Deer season had just ended in 2014. It was on a Saturday, and there was no football on television, so I grabbed my Obsession Sniper bow and fanny pack, grabbed some camouflage and my rubber boots, and headed to the swamp to stalk a hog in the Oconee river basin.
I have been stalking hogs in the off-season for more than 30 years now.
After a 45-minute truck ride, a 15-minute 4-wheeler ride, and a 10-minute walk, I was slipping through some thick cane that had quite a few mast trees scattered about. I was hoping to catch up with some hogs turning leaves over looking for any acorns left over from the late fall.
They don’t just eat acorns. Worms, grubs, salamanders, snakes and pretty much anything they find under the leaf litter that is edible is fair game to a wild hog.
I had not gone far when I heard a hog squeal a couple hundred yards away. I quickened my pace to close the distance, stopping every so often to stop and listen. When I got to what I thought was close to a hundred yards from the group of hogs, I reached in my fanny pack for my wind checker. It is basically unscented talcum powder in a large eye dropper bottle, or nose spray bottle. It is a must to play the wind when stalking these square noses. Hogs have the best noses in the woods by far and don’t have a curious bone in their body. If they smell you… game over!
And don’t let anyone tell you wild hogs have poor eyesight. They can and will see you. Use trees and brush or palmettos or any other available cover to hide your approach on a stalk.
One of my favorite stalking techniques is to circle the hog or group of hogs and get the wind in my favor. Then, using any available cover, I let the hogs feed into bow range. When this is not possible, I keep a very low profile and slip into bow range.
As I closed the distance on my hunt last January, I focused on the first hog of the group. The hog was plowing its nose through the deep leaves as he constantly swished his tail side to side. I picked out a big swamp chestnut oak to slip toward and wait. I could now pick out other hogs in the group. As they fed toward me, I counted down the yardage in my head to the closest one—35, 30, 25. I drew my Sniper and held for the shot. When the hog turned broadside, I held the pin behind the hog’s shoulder and told myself aim for the exit… aim, aim, aim, squeeze… and I let the 125-grain Bipolar fly. I watched the Nockturnal lighted nock disappear behind the hog’s shoulder. He let out a squeal, and the rest of the group scattered.
Stalking in the daytime is just one way to bowhunt hogs. Another way to bowhunt hogs is at night with a light. As long as it is a 6-volt light or less, you are good to go. A small cap light to navigate in the woods in the dark, and a good casting light mounted to your bow’s stabilizer is a must. Most hogs are not spooked by a white light, and a white light will cast farther than a green or red-lens light.
Hunting hogs at night with a bow is not for the faint of heart. I well remember the first time I took Matt Adcock, who is also a regular contributor to GON magazine, on a nighttime hog stalk. As luck would have it, we had only walked a short distance down an old logging road when a boar tending a hot sow was challenged by another boar.
I peeled off the logging road toward the sounds of the clashing boars. I glanced over my shoulder only to hear Matt say, “Where you going?”
I said, “Come on, let’s go shoot one!”
I could see the hesitation in his eyes as he fell right in behind me. As luck would have it, he got him a hog with his bow and later wrote an article for this very magazine titled “Dark Thirty Hogs.”
The best way to stalk hogs at night is to go when there is no wind and dry conditions, so you can use your ears to the best of your ability. Slip down old roads and trails, stopping periodically to listen for hogs. They are very noisy feeders and are much easier to approach in the dark than daylight.
Use your cap light to establish bow range, and use your bow light when ready to shoot. This is where lighted nocks are very useful to a bowhunter. You can track the flight of the arrow from the bow to the animal, and it makes it much easier to find your arrow once you shoot it.
Winter months after all the leaves have fallen is the best time of year to stalk at night. With no leaves, there’s less to reflect your light back in your line of sight. Also, heavy leaf litter makes it much easier to detect feeding hogs.
In open areas such as fields, night vision can help you detect feeding hogs at night. But night vision is not affordable for the average hunter, unless several of you and your buddies share the expense and take turns on who spots and who shoots.
Stalking hogs at night is a rush to say the least, and it can afford some a hunting opportunity that they otherwise would not have due to their daytime work schedule.
