By: Josh Shaffer
Do you have cabin fever yet? The late winter months can be tough for hunters throughout the U.S. The onset of winter weather gets us thinking intensively about the upcoming fishing and hunting seasons that seem so far off in the distance. So what is a hunter to do when the snow is stacked deep outside and you still have the itch to hunt something? Well, one of your opinions is to pack up your vehicle and point it south towards the woods of the southern states in which wild pigs call home. That's what I decided to do a few years ago....
My good buddy Nathan has lived in the suburbs of South Carolina for several years and he’s brought his fair share of pigs out of the timber ultimately endingup in his backyard smoker. So in February 2014, I figured I give hog hunting a try myself. So my trip began by packing my family in the car along with my good cousin Shawn in the wee hours of the morning and we were south bound. Our plan was to visit with our friends for a few days and sneak a few pig hunts in during the morning and evening hours.
Thanks to Nathan our bait piles were set a few days before our arrival and the trail cameras revealed that there were several pigs around. With the purchase of our 3-day hunting license and a quick equipment check: It was go time!
The first day was slow, but we did see a few fleeting images of hogs scattering among the timber and palmetto. We didn’t get any opportunities on day 1, but it was a welcome change as we were bow hunting in 55 degree weather with a slight breeze while it was single digit weather at home in the north. With day 1 resulting in a few hog sightings, we had high hopes for day 2. We set out that morning en route to our stand locations, but despite our efforts we didn’t end up getting within range of any hogs. During the middle of the day, my local pig guide (Nathan) got called out to work and informed Shawn and I that we’d be on our own for the evening hunt. No problem right? We are both seasoned hunters…...what’s Nathan worried about? His parting words were "make sure you don’t shoot any pigs while on the ground, you might get charged.” We nodded in acceptance and told him we’d catch up later. Shawn and I started into the timber weaving through the palmetto. We got within about a 100 yards from our stand locations when we heard a large amount of rustling and snorting behind a large dirt mound up in a thick draw. At this point I was in the lead and closing the gap to our stand locations when all of a sudden a dark black hog spit out of the small draw and was heading our way at an angle. I looked back at Shawn in disbelief and whispered to him, “What should we do?”. I think he was just as befuddled as I was…. We concurred that I’d take a shot if one presented itself. At approximately 24 yards the hog slowed its pace and I drew back while quickly finding my mark. I squeezed my shoulders together and my Tru-ball released the D-loop sending a Montec tipped Beaman carbon down range. It was a solid hit and the hog was off into the timber directly away from our location. I was in disbelief! We actually connected! In excitement I sent Nathan a text recap of the events that had just unfolded. He then proceeded to scolding me (in good spirit nonetheless) due to the fact that I’d ignored his previous advice about shooting from the ground. It had all happened so fast that I hadn't given it much thought. I guess I got lucky. Anyway, the trip was short, but we did end up putting one hog in the freezer that trip. It was a perfect trip to spend some time afield to hone your hunting skills in the off-season.
In the winter of 2015, we did a repeat of the previous year’s trip and headed to South Carolina again for a 4 day adventure in hopes of putting some pork chops in the deep freeze. Shawn and I traveled separately and got there the day after our friends Mark and Todd had arrived. This meant that we’d have 4 archery hunters afield which I thought meant pretty good odds at someone getting a shot at something. That was the case indeed as on day 1 Mark had a good run-in with a female hog that wouldn’t cooperate for him and when she finally gave him a shot opportunity some branches decided to get in the way of the arrow flight and the arrow sailed off course and away from the lucky pig.
On day 2 we ended up setting up relatively close to that same location and with hog sign in the area we new it would be a matter of time before we spotted them. As luck would have it, I spotted a nice looking hog that looked very similar to the one I’d harvested in the year before. He was on the other side of a linear pond at 75 yards and snorting like crazy in search of what I can assume was a female pig in heat. With no other options and out of bow range, I just watched him cruise out of sight deeper into the timber. Day 3 had us headed to a different timber stand that allowed rifle hunting for pigs during this time of year. Needless to say I was excited! So with our Pennsylvania deer rifles in hand we were off in search of fresh pig sign! Much to our dismay, we traipsed all over the ocean front timber and whilst we found lots of deer sign and pig sign, we didn’t have a good open sighting of a hog to put in our cross hairs. Overall it was a great trip with great weather and even though we didn’t get meat for the freezer, it was a good trip of fellowship and enjoying wonderful weather in the southern woods.
So with 2 pig hunts under my belt here is what I’ve learned.
- Pigs can be very noisy in the timber, especially when in groups bunched up (collectively called a “drift or herd”)
- Pigs have a very keen sense of smell and high caution should be taken just the same a whitetail hunting (maybe even more so)
- Having a bait site is NOT a guarantee to always getting you a shot. Pigs can be very nocturnal and stick to night movements
- Pig hide is very tough. I was amazed at the thickness of their hide when I butchered my pig in 2014. I was very happy that I was shooting my tough fixed blade broad heads and not mechanical heads.
- Hunting from the ground can be dangerous and you should proceed with caution. We've all seen the youtube videos of hog hunts.....enough said.
So in closing, I am of the opinion that winter time pig hunting in the south can be an awesome break from the winter doldrums in the north. With very liberal or no closed seasons and no bag limits, many southern states offer anyone a good chance at honing their hunting skills and good meat opportunities in the off-season. If you have thought about a winter time pig hunt, you’d be surprise at how affordable the trip can be. Especially with the price of fuel as cheap as it is and the fact that some states don’t even require a license to hunt for pigs only. This just might be your year to head out for some pork chops for your freezer!
If you head out on a pig adventure, I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions. Leave a comment in the box below.
Thanks for stopping by.