As a lifelong hunter, I’ve had the pleasure of pursuing all kinds of game, from whitetail deer to elk and everything in between. But without a doubt, one of the most exhilarating hunts I’ve been on is bowhunting for wild hogs. Now, when I tell my non-hunting friends that I hunt hogs, they usually give me a funny look. “Hogs? You mean like pigs?” Yes, exactly! Feral hogs, to be specific. And let me tell you, hunting these tough animals with archery gear is an absolute blast.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know as a beginner hog hunter with a bow, from crucial gear and tactics to vital tips and tricks I’ve learned from years in the field. Strap in and get ready for the thrill ride that is bowhunting hogs!
- Hog hunting with a bow provides an exciting, challenging hunt that helps control invasive feral pig populations.
- Proper preparation and scouting are essential to locate hogs and set up effective ambush sites.
- Understanding hog anatomy and shot placement is key for ethical, efficient kills.
- Scent control, wind awareness, patience and persistence lead to success.
- Specialized archery equipment like cut-on-contact broadheads and heavy arrows optimize penetration.
- Safety is paramount – hogs can be aggressive; hunting with a partner provides backup.
One of the first steps in preparing for a hog hunt is making sure you have the right bow for the job. Hogs have very tough hide and bone structure, so you’ll need a bow that can drive an arrow through a hog’s vitals with authority. Here are some top bow options for hog hunting:
The go-to choice for most hog hunters is a modern compound bow set up with a minimum of 50 lbs draw weight, though 60-70 lbs is better. Compounds offer the power and accuracy needed to hit a hog’s vitals from moderate distances, along with let-off that helps prevent fatigue during long sits. A longer axel-to-axel length adds stability and forgiveness.
Top-end flagship compound bows from companies like Mathews, Hoyt, and Bowtech excel, but even budget-friendly models can get the job done in capable hands. Make sure to use a release and get the bow properly tuned with a drop-away rest, quality arrows, and fixed-blade broadheads (more on that later).
Crossbows are another excellent option, combining the accuracy of a rifle with the up-close excitement of archery. Many states allow crossbows during archery season, which gives hunters more opportunities to hunt hogs.
Look for a crossbow with at least 150 lbs draw weight, a narrow limb profile, and a quality scope. The rigidity of a crossbow makes precise shot placement easier compared to vertical bows. The ability to stay at full draw indefinitely without fatiguing is a bonus. Just be aware that crossbows have less penetration power than an equivalent compound bow.
For the ultimate challenge, try taking a hog with a stick-and-string recurve or longbow! This traditional style of archery relies totally on your form and shooting ability to drive the arrow home.
Focus on recurves and longbows in the 40-60 lb range, which allows reasonable draw weights while maintaining enough power. Be prepared to get very close, as effective shots max out around 20 yards. Penetration can be an issue, so choose sturdy cedar or carbon arrows and sharpen your two-blade broadheads religiously.
Traditional archery isn’t for everyone, but the satisfaction of arrowing a hog with your recurve is truly rewarding. Just make sure to practice until you can confidently hit targets out to 30 yards.
Alright, you’ve got your bow – now it’s time to put together a game plan and get out in the field after hogs. Unlike deer that stick to patterns and established trails, hogs tend to move more randomly and can be harder to pattern. Here are some of the best ways to find and get in range of hogs with archery gear:
A spot-and-stalk technique is effective for bowhunters in open terrain or agricultural areas. Make use of binoculars and/or spotting scopes to locate groups of hogs from a distance in fields or clearings. Then, use available cover to sneak into range undetected.
Move slowly and pause frequently to scan ahead. Use terrain features, brush and tree lines to break up your silhouette as you creep in closer. With any luck, you’ll be able to get within 30 yards or less for a clear broadside or quartering-away shot.
Hogs need to drink regularly, so setting up near rivers, creeks, ponds and other water sources is a smart play. Focus on trails leading from bedding areas to water. Position yourself 20-30 yards downwind of the trail and wait for hogs to pass by.
During dry periods, the area right around a water source can also be productive. Set up on the downwind side and you might catch a group of hogs coming in for an afternoon drink.
Following their nose to food sources is what hogs do best. Scout for areas where they’re feeding – crops like soybeans or corn, mast in the forest, etc. Then, set up downwind to intercept them traveling to and from feed.
Baiting hogs is legal in many states, so this can be an effective tactic. Establish a bait station away from pressure and allow the hogs to acclimate. Then hunt from an elevated vantage point or ground blind on the downwind side. Just be sure to check your local regulations first.