Another way to hunt hogs is a daytime tactic. Scout and find their regular traveled trails, and hang a stand, or do as we do, use our Lone Wolf Climbers to play the wind and climb on the downwind side of a major trail. Hog trails are usually very easy to find as they are creatures of habit, especially where there bedding area is concerned. In late season, cane thickets near waterways, thick planted pines and clearcuts are just a few examples of prime bedding areas for hogs. Remember this, there is no such thing as too thick for a wild hog.
I prefer a fanny pack that has an option to add shoulder straps or suspender-type straps. This keeps your pack from riding down your waist on a long day’s stalk and also allows you to wear your pack not as tight on your waist. I also prefer to attach my quiver to my fanny pack when stalking and not have it on my bow. The basics to carry in your fanny pack are a compass, good knife, a knife sharpener, wind checker, several one-gallon Ziploc bags, toilet paper, good lights and extra batteries, good quality disposable latex gloves, ratchet pruners and limb saw combo, a range finder if you use one, water, snacks, parachute cord type rope and a good lighter.
I use a good quality bow sling that allows quick access to my bow, yet protects my cams, strings and cables as I walk through rough and thick areas with saw tooth palmettos and briars. I’m a big fan of the Primos neoprene bow sling. There are many different fanny pack and bow sling options available at your local hunting store.
And last but not least, it is now legal to hunt hogs over bait statewide in Georgia. Once deer season ends in the Northern Zone, where baiting for deer is illegal, there won’t be any possibility of confusion with your local game warden about whether you’re hunting hogs or deer over bait.
There are numerous ways to bait and feed hogs. Just your basic pouring out a bag of corn will work. Even if it gets wet and sours, that makes it even better for attracting hogs to a particular spot. Remember, there is not much that a wild hog will not eat. They are opportunists and will even eat their own kind.
Another technique is using a set of post-hole diggers and digging a 5- to 6-foot-deep hole in a damp area. Fill the hole with corn or soured corn. This hole of corn, once found, will keep the hog busy at the bait site because a hog has to dig to eat, and his mouth will only open so far as he digs to get at the bait.
Blaine Burley, of Woods-n-Water Outfitters in Wrightsville, uses a technique of a barrel chained to a tree. The barrel is filled with corn, and holes drilled into the barrel release small amounts of corn as the animal rolls the barrel around.
Spin-cast feeders are another option, but remember two important things when using feeders. Make sure the feeder is tall enough that a big boar cannot reach the feeder unit on the bottom, and yes they can and will get up on their hind legs to get to your spreader unit. If your feeder is on legs, put it up next to a tree and use a heavy-duty ratchet strap to strap the barrel to the tree, so the hogs can’t knock one of the legs out from under the feeder and make it fall and then destroy your feeder. All hogs, especially big boars, love to scratch. It does not take a hog long to learn that when he scratches himself on your feeder legs, it shakes out food. They quickly learn to ram the legs on the feeder to shake out corn, and they will eventually knock it down if it is not strapped to a tree.
Hunting hogs is something that is fun to do when other game is out of season. There is no season or limit on hogs. They can be hunted year-round with virtually any type weapon. With a little effort, there are lots of landowners and farmers that would welcome someone to lower their hog population. Hog hunting with a bow is a great way to improve and hone your hunting and stalking and shooting skills. It is also a great way to spend time with family and young hunters you are introducing to the out-of-doors. Both of my boys Josh and Hunter, both now grown and married, learned a lot of their hunting and bowhunting skills by stalking wild hogs. They have grown into great providers of their own. Bowhunting and God’s great out-of-doors is the ultimate anti-drug.
As I watched the big hog make a mad dash for thick cover, he only made it 50 yards before succumbing to the damage from the Bipolar. I eased out to look for my arrow and found it covered in sign, but otherwise unscathed. I took out my pocket knife and used the tip to turn off my lighted nock. I then walked over to my fallen prize, got out my gloves and big knife, and proceeded to field-dress my hog.
After field-dressing, I got out my limb saw and cut a small sapling to use as a drag stick. I cut a length of cord and tied it around the neck of my hog and then to my drag stick. It is usually about this time I look to the sky and thank “THE MAN” for another day to enjoy what I love to do. Not to mention the BBQ and Brunswick stew that’s at the end of this stick and string.
Some say “life is a drag,” and it’s at moments like this that I would have to say I totally agree.