Hog Hunting 101

Over the past 20 years the population of feral, or wild hogs, has exploded in the United States. As a result, these animals now inhabit as many as 20 states.  Thanks to liberal game laws and high rates of reproduction, these nuisance animals are now on just about every bowhunter’s radar.  If hogs happen to be on your radar you’re in luck. Here are several tips that will help you, no pun intended, bring home the bacon.


The Basics

Hogs are fairly simple animals and like anything else, they seek water, food and shelter. The very large majority of the pigs found in the United States are feral pigs, not Russian boars as they are often called.  Let us get something straight, “wild boar” is not a species as they are commonly referred to, they are wild hogs or pigs and the males are boars, females are sows. There are some Russian pigs or cross breeds and these generally come from hogs that were in a fenced ranch that have either escaped or have been turned loose.

Russian hogs typically have a higher back (razorback) and very steep forehead.  Side by side they are easily distinguished from most feral hogs. The average adult pig weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-275lbs, in some regions they will grow substantially larger. Frequently, hog size is over estimated because they look so big, a very easy oversight to make.

Smarter Than You Think

Many people refer to hogs as dumb animals. This is as untrue a statement as can be made. Hogs have an excellent sense of smell and are far from lacking in the auditory department. Their eyesight is poor but they are far from blind. Pigs frequently sound like an Abrams tank driving through a standing corn field when they feed and travel, thus making it harder to hear things around them. In the majority of the regions that they inhabit the only natural predators that can kill an adult hog are probably alligators and mountain lions. They aren’t stupid; they just don’t pay as much attention because they don’t have much to fear.

hog 6

hog 2

Unlike other animals, bow shots on a hog must be placed very tight behind the shoulder; closer than most bowhunters are initially comfortable with.

Common Traits

Like deer, hogs generally live in groups with the exception of large, old boars. Much like a deer, you’ll often find the mature males alone. Where there are lots of hogs, it’s not uncommon to find 30 pigs in one group. Feral pig reproduction is a blessing and a curse depending on which side of the harvest you stand.  For landowners, the ability of a sow to be responsible for over 40 pigs per year is anything but a blessing. Sows have the ability to produce a litter every six months and they can have their first litter at the age of six months.

So… for example let’s say a sow has a litter on January 1st of 10 piglets. For easy figuring we’ll say that half of those are male and half are female. On June 1st that sow can have another 10 piglets and the sows from her first litter can have their first litter. So from a single sow you can have almost 60 piglets annually!! Granted, they have bigger litters because they have a lower survival rate than, say, deer.  For pig hunters, this means one thing….buy more arrows!

hog 1

Much like black bear, the mix of hair and fatty tissue on a hog can quickly slow blood flow; even from a well placed entry hole.

Where to Start

No different than any other animal, you have to start by either seeing animals or finding sign.  Fortunately, finding pig sign is usually much easier than deer.  Hogs travel continuously; rooting up the ground, rubbing on trees and, well, “leaving scat.”  None of this is even remotely close to any other animals that are common in the United States.  The only thing that looks similar are their tracks, but even that is pretty easily distinguished. 

Pig tracks are more “square” than deer tracks and the toes are more easily splayed than deer.  Another thing to keep in mind while scouting for pigs is that they are nomadic.  Most bowhunters are familiar with hunting bedding areas, feeding areas and the travel routes to and from.  Pigs definitely bed and feed but unless there is a very consistent food source they may or may not continue using that area. Sometimes, they just like to go to the next property to see if the grass is really greener, for no apparent reason.  Using a scouting camera, I prefer Stealth Cams, is the best way to make sure that the pigs are in your area and you aren’t wasting your time.

hog scat

hog 8

Hogs leave behind sign just like any other animal in the woods; much of which is fairly easy to locate. Included here are hog scat and a freshly “rubbed” tree.

