5 Tips for Bowhunting Wild Hogs

by: Marc Smith

In early October, at the very beginning of archery deer season here in my home state of Texas, wild hogs are overly abundant and make great bowhunting quarry, in addition to the deer. Mostdeerhunting in Texas is over corn and protein feeders and the hogs get into a pretty consistent routine of coming in for an easy meal. Hogs are very intelligent, however, and it only takes a couple of encounters to get them savvy to bowhunter presence. Once they’ve been shot at a few times, they either go nocturnal or avoid the area altogether. I really enjoy bowhunting wild hogs, specifically big boars. Big, mature hogs (both sows and boars) have an acute sense of awareness and sense of smell that cannot be rivaled by even the craftiest old mature whitetail buck. Here are five top strategies that help me consistently put big hogs in the freezer.


TRAVEL ROUTES


Fresh rooted earth is a sure sign that there are wild hogs in the area.When scouting for big hog sign, I look at the heavily-used trails leading from waterways, such as creeks and rivers, into the thickets where they bed. Much of the areas that I hunt here in east texas are bottomlands covered in hardwoods, such as oaks. Bottomlands are networks of creeks and sloughs that dry up in the hot summer months but fill up with water in late winter and spring creating ridges and islands when the annual watershed rises.  Even when it's cold and wet outside, hogs depend on wet, muddy holes to wallow in to keep their body temperature cool and to keep biting insects to a minimum, such as ticks, fleas, and mites. Big, mature boars are solitary animals, they do not travel and bed with the big sounders often (sounder is the term used for a group or herd of hogs). Boars will bed in areas where they can travel parallel to or just behind other hogs to feeding areas. They will find cold, muddy holes tucked up in riverbanks or in the darkest shaded areas of a slough that gets little to no sunlight. When I find heavily used game trails that hogs are utilizing, I will scout the downwind area of that trail for secondary trails, and more often than not, I will find a less used trail adjacent to the main trail with outsized tracks letting me know a big boy travels there. Also, look for big droppings. For the most part, hog feces is consistent in shape and size, no matter if it is a male or female. However, big hogs tend to have noticeably bigger droppings.


TRAIL CAMERAS


Once I’ve located a good-sized track, I will hang a trail camera up and try to get pictures to see just how big the boar is. With the date and time stamp present in the photos, I can get an idea of when the hog frequents that area. As stated before, mature hogs are savvy. Use a cover scent when hanging cameras, such doe urine or other cover scents. Spray down the area good with scent cover spray and wear rubber boots to leave as little scent as possible. Hang cameras five to six feet from the ground and angle them down the trail so that you can get going and coming photos of the hogs.


GET HIGH


I have had very little bowhunting success when trying to get a big boar from the ground. I believe a mature hog’s sense of smell is just too great to be fooled at ground level. Ground blinds, even if they're 30 yards from a food source, put you too close. The lingering ground scent alerts hog well before they get into bow range and they will always circle downwind 50 plus yards or so of an established food source. More times than not, you will hear a few faint growls and snorts and then silence. If they do come in, it will be well after shooting light. I use tree stands exclusively for bowhunting hogs. I like to use climbing sticks and hang on stands when possible, and for the longer treks into the bottoms, I use climbing stands such as the API Alumi-Lite Bowhunter. This is a great lightweight stand that lets me get in and out easily and sets up quickly and quietly. I like to get 25 to 30 feet high up in Water Oaks, White Oak, Bald Cypress, or Sweet Gum trees. These require the least amount of trimming and are usually consistent in diameter, which is necessary for utilizing the climbing stands. 


