Nighttime Hunting Tips for Wild Hogs

The next time the summer blues set in, or when you are ready to escape the cold, go hunting for wild hogs. For extra spice, go at night.

Nighttime Hunting Tips for Wild Hogs

Deer season has been over for months. The long honey-do list is finally completed. Is all this time spent away from hunting making you uneasy? If you choose, you can watch hunting shows and read magazine articles for the next few months to take care of your hunting needs until deer season opens again, however, a far more exciting option would be to go hog hunting.

Hunting hogs at night is rapidly gaining popularity. The biggest reason for that increase is in the advancement of thermal and night vision optics. Many of the tactics to hunt hogs at night are the same ones you would use during the day. The only difference is the optics you are using to locate and eventually shoot the hogs with.

Where to Hunt

Some of the best year-round hog hunting can be found in states such as Alabama, California, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. More than 30 states have breeding populations of wild hogs. At the current rate, it’s very possible in 10 years nearly every state will have established populations of wild hogs.

Many ranchers and farmers allow hog hunting on their property for little or nothing. I have hunted some prime hog ground in Texas for as little as $75 per day. That price often includes lodging. Many of these ranches can be found on the internet.

There is also good public land hunting in many states, sometimes with no limit to the number of pigs a hunter can kill. Use the internet to search a state’s wildlife agency for more information.

Another option is when one of the many outfitters runs a special for wild hogs, which is usually once the more popular big game hunting seasons are closed. While the ground is still covered with snow in the northern regions of the country, you can head to the sunny southern states to extend your hunting season.

Methods

Hogs can be hunted using several different methods. The most popular are spot-and-stalk hunting and hunting out of a stand or ground blind with or without bait.

Knowing what and where the hogs are eating, whether it is at a timed feeder or at a natural food source such as clover, alfalfa, acorns or grain fields, is an effective way to hunt hogs.

Because hogs do not have sweat glands, hanging a treestand or putting a ground blind near a water source is often productive. When the weather turns hot, hunters can easily find hogs that are trying to cool off in water and mud.

Hunt in areas where hogs frequent, such as agriculture fields they root seeking food.
Hunt in areas where hogs frequent, such as agriculture fields they root seeking food.

Another choice location is where hogs are rooting for insects. A sounder can upturn acres of ground in one night. They eat grubs and termites in rotten logs, and insects and earthworms from the ground. When a hunter comes across an area hogs have been rooting, there will be no mistaking that hogs are close.

Hunting near timed feeders (where legal) is one of the easiest ways to hunt for feeding hogs. Feeders that are programmed to start dispensing food at certain times of the night are popular among both hunters and wild pigs. Hogs quickly learn the schedule of the feeders and will be there when they start scattering food or shortly thereafter.

Mechanical feeders can be quite expensive. Timed feeders are preferred by most hunters, but if you would rather not invest a couple hundred dollars or more into a feeder there are other options.

Kernels of corn or even corn that is still on the cob can be used as bait. Spread the corn on the ground in open areas close enough you can hunt without the fear of spooking the pigs. Hogs do not see well, but do not press your luck. Meadows, logging roads, pastures and near hog trails are all good choices.

Give the hogs time to find the corn. You should pre-bait the area a couple of days before you hunt. Trail cameras and visual confirmation are the best ways to tell that hogs are showing up for the corn.  Deer and turkeys are also to be likely visitors too.

I have never used commercial hog baits, though I know hunters who have and swear by them. Commercial baits are a sweet-smelling lure that attracts hogs and are normally combined with corn for best results. Though I have never used commercial baits, I have never heard complaints from hunters who use them religiously.

I recommend hunting the trails leading to the bait and to not hunt over the bait itself. If you shoot a hog at the bait, other hogs will begin associating the bait with danger. If that’s the case, the hogs could stay away for several days. Killing a hog on a trail will not interfere with the hogs wanting to visit the bait.

Other tactics hunters can use is to combine bait with stalking. This is by far the most successful way to stalk a hog. Hogs are a noisy bunch when they are eating.  Hunters can often hear hogs at a feeder or other pre-baited location long before they see the hogs. Again, from the downwind side, quietly try to stalk within range.

The biggest obstacle hunters will have is choosing a system to see the hogs while hunting at night. There are many good options to choose from, but probably the most popular is using thermal scopes and handheld devices.

Thermal scopes are favored for their ability to be used in every hunting situation whether it spot and stalk or hunting from a stand. There are several good thermal scopes on the market. I have not used very many of them, but I can recommend with confidence the Trail LRF series from Pulsar. This scope is user-friendly when it comes to zeroing all the way to taking the shot on a wild hog.

Other options are to attach a low-intensity red or green light to the bottom of a feeder. That method does work, but you will not see the hogs until they are close and does not always give the hunter enough time to prepare for a shot. When using a thermal handheld to scan the area, you will see the hogs approaching and will be ready for the shot opportunity when it presents itself.

Never use a white light or a light that is too bright. That will often spook hogs away before you can get a shot off. Another risk you face when using those types of lights is alerting the hogs of your presence and the possibility of aggression from the hogs. 

Scouting

Just like reading deer sign is important to deer hunters, reading hog sign is important to hog hunters, especially if you want to attempt a stalk. If you are not in known hog country, you could walk for hours without seeing a pig.

Do not scout for hog sign too far in advance; wait until the day before you hunt before doing any scouting. Hogs move around a lot and could be in one place today and far away the next. Begin your scouting close to water and dense cover. Hogs can be found anywhere, but that is where they prefer to bed and travel.

The best way to find a hog to attempt to stalk is using your thermal handheld device. I have been using the Axion from Pulsar for my past few hunts. Do not forget about water when looking for hogs to scout. Hogs use it to both drink from and wallow in.

Night vision or IR optics definitely help at night.
Night vision or IR optics definitely help at night.

One of the best ways to find where hogs have been and hopefully will be again is old fashioned foot work during the day. If you locate the hogs during the day, they are likely to be in the area come nightfall. Some surefire sign that hogs leave behind is obvious. Footprints left by hogs, mud that they wallow in and damaged trees and poles are hard evidence that hogs have been around recently.

It’s easy for a hunter to know when he has found a wallow. Hogs urinate and defecate in their wallows. Your nose will tell you if hogs are using it as a wallow or not.

Look for trees and poles that hogs are rubbing against with their sides and backs and sharpening their tusks on. Hogs often use the same tree repeatedly. After time, the trees finally die. A mature boar will leave slash marks higher off the ground than a young hog will. When you find where hogs are destroying the trees, most often cedars and pines, it confirms that hogs are in the area.

Clover, alfalfa, grain fields and acorns are a favorite often frequented by hogs. In late afternoon glass those areas for feeding hogs. Once you spot feeding hogs attempt a stalk while using the wind to keep from getting busted.

Recovery

Hogs may be tough to recover once they are shot. Knowing where the vitals lay can increase your odds for a quick recovery.

An "armored" plate of thick gristle sits over the hog’s shoulders, protecting its vitals from the tusks of other hogs during a fight. Over time, the plate gets thick, making it tough to penetrate with a broadhead. A high-percentage shot would be to aim in the back third of the hog’s ribs as he is quartering away from you.

A hog will not leave much of a blood trail. The high fat content on a hog causes wounds to quickly close. If your hog doesn’t drop within eyesight, use your thermal device to scan the area for a heat source indicating an animal and even blood droplets. I have recovered many hogs and other game animals doing that.

The next time the summer blues set in, or when you are ready to escape the cold, go wild hog hunting. Long hunting seasons that are filled with plenty of action will provide good food and a nice-looking mount for your trophy room. What more can you ask for?

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