white-tailed deer fawns, if given the chance. So it stands to reason that they will respond to the cries of a fawn in distress. The most effective sounds, though, at least in my experience, are the distress cries of young piglets, or the ruckus caused by fighting hogs. Most e-callers include these sounds in their libraries — those that are tailor-made for hunting hogs. It’s also quite easy to imitate the sounds of distressed piglets with an open-reed mouth call.

I go with a 5- or 10-minute sequence every half-hour or so, and then sit silently waiting for a customer to show. Hogs have a good sense of smell, so it’s important to take a position downwind of the food source. I’ve seen very little evidence of hogs circling the call to get downwind.



Spot-and-stalk hunting near water, bait sites and other food sources and in areas with signs of recent hog activity, such as wallows, is my favorite method of hunting hogs. And just like with baiting, it lends itself well to calling. The key is to get within proximity to a hog or hogs and then use a mouth call or e-caller to work them out into the open and into range. 

Hogs typically hang out in thick cover during daylight hours — often near a food source — and that’s where calling provides an advantage, by drawing them out into the open. Work into position from the downwind side of the cover and set up so you have open shooting lanes or maybe even some elevation for better visibility. I typically use either a piglet in distress or the sounds of fighting hogs for these setups, calling for 30 seconds to a minute and then sitting quietly for 5 or 10 minutes. Hogs within earshot typically charge the call from the tight cover and things can get exciting in a hurry! When hunting with a partner, sit back-to-back to cover multiple shooting lanes.

Lever-action rifles packed with stout bullets provide lethal firepower for wild hogs, where quick follow-up shots are often necessary.
Lever-action rifles packed with stout bullets provide lethal firepower for wild hogs, where quick follow-up shots are often necessary.

Pig Power

Rifles used for whitetails, or even coyotes, are effective for anchoring wild hogs. But I prefer stout bullets no matter what caliber I’m shooting. These are compact and tenacious animals that have a reputation for absorbing lead or copper. Ammo makers recognize this, and some have developed bullets tailor made for wild hogs — Hornady’s Full Boar, Allegiance Ammunition Hog Strike, Remington’s Hog Hammer, Winchester Razor Boar and others. These bullets are designed for deep penetration and controlled expansion — to punch through thick hide and bones to get to the heart (and lungs) of the matter.

For spot-and-stalking hunting/calling, quick-handling rifles get the nod because hogs often show up unannounced and they can be aggressive in close quarters. ARs chambered in boar-busting calibers such as the .308 Win. or .338 Federal will lay waste to the biggest hogs. Lever-action rifles chambered is .30-30 Win. and up are another good choice for their maneuverability and quick follow-up shot capabilities. Any of the big bores from Henry, Marlin or Winchester will suffice. Bolt-action rifles used for whitetails will serve the shooter well in a box blind or treestand.

Low-power optics or red-dot sights are best because the action is likely going to be up close and personal. Variable scopes such as a 3-9x are fine but keep them cranked to their lowest settings when calling. You can always turn up the magnification if a hog stalls at 100 yards or so. Dangerous game scopes are a better choice. Low-power magnification, generous eye relief and a wide field of view translates into quick target acquisition.

Hunting wild hogs is challenging and fun whether you wait for them to come to you or take the fight to them. And by adding the twist of using a mouth call or e-caller to either method of hunting can make it even that much more productive.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.