Another option is to go right to the source – their bedding areas. Hogs will bed down in thick brush and vegetation during the day when not actively feeding. Locate these areas through scouting and set up your ambush downwind.
The ideal ambush site may take some work to access without leaving scent or making noise but can pay off when the whole group returns to bed. Take care not to bump them on your approach.
Hogs love to wallow in mud to stay cool and avoid bugs. These wallow spots are like magnets during the warmer months. Look for hog tracks and pierced up mud that indicates a well-used wallow.
Set up 20-30 yards away and downwind of the wallow and wait for hogs to arrive. They may show up suddenly in the middle of the day when you least expect it.
Understanding what’s inside a hog and how it’s likely to react when threatened is vital to your success as a hog hunter. Here’s a quick crash course on hog anatomy and behavior:
A hog’s vitals sit farther forward in the chest cavity compared to deer. The heart and lungs are located more center mass just behind the front legs.
Ideal shot placement is broadside through the shoulder and chest cavity, aiming behind the shoulder but as far forward in the body as possible.
This will drive your arrow through the vitals for maximum damage and a quick, ethical kill.
Avoid straight on head and neck shots – their skull plate and thick hide can cause poor penetration. Quartering away shots are also effective.
Hogs have a phenomenal sense of smell, hearing and taste, but terrible eyesight. Their wide field of vision compensates somewhat for their poor vision.
This means your scent control and stealth needs to be on-point to avoid getting busted. But they likely won’t see you draw at 30 yards if you’re quiet and move slowly.
Compared to deer, hogs tend to be more aggressive when threatened. Sows with piglets are especially protective.
The pugnacious nature of boars also makes them prone to charging when wounded. So precise shot placement is critical, as is following up carefully on the blood trail until you recover him.
Always keep your wits about you on a hog hunt. Don’t take them lightly or assume a hog is down for good – stay focused.
Chasing wild hogs with archery gear is incredibly exciting, but also comes with serious risks. As with any hunt, safety needs to be your top priority. Here are some key tips:
- Never hunt hogs alone – Having a partner provides backup and can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
- Carry a sidearm like a powerful pistol or shotgun in case you need to finish off an aggressive wounded hog in self-defense. Keep it easily accessible.
- Wear tough cut-resistant leg protection in case a tusky boar decides to charge and cut. Leather boots help too.
- Climb a tree if charged – hogs typically can’t climb after you. Be ready to shoot if needed.
- Avoid close quarters when tracking a wounded hog – give them space in thick brush and use binoculars to observe first.
- Tell someone your hunting location and when you plan to return.
- Keep your hog hunting license and tags on your person at all times.
- Know local hog hunting regulations – some areas prohibit baiting or night hunting, require blaze orange, etc.
Staying safe starts before you ever set foot in the woods. Making smart decisions will keep you hunting hogs for years to come.
Unlike charismatic game animals like deer, elk and turkey that have carefully managed seasons, in many states hogs are considered an exotic nuisance species with minimal regulations.
However, you still need to research and follow the hog hunting laws for your specific area. Here are some common hog hunting regs:
- Licenses – Most states require a general hunting license, some need a special hog permit.
- Tags – Depending on the state, you may need hog tags, report harvested hogs, or kill as many as you want.
- Seasons – Often open year-round, but some states have specific hog archery seasons to be aware of.
- Baiting – Baiting hogs is legal in some states, but prohibited in others so check first.
- Night hunting – In Texas, spotlighting hogs at night is allowed. Other states restrict night hunting.
- Public land – Public land hog hunting may have special rules like only allowing air rifles or pistols.
Don’t assume it’s a lawless free-for-all. Do your due diligence and hunt hogs legally according to local regulations. Responsible hunting maintains critical access to public lands.
Alright, let’s get into the gear you’ll need to maximize your success and safety when bowhunting hogs. I’ll break it down into essential archery equipment, clothing, and other accessories:
- Bow – A powerful compound, crossbow or recurve/longbow as discussed earlier. Well maintained and sighted-in.
- Broadheads – Fixed blade broadheads with at least 1 1/8″ cutting diameter to cause maximum internal damage. Many hog hunters use cut-on-contact heads.
- Arrows – Durable carbon or aluminum arrows spined correctly for your bow. Add weight up front for FOC. Use a quality arrow rest.
