The Basics of Hunting Hogs with a Bow
Hunting wild boar is an age-old tradition. Even medieval kings hunted them, both for the thrill of the chase and their delicious meat. Today, modern hunters still pursue them for the same reasons.
If you live in the United States, you probably live near wild hogs. If not, a day’s drive should put you smack dab in the middle of prime hog hunting territory.
These aggressive, tusk-bearing creatures provide a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping hunting experience, especially when a bow is your weapon of choice. You’ll need to get up close and personal to tag a huge shoat, and that isn’t going to be an easy task. Wild hogs have an acute sense of smell and are mainly nocturnal, both of which present a unique set of challenges for the average bowhunter.
Why Should I Hunt Hogs with a Bow?
After deer season closes, there isn’t much opportunity to scratch your bowhunting itch. Hog hunting is a great way to fill the off-season and fill your freezer with delicious pork chops in the process.
While you’re at it, you’ll be doing your part to help curb problematic hog populations. Feral pigs are an invasive species and cause millions of dollars in property damage each year. In Texas alone (home of approximately half the nation’s wild hogs), the annual reported damages created by pesky feral pigs exceeds $400 million dollars! That is just the damage they produce in one state.
Wild hogs are now found in more than 39 states and four Canadian provinces. The estimated wild pig population is over 5 million and growing rapidly. Wild pigs have a gestational period of just 115 days, allowing them to breed as much as twice a year. With litters averaging 6 to 8 piglets, it doesn’t take a math genius to comprehend the population problem.
Compounding the issue, feral hogs have no natural predators. They also present serious resource competition for indigenous species. Hunting is the only viable solution for North America’s serious hog problem.
Where Can I Hunt Hogs?
The largest concentration of wild hogs can be found in the southern Gulf states, including Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. North and east Texas offer some of the best wild boar hunting in the United States. Large hogs have also been shot in Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina. Although not as prevalent, feral swine can also be found in Hawaii, South Carolina, and parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and California.
Because feral swine are considered an invasive species, many states have an open season on them. In these areas, you only need to purchase a hunting license to shoot hogs all year long. However, some states have bag limits or require special hog tags. Be sure to check local rules and regulations before you hunt wild hogs with your bow.
Choosing the Right Bow for Hunting Hogs
Harvesting hogs with your bow can be a rewarding experience. However, it can also be one of the most challenging. Unlike whitetail deer, wild pigs have thick hides, layers of fat and muscle, and deep set vital organs. They are also covered in coarse hollow hair. Big boars often develop a protective cartilage plate, known as a shield, that offers an extra layer of protection to their already well-protected vitals.
Due to these tough characteristics, the bow you choose for hog hunting needs to produce a ton of kinetic energy to send your arrow deep enough to pierce the heart and lungs.
Modern compound bows are capable of producing far more energy than even the best recurves. While primitive archers can certainly shoot feral swine with a recurve or longbow, they definitely aren’t the best tools for the job.
Start by choosing a quality compound bow you can shoot comfortably and confidently. A stronger draw weight will generate faster arrow speeds, more energy, and deeper penetration, so dial up your weapon as much as possible. You’ll want 50 pounds of draw weight as a bare minimum.
Choosing the Right Arrows for Hogs
If your target is a big trophy boar, you probably won’t be able to tag one with your deer hunting arrows. You’ll need a heavier arrow to push through the hide, shield, and muscle to reach vital organs. The lightweight arrows you use to hunt whitetails won’t pack the same kinetic punch as a heavier arrow.
Look for heavy finished arrows that weigh 450 grains or more. This might seem like major overkill to experienced deer hunters, but you’re going to need that weight to achieve the proper penetration.
If you plan to hunt more than hogs with the same bow set-up, you should have a plan for switching between your light and heavyweight arrows. You’ll need to adjust your sights each time you transition arrow weights. If you fail to adjust your sights, the extra arrow weight will drive your shots low, causing you to miss your mark.
Choosing the Right Broadheads for Hogs
Penetration depends on more than just kinetic energy. You also need a seriously sharp broadhead capable of slicing through hide, fat, muscle, and organs with surgical precision.
