Big Boar Bag Of Tricks
- Michael Carter
Bagging a trophy boar is the thrill of a lifetime. Although the bigger they are, the harder they can be to fall. Hogs don't get trophy-size status by being dumb. They've got more than a few survival tricks up their pig sleeves, but serious hog hunter's have been known to sport a few tricks as well. At the end of the hunt, it’s the do’s and the don’ts that equate to a hunter’s success.
Entering The Kill Zone
So you've been absent from your hunting grounds for awhile and you've finally got the boss off your back long enough to sneak into the woods for a hog hunt. Soon after entering your area, natural curiosity sets in. It tells you to go check the game camera for pics, look around for fresh tracks, rooting, and wallows. It's time to get your hunt on! No, actually,…it's not. Like Frankie says…"Relax, don't do it."
If there is fresh sign in the area, (and hopefully lots of pictures to boot), more than likely the reason those things are there is because you haven't been. There might be numerous hogs circling, feeding, mating and generally doing all sorts of nasty little piggy things in your area, but if you were there, odds are they would be doing those things elsewhere. You're not really doing yourself any favors by entering a fresh area and leaving scent on the ground, making noise, pulling SD cards, etc. What you're actually doing is reducing the odds of connecting with that big wary boar. The big guys aren’t dumb. Simply enter your ambush area as quietly as you can, and wait for the action to unfold. Less is more in this case. Don't stink up the joint!
Now, when your hunt is over, that's the time to look for fresh tracks, sign, and pull your camera cards. You're on your way out of the woods anyway and there is no hunt to be tainted. Save the investigation for the end of the hunt.
A successful hunting area is more about the unhunted land, than the hunted. All wildlife, especially pigs, search out sanctuary areas. Areas where they are rarely, if ever, disturbed. Think about it. How likely would you be to stay in your house if every week you came home and an intruder had been there? Not likely…
I use an 80/20 rule. That is, no matter how big your hunting area, consider 80% of it off limits. Make your set up's in the remaining 20%. I'm convinced that nothing is more important to an old boar than a place to relax where there is minimal danger. Old hogs never really have a chance to let their guard down much, so if you offer them an area with virtually no human or other outside threat possibility, they'll tend to hang out in that area, as will many other pigs. I know it's hard to stay out of an area where you know there are pigs, but I promise this practice will lead to better hunting results.
If you have recently acquired new hunting grounds, then of course, give the entire area a good walk-through so that you understand the landscape, prevailing wind patterns, possible ambush areas, wallows, drinking locations, main trails, etc., but after the initial scouting, simply stay out of the sanctuary awhile. Let the hogs have their quiet area. Once they're established in this zone, it's simply a matter of time before they learn where your feeding set-up is, and more of your projectiles will be finding pig vitals.
So it's 11:00 pm at night, you haven't seen or heard a pig since you crawled into your stand at 5:00 pm, and let's be honest,....you're ready to put a hole in the next thing that even looks like it might grunt. You're on edge and ready! Your mental trigger is peaked! I know it's hard, even sometimes impossible, but if you can let the smaller ones walk, you'll be on your way to bigger pigs.
Believe me, I have been there WAY more than once. Many a night the only hunting satisfaction I've had was listening to a good Nuge song on the radio while driving back to the house, questioning my motives the entire way, so I understand your frustration. But, if you can release the urge to shoot at any pig now, and embrace the mentality of shooting bigger pigs later, then you'll be on your way to bigger hogs.
There are two reasons for this: 1) You can't expect to see a large amount of larger than average hogs if the small ones are always being taken out. and 2) The less you stir up the woods at any given time, the more likely the big ones in the area will feel at ease.
Remember, it's not just about this hunt, it's about the majority of your hunts in any given area. It's big picture stuff, baby!
The Patient Hog
This might be hard to swallow, but I've got picture after picture of super-sized hogs, coming into a feeding area immediately after I get out of my stand to go home. Shoot enough pigs in your area, and the remainder figure out the program pretty quickly. They simply aren't dumb critters. On more than one occasion, I've inspected pics of larger than average hogs coming into the feeding area within 10 minutes of me leaving my stand. Here is the story of one such incident:
My schedule was to leave my trusty blind at 10:30 pm and head home. I would walk to the truck, start the engine, roll the window down, crank the radio, and drive off as usual. Over the last 3 weeks of doing this exact same thing, I grew tired of getting pics of 1 really nice piebald boar who would always seem to show up right after I left.
