Tips for Bowhunting Pigs

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Have You Tried Bowhunting Hogs?

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1 | Florida Hogs in Cattle Pasture

Yes, the news is telling you rabid packs of wild hogs will be in your back yard any day now, but between now and then, certain places shine brighter than others for pig hunting. Texas has a higher hog population than any other state in the country, and a simple Google search will turn up numerous hunting options in the Lone Star State. Hogs roam every state in the Southeast, too, but coastal areas (including all of Florida) seem to have the highest concentrations.

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2 | Wilderness Lodge

Central Tennessee is another area often considered for pig hunting. Though pig hunting is a tradition here and the Cumberland Mountain scenery is fantastic, it’s important to note that most of the hog-hunting operations here are high-fence, but that’s not always indicated on their websites. That doesn’t mean the experience won’t be a good one, especially if you choose to bowhunt, but it’s important to know before you go. This shot was taken at Wilderness Hunting Lodge near Monterey, Tennessee.

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3 | Bait Set for Hogs

Most outfitters who specialize in bowhunts for hogs create bait sets. It’s an enjoyable, relaxed way to hunt, but it’s not quite the sure thing that it seems. Pigs become extremely wary of feeders given just a little hunting pressure, so make sure to chat with an outfitter about his setup before planning a hunt. Find out if there are enough stands to rotate hunting pressure, and make sure the farm isn’t overhunted. 

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4 | Anchor Up!

When creating your own bait sets, opt for a timed feeder suspended from a tree limb, or at least sturdy anchors on the legs of a tripod feeder. Pigs will knock over and destroy anything that smells like food and isn’t bolted down. Place your stands within 20 yards and plan for the prevailing wind, first and foremost, with concealing cover being a distant secondary consideration.

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5 | Spot and Stalk Hog Hunting

Spot-and-stalk hunting for pigs is a heck of a lot of fun. Similar to a flock of turkeys, herds of pigs are wandering nomads, and are much more difficult to pattern consistently than deer. Locate them from a distance with binoculars if the terrain allows and then play the wind to stalk to within range.

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6 | Alert Pig

Body language cues are important to watch while stalking. Pigs that are actively feeding often move quickly from one bite to the next (and that may be 30 yards away to the next live oak tree), and this sometimes gives the impression that they’re spooked, even when they’re not. Keep an eye on them and begin your next move when they stop. Pigs that have indeed picked up your scent often freeze and stand motionless for several seconds before making a deep, guttural alarm grunt and then getting the heck out of Dodge.

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7 | Quartering Away

There is one shot to take on a pig with a bow: quartering away, tight to the shoulder. A hog’s heart and lungs are clustered into a bundle that rests almost entirely between its shoulder blades. Hit a broadside pig behind the shoulder, like you would a deer, and you’re in the liver/paunch area. Aim so that your arrow hits the opposite shoulder, or just an inch or less in front of it, upon exit and you’ll probably see your pig fall.

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8 | Boar

Boars do develop the storied “shield” of gristle behind their shoulders that protects them during fights with other boars, but the ability of this shield to deflect arrows has been a little overhyped. I killed three boars this past winter shooting a 50-pound Hoyt, and all but one of them fell within sight. That said, a pig’s reputation for being able to take a solid hit without going down is valid given a less-than-perfect hit. Pigs are covered in a thick layer of fat, and their bodies are compact and dense. They don’t leave the blood sign that deer typically leave, and a hog hit in the wrong spot will run a long way before bedding down.

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9 | Back at Camp

Shots at pigs are usually close. With a favorable wind, it’s fairly easy to stalk inside of 30 yards of a feeding pig. Personally, I like my shots inside of 20 yards. But, feeding pigs always seem to be moving, so the ability to shoot quickly can be an asset. When hunting over bait, your shots are often in the final hours of daylight — and even after dark where legal.

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10 | Close-Range Shooting

Many dedicated hog hunters use bow-mounted spotlights that are illuminated at the touch of a switch (the Hawglite is among the most popular) in conjunction with red-dot sights on their bows for fast, precision shooting in the dark at close range. For spot-and-stalk hunting, a rest that contains the arrow, which includes a variety of today’s drop-away models, is mighty handy.

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11 | Drawing Down

Wild pigs have an uneven culinary reputation, but that’s due in large part to the fact that many hunters are after trophy boars. A big boar with polished tusks and several hundred pounds of heft to back up an unpleasant attitude is indeed a trophy, and the object of many a pig hunter’s desires. Some of them taste just fine. But some of them have a foul taste and smell, and trying to guess how a pig will taste as you’re searching for a shot opportunity in a palmetto thicket is a lost cause. When in doubt, shoot ‘em and hope for the best (let’s remember: pigs are an invasive species). 

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12 | Live Oak Acorns

Like most other game animals, a pig’s diet largely determines how it tastes. In the Deep South, hogs love live-oak acorns, which is a good thing for hunters. The acorns help pigs build a dense layer of fat and give the meat a great flavor.

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13 | Tiny Means Tender

But the most consistent way to get great-tasting wild pork is just by using some common sense: half-grown shoats of 30 to 50 pounds (tiny means tender) and fat sows that aren’t nursing piglets make meals fit for a king.

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14 | To the Skinning Pole!

My pig-hunting buddy in Florida caught Brucellosis from skinning hogs last winter and thus learned a valuable lesson: be careful with raw pork. Combine the bacteria in a pig’s system with the warm weather often associated with hunting them and it becomes especially important to process and chill your meat ASAP. 

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15 | Skinning

Wear rubber gloves when skinning (that's my Florida buddy in the photo, before he caught Brucellosis and started wearing gloves), and keep rinse water handy for spraying off the meat as you work. Take time to trim away any glands, bits of internal organ and excess fat. I like to put pig quarters in a large cooler between layers of ice and keep the drain plug open and on an incline for a day or two to purge blood from the meat before final butchering and packaging.

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16 | Smoked Pork Ribs

There is no big mystery to cooking wild pork; in fact, a good cut of wild pig is easier to prepare than a good cut of venison. Keep the raw meat clean, cold and cook it like you would store-bought pork while keeping in mind that the wild variety tends to be leaner and thus usually requires less cooking time to reach a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees.

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17 | Pulled Pork Shoulder

Does this look like it tasted bad? You’re right — it didn’t.

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Interest in bowhunting hogs seems to be on the rise, and it's no wonder. Wild pigs are great to eat, fun to stalk, economical to hunt and their numbers desperately need to be controlled. In many places, there are no bag limits or licenses required, and they can be hunted day or night by spotting and stalking, chasing with dogs or in a stand over bait. You don’t need much more than your whitetail bow, a quiver of arrows and a place to go. But it is important to remember that a boar ain’t a buck. Consider the following tips when planning a pig hunt — oh, and enjoy the photos, too!

Editor's Note: This was originally published April 11, 2011