- Accessories – Quality bowstring, peep sight, release, stabilizer, armguard – the standard accessories for accurate, forgiving shots.
- Rangefinder – Essential for judging distances when spot-and-stalking across open terrain at hogs.
- ** Binoculars /Spotting Scope** – For locating and stalking hogs at a distance. Tripod-mounted spotting scopes excel for open country hog hunting.
- Tracking gear – Bright fletching, hog tracking arrow, quality blood trailing light. You need to be prepared to track hogs effectively after the shot. Don’t take blood trails for granted.
- Camo – Opt for full camo coverage in a pattern that matches your environment. Facemask/face paint to conceal exposed skin.
- Boots – Rugged, quiet, waterproof boots with ankle support. Snake protection is a bonus.
- Safety vest – Blaze orange vest and/or hat during rifle seasons for visibility.
- Thermals – Effective camo layers and thermals to stay warm during cold weather sits.
- Pack – Backpack to carry gear, water, extra clothing and any hog meat for hauling out.
- Knives – Quality fixed-blade knife and folding pocket knife for field dressing hogs. Sharp!
- Day pack – Smaller pack for keeping essentials handy like flashlight, knife, ammo, etc.
- Sidearm – Powerful pistol or shotgun as back-up protection from dangerous hogs.
- Two-way radios – For maintaining contact with your hunting partner in thick brush.
- Cell phone – Emergency communication and can help locate your GPS position if needed.
Wild hogs live across 35-40 states, so you’ve got plenty of options when choosing where to hunt. Here are some of the top states and hunting spots to target:
The Lone Star State is hog central, with an estimated 2.6 million feral hogs roaming the landscape. Both private ranches and public lands offer fantastic bowhunting.
Public lands like Sam Houston National Forest, Davy Crockett National Forest, and the Richland Creek, Alabama Creek, and Gus Engeling WMAs are packed with hogs and available over-the-counter.
South Texas is world-famous, where you can spot and stalk hogs in the brush or hunt them over feeders. Guided hunts go year-round and success rates are excellent.
Between the swamps and palmetto thickets, Florida is prime habitat for wild hogs. Pursue them on both public and private land.
The Apalachicola and Osceola National Forests provide accessible public land hog hunting and you can also apply for quota permit hunts through Florida FWC.
Central Florida and south through the Everglades region harbor lots of hogs, with guided hunts available on private ranches.
Out west, California boasts a thriving and still-growing population of wild pigs, mostly centered in the coastal and central regions. Both private and public opportunities exist.
For DIY hunting, look at areas like the Mendocino National Forest and Tehama Wildlife Area. Fort Hunter-Liggett offers periodic hog hunts to the public as well.
Guided hunts on private land are available, especially in Monterey County and surrounding areas.
These southern states have healthy hog numbers, especially in the more rual, forested portions.
Public lands like Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, Alabama’s Bankhead National Forest or Skyline WMA, North Carolina/Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest are great starting points for DIY bowhunters.
No matter where you live across the hog range, opportunities exist with a bit of research and legwork. Hunting hogs is a coast-to-coast adventure!
Preparing for a hog hunt takes more than just grabbing your bow and heading to the woods. Here is a systematic approach:
Locating where hogs are active is priority one. Use aerial imagery and maps to identify potential habitat – thick cover, agriculture, wetlands. Then, get boots on the ground to confirm hog sign like wallows, rubs, tracks and scat. Trail cameras also help pattern movements and hot spots.
Be confident you can consistently hit what you’re aiming at under pressure. Sight-in your bow dead-on at multiple realistic distances. Sharpen your broadheads until they shave hair. Make sure your arrows are spined correctly and all your accessories are in top shape.
Hog hunting demands endurance. You may need to take long shots or track hogs for miles after the hit. Get in hiking shape and practice shooting when winded and from awkward positions. Building upper body strength also helps manage heavy draw weights when fatigued.
Monitor the weather forecast closely. The barometer, wind direction, temperature and precipitation all impact hog movement. You want to time your hunts with the most favorable conditions.
Whether using maps, GPS, or smartphone apps, make sure your navigation abilities are sharp before heading out. Knowing how to stay oriented in remote areas could save your life.
Review safe gun handling, first aid basics and emergency/survival procedures. Carry a first aid kit and emergency supplies like fire starter. File a hunting plan with someone reliable.
With thorough preparation and planning, you’ll be ready to capitalize when that big boar gives you an opportunity.
