In Texas, there are many options to keep your bow hunting skills sharp. There is 3D archery, bow fishing, predator hunting, and hog hunting year-round. I do love 3D and the challenges that it can provide. Bow fishing is growing in popularity, and I need to try that someday. Predator hunting in Texas is encouraged by ranchers and every chance I get I do my part to control the coyote and bobcat population. Hog hunting is unique in that you can use many of the same skills to hunt hogs as it takes to hunt deer. As a bow hunter, hog hunting can give you a very similar experience to deer hunting year round.
Texas and many other southern states are experiencing a wild hog population explosion. Wild hogs are invading many neighborhoods in Ft Worth, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The damage they cause in a given night is extensive. Recently a $750,000 home in Dallas had its yard destroyed in one night by hogs. In Texas, that is a large home, and it was landscaped by a professional. They woke to see their flowers, shrubs, and even the grass destroyed. After seeing the damage done to that yard, you can understand why farmers and ranchers in encourage year-round hog hunting.
There are differences between hog and deer hunting. For instance, hogs are more dangerous than deer. Most everyone on my lease has had a “near death” experience with a hog. Now that may be an exaggeration in some cases, but as time goes on the hog gets bigger, tusks longer and death was almost certain. Two seasons ago Jeremy shot a deer and was going to check it out. His plan was to walk to a corner post and cross the fence to the wheat field where his deer lay. It was right around dusk as he walked to the corner, suddenly a hornet’s nest of little pigs burst from the fence around Jeremy’s feet. Jeremy jumped up on a corner post, using a maneuver I am sure would make his cross fit trainer proud. Jeremy was thinking the hogs would clear out, but several mother pigs were not sharing his opinion and continued to buzz the brush. The ticked off mothers kept all the hogs running around crashing through the brush as he clung to the corner post. It wasn’t long that losing light turned to getting dark, but the hogs were not tiring. Jeremy didn’t want to be in the dark with mad pigs and still needed to field dress his deer. With it getting dark and no way to get a clear shot at a pig, he fired his pistol into the ground several times and the pigs scattered for good. Things like this will happen on our lease, and it pays to be prepared. In Texas you can legally carry a pistol while bow hunting, a very good idea.
Another difference with pigs is they can be harder to kill than a deer. They are lower to the ground, so the angle of the shot is different if hunting from and elevated stand. Their bone density is more solid than a deer and a shot hitting a shoulder usually means the pig shrugs off the arrow and lives another day. Shot placement is key and as with any animal you want to make a good clean ethical shot.
On our lease, we use 55-gallon drums on tripods, full of corn. We use a timer to throw corn early in the morning and late in the evening. Unfortunately, our deer watch the Outdoor Channel too, and the sound of the corn hitting the ground does not send deer running to our feeders. Most stands are between 20 to 30 yards away depending on available cover. Hogs seem to know when our feeders throw too, but can be very nocturnal showing up well after dark. Feeders near water seem to have more frequent visits than others. The number of hogs that show up can vary from 1 to 35. You may see a single boar, to very large sows with piglets. If you plan on putting pork in the freezer, you want to target hogs less than 150 pounds. If you shoot a boar much bigger than that, many processors won’t touch it. They are simply too rank, and it takes them forever to clean their equipment afterward. While hogs are around a feeder, we do not have deer come in. Deer seem to know the hog’s pattern and often show up well before or well after they leave. You will know a feeder that has hogs coming in, even without a camera. If a feeder has hogs hitting it, the ground under the feeder will be a hog wallow. A hog wallow can be frustrating; because a little rain will turn the wallow under your feeder into a pond.
In other ways, hogs are much like deer. They have a keen sense of smell and when a group of 15 come in that’s a lot of noses. I have been busted by hogs several times and encourage scent control for bowhunting hogs. Hogs can be wary of movement as well, but once on they put their head down to feed they are not as aware of movement as deer can be. With a little care, pulling your bow back can go undetected. You can hear hogs coming from a distance, squealing and breaking through the brush. It is not unusual to shoot a hog under a feeder and have all the hogs run off, only to see them come back in a few minutes. If you are lucky, you can shoot a couple of hogs during a single sit. Hogs under 150 pounds are delicious, and there is nothing better than a little pork tenderloin drenched with a can of soda in the Crock Pot.
