by Doug Howlett - Monday, February 11, 2013
The availability of specialized firearms, ammunition, gear and even websites and magazines all point to the fact that hog hunting is becoming big business. With rambling hordes of porkers now found in 35 states and with an estimated 2 million in the South alone, the destruction these heavy critters are wreaking across their range is extensive. Hogs uproot crop fields and yards and destroy habitat that must be shared with a broad range of other species including wild turkeys and deer. Worse, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to their spread. Experts believe it is simply a matter of time until hogs are found in every state in the lower 48.
But hunting hogs isn’t simply an exercise in nuisance species management; it’s also darn fun. With virtually no bag limits, year-round hunting and day and night shooting allowed in many areas, hog hunting truly offers 24/7 action—no matter a hunter’s schedule. For traveling hunters, hog hunts are also among the most affordable and the fact that hogs are so tasty, certainly doesn’t hurt either. So where can you find some of the best hog hunting action around? Here are five spots worthy of your precious time and money. If your home state isn't included in this list, go to NRAOutdoors to find plentiful opportunities with reputable outfitters near you.
The South rules when it comes to out-of-control hog populations, and few places can compare to the hunting availability found in the tourist-worthy Sunshine State. The state boasts an estimated half million hogs, so throw a dart at virtually any spot on the map and you can bet the odds of finding excellent hunting for swine will be high. Osceola Outdoors, near the sprawling shores of famed Lake Okeechobee, offers hunters the choice of relaxing and near-guaranteed action hunting over feeders or a more challenging spot-and-stalk experience. Rates begin as low as $200 for a half day of hunting and $250 for a full day. Hog hunting is by far one of the most affordable, outfitted hunt experiences available. Depending on the time of year, you can double it up with a hunt for Osceola wild turkeys, ducks, predators or even alligators.
Florida also boasts ample public land opportunities for hogs with some of the best swine-filled wildlife management areas (WMA) being the Blackwater Hutton Unit, Apalachicola Bradwell Unit, portions of the large Joe Budd, Big Bend Snipe Island and Tide Swamp units, and Triple N Ranch across the northern half of the state. Tosohatchee is counted among the top northern public destinations for hunters interested in chasing hogs with dogs. Southern Florida public hot spots include Green Swamp, which boasts the largest hog harvest each year, Babcock/Webb, J.W. Corbett, Okaloacoochee Slough and Allapattah Flats. Check with the Florida Wildlife Commission’s for information on hog hunting in the state, as well as the availability of Limited Entry/Quota Hunts, which reduce the number of hunters allowed on a public property for a species and make for a better hunting experience.
Populations of hogs in this southern paradise used to be confined to the lower regions of the state, but since the early 1990s, hogs have expanded rapidly across all of Alabama. Top WMA and public areas according to Outdoor Alabama include Freedom Hills, Seven-Mile Island and the northwest corner of Black Warrior in northwestern Alabama; Oakmulgee WMA, Talladega National Forest and Lowndes WMA, which has the most hogs per acre, in the central part of the state; and Upper Delta, Mobile-Tensaw Delta and W.L. Holland WMAs in the southwestern region.
There are a number of outfitters who offer hog hunts at affordable day rates or for extended packages. Some to consider include Great Southern Outdoors, a full-service lodge and hunt outfit that offers hog hunts near Union Springs. Two-day hunts run around $500 and the lodge even offers a special couples hunt with live music and dancing in September. Riverbend Hunting Lodge in Myrtlewood offers hunting along the Tombigbee River from resort-like accommodations, though hunters can choose to RV it there as well for a more independent hunt arrangement. Additional options include Pushmataha Plantation in Lisman, Indian Creek Lodge outside of Greenville and Sawtooth Plantation in southeast Alabama, which offers hunts for wild boars with dogs.
In the state known as a Sportsmen’s Paradise, feral hogs are billed under “outlaw quadrupeds,” along with coyotes and armadillos, by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. They can be hunted year-round, at night on private lands with the appropriate permission and with suppressors (with the proper permits). Like other states, hogs are a growing problem in Louisiana with populations exploding in every parish since the early 1990s. As such, great hunting can be found throughout the state.
Pearl River WMA, a 35,032-acre property interlaced with hardwoods, bayou and marsh, is one of the best public pig destinations in the state. A variety of nut-producing trees such as oaks, hickories and beech provide ample food, while the flat, thickly brushed terrain provides cover for sounders of swine. Where outfitters are concerned, services abound, though many of them angle for the client seeking out a truly giant trophy boar, which translates into a prevalence of preserve-style hunts inside closures. The emphasis here certainly is on trophy caliber hunts, which can be experienced sitting in a stand, hunting over bait, spot-and-stalk or with dogs. Cutter Creek Outfitters and Shallow Lake Hunting Preserve are two of these, with the latter charging only $25 if no hog is taken during the hunt. For a free-range hunt experience, check out Land of Lakes Plantation south of Alexandria.
The Lone Star State remains the top choice among serious hog hunters, with the guys at SHWAT.com (Special Hog Weapons and Tactics) all agreeing that Texas is where they would head if they could only hunt one state for hogs. Contributing writer Brian McCombie likes Shelby County in East Texas, home of the Wild Hog Roundup, an annual spring event that last year awarded $28,000 in cash prizes to the hunters who took the most and largest hogs in a 15 county area. Wulf Outdoor Sports sponsors and coordinates the event. As for public lands in Shelby, there is the Toledo Bend WMA, a 3,600-acre tract.
SHWAT’s Jonathan Owen prefers Wild River Ranch near Victoria Texas, which is owned by serious hog hunter Chris Lucci, a heart doctor and a co-developer of the 6.8 SPC II round for AR-style rifles. Lucci’s outfit centers on high-tech night vision hunts using suppressed rifles. Owen’s other favorite destination is the Spike Box Ranch, which does not have a website, but can be reached by calling 940-867-7735. The Spike Box is a large ranch with a full staff and compliment of services and in all his travels across Texas, he’s seen the most hogs on the Spike Box by far. Another great Texas option is the Nail Ranch outside of Albany, which is loaded with loafing hogs for great feeder and spot-and-stalk action. For more pig worthy destinations in Texas—and other states for that matter—it’s always worth a visit to a hunt booking agency such as Outdoor Adventures Worldwide, which can match your budget and expectations to the best lodge or outfitter for you.
California is one of those rare states that has regulated hog hunting and in the process, monetized it for the increased funding of the game departments management efforts. Without peer in both beauty and adventure in California is the famed Tejon Ranch. Here, stalking wild pigs resembles more of a true big-game hunting adventure than a sit-and-wait setup. An abundance of trophy caliber hogs roam throughout the steep, wooded terrain just over an hour outside of Los Angeles and overlooking the late Buck Owen’s beloved Bakersfield.
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