When it’s finally time to get after the hogs, these proven techniques will help lead you to success. I’ve used them all successfully through the years:
Your odor, noise, movement – hogs will detect anything out of place in a heartbeat. Scent control is mission critical – I use a three-step system of showering with scent-free soap, spraying down with a high-end odor eliminator spray, and storing clothes in a sealed bin with ozone disks or scent absorbing packs.
Ease through the woods slowly, stop frequently, and tread lightly. Play the wind and approach from downwind if possible. Use terrain masking and natural screens like brush, rocks and ridge lines to break up your silhouette.
Avoid stepping on dry leaves and sticks that can telegraph sound. Rubber boots help deaden noise. And wear a facemask and gloves to hide exposed skin that hogs can detect.
With hogs, you simply can’t be too cautious, quiet or scent-free when moving into shooting range. Their senses will bust you if you aren’t diligent about stealth.
Calling can draw curious and competitive hogs to you. Start by learning their basic communication sounds:
- Feed call – Simulates contented feeding noises of a hog. Attracts others to an easy meal.
- Distress call – Imitates the shriek of an injured hog. Triggers protective and territorial responses.
- Fight call – Recreates the sounds of hogs fighting over mates or pecking order, enticing rivals.
- Sow in heat call – Gets a boar’s attention for breeding opportunities. Less effective during low-hormone times of year.
I recommend Primos Hog Grunter calls – they accurately mimic all the vital hog vocalizations for drawing hogs in. Practice until sounding realistic.
Baiting hogs is legal and effective in many states. It gives you time to pattern hogs coming to feed and set up accordingly. Dried corn is a favorite, but you can also use soured grain, fruits, nuts or shredded sugar beets. Always check regulations first.
Establish bait sites at least a month before hunting season to get hogs accustomed to frequent visits. Position stand/blind 10-20 yards downwind of pile. Refresh bait 1-2 weeks into season to keep hogs coming.
Some days the action is steady, while others require patience. Avoid constantly moving spots – stay put for 4+ hours minimum, all day during the rut.
Bring snacks, water, field guides or a book to pass time in comfort. Silently range landmarks to refine distances whenever hogs appear. Be ready for sudden action.
While stands and blinds work well for hogs, don’t be afraid to still hunt and stalk them. Their random patterns lend themselves to spot-and-stalk.
Use terrain to conceal your movements. Pause frequently to scan and listen. Divert downwind if needed to intersect predicted travel routes. Remain motionless when hogs are close.
Here are some additional pro tips and tactics I’ve picked up over the years specifically for bowhunting hogs:
- Hogs don’t look up. Elevated stands let you draw undetected. Go as high as possible.
- Night vision and thermal optics are game-changers. Much of the best hog activity happens after dark. Check regulations.
- Shoot pigs first when you encounter a mix of sows and juveniles. This prevents alarming the group before you can shoot the most.
- Toxic broadheads coat blades with hog-harming chemicals for increased deadliness. Look for broadheads specially designed for hogs.
- During the peak rut in late winter, calling aggressively can lure lovesick boars to brawl or breed.
- Focus on transition zones like funnels between bedding areas and agricultural fields. Natural pinch points where hogs are likely to travel through.
- In open terrain, use spot-and-stalk tactics. Belly crawl, use available cover, and stop frequently.
- Cold weather brings hungry hogs to full feed. Food plots and bait piles should be go-to ambush sites.
- Use treestand lock-on steps coated with PVC or rubber for silent, scent-free access. Check for creaks and squeaks.
- Target lone boars that let down their guard more easily. Dominant alpha hogs are creatures of habit traveling the same routes.
- After the shot, give hogs time before trailing – even well-hit they can go farther than you expect. Wait 30-60 minutes before blood trailing unless you clearly saw them go down.
As you gain experience and learn hog behaviors, you’ll develop your own tricks for getting within bow range. Stay adaptable and think like a hog!
As you can see, bowhunting for wild hogs is an incredibly exciting, challenging and rewarding pursuit for diehard archers. When done ethically and legally, it provides awesome big game opportunities while helping control destructive hog populations.
I hope this guide gives you a great foundation of knowledge to get started hog hunting with archery gear. Just be sure to apply the tips and techniques properly, choose your shots wisely, and follow up every hit aggressively.
Trust me, once you’ve outsmarted and arrowed your first hog, you’ll be hooked! Now get out there, practice hard and experience the thrill of bowhunting hogs for yourself. Let me know how your hunts go!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.