Keep reading to learn about a successful experience I had stalking feral hogs.
Over the years I have gotten a great deal of entertainment and satisfaction from hunting feral hogs. Texas, like many states, has literally thousands of feral hogs roaming the countryside. With a keen nose and a relatively high intelligence, feral hogs are challenging to hunt, even though there are so many out there. In Texas there is no closed season and no bag limit, which makes them even more attractive as something to hunt when the rest of the hunting seasons are closed. I’ve spent many days out looking exclusively for hogs. However, most of the feral hogs I’ve shot have been those I encountered while deer hunting. Below, I’ll share a story of a successful stalk I made on a hog one evening and highlight some key takeaways that can be applied in future situations.
A Sounder of Feral Hogs
Several years ago, I was hunting late in the deer season in December. This would be my last trip of a so far unsuccessful season and I was hopeful that I would be successful. I was hunting in a stand on the eastern side of my family’s land that overlooked a small clearing with a feeder. The stand was on the southern edge of the clearing looking north. A few hundred yards to the east was a long gully that ran north/south. The woods in this area consisted of pine and hardwood trees with patches of thick brush interspersed among them. While it was the end of December and close to Christmas, in true Texas fashion, it wasn’t really cold, maybe in the mid 50s with a light breeze out of the east. While my father enjoyed many successful hunts out of this stand, I personally never had good luck there.
In fact, this was the same stand where I missed the doe that I described in previous post.
This hunt was shaping up to be like many previous I had made from that stand: unsuccessful. I sat in the stand all morning and didn’t see a thing. I went back in the afternoon hoping for the best. After sitting in the stand most of the afternoon and in to the evening, I still hadn’t seen anything. I started to get bored and my mind began to wander. Just as the sun began to go down, I started hearing nose from the southeast. I was initially confused because I hadn’t ever heard anything quite like that before.
It was a constant shuffling and rustling of the leaves that was much too loud and continuous for a deer and too intense for an armadillo or a person. My interest was piqued and my boredom suddenly disappeared as I tried to figure out what was making all of that noise. As I listened, I could tell that whatever it was making the noise was moving steadily north. After a few minutes I heard the telltale sound that gave away the source of the noise: a squeal. That told me all I needed to know: there was a group of feral hogs actively feeding while they slowly worked their way north.
By continuing to listen to their movement, I determined that they were moving in the gulley to my east and they would probably not come to me, at least not before dark. It did not take me long to make the decision to climb down from the stand and try a stalk on them. I knew I only had a few minutes of shooting light left so I had to balance speed with stealth in order to successfully get a shot at this group of feral hogs. I quickly climbed down from the stand and started moving to the east. I would take two to three steps and then pause to listen. Satisfied that they were too busy rooting around in the leaves to hear me, I continued to work my way forward a few steps at a time.
Even though it was a cool evening, I started to sweat out of excitement and anticipation. This was one of the few times in my life I had ever stalked an animal while hunting. Luckily, the deck was stacked in my favor. The breeze was blowing from them to me, taking away probably a hog’s biggest advantage: his sense of smell. All I had to do was move slowly and quietly enough to see them and get a shot before they saw or heard me. Even though I only had 100-200 yards to go, it took me several minutes to get from the stand to the vicinity of the gulley and the remaining daylight had rapidly diminished to the point where I had barely enough light to see by.
As I neared the crest of the gully, I took the safety off my rifle in anticipation of taking a quick shot. Right after I did, a black shape crested the edge of the gulley directly in front of me. We both froze, looking at each other. As he was deciding what this tall shape was in front of him, I raised my rifle and fired. I was carrying the Remington Model 8 in .32 Remington (the same rifle I described in my previous post that I shot my first trophy whitetail buck with) which luckily, had a large aperture peep sight that let in just enough light for me to make out the target with. That’s not often though of a classic hog hunting gun, but it worked well for me in this case and the 170 grain soft point only had to travel about 10 yards before slamming into the hog just in front of the point of his left shoulder. He let out a squeal, and then bolted off to his left into thick bushes.
