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Bill Wilson's Hog Hunting Guide to Success: How To Hunt Pigs

Interested in hunting wild pigs? When Bill Wilson isn't building premium firearms, he's out hunting hogs. Here's what he's learned to be successful.

Bill Wilson's Hog Hunting Guide to Success: How To Hunt Pigs

Hog hunting is rapidly becoming one of America’s favorite hunting pastimes, especially in states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas where feral hog populations are very high and the damage done by these animals is widespread. In just Texas alone, statewide hog damage has gotten so bad that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently waived the need to even have a hunting license to hunt them. Texas, like many states with too many hogs, also allow hunting 24/7 by any means. Since I live in an area of Texas that has a serious hog population problem, I’m afforded lots of hunting opportunities. There are so many opportunities that my wife Joyce often tells people, “Bill only hunts hogs on days ending in Y.” So having taken over 2,000 hogs, I’ve learned a few things that work and don’t work to have a successful hog hunt.

Know Your Hog

Obviously, the most important thing is to verify that there actually are feral hogs in the area you’re hunting. The good news is that unlike some species that leave little sign that they are anywhere around, hogs leave lots of obvious signs. Most of these are very destructive to the habitat and are why landowners hate them so much. So what do you look for? Here’s a short list:

  • Visible hogs
  • Fresh hog tracks
  • Areas where the ground is rooted up
  • Rubbed trees (pines and cedars preferred)
  • Mud wallows

If there is a sizeable population of hogs in the area, you will see all of these signs at some point if you spend a decent amount of time walking in their territory. What survival defenses do hogs have? Successful hog hunting is 90 percent about the wind. Hogs have a tremendous sense of smell and is what they rely on most to stay alive. I would rank hearing as their second line of defense, especially for sounds that don’t naturally occur in their environment such as metallic sounds. From what I’ve seen, their daylight eyesight is marginal, and they mostly pick up on movement. However, their night vision seems to be much better than a human’s. When stalking hogs on a moonlit night, you better stay in the shadows and move very slowly, even if you do have the wind in your face.

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Hogs’ habits will have a big effect on your success, and fortunately, they are creatures of habit. All sows and most younger boars are basically food driven; what they do each day revolves around filling their stomachs. Therefore, if you hunt where the food is, you will probably find hogs. For example, they love to raid farm crops of many kinds such as peanuts, wheat and corn. But in nonfarming areas, they go mostly for acorns and grubs in the ground. On ranchland where cattle are fed, they do their best to steal as much of the cattle’s food as possible. Most states that have hogs allow the use of corn spin feeders, which are very successful when natural food is scarce. Big old boars are a totally different challenge, though. While they do obviously eat and some success can be had hunting them where there is a food source, a boar’s number-one priority is sex. Find a sow in heat and you will find boars.

Hog Hunting Tactics

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to find hogs, the challenge becomes how to get a shot at one. The easiest way is to hunt them from a downwind blind overlooking a corn feeder. As long as other food sources are scarce and you can be quiet, this method has a high success rate. The other common way to hunt hogs, and my personal favorite, is to spot and stalk them. While this can be successful in both daylight and nighttime conditions, some of the things you will need to be successful will differ. During daylight hours or a bright, moonlit night, you will need to focus on the wind and moving slowly while using all available cover. However, if you’re hunting on a dark night with thermal-imaging equipment, the wind and being quiet are most important. I do many nighttime thermal hunts, and my observation has been that when it’s dark, hogs rely more on their hearing than they do during daylight. Of course, a lot of this depends on how close you want to get for the shot. It’s pretty easy to get within 100 yards of hogs on a dark night, but it’s not so easy to get in position for a shot from 50 yards or less.

