If you read the December issue of River Hills Traveler, you probably read an article from Francis Skalicky of the problems that wild hogs can cause.
Being the diehard hunter that I am, I am always looking for more opportunities to go out into the outdoors to hunt. I’ve always had a want to hunt wild hogs, unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to try to pursue these unique creatures, not yet anyway.
I have talked with a couple of friends of mine from southern Missouri who have been pretty successful the last few years with harvesting some hogs. I’ve planned on tagging along with them this winter after deer season is over, and after it gets cold out when there is not much else to do outdoors.
Even though I spend a lot of time in January and February predator hunting, I am on a quest this winter to shoot a wild hog in southern Missouri.
After reading last month’s article on hogs, it got me even more pumped about going this winter, so I figured I would sit down with one of my good friends to find out more about how to hunt wild hogs.
Before sitting down with my friend I started doing some reading on feral hogs. I know that they are a problem. They can spread diseases in pets and other livestock such as brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis, and leptospirosis. Hunters in the southeastern U.S. have even contacted brucella from field dressing feral hogs.
Hogs can also cause habitat damage. I remember as a kid a neighbor of ours had domestic pigs that got loose and ended up in our front yard. After just a few minutes of them rooting around our yard, it was ruined. It looked like a tractor had run back and forth through it, so I can imagine what a bunch of wild hogs can do to the land.
This rooting and wallowing behavior can cause crop damage, it can cause poor water quality in springs, etc., and they can also be a danger to young wildlife. Feral hogs have been known to eat eggs from ground nesting birds such as turkeys, and have even been reported eating baby fawns during the spring.
Being from southern Missouri, I am accustomed to hunting the wooded areas, river bottoms, etc., and that’s exactly where Shane Younger of West Plains, Mo., does most of his hog hunting.
Younger says he began hunting the wild hogs along the Jacks Fork River area because they where getting over populated.
“Hogs eat a lot of acorns, and the more acorns they eat, the less food for the deer and turkeys,” says Younger.
That’s where he finds the majority of feral hogs, along the top of ridges, white oak flats, and in bottoms close to a water source. This is the same habitat where the majority of the whitetail deer and turkeys roam as well, which makes it a constant battle for food against one another.
When asked how he hunts hogs, Younger explained that he does the majority of his hunting during the winter, primarily January and Febuary. Younger says this is because they’re easier to track in the snow, and this is also when they use a lot of the natural caves for bedding areas.
Younger likes to hunt by finding sign, which include tracks in the snow, feeding areas, and bedding areas. Once he finds a concentrated area of sign he begins pursuing the hogs to try to harvest. Younger added that you need to pay attention to the wind while hunting feral hogs.
“Paying attention to the wind is just as, or more important than, if you were hunting deer. If you don’t hunt into the wind, you’re wasting your time,” says Younger.
Younger admits that feral hogs are smarter than people give them credit for.
“If you push them too hard, they become nocturnal when feeding. I like to stretch out my hunting times. Don’t hunt day after day on the same group of hogs, give it a week or so in between hunts,” says Younger.
There is a bit of gear selection that will make your hunt more successful, since some of your best hunting is when the snow is on. You will want to wear a good pair of waterproof boots that are comfortable enough to walk a lot. You may walk several miles when out trying to find sign of where the hogs have been, so having good boots is a must.
Same for your hunting garments. Something breathable but yet insulated is ideal. As mentioned earlier, hogs have a very good sense of smell, so using a scent eliminating spray will favor your odds of getting within shooting range.
One of the most important parts of hunting gear has to be your weapon. Younger prefers a 300WSM, with a 180 grain bullet.
“It’s a little overkill, but it’s great for those long-range shots if needed,” says Younger.
With most big game, it all depends on what you are comfortable shooting. Most of your calibers used while deer hunting work just fine.
I can’t wait for my chance to track along the rolling hills of the Ozarks to try to harvest my first wild feral hog. I can guarantee when I do, you will read all about it in a future article for River Hills Traveler.
So, if you’re looking for a new hunting opportunity this winter, find some feral hogs and help on the population control that is so encouraged.
By Heath Wood
(Heath Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)