At the sharp report of the shot, the woods in front of and around me absolutely exploded with surprised and confused feral hogs running every which direction. Not wanting to have more than one potentially wounded hog running around in the thick brush to deal with that night, I elected not to shoot any others. I started yelling and throwing sticks and rocks to scare the remaining feral hogs away so I could retrieve the one I shot. It was dark and confusing enough that I have no idea how many hogs there actually were, but I estimate that I stumbled into a group of at least 10. After the rest of the hogs finally ran off, I moved back to the deer stand to await the arrival of my father, who I know would hear the all the commotion and come over to help me.
Shortly thereafter, my dad and my brother arrived in our hunting car to see what was going on. We quickly retraced my steps back to where I shot the hog. By now it was pitch black and we found the blood trail after a few minutes of looking around with flashlights. The hog was leaving a very sparse trail and it was with great effort that we followed his progress through the bushes, sometimes on our hands and knees. After about 30 minutes of searching we had covered about 50 yards through the brush. At this point, the blood trail had grown noticeably sparser and the battery of our main flashlight started to die. We decided to pick up the trail again in the morning. I marked the spot of the last drop of blood we found with toilet paper and pink survey tape before heading back to the car.
I went to bed with a heavy heart that night. Though I thought I had made a good shot on the hog, but I was very concerned that the blood trail would disappear completely and we may never find the hog. I woke with the sun the next day and walked back to the area where I shot the hog. In the daylight, it was easy to find where we had marked the trail and I quickly found where we left off the previous night. As I stood by the last drop of blood we found, I looked up and found I was staring right at the body of the hog stone cold dead in the bushes no more than 10 feet from where I stood! It was so dark, and he was so well camouflaged in the thick bushes, that we got almost close enough to step on him the night before without knowing it.
He was a medium sized boar who was probably not full grown. We didn’t weigh him, but I estimate that he weighed between 80 and 100 pounds. Upon examining him, I quickly found the entrance and exit wounds the bullet left. Since he was quartering towards me, the bullet hit in front of his left shoulder and exited about six inches in front of his right hip. It hit his left lung, the liver, and the stomach before exiting. As we feared, the exit wound had closed up almost completely. Luckily, he was hit hard enough that he expired not far from where his blood trail ended. All told, he ran about 75 yards from where I shot him.
I needed a better flashlight. We had to give up the search for the hog that night due to a low battery on a borderline quality flashlight. A powerful light with a strong battery, preferably something like a Sure Fire LED flashlight, would have been very useful in this situation. Though I’ve never used one, a blood tracker flashlight might have helped find the blood trail as well.
For what it’s worth, the blood tracker flashlight made the cut for my 2019 holiday gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:
I needed to “use enough gun.” Pound for pound, feral hogs are significantly tougher than deer. While the .32 Remington is plenty powerful enough to quickly kill a feral hog under good conditions, it does not do nearly as well in less than ideal conditions like I faced that night. I had a lot of affection for that particular rifle. I shot my first ram, my first trophy white-tailed deer, and two hogs with it.
However, the 32 Remington is an obsolete cartridge and it is difficult to obtain high quality bullets for it. I had not lost an animal I had shot with this caliber so far, and I eventually decided to quit while I was ahead. I ended up buying an almost identical Remington Model 81 chambered in the significantly more powerful .35 Remington cartridge to replace this rifle. Had I shot the hog with a .35 Remington, he probably would not have run as far and left a more substantial blood trail from a wound that would have been slower to close up. In that case, we likely would have found him that night instead of having to come back the next morning.
In addition to the .35 Remington, just about any of the cartridges below would have been better choices for that sort of hunting than the .32 Remington.
If you are fortunate enough to encounter hogs that are actively feeding, make sure you take advantage of that opportunity because you have an excellent chance at getting a shot at one. When they are feeding, they make much more noise which makes them easier to pinpoint. Also, since they are focused on eating, they are less likely to hear or see an approaching hunter. As long as the wind is in your favor, the odds of getting into shooting range of feeding hogs are very high. They might see you or smell you, but they almost certainly won’t hear you approach.