Marc hiked deep into the river bottoms to find success on this boar. His lightweight climbing stand and a little chum did the trick. THE CHUM


Once I locate a trail, hang a camera on it, and get an idea that a big hog that I’m looking for is in the area, I start chumming it. Chumming is the act of throwing bait in an area to attract hogs but not setting up a feeder. An established food site with a feeder is too predictable for the hogs. They get used to approaching a feeder with a favorable wind and it becomes almost impossible to beat their noses. Big, mature hogs are keen on this and will all but avoid a feeder in the daytime. A chum site is inconsistent enough to catch a hog off guard. It has been reported that a wild hog can smell a food source from up to seven miles away and food buried as deep as 27 feet in the ground. When I set up on a travel route with a favorable wind, I have often had good-size boars smell the bait from a distance and run right in with little regard. When establishing a chum site, I always make sure there is a suitable tree to hang my stand within slam dunk bow range, and on big hogs, that's 15 to 25 yards. I position the chum from the tree so that I have the predominant wind working as a crosswind so that I’m never directly up or downwind of the bait pile in relation to the trail. I like to chum in an area that also has a natural food source such as acorns. An ideal chum site would be on a ridge leading from a wallow area near a river that leads through a thicket and ends in an open hardwood bottom that has plenty of oaks where acorns are aplenty. I set my stand and bait at the edge of the thicket so that the hog does not have to come completely out into the open. They feel more secure here. I would approach the chum site with a favorable wind and throw out the desired amount of bait. Then I'd walk to the tree that would be adjacent to the bait, not crossing the trail the hogs come down through the bait. I have used deer corn by itself with good success and I’ve tried doctoring it up with molasses, Kool-Aid packets, and a plethora of other gimmicks that I’ve read about, but nothing has ever worked better at attracting wild hogs and deer than Big Tine brand Fortified Deer Blend, cherry rush flavor. It is a bit pricey for hog bait, in some folks' opinion. It's $15-$18 for a 40-pound bag. That’s double the price of a 50-pound bag of deer corn. However, the ingredients are so aromatic and so irresistible to hogs and deer that the results to me are more than worth the extra few bucks.


Marc arrowed this 200-pound boar on a ridge as he circled a chum pile of Big Tine Cherry Rush trying to get downwind. Marc made a perfect 30 yard shot on this big east Texas tusker!PATIENCE


Just like with all things bowhunting-related, patience is key when hunting big hogs. Have you ever heard the term “as greedy as a little pig”? When young hogs key in on a food source they charge in and immediately start gobbling up as much as they can as fast as they can. Typically, the youngsters come in first and just start munching. Then gradually by size and age, more and more hogs will come in, but it is the biggest and most mature hog that comes in at the very last. You must stay off the string on the medium-sized hogs if you’re ever going to shoot a big one. Sometimes that means letting the hogs eat and leave! I’ve let sounders of 25 plus hogs come in and eat all of the chum and then let them wander off and later a big boar that smelled the sow in the group come by looking for love. Big boars are solitary and will only travel with a big group if there is a sow in heat with them. Otherwise, he’s a loner. I’ve had big boars come into a fresh chum pile and stop short of bow range and just stare for a while, then circle downwind and approach it with caution, but be patient. Eventually, they will come in, providing they don’t pick up your scent. Let him come in and eat for a bit. Let him get comfortable. Hogs are pretty wound-up, much like deer. They come in cautiously and never really let their guard down. However, if you let him settle in and eat a bit, he will relax enough to let you get drawn and settled for the shot. In terms of shot placement, low and forward is key. A hog’s heart is located right between the front shoulders and is very low in the chest cavity. When shooting broadside shots on big boars, I like to bury my pin on the very point of the elbow of the front shoulder. This ensures that I'm forward enough for a heart and lung hit and low enough to avoid the tough shield boars get that protects the shoulder area from the big tusks of rival boars during breeding battles. Slightly quartering away is a good option too. Aim mid-rib and up 1/3 from the bottom.


Marc found late-season success on this 150-pound boar an hour after he let a whole sounder of hogs with an estrous sow pass by. Patience is the key when hunting mature boars.CONCLUSION


Wild hogs are fun to hunt. After you’ve taken a few with archery tackle it’s even more fun when you target big, mature boars. I’ve been fortunate enough to take hundreds of wild hogs with my bow over the years and I can say, when I key in on late-season big boars, it gets almost as exciting and nerve-wracking as hunting big mature whitetail bucks. It keeps you in the woods bowhunting longer and helps keep you honed and sharp between deer and turkey season.


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