Depending upon your viewpoint, the wild hog ranks as high as a “beast of venery” … which equaled pursuit of the esteemed red stag by Medieval royalty … to loathed, destructive, costly vermin to be shot on sight and killed by any means possible.
The wild boar remains revered as a top game animal in its original range in Europe and western Asia. It was even imported as a game animal to Australia and to the British Isles. In places like Germany, Hungary, and Poland, hunts for wild boar are conducted by highly respected outfitters with tradition and pageantry to this day. Yet, in much of their North American range, what we know as wild hogs are destructive, prolific nuisance animals. Texas is the epicenter of wild hog overpopulation with increasing tremors widening out across much of the United States and California. The agricultural damage from feral hogs in Texas alone is estimated at more than $50 million each year, with another $7 million spent annually by private landowners in the Lone Star State attempting to control hogs and fix the damage they cause. Across the United States it’s estimated that feral hogs cause more than $1 billion in negative economic impact. Feral hog populations are rapidly increasing and causing problems as far north as Pennsylvania and New York.
This diversity of views of the boar or hog creates an even larger variety of hunting opportunities that are rapidly moving hog hunting up many hunters’ … and outfitters’ … hit parade. The fact that the meat from wild hogs is bountiful and delicious when properly cared for is a bonus that further escalates the popularity of hog hunting wherever they are found.
As more hunters take an interest in pursuing wild boar, more quality outfitters are ramping up their operations to meet the hunting need. OutfittersRating.com is the place to search out highly-rated wild boar and feral hog hunting outfitters and guides.
Wild Boar / Feral Hog Facts
The big question is, “What is the difference between a wild boar and a feral hog?”
The right answer is, “Very little.”
The real Eurasian Pig, often called a “Russian Boar,” is the original hog. It was from these wild lines that pigs were domesticated some 10,000 years ago. The first hogs in North America were brought to Florida in 1539 with the Spaniards. There were no hogs of any kind in North America prior to that introduction. (The javelina or collared peccary of the U.S. desert southwest and Mexico is not a true swine. It is a species unto itself.) Naturally, it wasn’t long until some of these domestic pigs escaped and established themselves as the original wild boar populations in the Americas.
Over the following centuries, especially the 19th and 20th, some true Eurasian Wild Boar were brought into the U.S. at various times by hunting preserves and private landowners to offer for hunting and to revive the “look” of Eurasian boar in their huntable feral hog herds. However, in North America today, all free ranging wild hogs are either generations of domestic pigs reverted to the wild or at most feral hogs hybridized with escaped Eurasian boar.
After only a generation or two in the wild, domestic hogs regain many traits of their ancestors including longer hair and protruding tusks. This is why it is possible to see wild boar in North America in nearly any color and spot pattern common to domestic hogs as well as animals that look very “Russian.” The true Eurasian Wild Boar has longer straight hair and is uniformly colored in dark brown trending toward black.
In feral hogs in North America, average weights vary between 75 and 250 pounds at maturity. Hunters and trappers occasionally take 300 pounders or slightly bigger pigs in optimal habitat conditions. Feral hogs of 500 pounds or more sometimes make the front page of local newspapers, but they are exceedingly rare.
Eurasian boar in their home ranges average between 100-200 pounds at maturity, though seem to vary nearly as widely in size as their North American cousins. Generally speaking, they are larger-bodied the farther they are from the equator in either direction. This is a common trait among animals that live over a great north/south range. Consider the white-tailed deer. In the northern hemisphere southern subspecies are smaller-bodied and northern subspecies are larger. Among zoologists it’s called Bergmann’s Rule.
Hog populations can grow so rapidly that there’s an urban legend type belief among some that “they are born pregnant.” That’s not the case, but they are among the most prolific animals on the face of the earth. Sows average 1.5 litters per year … and since that’s an average it means some have even more! Average litter size is six piglets. Sows generally have their first litter at just over a year of age, but they can be sexually mature at six to eight months of age or even less. Because of their proclivity for proliferation, some studies in Texas have shown that the huge population there (estimated at nearly 3 million feral hogs) could double in just more than five years!
