THE COAL-BLACK TUSKER ambling my way down the well-tracked game trail was the first wild hog I’d ever laid eyes on. And one look at the lip-curling ivory jutting from his jaw was enough to set my young hunter’s heart to pounding like a Blackfeet war drum.
At the time, I was standing with my back pressed against a giant water oak at the swamp’s edge, gripping my Pearson recurve and peering over my left shoulder at the approaching pig. Early morning sunshine slanted through the hardwood canopy, illuminating wispy strands of ground fog drifting just above the damp leaf litter and moldering logs. If the lone porker kept coming, he’d pass within a dozen yards and offer a perfect broadside shot.
As it turned out, he followed the script. And when his ugly long-snouted head passed behind a trailside tree trunk, I silently drew. Seconds later my feathered cedar shaft, tipped with a shaving-sharp Bear Razorhead, was on its way.
The boar grunted and lunged ahead the instant my arrow smacked into the bristly body hair tight behind his right shoulder. Seconds later he was galloping out of sight, leaving me weak-kneed and wondering how my stone-honed broadhead had penetrated the old hog’s side no more than inch.
I might as well have center-punched a green hickory stump. The results would have been about the same, except a stump wouldn’t have run off leaving me stunned and trying to sort out what the devil had just happened.
Such was my welcome to the challenging, unpredictable world of bowhunting feral hogs!
MY EYE-OPENING big pig encounter took place just over 50 years ago in the spring of ’63. And since that less than auspicious beginning, I’ve learned lots about hogs and hog hunting. Countless adventures across the lower half of the United States, from Florida to California and lots of prime hog hotspots in between (especially Texas), taught me well. Following are a handful of facts and personal thoughts to keep in mind when planning your own pig hunting adventures:
*Today’s feral hogs are descendants of imported European stock and abandoned or escaped domesticated animals. Thinner and faster, more muscular and more aggressive than farm stock, they are gregarious animals that come in a variety of colors and sizes. Black is the most common hue but red, gray, white, and various mixtures are not unusual. They possess an excellent sense of smell and hearing. Their eyesight is adequate but they’ll often overlook stationary objects, including camouflaged hunters and other predators.
*Wild hogs are ideal for any bowhunter seeking new or off-season challenges. Spot-and-stalk hunting is both tough and satisfying, since getting within good bow range and remaining undetected is seldom easy. Hunting with trained hounds is exciting and effective, though it’s usually tinged with a hint of danger. It takes nerve to approach close enough for a clear, killing shot at a riled-up, short-tempered tusker that could spin and charge at any moment. Moreover, adrenaline-charged animals usually “take more killing” than dispatching relaxed game that’s feeding or bedded. Yet another good option is hunting from a ground blind or elevated stand near feeding areas marked by freshly rooted-up turf marked with lots of tracks and droppings.
*Frankly, many older boars are tough and don’t make the finest table fare. These big hogs are mostly hunted for sport and trophies; however, younger pigs are succulent and rival domestic pork. Since hogs are often found in warm weather climates, prompt and proper field care is necessary if stocking a freezer is one of your hunting goals.
*A few final words about bowhunting tackle is appropriate. Remember that hog I arrowed point-blank in the opening paragraphs? Well, I simply couldn’t believe my hunting bow hadn’t done its job. So to solve the mystery, I enlisted the aid of the landowner and his pack of tracking hounds. Later that same day I killed the same boar with one well-placed arrow that penetrated both lungs and dropped the tusker within seconds. Examination revealed my first shot had hit too far forward (most likely due to my excitement at the moment of release) and caught part of the muscular shoulder plate that protects the vitals.
Turns out dozens of subsequent pig hunts have verified the potency of well-placed shots using sturdy, scalpel-sharp broadheads. Really, any setup capable of downing deer, bear, and other big game animals should prove lethal. Take out both lungs of even the largest and meanest porker and that animal is dead on his feet, even if he might not realize it at the time.
You can find other articles by M.R. James here: Thoughts and Tips
If you like to read M.R.’s bowhunting adventures you will love his newest book, Hunting the Dream.
Hunting the Dream is available now so be sure and get your copy of this great book.