• Saturday, June 11: When light hit the ground, I felt strange. Sitting a foot off the ground in a roomy box stand with my .243 rifle propped in the corner, I was ready if opportunity knocked. The thought that the chance could arise where I’d need to look through my scope and squeeze one off made my stomach swirl.
The stand was placed so I could see down both forks of a muddy road inside a Walton County hunting club. Occasionally I’d glance to the left, but it was the right fork I was supposed to be watching. Laying alongside the road about 40 yards from the stand was a line of yellow corn, about 18-inches wide and 40-yards long. For 90 minutes I watched the bait. My only visitor was a swamp rabbit, who couldn’t resist eating a few dozen corn kernels before returning to the briars.
The morning stake-out over a pile of corn was legal. The Wildlife Resources Division created a Feral Hog Control Permit that allows you to shoot hogs over bait outside of deer and turkey seasons.
WRD does not call what I was doing hunting.
“The truth is this isn’t a hunting opportunity,” said Mark Whitney, WRD assistant chief of game management. “It’s an opportunity to destroy nuisance animals. It’s a nuisance-control measure.”
You may agree or disagree with Mark on whether or not shooting hogs over bait should be called hunting. However, in order to keep this article from turning into a novel, I’m going to call the activity hunting. It’s less wordy than having to refer to my morning as a nuisance-control trip or myself as a nuisance-control operator.
Until June 11, I had never hunted over bait. However, I had no ethical issues with the activity since our goal was to eradicate hogs on a piece of property where these rooters were destroying food plots and roads.
Along with hunting hogs over bait, the permit says you can kill hogs from a vehicle — on private roads — and use a 12-volt light.
Since this is a new way to kill hogs, I was excited to give it a chance. I’m not in a club with a bunch of hogs, so I had to beg somebody to take me. I called WRD to try and find somebody who had a permit, and I was surprised only 11 folks in Region III even had one. The Region IV office said only 30 hunters had a permit. I was in disbelief that more folks weren’t jumping at this chance to eliminate hogs.
The hunt above took place on Dwayne Britt’s 500-acre club in Walton County. When I first spoke with him he had not put out any bait, but he said he would put some out two days before we agreed to meet and do some scouting.
There were four of us hunting on the morning of June 11. Nobody saw hogs or freshly rooted-up ground where hogs had moved in. The bait was untouched. After the hunt, we strapped a 50-lb. bag on corn on the 4-wheeler and rode the property looking for areas where hog sign was fresh.
On our second stop we hit the jackpot. Rubbed trees, wallowed-out mud holes, droppings, rootings — this area had it all. The fresh sign was in a 15-acre hardwood thicket with privet and some standing swamp water.
We knew that at least for the time being the hogs were staying in the general area. Scattering corn would only hold them, we hoped. We threw corn out in three areas inside this 15 acres — on a 4-wheeler trail, on top of some soft dirt 40 yards off that trail and in a freshly plowed food plot that had a tripod stand overlooking it.
As it turned out the box blind I hunted, which was a quarter of a mile away, had some excellent hog sign in the area, too. Before we headed home we put more corn out at that location.
We felt like scouting was going to pay off. After looking at dozens of areas on the club, we were confident our bait stations were in good spots.
With the GON printing schedule, we only had a week to kill a hog. Here’s a diary of how we did.
• Monday, June 13: Dwayne returned to check the corn. Only one area had been hit — the bait station off the road in the soft mud. We were puzzled why they would hit this area but not the corn in the 4-wheeler trail. As the crow flies, it’s only 100 yards between the two places.
Dwayne said it was real obvious that the deer and birds had found the other three piles since the kernels were disappearing. Dwayne divided 50 pounds of corn between all the areas.
• Wednesday, June 15: On this evening Dwayne and I decided we would hunt until 10 p.m.
I agreed to hunt from the ground along the 4-wheeler trail. Before I left the truck, I geared up like I was bowhunting for deer. I wore rubber boots and sprayed down good with cover scent. I had my Bug Tamer on and my ThermaCELL with me.
When I arrived I was surprised the corn in the trail was still there. At 8 p.m. a doe stepped out at 20 yards and ate corn for five minutes and left.
After dark I was using a Maglite, which holds three D-cell batteries. For the 40 yards I would be shooting it was plenty enough light for me to see through my scoped rifle. Sitting on the ground, I could prop my leg up, rest my rifle on my knee and bring my light up to lay next to the barrel. It would have worked fine. I carried extra batteries and bulbs.
Dwayne hunted out of a tripod. He took a 12-volt spotlight with him. Dwayne saw a gobbler and a doe.
“Usually I’m trying to keep the hogs out of my feed, and now I can’t keep the deer out of it,” said Dwayne.
The area off the road in the soft mud had been hit again. One of Dwayne’s buddies hunted there but saw nothing. He said it was a thick, difficult area to hunt, especially after dark, because of all the privet. We decided not to put corn back there. Instead, we put more on the 4-wheeler trail, hoping it would force the hogs to come feed there.
• Friday, June 17: I went to the tripod and Dwayne went to the box blind at the fork in the road. We hunted until midnight and saw rabbits, raccoons and deer. It looked as if the hogs had disappeared. There was no hog sign in any of the corn piles.
Before we headed home that evening, we took 50 pounds of corn and scattered half of it around the box stand and the other half 100 yards away from the freshly plowed mud that had been hit earlier in the week. The spot was on top of a hardwood hill and was open enough that it made for better hunting than the area of soft mud. It, too, was only about 40 yards off the road.
• Sunday, June 19: We began our hunt at 5 a.m. A light, overnight rain had the air fresh and cool.
