Where to Shoot a Wild Pig

Wild pigs are tough, from their thick skulls to the shoulder shield of cartilage protecting their upper bodies. Here are the best places to shoot them.

Where to Shoot a Wild Pig

Just like with any game animal, you want to  make the best shot possible for a clean, quick kill with little to no tracking involved. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

Ask a lot of hunters about the best place to shoot a wild pig and they probably would say, "Anywhere."

That, of course, is not the correct answer. While feral pigs are invasive and terribly bothersome, shooting one in the butt or front leg or guts to let it run off and suffer is cruel and unsporting. By no means am I some lily-waving member of any rights groups, but I also don't support unnecessary cruelty. It's not right and not the soul of real hunters.

"It depends" might be a more realistic answer, or at least a starting point. First, consider a wild pig's body.

— The skin is thin but tough, and they have no sweat glands or method of cooling themselves in summer. That's why hunting around mud wallows, swamps, ponds and other water sources can be good in summer. They need water to drink, and mud to cool off. Wallowing also helps reduce fleas and ticks, but can increase the chance of other diseases. A wallow with pigs is not going to be comprised of pristine mud used for spa facials. After wallowing in mud several times their bodies may be caked with clods of wet or drying dirt, which could impact your arrow or bullet.

— Their skulls are thick and tough. I have two Euro mounts on my office desk and it always amazes me how damned tough they are. You could seriously hurt someone smashing them with the top of the skull, and for sure slash them with the jawbone. Their jaw and neck muscles are powerful enough to chew bones. They eat prickly pear cactus without a second thought. The top of their skulls protecting the brain and eyes are thicker. In football, they would be fullbacks or linebackers leading the way.

— Much has been written over the years about the thick cartilage shield covering the shoulder and upper back. It's not kevlar or steel. It's not bulletproof. But if you take a shot with a firearm or bow through the upper half of a big pig thinking it'll easily topple, think again. Unless you're shooting a large caliber, just poking a hole doesn't mean it will drop immediately. The shoulder shield begins growing at a young age, continues to grow, and is at least an inch thick. In larger boars it can be up to two inches thick.

The other thing about the cartilage shield is what it covers and protects. The lungs and liver, mostly, but the bottom portion extends to the top of the front leg and rearward just enough to cover most if not all of the heart. A pig's pumpstation is centered low in its chest and protected by the cartilage and top part of its powerful but bony legs.

Thus, your target for an arrow, bullet or muzzleloader chunk better be true.

OK, But Where to Shoot?

I've shot hogs with everything from a bow and 12-gauge slugs to multiple rifle calibers including .223, .224, .270 and up. My preference is the bigger, the better. Give me a .308, .30-06 or .338, or maybe a Henry All-Weather .45-70 thumper, and I'll be happiest.

However, the 20-caliber options are fun as are a bow and crossbow. I love anything that works on giving wild pigs a dirt nap. For a  bow and crossbow, aim  low and don't just fling an arrow into the chest. Center-punching it probably will result in a tracking effort and, possibly, disappointment. If you think "Aim, center" then aim a little lower.

Here are my suggestions for where to shoot them with firearms.

In the Ear: Highly effective if you have a good, solid rest and a calm pig. I've talked with several hunters over the years who used a .22 Magnum to plunk them in the ear. Nice round, no recoil and easy recovery. The .22-250, .223, .224 and .204 on up to the biggest thing you want to tote all would work in the ear, too.

In the Eye: Similar to the ear, popping a porker in the eye will drop it. Concussion, expansion, all right there by the brain, just like with the ear. I prefer the ear over the eye but if that's the only shot you have, take it.

Low chest: If you're going after boars, this probably is the best option. Remember, the lungs, liver and heart are protected by the thick shoulder cartilage. It typically is thickest at the top and tapers a bit toward the top of the front leg, but still is doing its job: protecting the vitals. If you're using a bow, crossbow or rifle in .22-250, .223, .224 and .243 on up to .270 or .280, this lower chest shot probably is the best location and option for quick death or short recovery effort.

Center punch: I've killed hogs with center-punch shots with the .270, .308 and .30-06, and have seen 12-gauge slugs drop them. A lot of energy is dispersed in the chest with bigger calibers. It's one reason I prefer them. A 20-gauge slug will do the job, too. I haven't tried a .410 bore slug, but would imagine that it probably would be fine for sows and average-size pigs.

Proof in the Field

A few years ago I was in west Texas hunting with Federal, Savage Arms and Bushnell to try the then-new .224 Valkyrie round. It's a zippy little powerhouse that easily could find a home in gun cabinets of predator and pig hunters. I suspect it would topple pronghorn without a hitch, too, since they're little more than speedy, thin-skinned bags of air.

We were riding around the ranch when our guide pointed, stopped the truck and said, "C'mon, but quietly. Leave the doors open." Maybe 100 or so yards away uphill near a feeder were two sows and a gaggle of shoats the size of small watermelons.

The wind was in our favor, gently into our face as we scuttled quietly  through the mesquite. The guide finally stopped and set the tripod rest, giving me a shot of maybe 50 yards. I took a few deep breaths before pulling the trigger on the Savage 110 Predator, sending the .224 Valkyrie on its way.

The quick combo of "Pow Thump Squeeeeeeeeaaaaa!" was met with "good shot!" as the pigs ran. Less than 30 yards away lay the sow, dead as a hammer, plunked through the chest behind the front leg. It was the first of several that week with the .224 Valkyrie, adding another caliber to my hog-killing checklist that I'd recommend.

Making a "dead right there" shot is great. Thump, fall, celebrate. So is a shot that results in a short tracking job, to me short being 50 yards or less. Dealing with wounded, pissed-off pigs in brushpiles or thick grass isn't fun at all. Your best bet is to make the best shot possible and have little or no tracking.


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