Thursday, January 7, 2010
Winter Tips for Wild Hogs
The days for chasing deer are dwindling down. Alas. The bells toll for deer season throughout much of the country by late January, and the dreariness of winter hides the promise of Spring Turkey. Nothing left but football and NASCAR.
Not so fast.
Wild hogs - plentiful in many parts of the country and sneaking into others with each passing day - are a year-round hunting opportunity. And, man, do I enjoy hunting them this time of the year. Whether you are seeking a fatty for the freezer or that big boar for the wall, December, January, and February are my favorite months for popping a pig here in Florida.
So if you just can’t stand staying inside watching the playoffs in the coming weeks, here are some tips for finding some pigskin of your own.
1. Follow the food – hogs will eat anything, but by this time of year, most of the acorns are off the ground and once-lush oak hammocks are all but barren of food. It’s now when they ramp up their rooting activities, working over ditches, creek bottoms, and wet-weather ponds seeking anything edible. The reason for this is simple – these places capture moisture which in turn produces new-growth plant life and attracts insects and grubs. In addition, these spots collect berries and acorns that have been washed here by previous rains. Palmetto patches, while tougher to hunt, offer a similar buffet of groceries. Of course, if you have a magical tree that slings little yellow acorns, that much better.
2. Stay on the move – since there is no real obvious concentration of food, stay mobile. The weather is nice so you won’t sweat to death, and hogs are apt to move throughout the day for similar reasons. Next, with all the leaves off the trees, still-hunting through fall’s impenetrable swamps is much easier, and the hogs will still hole up here.
3. Avoid full moons – this is a general hog hunting rule for me anyhow. For some reason, I’ve had no luck at all this time of the month. Maybe others have, but I’d schedule a different date if I were you.
4. Hunt fronts – hogs are active all times of the day before and after a front blows through. A light rain is perfect to get them on their feet and feeding. Now, if it’s too windy, you are better off staying in camp, but a drizzle and drop in temp is a good recipe for putting one on the ground.
5. Take advantage of small game hunts – most FL WMA’s will offer small game hunts with hogs on the menu. They usually allow only shotguns or rimfires. OO Buckshot works – not my favorite, but it will – but slugs are the way to go here (check individual WMA regs.) Or if you are feeling spunky, I’ve put down more than one hog with a .22LR or .22 Mag. This is also a fine opportunity for archery hunting practice.
6. Plan for next year – The FWC and Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swift Mud) offer hog hunts throughout the year for winter hunts. Sometimes they are still hunts, other times it’s for those who run dogs. Either way, keep an eye out!
7. Hold out for that boar – my best boars have come during the winter. As mentioned above, their Eden-like swamp strongholds tend to be barren so boars will wander farther and more often for food and females. This is their most vulnerable time of the year, in my opinion - kind of a hog rut, you could say. If you’re trophy hunting, it may be worth letting the little ones work under a feeder for a while longer and wait for Mr. Grinnin’ Lips to sidle on in.
Hog hunting is a great deal of fun in the winter and they can be hunted in a variety of ways. If anyone else has some tips, please feel free to leave a few!!!