Shot Placement

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Hogs are easy to kill with a properly placed shot. I repeat, hogs are easy to kill with a properly placed shot. However, hogs are very hard to kill with a poorly placed shot. In my experience, less than 50 percent of the hogs shot nationwide in dense cover areas are actually recovered. You can blame much of this on those same hunters being “deer” hunters. Shoot a whitetail deer behind the shoulder and you’ve harvested the deer. Shoot a hog behind the shoulder where there are no vitals and there is at least a 90-percent chance that you will not recover it no matter what caliber you shot it with. Putting a bullet in a hog and actually recovering that hog are two totally different things. There are two different ways to kill hogs, and your shot placement will determine whether you have an easy or difficult animal recovery.

Shoot a hog broadside on the center of the shoulder with any caliber that is capable of penetrating to the center of the animal and you will kill that hog. But don’t be alarmed; a very high percentage of the time the hog will run off like you missed it, sometimes as far as 100 yards. A solid lung shot simply doesn’t impress a big hog immediately. They have to run out of oxygen. Follow with me on this: It’s 90 degrees out and pitch dark. You just made a perfect shoulder/lung shot that will kill the biggest hog 100 percent of the time, but the hog was standing at the edge of a thicket. You will now have to crawl into that stuff to find your hog. Houston, we have a problem. You don’t know what’s waiting for you in that nasty thicket.

What if I told you there is a way to kill every hog you shoot and not have to crawl into thickets to recover it? The solution is to sever the spine and wipe out the lungs. I call this my plan A, plan B shot. If plan A works, I sever the spine and the hog drops DRT or Bang Flops depending if you’re a tactical Ninja or a Redneck. However, if you are a little high or low and don’t sever the spine, you still have plan B, and the bullet goes into the lungs. For this shot, you want the hog slightly quartering toward you and with your shot placed in the center of the hogs neck. Trust me, it will kill the hog 100 percent of the time and drop it where it stands if your bullet severs the spine.

Bullets for Hog Hunting

You might have noticed that I haven’t even mentioned the “ideal” hog caliber or even discussed suitable calibers. I’m not too big on calibers or foot-pounds of energy, but I’m sure big on bullet selection. If you want to cleanly kill hogs or any other game animal, it’s all about shot placement and what the bullet does when it impacts the animal. It’s the bullet’s terminal performance that counts. I’ve been a big-game hunter since 1971, and I used to be in the camp of deep penetration and as near 100-percent weight retention as possible. Until 2015 or so, I was a huge fan of Swift A-Frames and solid-copper bullets such as the Barnes X. All that changed when I went on a mission to find a caliber and bullet that would incapacitate a hog the fastest with a solid lung shot because I was tired of looking for hogs in a thicket, often in the dark.

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What I found was this: If a bullet sheds 20 to 30 percent of its weight by flinging fragments everywhere, it kills much faster as long as the remainder of the bullet still has adequate penetration to get into the lung cavity from any angle. The caliber and bullet that I initially found to be “magic” was a .308 Win. loaded with a Hornady 165-grain SST projectile. Nothing I’d ever shot a hog with killed as fast as this combination. Being the experimenter I am, I couldn’t just continue to hunt with the proven .308, I had to continue testing. Caliber doesn’t matter much as long as it has enough horsepower to get the job done. I personally consider calibers in the .243/6.8 SPC range to be minimums. Bigger usually equals more margin for error with shot placement. That’s why I personally like .30 caliber or larger. Most common cup and core bullets, like the time-proven Remington Core-Lokt, work well. These include the Hornady Interlock or SST, Speer Hot-Cor or Grand Slam, Sierra GameKing or Pro Hunter. Basically, you want what I call a middle-ground bullet between rapid expansion  like the Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady V-MAX and high weight retention like the Swift A-Frame or Barnes X.

BILL WILSON’S PICKS

My personal go-to hog-hunting calibers, bullets and reason for selection are:

  • .300 HAM’R using a 150-grain Hornady SST – It can be used in lightweight rifles and offers a low muzzle blast and recoil.
  • .308 Win. using a 165-grain Hornady SST – It just doesn’t get any better than this.
  • .30-’06 Springfield using a 165-grain Nosler Partition – If the nose blows off, the base still penetrates.
  • .458 SOCOM using a 300-grain Barnes TTSX – If you’ve ever seen a fully expanded bullet, you would know why.

