By Travis Smola
Deer season has mostly ended across the country. We can already hear some of you sighing that your best chances at that big whitetail buck are probably gone for the year. Or maybe you already tagged out like I did. But maybe you feel like you still didn’t get your full hunting season fix.
There is still and endless supply of wild pigs out there and in most places the season is open year-round. Why not take advantage of this additional hunting opportunity? Here are our best tips for success once the cold weather starts to set in.
Don’t just focus on nighttime hunting
In most places in the United States, you can hunt feral hogs in the dead of night, when they’re very active, using thermal or night scopes. That’s how many hunters choose to pursue wild hogs. It’s a proven method of successful harvest, but most veteran hog hunters agree, late winter is a time to be looking at midday hunting, too.
Look for feral pigs to begin moving into feeding areas in daylight more often in the winter months. Some of them get desperate for nutrition this time of year and will break daylight hours when they normally would not.
Most seasoned hunters will agree winter is a good time to pursue a trophy-sized wild boar as they are more likely to throw caution to the wind in search of food, giving you a better chance at bagging a big one.
Zero in on those food sources
It’s true that most big hog hunting states like Texas and Oklahoma don’t get much snow, but the premise of hog hunting in winter is much the same as going after whitetails in a state with heavy snow cover; focus on the food.
Remember that hogs are eating machines and not much is going to stop them from rooting out their next meal. Even in snow, if you live in an area where feral hog populations encounter it. While they will root out natural food items like acorns that are buried if they must, hogs are also lazy.
Again, regarding states like Texas and Oklahoma, where deer baiting is common, those walking slabs of bacon are going to be much more vulnerable to bait the later in the year it is. Especially if your neighbors quit filling their deer feeders once the season ends.
If that’s the case, it makes it easier to hunt hogs, as they will tend to concentrate on the feeders that are still being filled. Just make sure it’s legal to bait them in your state before you do it.
Pattern them on your game camera
Sometimes, hogs will range over huge areas in the winter months and can be a bit harder to find than normal. The good news is their movements are usually fairly predictable. This means you can use a trail camera to figure out their patterns and set up a perfect ambush for that big boar or a sow and her piglets.
Just remember to watch your scent when checking the cameras. Hogs have a keen sense of smell that may be greater than even that of a whitetail. That means you must be extra careful not to overly-contaminate the area before your hunt. We recommend wearing gloves and spraying a little bit of cover scent to mask your presence.
Go in after them (spot and stalk)
Wild hogs love to hang out in dense, brushy areas. Going into these areas in the warmer spring and summer months can be tricky and potentially dangerous because the vegetation conceals the hogs. This is especially true in states like Florida or Louisiana where hogs often have dense, swampy areas to hide.
But in the winter, most of the leaves are off the trees and brush and it makes it harder for any swine to hide from you. That means it’s easier to do a spot and stalk or to even sneak a shot into heavy cover.
Also, sometimes the hogs are ranging over a huge area in search of food in the winter months and the only way to find them is to start walking and look for them. A lack of leaves is going to make that a lot easier.
Alternatively, you could use a quad or UTV to ride around and glass for them. Either way can work. Winter or not, many times you’ve just got to go in and get the hogs instead of waiting for them to come to you.
Watch for changing weather conditions
There are many parallels between deer hunting and hog hunting. Oone of them is that a sudden shift in weather conditions can cause a surge in hog activity at any time of year, not just winter. But if you’ve got an incoming snowstorm, rain or cold front, you’d best be hitting the woods, because they’re more likely to be up and active.
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast through the winter. Time your hunts to coincide with these shifts and you’ll likely be putting some meat in the freezer nearly every time you head out.