- October 11, 2016
- Fur and Fangs STAFF
The food plot looked like a bombing range for an Air Force base. Large holes and upturned soil littered what had once been a lush food plot.
“What in the world?” I said aloud, peering at the strange earthwork.
“Hogs,” the landowner huffed. “They tear everything up—the land, the food plots. They run deer off and they destroy turkey nests and eat the eggs. You can’t kill enough of them.” The property was located outside Montgomery, Alabama, a state that sits at the epicenter of the southern hog range, which stretches from Texas all the way around to the Carolinas and every state in between.
In fact, wild hogs now range from Florida to Texas to California, along the eastern seaboard and up through the Midwest all the way to the Great Lakes. They are found in parts or all of 35 states with more than 2 million pigs in just the South alone. Experts predict it is but a matter of time—a relatively short time—before wild hogs are found throughout all of the lower 48 states. And destructive as these creatures are, there is an upside, for hunters there will be plenty of bacon for the takin’.
That’s right, one landowner’s problem is another sportsman’s opportunity. Just ask Troy Ayer, owner of The Buck and Boar Lodge (boar-hunter.com, 866-799-5585) in Swansea, S.C. Unlike many outfitters who offer hunts on purely feral nuisance populations of hogs, Ayer has taken advantage of his state’s hog situation and actually manages his land for huge boars with trophy potential. Even so, Ayer’s hunts, like most hog hunts, still remain one of the most least expensive adventures a hunter can book.
“The days of knocking on doors and getting permission to deer hunt a piece of property is pretty much over,” says Ayer. “But if a guy has hogs on his land, he’s probably happy to have you come in and kill some of them.” It is also one of the few guided hunts still priced for the average sportsman, Ayer explains.
Big Game Adventure
In California, where the game department requires the purchase of tags to hunt them, the animals have become a sought after adventure as recognized as other species.
“Hog hunting is a big part of our business,” says Don Geivet, vice president of ranch operations at the world-famous Tejon Ranch in California (tejonranch.com; 661-248-3000). The ranch, the largest unbroken piece of land in the Golden State, sits a mere hour’s drive from Los Angeles. Of an average 1,500 to 1,800 hunters that book hunts with them each year, about half journey to Tejon to hunt hogs. Geivet explains that the ranch had some hogs escape from a fenced yard in the early 1990s. Those hogs quickly grew into a population of between 5,000 and 6,000 animals. Combined with the rugged, mountainous terrain of Tejon, hog hunts there offer as much adventure as any western-minded thrill seeker could want with strenuous hikes and challenging stalks to get in position for a shot.
Golden Age for Hogs
Interest in hog hunting, like predator hunting, continues to explode. In places like parts of western Texas and California, they provide for excellent spot-and-stalk hunting regardless of whether you hunt with a bow or gun. However, the prevalent method for hunting hogs is to catch them feeding over bait in the early morning or just before dark. In parts of Florida they even hunt them with pit bulls and knives, a method that is a story unto itself.
Hogs have an excellent sense of smell, but poor eyesight, so in addition to modern rifles; they also provide great hunting fun with a bow, handgun or even muzzleloader. Most of the gear many hunters use for other types of hunting will also work for hogs, so there are seldom many additional expenditures for gear over what you already own.