The Problem Explained
Wild hogs are taking over the United States and Canada. Feral swine was originally brought to the United states by Hernando De Soto in the mid 1500’s. These hogs traveled with De Soto and his men as they explored the Southeastern part of the region. Hogs were sold, traded and lost along the way. Through their adaptivity and immensely quick gestational period, wild hogs are thriving across the United States today. Hogs can be found in 42 states with a population of somewhere between 6 – 9 million. Experts say that annually, wild hogs are responsible for 1.5 billion dollars of damage across our landscape. This includes row crops, pasture land, livestock, and forestry. Although those numbers are staggering enough, this number does not even include the damage caused to things that we don’t know how to put a monetary value on, such as the Sea Turtle nest off the coast of Georgia that the hogs destroy and unfortunately kill.
Manage the Damage
The number of wild hogs that are living across the United States today are continuing to grow each year. A sow can have 2 litters per year, ranging from 5 – 10 piglets per litter. Those piglets are sexually mature and can start breeding between 6 – 8 months old. Other than hunters and desperate farmers, wild hogs really do not have many predators. Depending on the region that you are in, occasionally a small hog might be preyed on by a very territorial black bear or an alligator, but that pretty well sums it up. The term “eradication” was heavily used for years when talking about dealing with the wild hog situation, however, with the numbers showing that they are thriving, the focus now has shifted to simply “manage the damage”. As bad as we all want for the wild hog population to diminish completely, we now know that is seemingly impossible. The best that we are going to be able to do is to focus on the areas that they are thriving and “manage the damage”.
Open Season In Georgia
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has made some very good decisions in their regulations for hunting wild hogs. Below are the most recent regulations for the state of Georgia.
Limit: No limit, no closed season.
Feral hogs may be hunted at night on private land. Hunting over bait is allowed. No hunting from a vehicle under power.
- Residents: All residents 16 years of age or older must possess a hunting license to hunt or trap feral hogs except when hunting on land owned by them or their immediate family (blood or dependent relationship) residing in the same household.
- Nonresidents: Must possess a nonresident hunting license.
- Exemptions to many of these restrictions for agricultural producers are available by permit. Contact your local Game Management Office for details.
Legal Weapons on Private Land
Any legal weapon. Additional weapon restrictions apply on WMAs and federal lands.
WMAs and National Forest Lands
Limit: No limit.
Hogs may be taken with primitive weapons during primitive weapons deer season, archery equipment during archery deer season, with deer weapons during firearms deer season, with turkey weapons during turkey season and with small game weapons during small game season. No night hunting. No hunting over bait. Hunting license requirements must be met. Hunter orange is required during firearms and primitive weapons deer and bear hunts. See Dog Training for dog training seasons and rules. See Federal Area Regulations for federal lands.
Transporting & Release
It is unlawful to transport a live feral hog without a permit from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). Feral hogs captured alive by a person without a valid GDA permit must be killed prior to transport. Release of any live feral hogs into an area that is not fenced in accordance with GDA regulations is prohibited. Any persons convicted of the transport or release of live feral hogs may be subject to losing hunting privileges for up to three years and a fine up to $5,000.00, but not less than $1,500.00. Transport and possession of live feral hogs are regulated by GDA; contact the Livestock & Poultry Program at 404-656-3665 for more
information or visit http://agr.georgia.gov/feral-hogs.aspx.
Any facility that processes hogs for a fee, including deer processors, must obtain a license to operate from the Meat Inspection Section of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. For more information, deer processors may contact the Georgia Meat Inspection office at 404-656-3673. Licensing requirements do not apply to individuals who process feral swine for their own use.
Feral hogs can carry infectious diseases that are transmissible to people. To avoid possible exposure: wear plastic gloves when field-dressing feral hogs; wash hands with soap and hot water immediately afterwards; avoid direct contact with blood and reproductive organs; cook thoroughly; and properly dispose of all waste.
Every year, people kill hogs across the US with weapons that range from primitive bows and .22 rifles with a light to fully automatic rifles being shot from the jump seat of helicopters. What has been successful for us is using weapon mounted thermal imaging scopes, mounted to AR style rifles. We choose to do the majority of our hog hunting on private land at night. Sometimes these hogs are mixed in with cattle or other livestock. The thermals that we use allow us to see those non-target animals, creating a much safer environment. Regardless of the weapon you choose, your tactics are going to be the biggest deciding factor of your success.
Most every successful hunt begins with a successful plan. A successful plan can be a challenge to formulate if you are new to hunting wild hogs. Below are some well proven pointers that my team and I adhere to every time possible.
- Wind can be your friend… or your enemy.
Regardless of the style of hog hunting you are choosing to do, you always want to make sure that you have the wind in your favor. I prefer the wind to be in my face during spot and stalk situations, however, I will advance towards them if I have a cross wind. Here in the North Georgia Mountains, we tend to have very shifty wind. When the wind is bad, we try to get low to the ground and wait it out until the next shift. Being as we hunt at night, I use a lighter to check my wind so that I can see the direction better.
- Hunt the active spots
We prefer to hunt bait sights, however, hunting any high activity location for hogs can improve your chances. If no bait sights have been established, look for areas of heavy rooting, high concentrations of acorns, heavily traveled trails and also hog wallows. These are generally low lying places, near water, where hogs will go to lay down and cool off.
- Communicate with your crew
I do not recommend hunting hogs alone, for it does have its dangers that come along with it. Hunting with others can be a challenge alone though. When to shoot? Which hog do you take and which hog do they take? If it’s dark, how can we be safe enough around each other? Communication. Before ever getting started, figure these things out. Me and my crew have created a good shoot “countdown” that works for us, we know without speaking who is going to shoot what based on how we are positioned. We remain safe by using words once the shooting begins, letting others know our every move.
- Stay in the shadows
Hunting at night gives a lot of people the false impression that they will be invisible to the hogs that they are after. This is untrue by all accounts. Without a good backdrop or very dark shadows, wild hogs can easily spot the silhouette of your body against the night sky, even on the darkest of nights.
Make the first shot count
In most situations, once that first shot rings out, it is an all out fenzy amongst the hogs that are still standing. To maximize your kills, you are going to want to make sure that your first shot drops your target and you don’t have to waste time and ammo on follow up shots. Regardless of the caliber, shooting a hog right behind the ear seems to do the trick.
Check your map
Always be mindful of your surroundings. Aerial view maps are a huge tool in learning about what is around you. Google maps offer a satellite view for free, however we like to use OnX Hunt, HuntWise, and BaseMap. Some of these apps offer landowner information. If we are hunting a spot close to houses, we will call the adjacent landowners just to let them know what is going on. I always try to keep in mind that even though we know where we are shooting, they might not. I could imagine it being unnerving to a landowner to see us unloading, setting up, and not knowing whether we are being smart or not. A little peace of mind can go a long way with a landowner, and possibly even lead you to a new property to hunt.
Just like any game animal, over time, you too will develop your very own preferences on hunting hogs. Just as we are doing now, please always remember to share what brings you success so that others can join in on helping us with our one common goal- “Manage the Damage”.
Remember- this is a conservation effort way more than it is a sport.