Not Your Daddy’s White Tail! — Hog Hunting is Always in Season
by Carlos M. Lopez
The whitetail deer is the #1 sought after big game animal in North America, and years ago hogs were just considered target practice while one was out during the deer hunt. Today in Florida, where I live, the wild hog is gaining ground quickly as a favorite to hunt. There are several different reasons why I believe wild boars are gaining such increased attention. The main reason? The excitement. There is a definite element of danger that you don’t have while hunting deer.
A mature wild boar weighing over 200 pounds will attack viciously without prejudice and so will a sow with shoats. Be careful when hunting these formidable wild creatures. It baffles me how the state of Florida can classify wild hogs as small game. This classification must have been determined by someone who has never seen the cutters or whetters on these animals. I recommend always carrying a sidearm when hunting boar; I don’t ever go without one. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I have seen a few videos showing wild boar attacking a hunter, and in most cases, the hunters have been cut to the bone with those razor sharp cutters. As for average shooting distances, most are relatively close, within 100 yards. While many calibers will suffice, my personal favorite is my Marlin CS 3030 Lever Action that used to be my New York brush gun for whitetails. I believe, for most people, a 223 would be the minimum caliber I would humanely use.
Another reason why the wild hog is gaining popularity in Florida is because of their destructive nature. Agricultural farms and cattle ranches lose precious time and money when hogs root their properties. Wild hogs can be hunted 365 days of the year on private property. The state of Florida has an ample concentration of wild pigs in its 67 counties. So far it has been a losing battle since hogs are so prolific. Each pregnant sow can produce 6 to 10 piglets on average, twice a year. Those female piglets can then begin to produce their own litter after six months. Do the math. You need to harvest 75% of the hogs on that land in order to keep a balance. Trappers are sometimes used because of the incredible amount of land destruction and crop damage that hogs cause.
The wave of unwanted wild hogs has taken this country by storm. Wild boars are currently found in over 40 US states, and will obviously populate the other states within a matter of time. Wild boars are detrimental to native game animals. They are omnivores and will eat whatever they can get. Quail, wild turkey eggs, baby fawns, even insects and reptiles. Found in the stomach of one wild hog were the remains of over 50 toads! In times of drought when food is scarce, wild hogs have been known to cannibalize their own young. They are very adaptable and can live anywhere whatever the climate.
Many land managers and owners will grant permission to hunt their private property since they benefit from any culling that is done. Any granted access to private land hunting should be treated like gold. If you are lucky enough to be able to hunt private property here consider yourself part of the “secret society” of privileged hog hunters. Be respectful and treat it better than you would your own property. You will reap the benefits of an incredibly exciting hunt and the land owners get free extermination services.
There are options available if a hunter does not have access to private property. Hiring a guide is one of them. Look them up in the back of a respected hunting publication, do some online research, ask questions at your local hunting store, or speak with outfitters at hunting shows. Word of mouth is the best recommendation I can advise.
Another option is looking into hunting public lands in Florida if private land is not available to you. These Wildlife Management Areas are open to everyone. There is a lottery system in place in order to draw a permit. You choose the open WMA dates that you prefer and then cross your fingers that your first choice is picked. There are over 5.8 million acres of public access available to sportsmen/women. It happens to be one of the largest public land hunting systems in this country. The State of Florida is continuously looking to acquire large tracts of land from private landowners. There are over 700 FWC law enforcement officers who patrol the state so pay attention to the rules. You need a management area permit, a valid hunting license and a quota permit if hunting during quota periods. Make sure to contact your local government area agency as each WMA has its own rules. For additional rules, regulations & electronic submissions go to www.myfwc.com.
Hogs can be harvested with many different weapons and methods. Weapons primarily used are: rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns, archery, handgun, crossbow, spears and knives. Some methods used: spot/stalk, stands, blinds; running dogs or hunting near a feeder and trapping. Some of the basic tactics used in finding wild hogs is looking for their tell tale signs. Examples of feral hog activity would be fresh rooting, wallows, mud caked scratch posts & trees, hoof tracks, scat or coarse hair stuck to barbed wire where wild boar cross fences. Locate a few of these and you are half way to scoring some serious meat for your freezer. Put in your time, be positive & patient and success will eventually follow.
Let’s not forget another really important benefit. Their meat is tasty and since I am of Cuban descent – I know pork. Pit roast, marinate overnight, use a crock pot, or just quarter them down and cook it. Any way you slice it, wild hog meat tastes great if the proper care is taken after harvest. Wild hog meat (pork) is very lean and most of the animal can be consumed. Hindquarters, shoulders, ribs, back-straps. It can all be cooked to perfection. A hunter favorite is making sausages and wild hogs are a BBQ’s best friend. Always wear rubber gloves when you field dress any wild game. Cool off the meat as soon as possible, wash it off with clean water and put in a cooler with ice.
Wild hogs are here to stay. Get used to it, enjoy the adrenaline and exploit the opportunity to hunt them in your home state. Let me clue you in on one last thing. If you hunt in a warm weather state like I do, do yourself a favor and get yourself a ThermaCELL or you will be miserable while donating a pint of blood to your local mosquitoes.
Be safe, take a child hunting and fishing or introduce an adult to the sport.
Carlos M. Lopez