There are two main types of broadheads – fixed and mechanical.
Fixed Blade Broadheads have non-expanding blades. They have a smaller cutting diameter than mechanical broadheads, so they carve a narrower wound channel. This means you’ll need to place your shots carefully. That narrow cutting diameter isn’t particularly forgiving, especially on an animal with a small vital area.
Mechanical Broadheads feature blades that remain folded while the arrow is in flight. Once the arrow strikes the target, the blades deploy, creating a larger cutting area without sacrificing aerodynamics. Mechanical broadheads are not as dependable as fixed blade broadheads. Sometimes they fail deploy upon impact. They also tend to break easily if they hit bone. Expansion of the blade can also expend some of the arrow’s kinetic energy, resulting in loss of penetration.
Most experienced hog hunters prefer a sturdy fixed blade broadhead. However, a number of hunters swear by their mechanical broadheads. Which one is “best” really comes down to personal preference. Just make sure to sharpen your blades before you hit the woods. No broadhead comes out of the package sharp enough to kill feral swine.
Hog Hunting Shot Placement
Feral hogs aren’t difficult to kill with a bow and arrow, at least not if you know what you’re doing. However, most bowhunters have honed their archery skills on whitetails, and whitetail anatomy is significantly different from the body structure of a big hog.
On whitetails, the “boiler room” (the area encompassing the heart and lungs) is located directly above and slightly behind the front leg when the animal is broadside. Land an arrow in that same area on a hog and you’ll end up with a bad paunch shot. Too often, this results in a marginal hit that requires some major blood tracking and unnecessary suffering for the animal. An arrow to the gut also leaves a smelly mess for field dressing and can even ruin some of that excellent pork.
A pig’s heart and lungs sit much lower and slightly further forward than the standard issue deer. The biggest chunk of a hog’s vitals lies square between the front shoulders. This is where you want to place your shot.
Tips for Effective Hog Shooting
To score a good hit on a big hog, follow these simple, yet effective shooting tips.
- Keep your shots close. Don’t stretch it beyond 30 yards. Feral pigs have tough hides and dense muscle. Long-distance shots won’t deliver the depth of penetration necessary to create an effective wound.
- Wait for those quartering away shots. If at all possible, wait for the pig to head away from you at a slight angle. While whitetail hunters also love this shot, it’s almost a necessity for hog hunters due to the location of the pig’s heart and lungs.
- Hold your aim low. A hog’s heart sits relatively low in his chest, typically sitting right in line with the bend in the front elbow.
- Aim for the far side. This is especially important for that quartering away shot. By targeting the opposite shoulder, your broadhead will travel through both lungs and exit either through the far shoulder or just in front of it, causing maximum internal damage.
How to Hunt Wild Hogs with a Bow
Hunting hogs can be a rewarding experience. However, wild pigs are smart, have a keen sense of smell, and are mostly nocturnal, making successful hunting a serious challenge. Here are some key strategies to help you swing the odds in your favor.
Fooling a Hog’s Snout
Hogs have an incredible sense of smell, and can detect some odors from up to 7 miles away. This valuable sensory organ helps them find food and helps warn them when danger is in the area. Due to their sensitive noses, getting up close without a hog getting a whiff of you is nearly impossible.
Eliminating human scent is the first step to getting close to feral hogs. This can be a serious challenge when hunting in the summer, especially in the South where warm weather hunting and sweat go hand in hand. However, the smell of chemical cleaners and deodorant can also be a major hog deterrent, so you need to select your personal care products carefully.
Before you hit the woods, be sure to remove scent from your body, clothes, and gear using special scent elimination products. Your regular laundry detergent, body wash, and deodorant will only work against you when you’re hunting hogs, especially since you need to get within bow range.
Use the Wind to Your Advantage
Even after using scent elimination products, you should still be aware of the wind direction. Whether you set up in a treestand, ground blind, or you choose to spot and stalk, you’ll want the wind blowing in your face to prevent your scent from wafting toward those sensitive noses.
