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Matching wits with the toughest game animal in Alabama

Game camera captures a group of feral hods in west Autauga County.

Bristling with razor sharp tusks and protected by a tough hide covering thick hardened scar tissue, a big, ornery boar makes a fearsome adversary.

“The largest hog that I have ever seen was probably a little over 300 pounds,” says Matt Brock, an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist. “I’ve heard of people who claimed to have killed 400- to 500-pound hogs. I know such hogs do exist, but any boar that’s 300 pounds or more is an extremely large pig. Most will be between 200 and 275 pounds.”

Fearing nothing, feral pigs offer extremely challenging hunting. Hogs can’t see very well, but they can instantly notice movement. With their incredible noses, they can detect danger from a distance.

“Hogs are adaptable and learn very quickly,” Brock says. “They can be difficult to hunt. If they smell a human, they react quickly. They learn to avoid areas where they have conflict with people, but their weakness is food. They are enslaved by their stomachs.”

Omnivorous hogs eat almost anything including nuts, fruits, roots, berries, bulbs, mushrooms, insects, invertebrates, even carrion. Most people hunt hogs from stands overlooking food plots or natural nutrition sources. Look for pigs to come out at first or last light to feed around field edges.

“On public land, people need to find food sources,” says Barry Estes with Alabama Hog Control in Prattville. “Pigs love white oak acorns and swamp chestnuts, but by December, most of the acorns are gone. In the winter, hogs don’t have much to eat and there isn’t much green food available except for planted food plots. Now it’s legal to bait for hogs so that will help get them in at certain times.”

In 2019, the state passed a new law that allows people to hunt feral hogs and white-tailed deer over bait on private property if they buy a baiting license. Many people use spin feeders that fling corn or other tidbits in all directions at predetermined times. Pigs quickly learn to associate feeder sounds with food, so they frequently come running when the spinner goes off. 

“All hunters wishing to hunt over bait must purchase the baiting privilege license,” says Chuck Sykes, the AWFFD director. “This includes even all hunters historically exempt from purchasing a hunting license. Baiting on public lands remains illegal for both deer and hogs. Also, it is still illegal to hunt any other wildlife other than deer or hogs with the aid of bait.”

Estes also suggests using a “pig pipe” to bring hogs into range. Take a length of PVC pipe, cap one end and drill holes into it big enough to barely let corn kernels out. Add a screw cap to the other end so the sportsmen can keep refilling the pipe with more bait. Then, place it in a likely area where pigs will find it.

“A pig pipe keeps hogs around longer because it takes them three or four hours to empty the pipe,” Estes says. “They’ll roll that sucker around all over the place.”

A big pig can take considerable punishment, so many hunters use large caliber, high-velocity rifles firing full-metal jacketed rounds or shotguns loaded with 00 buckshot.

Some sportsmen hunt hogs without guns. They follow chase dogs trained to find and bay pigs. Once the chase dogs corner a pig, the hunters release a catch dog, usually a tough pit bull that grabs the hog’s ear, nose or another vital organ and holds it until a hunter can kill the beast with a knife. From May 1 through Aug. 31 each year, sportsmen can use dogs to hunt hogs at night on private property, but they cannot use firearms to kill hogs after dark without a permit.

Some of the best hog hunting occurs in late winter or early spring after most of the foliage disappeared, giving hunters better visibility. In addition, hogs move around more at that time to look for food.

On private land, people can shoot pigs all year long without limit. Since hogs eat so much and cause such damage, many landowners welcome hunters who want to kill hogs on their properties. Most wildlife management areas allow sportsmen to kill hogs during any open hunting season with weapons legal for that game animal. Some wildlife management areas offer special hog seasons.