Pack-In Hog Hunting
Hog hunting can be satisfying and productive.
In Texas, where I live, wild hogs are plentiful and it’s not difficult to find a place to hunt them. Hogs are hunted on just about every piece of hunting lease land and piece of ranch or farmland in the Lone Star State. But just because hogs are plentiful doesn’t necessarily mean that they are easy to hunt in every instance. After spending well over four decades hunting hogs, I’ve concluded that they have the ability to reason—or at least react to circumstances—especially when getting pressure from hunters.
I believe that the images that come to mind for most hunters who travel to Texas to hunt hogs are those of a hunting blind or tree stand that is situated within rifle or bow range of a corn feeder. I think they might also imagine a night hunt with an AR-style rifle rigged with a thermal scope. Granted, lots of wild pork is put on the meat pole using these methods. I’ve shot enough hogs over corn to fill a boxcar with pork. However, I’ve also seen hogs completely abandon the golden kernels they love so much when they’re hunted too hard. That’s when I break out my old guide pack, stow the essentials for a “back country” hunt, and head out into the wilds, often on foot and near water when possible.
Don’t let me confuse you when I mention hunting in the “wilds.” I’m not referring to wilderness country like I’ve hunted up in Canada and parts of the Rocky Mountains. Here in Texas, we have some big ranches that encompass thousands of acres and vast areas of bottomland. They can be situated around many of our reservoirs and are chock full of wild porkers. Most hog hunting takes place within a few yards of a ranch or logging road or possibly a short walk from a county road. However, I love to pack into areas with little or no hunting pressure. These are the same areas where wild hogs head when they abandon their daily habits of eating under a corn feeder.
My years as an elk guide in the Rockies probably sparked my desire to load my pack with the bare essentials needed to kill, butcher, and pack wild pork out of the woods. As a hunter, I’ve found that hunting hogs that are going about their daily habits, away from the influence of man, is a very satisfying way to spend a solitary day.
Hog Hunting Essentials
I’ve been doing these pack-in hunts for a long time and have pared my gear down to the bare essentials.
Rifle and Ammo
While I don’t recommend this light caliber for the average hunter, my style of hog hunting is up close and personal, and shots are almost always under 75 yards. I can place the little bullet where I want it at this range. A frontal neck shot right behind the ear anchors even the biggest boar in the woods.
I’ve used all sorts of optics through the years, too, but I recently topped my rifle with a Rattler Thermal by ABM Global Vision. These scopes are rugged and dependable. With their introduction a year or so ago, there finally is a quality thermal with a built-in still or video camera. (And it doesn’t require me to get a second mortgage on my home to purchase it!)
Why not simply pack a lever 30/30 with iron sights for this close-in work on boars? The lightweight thermal scope serves two purposes. It allows me to hunt during very low light conditions and into the evening hours if needed. It also has the potential to help find wounded game by registering the heat signature of the downed animal back in the brush.
Sight and Light
Lightweight binoculars are a must for scanning the woods ahead for hogs. Once hogs are spotted, it’s often pretty easy to quietly ease into a shooting position on bedded or feeding hogs, assuming one approaches from downwind.
A quality flashlight with fresh batteries is necessary in case the quartering needs to be done after dark. Always bring a backup flashlight, just to be safe. I pack a fixed-blade knife for skinning and also a lightweight pack ax that I’ve found many uses for on these backcountry jaunts.
Cord Can Save The Day
Several feet of cord can be worth its weight in gold, especially when a heavy hog is taken. The quartered sections can be hung on nearby tree limbs with the cord to keep the meat safe from coyotes. It’s sometimes necessary to leave a portion of the meat in the woods and make a return trip. On a couple of occasions when I shot a big porker late in the day, I’ve had to leave a portion of the meat hanging overnight and pack back in the next morning to retrieve the rest. Of course, this can only be done during the cooler months of the year. As we Texans know all too well, one day can be shirtsleeve weather, then a blue northern blow-in overnight can cause us to change our hunting strategy.
Don’t Forget Your Compass!
I have the Hunt Stand app on my smartphone. With its onboard compass, I can stay tuned in to the direction back to the truck. It’s good to pack a lensatic compass, too, because one never knows when cell phone batteries might fail.
With all the gear necessary for a day of hunting, I begin my trek into areas seldom frequented by hunters. This can be done strictly on foot. If there’s a stream or waterway where I’m hunting, I often paddle back in with my Nucanoe. This is a hybrid craft blending the best features of a canoe and kayak. On these float trips, I’ve shot hogs from the boat. More often, I spot hog signs such as rubs or wallows along the creek. In that case, I beach the boat and still hunt the surrounding area. More often than not, it’s necessary to wear out a bit of boot leather getting back to where the hogs are.
Signs To Look For
Regardless of how I access these remote areas, it becomes very obvious when I get into good “hog country,” Wild hogs create well-worn trails when traveling from bedding to feeding areas, and usually there are plenty of trees marked with mud along the path. Still hunting (or stalking, as some folks call my hunting method), requires a lot of patience and very slow movement. I always find myself having to deliberately slow my pace and avoid hurrying to see what’s down the trail. Binoculars are very helpful when scanning the woods ahead. On many occasions, I’ve spotted sounders of bedded hogs and then eased up within range to make the shot.
Fast, Easy Quartering
Once I’ve harvested a hog, the work begins, but I use a method of quartering that is fast and easy. With the hog on the ground, I remove the four quarters, with hide on. Then I make a cut through the hide along the backbone and remove both backstraps. I’ve found it much easier to keep the meat clean by leaving the hide on instead of boning out the meat.
Most wild hogs weigh 150 pounds or less. This makes it pretty easy to pack out the quarters and backstraps in one trip. On the rare occasion when I shoot a really big hog, the cord is put to use to hang a portion of the meat for a return trip. With this method, I never open the carcass up or gut the hog. This makes the process much quicker and keeps the meat clean. I leave the ribs on the carcass and the inside tenderloins, but that equates to very little meat loss. This process usually takes no longer than a few minutes before I’m making my way back to the truck.
Of course, there are all sorts of variations to the way I hunt. I have on occasion packed a gallon freezer bag full of corn and baited a “hot” hog trail to stop hogs as they moved from bedding to feeding areas.
Once back at the truck, I remove the hide from the quartered meat and place the meat in a cooler. If hunting during warm weather, I always begin the hunt with ice in the cooler. This ensures I can chill the pork quickly.
Taking The Path Less Travelled
My style of “hike-in” hog hunting might not be for everybody. No doubt plenty of hogs are killed close to ranch roads from stands over corn feeders. But I find getting back into remote areas where hogs are not pressured is both challenging and very often productive. And, truth be told, it reminds me of my guiding days in the mountains, where packing meat out was the only option!
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