Using Scent Attractants
You can also use that keen sense of smell to your advantage by using attractive scents like boar and sow urine. Since hogs breed year-round, you can use these potent attractants all year long.
However, using attractants for hogs is significantly different from using them for whitetails. If you are considering applying scent to a drag rag, you might want to reconsider. Remember hogs are much more aggressive than deer, so you’ll want to keep those scents at shooting distance to prevent an up-close-and-personal encounter with a hostile hog.
Wild hogs are simple creatures. As such, they mainly focus on feeding and breeding. Hogs think with their stomachs, so you can use their appetite to draw them out of cover and into shooting range. Using bait to hunt hogs is a common hunting practice in areas where it is legal.
Feral pigs are not exactly known for having discerning palates. They aren’t picky eaters. However, there are some foods that are proven hog attractants. Corn, pecans, and acorns are some of their favorite foods, and you can literally sweeten the deal by mixing in pure cane sugar, flavored instant jello, Kool-Aid drink powder, and even beer.
Pre-baiting is an effective way to get local pigs associating a specific location with a food source. Once they are used to eating there, they will visit that location as part of their regular routine. You can use an automatic feeder or spread your bait right on the ground. After several days, you can slip into the area and wait for them to arrive.
In some areas, hunting over bait is illegal, so you may need to remove any traces of bait before you take your stand. Baiting may also be prohibited on public land. Before you hunt, make sure you know the state and local laws regarding hog baiting.
As we’ve mentioned, feral hogs are notoriously aggressive. You can use this to your advantage by using the same calls you would use for fox, coyotes, or other predators, luring wild hogs out into the open and into shooting range.
Wild pigs also respond to recordings of hog grunts and squeals. Sows are extremely protective, so the sound of a piglet in distress can draw them out of the brush.
There are several calls on the market, as well as pre-recorded calls and downloadable apps to help you out in the field. Just be prepared. Those hogs will be charging and ready for a fight when they show themselves.
When is the Best Time to Hunt Hogs?
Although you may be lucky enough to catch a hog during daylight hours, they have adapted to hunter behavior by becoming largely nocturnal. Therefore, the best time to hunt feral hogs is at night.
Since humans have pretty poor night vision, you’ll need a light to hunt after the sun goes down. However, just any old light isn’t going to work. A discreet, low-intensity light will help prevent you from spooking the animal. Avoid white or yellow lights. Instead, look for red or green LEDs. You can also purchase colored plastic film to place over a standard light, which is a much cheaper option.
You can attach a light to the underside of your hog feeder to illuminate the immediate area surrounding it. You can also attach a special LED light directly to your bow.
Again, you’ll want to check local and state hunting regulations before hunting hogs at night. Some areas limit hunting hours to a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.
After the Shot
After you’ve released your arrow, sit still. Even if your arrow found its mark, jumping up to immediately pursue a wounded hog is a bad idea. Instant kills are rare in bowhunting, and wounded hogs are dangerous. You want to give the hog plenty of time to bleed out before you pursue it.
If you are hunting hogs that haven’t experienced much hunting pressure, you may be able to pull off more than one shot before the hogs head to the safety of thick brush. Even after sticking a pig with an arrow, it is not uncommon for the rest of the sounder to keep feeding like nothing has happened. This can provide the perfect opportunity to take another pig.
A Note About Butchering and Wild Pork
Wild hogs can carry a host of diseases, including pseudo rabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, and foot and mouth disease. They can also be infected with intestinal parasites like whipworms and roundworms.
This doesn’t mean the meat is inedible. It just means you need to take extra care during field dressing and butchering. Use disposable gloves during the process, and cook all wild pork to well done. Wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect all contact surfaces (including your knife and cutting surfaces) as soon as possible.
If you need some guidance on how to butcher a wild hog, check out this useful video. It will help you better understand the process.
Summing It Up
Wild boar hunting with a bow is one of the most challenging and exciting pursuits in the world of hunting. However, hunting feral swine is significantly different from hunting whitetails. Understanding the differences in behavior and anatomy will increase your chances of a successful hog harvest and the tasty pork you’ll get as a result. Follow the tips we’ve outlined here, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful hunt.