Eurasian Wild Boar populations are also growing in much of their original and reestablished range. In Germany, for example, there are reports that average litters are getting bigger and that the animals are far more common in suburban and even urban environments. Large and growing populations are also found in Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
Wild boar and feral hogs are opportunistic omnivores which is a fancy way of saying they’ll eat about anything they can find when they can find it, including carrion. It’s estimated that, in general, about 80 percent of their diet is plant material and 20 percent is animal matter. The animal matter can be anything they can catch, corner or find dead.
Feral hogs and wild boar have a superbly developed sense of smell which can detect preferred food sources even several feet below the ground. Their sense of smell is also their Number One defense against predators including human hunters. They can also hear and interpret sound well, so quiet stalking is essential. Their least developed sense is sight, so it’s possible to get away with some movement in stalking hogs … sometimes.
Wild Boar and Feral Hog Hunting
Particularly in Europe, the wild boar remains highly regarded as a game animal. A large boar is considered a top trophy among traditional hunters. Hunts in countries like Germany, France, Hungary, and more are conducted with great pomp, circumstance, and reverence to the game. Most of the hunting is done in large, communal driven hunts in which beaters are employed in the effort to push the boar past the waiting guns. Hunters are encouraged to shoot as many boar as possible as the harvest is shared or sold in the community. In this type of hunting, shots are commonly taken at animals on the move.
The other traditional European type of boar hunting is to wait in elevated stands for the animals to travel established trails to feeding areas. Much of this hunting is done on properties managed to maximize production of game, especially boar. Frequently these are multi-species hunts in which the hunter may also have the opportunity to take anything from boar, stags, and roe deer to European hare. It was this type of hunting that spawned the drilling style of combination rifles/shotguns.
Hunting hogs in North America these days is a comparative free-for-all! Hogs are hunted by baiting, chasing with hounds, stand-sitting, spot-and-stalk, incidental to other game, spot-lighting, and, now, even by gunning from helicopters. Most states have liberalized or even eliminated seasons and bag limits on feral hogs. A great benefit of this is freedom to hunt hogs when other game seasons are closed and to pursue them with hunting tools of your choice including rifles, handguns, muzzleloaders, shotgun slugs, bows, crossbows, etc. … even air guns, which are gaining popularity as a challenging, close-range, one-shot, hog hunting tool.
Pursued as much as they are by humans these days, feral hogs have adapted by becoming extremely wary and nocturnal. Combined with their incredible sense of smell, this wariness makes the lowly feral hog a highly challenging and rewarding game animal.
Additionally, hogs are tough, tenacious animals. Both original wild boar and boars from feral lines of a couple generations or older have a thick, cartilaginous shield beneath their hide covering approximately the front third of their bodies. This is an evolutionary defense developed to shield the boar’s vitals from the vicious tusks of other boars during their frequent fights for mates. Yet it works pretty well against bullets and arrows, too. Most rifle bullets will easily penetrate the shield on one side and reach the vitals, but frequently will not exit through the offside shield. This can be a problem if the boar does not drop on the spot, because there will be little to no blood trail to aid in recovery. It’s essential that bow hunters wait for a proper quartering away shot to slip the arrow behind the back edge of the shield and forward into the vitals. A classic broadside shot will usually see the arrow stopped short of the vitals by the thick shield.
Though wild boar and feral hogs are conditioned to avoid humans, they will fight when cornered and their tusks are razor sharp. They can inflict serious injuries to dogs that have them bayed and/or human hunters who get too close. However, for some hunters that danger is part of the rush of hunting feral hogs. One increasingly common hunting method is for a dog or dogs to bay the hog. When the human hunters arrive one gets into position behind the hog waiting for the opportunity to grab the boar’s hind legs while the dogs keep the tusks trained on themselves. By getting the hogs’ hind legs off the ground – wheel barrow style – the hunter can safely control the animal. Then a hunting partner either finishes off the hog with a large knife or, sometimes, castrates the animal for release. This, obviously, prevents the boar from reproducing and allows it to grow larger than an intact boar and with much finer quality meat for harvest later.
Another hunting method recently legalized in Texas is called heli-hogging. It is locating and shooting hogs from an open-door helicopter. Combined with the exponentially growing interest in AR platform types of rifles, heli-hogging’s introduction has seen an explosion of interest with well-equipped outfitters enjoying waiting lists for hunts that are months, even years long.