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Pigs, Pigs and more Pigs


If ever there were a two edged sword in the world of the outdoors the feral hog is it. These animals are some of the most destructive animals in our ecosystem, doing millions of dollars of damage annually to our forest and fields. Yet they are some of the most fun to hunt.

Farmers all across the southeast have been complaining about the influx of feral hogs for decades now. Some farmers are losing entire fields of corn, millet and oats to their destruction. One farmer in the upstate spends a great deal of time during the growing season chasing hogs out of his fields. Hunting them, chasing with dogs, and even night hunts (with permits) to try and salvage his corn crop. His story is not unlike many others across our state, and many other states.

Pig Damage in Farmers field

Jay Butfiloski, small game and furbearer project leader with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources says. “There is no way to get an accurate population count of feral hogs. We know there is a healthy population in every county and they are wreaking havoc on our ecosystem.”

The issue with feral hogs is they are nondiscriminatory in their diet. They will literally eat anything they can swallow. In areas where there are delicate ecosystems, endangered plants, insects or other animals the feral hog is the greatest threat to these systems.

While hunting alone will not keep the populations under control, they are a challenging quarry, and with no season and no limit, hunters are able to pursue them year around with any weapons on private land. This opens a lot of opportunities for hunters looking for off season action.

The methods of hunting them are similar to deer hunting with one exception, bait is legal for feral hogs all across the state on private lands. While baiting is legal, it is no slam dunk that you will kill pigs over a pile of corn. Pigs are very smart and cunning, they learn quickly that a pile of corn is sure death and will soon change their habits to only visiting the corn at night. This makes hunting them even more challenging. Other methods are to spot and stalk them in their feeding and bedding areas and lastly, the use of well trained dogs to chase and capture them while the hunters move in for dispatching. NOTE: It is illegal in South Carolina to transport feral hogs from a property alive.

Photo by Terry Madewell

Weapons used for deer are suitable for feral hogs. With .30 caliber bullets are larger being preferred. Hogs have very tough skin, and lung shots with smaller bullets leave little to no blood trail and will make finding them difficult. Head shots are preferred to anchor them and eliminate the need for tracking.

Muzzle-loaders  pistols, and archery are all popular choices for hogs. But archers need to be aware of shot placement on hogs. Quartering away shots are really the only acceptable shot to take on hogs of any size; this puts the boradhead behind the grizzled armor plate and into the lungs for a quick clean kill.

Nice big 330 lb hog

Lastly, hogs are great table fare – here is a good place to dispel a myth about big hogs. It has been said by many that a big bore is “rank and not fit to eat.” While I will agree their smell leaves a lot to be desired, the smell is contained to the outside of the pig. I have personally killed, cleaned and eaten many hogs well over 300 lbs and every one of them were great table fare. The big hogs are difficult to clean, but their shoulder roast, and hams are outstanding. Well prepared pork whether wild or tame is a great southern tradition. Feral hogs of any size are great food. Granted, like all animals the smaller ones are a bit tenderer and a bit easier to clean. But that shouldn’t stop hunters from not eating their trophy boar. Having said that, its important to note that when hog hunting, the objective is to kill the pigs, not to be selective for size or gender. Every pig killed is one less we have to worry about competing with our deer, and the bonus is we get to eat them.

If you have the opportunity to hunt feral hogs, don’t pass it up. There are some things that are just plain old fashioned fun, and we do it for the fun of it. Hunting pigs is tops on that list.

Shotguns make great weapons for pigs in thick cover (Photo by Terry Madewell)

There are many commercial operations that cater to those wishing to hunt feral hogs, while this is a great option, keep in mind that on many WMA lands there are special seasons for feral hogs that are in the spring, and summer months. And private lands also have opportunities to hunt them year around.