As for rifles, I like semiautos for the fact a quick second shot is often required or maybe you want to shoot more than one hog out of the sounder. Since my company builds AR platform semiautos, that’s obviously my choice. The versatility of being able to quickly change uppers to different calibers also makes this an attractive option. A quality AR-15 platform with 5.56, .300 HAM’R and .458 SOCOM uppers will allow you to handle pretty much anything you would need a rifle for. My go-to rifles are Wilson Combat WC-15 Ranger models in .300 HAM’R, one with a day scope and one with a thermal scope, usually loaded with either Speer 130-grain  HAM’R Hot-Cor or Hornady 150-grain SST ammo.

Recommended


Extra Hog Hunting Essentials

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For hunting hogs at night, Wilson outfits himself with a Wilson Combat Ranger in .300 HAM’R, a Pulsar Trail XQ50 thermal scope, a Wilson Combat Quell Suppressor, a Pulsar Hellion XQ50 spotter and a FLIR PVS-14 night vision unit.

I’ve left some of the most important pieces of gear for last. You can’t kill what you can’t see, and you can’t kill hogs with poor shot placement. Let’s discuss these in three different categories: day optics, night optics and necessary gear. Your choice of optic is critical. There are several “hog scopes” on the market, but they have an issue: a small objective lens. Any scope with an objective lens of less than 40mm is a bad choice due to the low-light conditions most shots at hogs are often taken under. High magnification and fine crosshairs are also a bad choice. Most shots at hogs are taken under 200 yards, so there is no need for a lot of magnification. I also consider an illuminated reticle a necessity on a hog-hunting scope.

Two scopes that I’ve found to work well and are the Trijicon 3-9x40mm AccuPoint with green-dot crosshair reticle and the Leupold VX-R 3-9x50mm with a FireDot reticle. I normally keep my scope set on 6X where they have their best light-­gathering capability along with ample magnification for most shots. My go-to binoculars are the Meopta MeoStar in 8x56mm, and they are better in low light than cheap night vision (NV). For hunting after dark, you have the option of night vision (magnifies available light) or thermal (picks up the animal’s heat signature) devices. I’ve killed a lot of hogs with NV and still use a PVS-14 monocular for some spotting, but let’s face it, modern thermal scopes are superior to the very best NV. Thermal doesn’t care how dark it is, and no ambient light is required for them to work properly. Also, quality thermal scopes cost less than a quality NV scope, but either way this is not the place to go cheap. You truly do get what you pay for when shopping for NV or thermal.

Through the years, I’ve had good luck with FLIR and Pulsar products, and my current night-hunting gear is based on these two brands. I have on hand to take to the field the above mentioned FLIR PVS-14 NV monocular, a Pulsar Helion XQ50 handheld thermal spotter, a Pulsar Trail XQ50 thermal scope and a FLIR PTS536 thermal scope. One piece of gear that’s critical to successful shot placement is a set of sturdy shooting sticks. Cleanly killing a hog requires precision shot placement, and to make such a shot, you must get the rifle steady. I make most of my shots at hogs from a kneeling position with my gun on shooting sticks. My right knee is up so I can put my elbow on it for a solid three-point-of-contact position. It’s not as solid as a benchrest, but it’s pretty close. The Primos Pole Cat tall bipod shooting sticks I use also extend for use when standing, and I occasionally have to shoot from this position due to terrain or foliage. Making sure the hogs don’t smell you is critical to hunting success. That’s why I always carry a small container of wind powder and a BIC lighter so I can determine what the wind is doing under all conditions. A good quality flashlight (or two) is also a necessity if you hunt late in the evening or after dark. Fortunately, there are lots of good quality and inexpensive LED flashlights on the market these days. I usually look for a flashlight with 120 to 200 lumens and a long run time on common AA batteries. The flashlight I carry every day is a Streamlight ProTac 2AA with 155 lumens. It would take a book to cover all of the aspects of hog-hunting techniques and gear, but hopefully this basic overview will help make your next hog hunting adventure a success.




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