Ask any hunter in the southeast or California, where sizeable populations of feral pigs exist, and they’ll tell you hog hunting with a bow can be just as addictive as chasing whitetails.
Hunting hogs requires different tactics than other big game. These animals can be surprisingly tough to locate, pattern and harvest with a bow. There are plenty of opportunities to try your luck, though, because in many states where hogs are abundant, seasons are liberal, sometimes even year-round.
When and Where to Find Hogs
Like deer, hogs are most active in the early morning and late evening, congregating where there’s plenty of food and water. They thrive in bottomland hardwoods, agricultural properties with surrounding cover and riparian areas. Adaptability and the ability to reproduce multiple litters per year keeps their numbers soaring.
Hogs often use the same trails to get from feeding and bedding areas, much like deer. Unlike deer, however, hogs prefer to travel through dense thickets because of their short stature. If you find a heavily used trail, analyze the tracks to determine what animals are using it. A deer’s hoof prints are normally heart-shaped and the tip of their toes come to a point whereas a hog’s are more rounded in general, as is the tip of the toes.
Trails will often intersect or converge near creeks, fences or physical barriers, making excellent spots to hunt. Hogs use shallow, wet areas, called wallows, to roll around in the mud for cooling purposes and to provide relief from bugs. They will wallow year-round.
If you find well-used trails, they’ll likely lead to the oval-shaped areas in thickets where pigs bed. Hogs will also bed near the base of large trees or around logs.
Feral pigs are omnivores and there’s not much they won’t eat. Natural foods like acorns, permissions, fruits of cactus and commercial crops are fair game. They’ll also eat insects and worms, as well as small mammals and eggs. Hogs often search for food in the ground by digging up soil with their feet and snouts, which is called rooting. You may also find scat around these areas.
It’s important to be cognizant of the wind direction whether you’re sitting in a stand or stalking. Hogs have a keen sense of smell though their eyesight is poor, which means you can sneak up on them if moving slow enough. When stalking, identify a trail and follow it, walking slowly and scanning the woods periodically for movement. Chances are, if you happen across a hog, it’ll be with several. When sitting in a stand or blind, set up near trail crossings.
A bow, a quiver of arrows and some tough broadheads are all you need to be effective. The archery gear you use for whitetail hunting will do the job, but placing your shot like you would on a deer will have you trailing a hog a long ways. Hogs have bigger digestive organs and smaller lungs than a whitetail. Their vitals are located farther forward and lower than a deer’s, between the shoulder blades.
The Hammer fixed, 3-blade broadhead, which features the SST smart tip, is an ideal choice for hogs. The broadhead penetrates well, enough to punch through the steel of 10 sections of a 55 gallon drum. If you shoot mechanicals, opt for the Jak-Knife, which has a cutting diameter or more than 2 inches. The wide-cutting broadhead causes heavy damage to vitals for a quick, clean kill.
Understanding where to shoot a hog with a bow will up your chances of a clean, quick harvest.
On sows or boars weighing less than 125 pounds, a broadside shot will penetrate enough to kill. Follow the front leg up to the mid-point of the chest and aim there. You will not hit the heart (it is below this area) but you should penetrate both lungs, resulting in a good blood trail and quick death.
Bigger boars wear the storied plate of armor that protects the vitals. This buildup of cartilage behind their shoulders is built to thwart the tusks of other boars during a fight, making quartering away shots the most lethal. Place your sight pin on the opposite shoulder and your broadhead will hit the chest cavity while driving toward the far leg, damaging vitals on its way.
Hunting hogs with a bow appeals to many bowhunters. They’re fun to stalk, great to eat and abundant. Remember to keep shot placement in mind when hunting, and you will find these animals are not as invincible as some say they are.