Dwayne went to the box blind and I stalked my way toward the tripod stand. When I got to the newly baited area 40 yards off the road, I discovered the woods had been destroyed with fresh rooting. I couldn’t find one piece of corn. I continued on and found plenty of corn in the 4-wheeler trail and around the tripod stand. It made no sense to me why hogs ate corn off the trail but seemed to avoid more open areas.
“For some reason they seem to like the corn off the trail, in less open areas,” Dwayne said later.
When I met up with Dwayne at 8 a.m., he reported that the area in front of the box blind finally got hit — nine days after the initial baiting, and only 36 hours after sweetening the area with 25 pounds of corn. The sight was impressive. It looked like someone had been plowing food plots.
“I bet you if we had another couple of days we could kill those hogs,” said Dwayne. “I think it just took them about a week to just get accustomed to corn again and used to coming to an area on a regular basis to feed.”
I believe he was right. We put feed out in two places and in less than 36 hours, it was gone.
“If I could do it again I’d probably spend a week just feeding them, getting them used to coming to an area,” said Dwayne. “I think a spin-cast feeder with a timer on it is the way to go. They’ll get use to coming in to an area at a particular time. I’d set my feeder to go off every day at about 3 a.m.
Then I’d come in there at daylight to hunt. If the corn is gone I would have narrowed my window of when the hogs were coming to feed.”
Dwayne said he could either hunt at 3 a.m. or slowly move the timer toward daylight until he got the hogs on a feeding time a little more conducive with his sleeping patterns.
Dwayne said a trail camera is the sure-fire way to know when hogs are coming to his bait stations.
Spending time after dark on a stand listening to owls and watching raccoons and deer come to feed was fun. To me it was another form of recreation. However, most of the folks I spoke with got the permit as another tool they could use to eradicate hogs. The permit allows them more flexibility in this chore.
“I’ve got feeders out I use for deer and turkey,” said Alan Camp of Buford, who hunts Putnam County. “If I see hogs in my food plots, I want to be able to shoot them even if they’re in close proximity to my feeders. I’ve got roads through my property, and if I see hogs I can shoot from a vehicle.”
Bruce Baldwin of Warner Robins has been in the Truck-Buck contest several times with some big Peach County bucks. Hogs do nothing but take away what he’s trying to do for his deer. Right now they’re eating up his lab-lab, cow peas and soybeans.
“I had 14 hogs in my food plot the other day — I was able to get two of them,” said Bruce.
When Bruce started putting corn out to feed the deer, the hogs quickly moved in and would devour the pile before the deer could find it. Bruce decided to put out three hog traps. Even though he agreed trapping is the best way to get rid of hogs, his pigs are getting wise about going in the traps.
“They’re coming right up to the door, but they will not go in,” said Bruce. “I did finally catch two small ones and then a big sow.”
To hopefully kill a few more hogs, Bruce got a permit and then put stands within gun range of his traps.
“I haven’t actually shot them over the trap yet,” said Bruce. “I got a permit in case my traps didn’t work.”
Bruce’s plan is to watch the hogs when they come to the trap. If it looks like they may not go in the trap, he’ll open fire. Also, when these porkers do get caught in the trap, sometimes hogs on the outside never leave. With the permit, Bruce is able to shoot.
“I’m happy with the permit process,” said Bruce. “I’m going to try and shoot some at night over the traps. We’ve been thinking about how to set up a light near the feeder.”
Bruce has a battery-powered light he thinks may run a while off a trolling-motor battery.
“We’re not sure how long the battery will last,” said Bruce. “We’re just going to start playing with some stuff.”
In order to get the Feral Hog Control Permit, there’s a few steps you’ll need to take.
“You need to contact the landowner, because he’s the one who has to contact the WRD office in order to get permitted,” said Mark Whitney. “Then he (landowner) just provides permits to his authorized assistants who would be lessors or people who he wants to control his hog problem.”
Dwayne and I were authorized assistants for the landowner. If you’re interested in becoming one of these authorized assistants, call the landowner. If he agrees to let you hunt hogs, ask him to call the local WRD region office where the property is located. Those numbers are in the front of your hunting-regulations booklet.
Once approved, the landowner can then send copies of the permit with his permission letter to who he wants to do the hog killing. If you become an authorized assistant, you must carry a copy of the permit and the permission letter with you while you hunt.
To me, there was one eye-raising condition on the permit. Condition No. 6 reads, “Anyone shooting feral hogs under this permit must be at least 16 years of age, a licensed hunter, and a Georgia resident. However, non-resident landowners (not assistants) may qualify for a permit.”
As I read it, I couldn’t take my 14-year-old niece — or any kid — along and let her shoot a hog.
“I guarantee what that is in relation to is just the age for having to have a hunting license, and that’s why it’s in there like that,” said Mark.
Some landowners who lease solely to non-residents have expressed complaint with Condition No. 6.
“That clause is currently completely under review, and I think we’re going to change it because of the exclusion of non-residents. We’re doing that at the request of some landowners who lease to clubs solely out of state. (They) were comfortable with those people because they had a relationship with them. They didn’t want to find someone new.”
This permit season expires September 1, and you won’t be able to get another one until after firearms deer season ends in January.
The opportunity to participate in something different was fun. Trying to figure out how to pattern, hunt and shoot hogs over bait wasn’t as easy as I originally thought — at least not in the week we had to do it.
I believe that solely hunting hogs over bait won’t get rid of your hog problems. After talking with folks, trapping still seems to be the most effective and popular way to really hammer high hog numbers. However, this new hog permit is getting praise among landowners and hunters who just want the flexibility to kill these critters when they see them.
For those of you who just need to get out of the house, it’s a fun way to
spend the summer while waiting for deer season to get here.