The feral hog is one of the smartest animals on the planet. They have an extremely acute sense of smell, very good hearing and below average eye sight. But more importantly, they have the ability to learn very fast especially when it comes to their survival. Bottom line is that you will rarely see an old mature boar make the same mistake twice if he survives the first one! If you understand and respect their keen senses and intelligence you will be a more successful hog hunter.
Feral hogs have a VERY acute sense of smell that they rely on primarily as their early warning system. The wind and your human scent is probably the most important aspect of hog hunting; always doing your best to be down wind will greatly add to your chances of success. Also, use of a good masking scent, like raccoon urine, will often mean the difference between success and failure when the wind changes or swirls. Be conscious of the fact that your scent is much more of a factor on hot sultry evenings than on cool clear ones and that you will probably be perspiring as well.
This said, hogs will often do strange things…sometimes a hog will get a whiff of your scent and choose to disregard it as a signal of danger?!? This will obviously happen more often with a young hog than with an old seasoned mature boar. Don’t get out of your stand to go wandering around the feeder or trails leading to the feeder/food plot and spreading your scent! Also do your best to eliminate body odor and avoid using scented deodorants and/or colognes.
The feral hog has an above average sense of hearing. Certain sounds don’t seem to concern them, while others signal DANGER and will easily spook them. I’ve found that like hunting any other species, you need to be as quiet and still as possible. However, sounds like a cough, the dull thud of your rifle stock bumping a tree limb or the back of your clothing brushing against a tree trunk don’t seem to normally alert them. Unnatural metallic sounds and the human voice will quickly alarm a savvy hog. Be very careful taking your rifle safety off: do this slowly and QUIETLY. An example of how not to hog hunt was made clear to me recently when we had a hunter who spent a lot of his time in the box blind talking on his cell phone….he was in what has historically been one of the most productive stands on the ranch, but guess what he didn’t have a lot of success!!!! Wonder why???
Hog’s eyesight is your least concern when hunting. Still you can ruin a good hunt by scaring a hog that sees you. It has been my experience that a hog has a lot of trouble associating the human form with danger from 20 yards away or more IF you are stationary. Movement, especially rapid movement, will spook a hog quickly. Be as still as possible in your stand or blind. When you are within sight of hogs, moving slowly and deliberately is the key to success. If they spot you, stand motionless until they go back to what they were doing.
When you take the shot at a hog, especially a large mature boar, shot placement is critical. MAKE SURE OF YOUR AIMING POINT AND DON’T RUSH THE SHOT!!!! Annually, a high percentage of hogs shot at are wounded and not recovered. They are TOUGH TO KILL and impossible to recover if they have been hit poorly. Hogs (especially bog old boars) are extremely hard to kill even with well placed body shots. I recommend a center neck shot (preferably with the hog slightly quartering to you) on a broadside hog which always results in a DRT (in sniper terms, dead right there) hog. If you’re not comfortable with this shot or hunting with a bow, a shot ON the shoulder (lungs are directly under the shoulder blade) is your best bet, there are NO vitals behind the shoulder like a whitetail. I don’t think you can reliably kill a large boar with a thick shield with a bow, so bow hunters should not take a chance on wounding a large tough trophy boar. Make sure you use a 7mm08/.270 class rifle or larger with good quality bullets, no .243s with Ballistic Tips please! We have found Barnes TSX/TTSX and Nosler Partition or Accubond bullets to work very well. Cover is VERY thick here and we’ll do our best to find your hog, but they often go 50 yds with a perfect shoulder shot and leave NO blood trail. Don’t shoot at moving hogs unless instructed to do so, wait for a good broadside shot. If you shoot a hog and he drops then tries to regain his feet or squeals, SHOOT HIM AGAIN! Any hog hit and not recovered is considered a kill and will result in a flat rate charge of $300. regardless of the size of the hog.
If you are willing to limit yourself to neck shots ONLY, any centerfire rifle of .20 caliber or larger, shooting a 40 grain or heavier bullet at 2500FPS or more (.22 Hornet) will reliably kill the largest boar. However, we’re talking perfect shot placement and knowing that you will have to pass on ALL body shots to take the perfect angle head shot. Personally, I don’t want to put myself in the position of possibly seeing the 300lb+ trophy ‘hog of a lifetime’ and having to pass because the only shot I have is a rear quartering shot at the vitals. I want to use a caliber/bullet combination that will kill from almost any angle and normally fully penetrate the hog. I’m not advocating hard kicking cannons that will promote a flinch, just reasonable calibers (.270 Win – .338WM) and GOOD quality bullets. I personally do most of my hog hunting with a .308, .30-06 or my favorite a .358 Winchester all using premium Barnes TSX bullets. My caliber recommendation for a hog rifle is a good accurate .270 or larger caliber shooting 150 grain or heavier toughly constructed bullet designed for deep penetration and controlled expansion. Stay away from ballistic tip style bullets designed for rapid and violent expansion. They will kill small hogs and sows well, but can blow up on the tough shield of a big boar and fail to penetrate into the vitals.
Top your rifle with a BRIGHT medium power scope with a thick or illuminated reticle. I have had I prefer the Trijicon 3-9×40 crosshair/dot Accupoint. For low light hunting, set your power ring to 6-8 for maximum light gathering ability. Again, MAKE SURE OF YOUR AIMING POINT, DON’T RUSH THE SHOT, AND SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER!!!!
In addition to a proper rifle/scope combination you will need a pair of good high quality binoculars that gather lots of light as well as a flashlight. A high percentage of hog hunting is done in low light or darkness, so high quality optics are a necessity for success. Riflescopes with 7 to 8 power and front lenses of 40mm or more are recommended. I’m currently using Nikon Monarch ATB 8.5×56 and Leupold Cascades 8×42. I prefer the Nikon for stand and hunting out of the Kawasaki Mule and the Leupold for spot and stalk on foot. They are both excellent products for hog hunting and are reasonably priced. Also, always take a good quality flashlight with you to the stand in the evenings.
There is one thing you can always count on when hog hunting and that is the fact that you can’t count on anything! Hogs continually do strange things to surprise me. One time I’ll spot a hog from 500+ yards from an ATV and they will spook and run immediately and the next time they may let me drive up to within 25 yards? Likewise,a group of hogs may come running through the woods at full speed and go straight to feeding under a feeder with no sign of concern and the next time they will take a long time to cautiously work their way in and spook at the slightest hint of danger?