EquipmentWhen it comes to your equipment, the most important thing is that you are confident.  You will hear every answer in the world when asking questions about what type of archery equipment is best for hogs. But, in all honesty, you don’t need anything different than your regular whitetail setup.  Fixed blade heads or a big cut mechanical like the NAP Killzone will do just fine.  Accuracy, and putting your arrow where it needs to go are key.

The Hunt

By far the most common method of bowhunting pigs is by baiting.  Pigs will forage on most anything (including dead relatives) but they have a sweet spot for corn or soured corn. If pigs are prevalent in any given area it doesn’t take long for them to find the goods and when they do, they will continually come back until the food source is gone. Sitting over a simple corn pile, whether it be in a treestand or ground blind can produce excellent results.  The most productive hunts typically occur in the evenings. For one reason or another hogs move more in the evening hours than they do in the morning.  Because hogs can be so nocturnal and often times don’t hit bait until after dark, the “newest” trend is to hunt them at night at a lighted feeder or with a bow mounted light.  This is extremely entertaining if you can find a place to do it.

One extremely productive method to hunting pigs, that is commonly overlooked, is hunting waterholes on summer evenings.  In areas like Texas and Oklahoma where the summers are super-hot and dry, sitting over a waterhole may be your best chance for seeing a pig in daylight hours.  When the hogs get up during the day, in the heat, they typically head straight for the water to wallow and drink.

Wild hogs are God’s gift to spot and stalk bowhunters for a multitude of reasons but mainly because in most areas they inhabit, they are numerous and their poor eyesight gives a bowhunter excellent odds.  Pigs tend to move more than most game animals. Thus, they don’t generally go to a field and graze for hours but rather move constantly; never allowing the grass to grow under their feet.


Shot Placement

So, once you have pigs within bow range, where do you shoot them? The first word of advice when it comes to killing pigs with archery tackle is, “don’t shoot them where you would shoot a deer.” Swine vitals sit substantially further forward than that of a whitetail. As most of us know there is a significant amount of room behind the shoulder and in front of the diaphragm on any species of deer or other ungulate. It’s quite the contrary with pigs.

Literally, the diaphragm sits maybe 4″ behind the front shoulder and the heart sits directly between the two front shoulders. The ideal shot is quartering away. It may sound ridiculous, but a quartering to shot on a pig is not necessarily a bad option. Straight through the shoulders (I’ll take the heat for this) is also a very lethal shot. You’ll hear people talk about the, “big, bad shoulder blade” that is “impenetrable” with modern archery equipment.  Just smile and nod and don’t give it a second thought. If you shoot a pig high in the shoulder (where the shoulder blade sits) chances of recovery are marginal at best.

hog 7

Scouting cameras can be useful for staying one step ahead of the nomadic behaivor of the wild pig.

After the shot

Pigs, unlike a deer that will lie down after being shot, will run until they fall over dead. I’ve never found a pig in the “bedded” position as it if lied down to die. The recovery rate for pigs with less than stellar shots is far less than that of a deer.  A one-lung shot on wild swine is typically bad news because the lungs of a pig have the capability of operating independently of each other, so they can survive for a long time with one lung. 

The unfortunate truth about hogs is that if they aren’t recovered in the first 75 yards, the rate of recovery is almost nil. Not only do they not bed down, but their hide is typically very fatty and seals up wounds better than the hide of other animals.  If that isn’t bad enough, the dirt and long hair of (most) wild hogs will absorb lots of blood that will never hit the ground to produce a blood trail.

Hog hunting is a “must experience” for any bowhunter, the game is plentiful and the odds of success are the best there is when it comes to killing an animal with a bow. As warm weather approaches, start planning your hog hunting adventure now…..good luck!!

Dustin DeCroo

Dustin DeCroo

Hunting Guide at Big Horn Outfitters
Dustin DeCroo

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  1. Collin Cottrell says:

    Nice article Dustin. Great info!

    Maxima Media

  2. Dustin says:

    Thanks Cotrell!


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