Hog hunting is an excellent way to get beginning bow hunters feet wet. As mentioned earlier, hog hunting can be similar to deer hunting. You often use the same feeder, stand, and skills for hogs as you do deer. Most people hunt morning and evening like you do deer. Hog hunting can be more forgiving of rookie mistakes and with a little homework you will see more hogs than deer. The new hunter will still have buck fever; they will still have to make a good shot and still have to track the hog afterward. Hog hunting also provides a great opportunity to video a hunt. There is nothing like getting a new bowhunters first hog on film. With a little luck you will get the trophy picture and put meat in the freezer.
My first bow kill and one of the best shots I have ever made was on a hog. A buddy from work and I were hunting west of Austin for deer or hogs. I was in a homemade platform stand in a Live Oak some 14 feet off the ground. It was a comfortable sit and the live oak was large and provided plenty of shade. I was little nervous about the small hole cut through the limbs for a shooting lane. I could see all the way to the feeder but watching the animal approach would be hit or miss. The corn feeder was due east of the stand and I obviously was well concealed. We left work early Friday to hunt that evening. I had been there about an hour when the feeder threw at 5:30. It was also my first time hunting over a feeder. I was expecting this to be like TV and have Pope and Young deer come from everywhere. To my disappointment, it was dead quiet for a couple hours. Around 7:30 a lone guilt walked up the trail to the feeder. This hog was the first one I had seen in the wild. My buddy had given me advice as to where on the hog to put an arrow and I was hoping he was right. My heart was pounding and as the hog approached, I quietly started turning my body to align myself for a shot at the feeder. I drew my PSE bow back, trying to control my breathing and found the hog in my sights. By now she was directly under the feeder. She was a little nervous but once she found a good pile of corn she dropped her head to feed. I was now at full draw and had my 20-yard pin right behind the shoulder. The hog turned broad side and when she brought her front foot forward, I let the arrow fly.
The rest was a blur; the hog squealed, bolted from the feeder and went crashing through the brush. What I didn’t know and couldn’t see through the limbs of the tree were several other hogs still in the brush. They all turned and ran together to the East. As luck would have it, they ran from the brush and crossed under a fence and into a pasture. The fence was 75 yards away and I was straining to see through tree limbs to follow the group of hogs. Finally, some 25 yards on the other side of the fence, the hog soon started to slow, wobble and fall over. The emotions you feel during all of this are incredible. First is the excitement you feel when you know the animal will be in bow range, it’s like a little kid on Christmas morning that is waiting for their first gift. Next is the stress of getting to full draw without getting busted. Then the worry and doubt set in. Did I make a good shot, did I hit where I wanted and why is this animal still running? Finally is the exhilaration that comes when you realize you made a good shot, the animal is down and you will put meat in the freezer. It doesn’t get much better than that.
So after watching the hog lay for 20 minutes it was clear she was dead. I climbed out of the Live Oak and crossed the fence to see my first wild hog. The shot was perfect, and I was feeling good. The hog weighed around 125 pounds. I drug the hog 25 yards to the fence and up to the road and waited for the truck. Soon the rancher was there and we were loading up. After the hog was loaded the rancher looked at me and said did you cross that fence? I said yes sir, that’s where she ended up. He then asked if I remembered the conversation we had before he dropped me off. I said I guess I was too excited, why did he ask? He pointed to 4 large Brahma bulls at the other end of the pasture and said, boy, those are the rodeo bulls I told you about, they will hurt you bad! When you hear that and see the size of those bulls there is another set of emotions that you experience, but we will save that for another day!
If you have time and a good place, many hunters will field dress the hog and leave the carcass in a spot frequented by predators. They later return to shoot the coyotes that come to check out the carcass. You may not want to leave a carcass close to a deer stand; the smell can be rank and it will draw in predators. You don’t want to drive deer away from your deer stand. At the very least, leave it under a buddy’s stand!
I am lucky to live in Texas where I can bow hunt for hog’s year around. I know there are many ways to hunt hogs; with dogs, from a helicopter and at night with lights. I follow @CamoCandace on Twitter and she is an avid hog hunter. She hunts hogs in a variety of ways and if you’re interested I suggest you follow her on Twitter or take a look at her blog at CamoCandace.blogspot.com. I prefer to hunt hogs in the same manner I bow hunt deer; from the same stands, from the same distance, and with my bow. Bow hunting hogs are a blast and keep me sharp until bow season opens up for deer!
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