More than one way to hunt a hog
By Luke Clayton
Mar 17, 2019
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If you’ve been reading this column very long, I’m sure you have come to the conclusion that I’m all about hunting and eating what I take from the woods or fields.

Today the word ‘hunting’ has taken on a whole different meaning from what hunting was like back in the sixties when I first began going afield after game and game birds. Back then high fences were rare in Texas and nonexistent in rural Red River County where I grew up.  There were no scopes that allowed us to hunt hogs at night; there were wild hogs in some areas but the wild hog boon that began in the late seventies was yet to come. There was certainly no Facebook posts to keep our hunting buddies tuned in to the hunt as it unfolded. We just hunted and the icing on the cake was a big skillet of smothered squirrel with rice and gravy or chicken fried venison steaks.

Facebook posts from this past weekend by a couple of friends prompted this week’s column. One buddy loves to hunt hogs strictly at night, using an ATV to negotiate hundreds of acres of ranchland, with sophisticated state-of-the-art thermal night hunting scopes and AR semi-auto rifles shot from a portable tripod that is as stable as a bench rest. He posted a photo of a couple of his guests with big boars they took using his night hunting equipment. Shooting running hogs is often the name of the game here. After that first shot at a sounder of hogs, odds are pretty good the other shots will be at animals on the move. If removing nuisance hogs is the goal, this is a very effective tool in the toolbox to get the job done. My friend is expert with his night hunting gear and has introduced many newcomers to his style of hunting.

My other friend posted a photo of a single boar he harvested with his bow, hunting the traditional way during daylight hours.

Luke's friend Jeff Rice with a wild hog he took with his bow over the weekend. There are many ways to legally hunt wild hogs. In this week's column, Luke compares a couple of the most popular. photo courtesy Jeff Rice

Both my buddies were rightfully proud of their harvest and the hunting style each used was perfectly legal. Let’s take a close look at the advantages of each style of hunting.

From a personal perspective, I’ve killed hogs using just about every conceivable method and when I’m looking for pork for sausage making day, I’m not choosey.  I do have my favorite methods of hunting hogs that we will discuss in a bit but first, let’s look at what I consider the pros and cons of each style of hunting.

Night hunting can be a costly endeavor, especially if one purchases the top-end thermal night-hunting scopes and monocular. Most serious night hunters use thermal gear which is, hands down, the best for locating and killing wild porkers at night. To be a successful night hunter, one must first become competent using the gear required and learn to shoot at extended yardages.

Marksmanship is just as important when shooting a running hog at 150 yards as it is at shooting a standing porker with a bow at 25 yards. Night hunting is somewhat a run and gun endeavor.

Once a sounder of hogs or a lone boar is located and shots are fired, the action is fast and hogs that are not killed quickly disappear. Then, it’s time to load up the meat, fire up the ATV and move on. This style of hunting is tailor made for a person that feels the need to be on the move, as opposed to sitting in a stand waiting for game to come to him.

For many years, I hunted wild hogs and all other big game strictly with a bow and guided big game archery hunts in Colorado. I understand the excitement and gratification my other friend experiences when he takes a wild hog using archery equipment. I get it! There is something very exciting about setting in a tree stand or ground blind back in the woods, watching a corn feeder and hear the squeal of a wild hog back in the cover and eventually watch one or several appear out of the brush. Bowhunting is not easy. In my opinion, it’s the most challenge form of hunting. Hogs are taken at close range, shots over about 30 yards are ‘iffy’ at best; most hogs are killed with a bow at 25 yards or less. It’s up close and personal and hunting at its base level. One scrape of tree bark with the bow or movement when the hogs are looking your way and your pork will be galloping back into the brush.  Broadhead placement is critical, which equates to much practice by the bowhunter to acquire the skill necessary to make the shot. 

Where my night hunting friend has to consider how much lead it will take to hit a running hog at 150 yards, my bow hunting buddy will be equally concerned about reading the body language of the hogs while he is drawing his bow. The end result of a good night hunt for hogs might be a pickup load of porkers. When bowhunting, its one hog at a time with the emphasis on doing everything exactly right in order to put that single hog on the meat pole.

I do my night hunting using a Photon XT digital scope and my percentages are high for successful harvests. I am usually shooting a single hog at ranges of 75 yards or less with few opportunities and absolutely no desire to shoot at running hogs. Through the years, I have spent a great deal of time tracking hogs and I don’t enjoy tracking at night. I want my shot to be high percentage with a dead porker on the ground. 

I continue to love hunting hogs with my compound bows. When I put those crosshairs on a wild hog at night at close range using my digital scope, the end results is usually some work putting the meat on ice. But when using my bow, the percentages do down a bit. The hog has to be close and I have to execute the art of drawing, aiming and releasing the bow perfectly.

Neither style of hunting is ‘better’ than the other, in my opinion.  There are way too many wild hogs in the woods and fields today and I’m all about reducing their numbers by hunting and trapping. A well placed shot from an AR or an arrow released from a compound bow will both get the job done. It’s all about preference.

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