Larry Hoffner shot this 150 pound sow with our Ambush Firearms 6.8 SPC, a Vortex Viper PST riflescope, and the ND3 nighttime target designator from LaserGenetics. Shown here with professional guide Dwayne Powell at Kissimee River Hunt & Fish
With so many first time gun owners out there, many are bound to be a whole bunch of first time hunters as well. Wild hogs are available to hunt year round, and because they have a short gestation cycle, there are almost no bounds to their numbers. Corn feeders can bring wild hogs in to a specific location at fairly reliable regular times, and the wild-caught meat is not gamy at all. Most would agree that especially corn fed wild hog is much better than feedlot commercial pork.
The problem is, this meat doesn’t come in nice little Styrofoam packages. You have to learn to butcher the hogs yourself, and if you have never done it and never received proper instruction in doing so, it can be a real mess learning how. Your first inclination will probably be to “gut” the animal, but on small sows, the tastiest of the wild hogs, there is very little meat outside the major cuts to justify opening the gut at all. As you’ll see, separating the major cuts from the unusable portion is not very difficult, but it is definitely something you should know how to do before take your first animal.
This is a short photo essay on how to butcher a wild hog with Dwayne Powell of Kissimee River Hunt & Fish. Later we will do a bigger animal, but this is the most common size for what is considered a “meat hog.” It is a sow, around 130-150 pounds, taken by one of Dwayne’s guide clients, Larry Hoffner. The hunt was fairly simple, but not uneventful.
Shooting from a tree stand about 30 yards away, about a dozen hogs came into the feeder right after dark. Larry waited for the right sized animal to work its way around to his side, then took his first shot. Nerves can get the best of us at times, and the first one was low, clipping the small sow’s leg, so after the whole pack of them spooked and began to get out of Dodge post-haste, Larry had to take a 100 yard plus running second shot. As you’ll see from the butchering pictures, the shot shattered the hog’s hip and made some of the meat bloodshot, but all is well that ends well. Just over 35 pounds of fresh meat went into the cooler and the gators feasted on the rest of the hog that night. We also managed to document the basic butchering process of a wild hog.
Note that this is a “no saw” method of processing a hog. Butcher shop hams and pork parts often contain cross cut sections of bones where a saw is used. There are merits to using a saw, but on a wild hog (as well as a deer and other game), the bone marrow being dragged by the saw blade across the meat can add a gamy taste. Wild meat hogs that aren’t stuffed with growth hormones on a feedlot grow to a fraction of the size of their commercial domesticated counterparts, so you don’t have as many small specialty cuts regardless. A 150 pound wild sow will yield about the 35 find pounds of meat you see here, and it won’t be gamy at all. It is simple process to mostly de-bone the major cuts , and you will end up with a whole bunch of natural and healthy meat that may be the tastiest pork you have ever eaten.
Larry used our resident Ambush Rifle in 6.8 SPC for the hunt. It is topped with a Vortex Viper PST riflescope, and because the hogs come in after dusk this time of year, we added the LaserGenetics ND3 nighttime target designator from Gamo (full review on that coming soon). He made a running 100 yard shot at night from a single seat treestand with this rig, pretty sweet. That 6.8 SPC has got some real potential in the hunting rifle market. For today’s next generation hunter, just like the Ambush Rifle, it seems to be about “just right.”
All of these photos are clickable to see a larger image, and to print if you want to make a booklet to take into the field. To print you hold CTRL and the hit the P key.
This metal spreader is called a “gambrel.” You can find them on Amazon for as little as six bucks, and Cabelas has a whole page of them with pulley systems for not a lot of money. They even have a hitch tree you can mount on the back of your truck if you don’t feel like throwing a rope over a tree limb. Slit the rear legs behind the hooves and slip the arms of the gambrel in, then hoist the animal up to working height. Wash the animal with a lot of water if you can. Hogs are smelly.
Make sure to keep a small thin bladed and not-serrated knife and sharpening steel with your gambrel and tackle. There are times when you need a thick hunting knife, but most of the job requires a very sharp thin bladed knife. The first thing you should do is split the skin around all four legs beyond the joint.
Then cut right down the middle of the belly, being careful to pull just the skin away so you don’t puncture the gut. During this entire process there was not any smell at all, not even a gamy meat smell. If you are careful to not puncture the gut, butchering a hog is not unpleasant at all and no more bloody or gruesome than your local butcher shop.
The area around the anus is the most difficult to separate without upsetting the intestines and getting into stuff you don’t want to be in. Carefully cut around the anus and separate just the skin. Your first time this will be the most time consuming part of the job, but the more careful you are, the more chance you can get through it without making a mess of it. Pulling tight with little touch cuts is always going to be your best bet rather than slicing down into anything.
You will find that although the armchair commenters on blogs and discussion boards talk incessantly about “shot placement,” often in the field you don’t make the ideal shot for coming away with all pristine meat. Larry’s running long shot on this hog in the dark with the 6.8 SPC Ambush entered one hip and came out the other after smashing the hip.
A lot of the blood will wash out of meat that was effected by the temporary shock cavity of the round. The 6.8 SPC leaves the barrel at about 2400 feet per second for a 110 grain bullet. This is not enough energy to “jellify” meat at 100 yards away like some faster and lighter rounds. This is one reason why it is becoming so popular with hunters.
There is more meat on this hog if you work at it, but you can get it this far without ever smelling the gut or having to deal with flowing entrails. There are those who eat the heart, liver, and there is a little bit of meat on the ribs and in the hock joints. Knock yourself out. The gators got the rest of this girl.