After yet another unsuccessful hunt, I noisily left as usual, drove the truck 1/4 mile down the dirt road, killed the motor, and quietly slipped out of the vehicle. I began to make my way back up towards the feeder, and what do you know?! I believe they were waiting for me to leave. I arrived back at my blind and not only was the big piebald boar feeding, but he had brought friends as well. They were having a virtual hog buffet! The big piebald boar is no longer with us…..hog game over.
Along the same lines, many times a big boar will come into a feeding area to quickly do a fast walk-through. Really, I believe, it’s an inspection. Again, hogs aren’t dumb. They know the trails, they know the woods, they know where they are going. Bigger hogs are seemingly more content than average sized hogs to pass up feed right now, and return later. The big ones are willing to wait a little bit to make sure that all is well with their feeding area. It’s a learned survival technique I believe they pick up. Feeder’s can be dangerous places, and Pappa-Pork knows that.
There is a big boar I have been hunting for 3 weeks straight who comes into the feeder 7-8 times a night beginning at 1:30 am. Each time he stays and feeds for only 1-2 minutes. Then it’s off into the forest to sit and watch for 20-30 minutes. Then he’ll come in again for 1-2 minutes to feed, before slippin ginto the woods to wait again. He has learned something over his trying years and he’s giving me the fits! He knows what the deal is. So sometimes you have to be patient and wait for the bruiser to come back. Sooner or later,…..they will.
Really big boars love cover. Very rarely do they present themselves in an open area. They tend to learn over their lifetime that more foliage equals less negative disturbance. It’s a learned habitat behavior and one that serves them well. However, there is a flaw which can be capitalized upon here with this behavior. It’s what I call a “pig pocket”.
A pig pocket is a small clearing within an otherwise dense setting. They are usually roughly circular shaped in nature and exist deep within forest and brushy areas. Pig pockets can be as small as a 10 X 10 yard patch, or as large as a 100 x 100 yard covey. Bigger boars simply feel more at home when they are surrounded by brush. When it comes to hunting pig pockets, you have 2 options:
Scout an area thoroughly to find the naturally occurring pig pockets and set up feeders and blinds there.
Create a pig pocket yourself by clearing out an area within a densely forested area.
If you are going to undertake this endeavor, be sure to increase your odds by creating your pocket close to a water source, and as far away from other disturbances also such as highways, roads, etc.
Bonus Feeding Areas
This little secret can be the key to not only keeping big boars in your area, but creating additional hunting spots as well.
Every time I leave the stand after a hunt, I’ll throw out additional feed or attractants as well. Whether it’s corn, milo, oatmeal, strawberry flavored jello, soured grains, liquid cattle feed, etc. I usually carry the stuff in my back pack and will make a couple stops on the way out to bait specific areas where I have seen hog activity. Not necessarily a lot of activity, just activity, such as a random rooting, a low water crossing, a fence crossing, etc. With this simple technique, you can not only secure hogs in that particular area, but assure yourself of other hunting hotspots as well. You are reinforcing a pigs behavior pattern by rewarding it with food in a particular area.
For example, on my way in to my most recent hunting spot, I drive down a long private dirt road with several pig crossings where the hogs are moving from one property to another. At the spots where there exist activity, I’ll stop and throw out some bait, and then continue on to my regular hunting set-up. It literally takes only seconds. Later that night, on the way out of the area, I have the opportunity of sneaking up across that hot spot where the hogs just might be feeding. It’s a little thing a hunter can do to improve their odds of scoring, and for bigger boars that tend to not want to commit to feeders, it’s a great trick.
Boar Patterns and Game Cams
The use of game cams is absolutely essential in the quest for the big ones. It's a two-fold predicament. First, a camera will let you know if a monster is coming to your feeding area, and secondly, when the big ones are coming in.
My advice would be if after 1 month of establishing a new feeding area, you don't have a big boar coming in, move your set-up. Make it a worthwhile move also, not simply a few yards down the tree line. Put it in another pasture, another pig pocket, or close to another water source, but move it far enough away so that it’s in new habitat. The camera has shown you that Mr. Big Boy isn't in your area, so change areas.
Now, if you're lucky enough to have a few pics of that mighty squeeler hitting your baiting area, then it's game on. But not yet! Wait. Be patient. Just because you have a few pictures of the Big One coming in to feed, doesn't tell you enough. At least not yet. Let things ride for 2-3 weeks. Don't just notice the time the bad boy is coming in, but see if you can recognize a pattern to his arrivals.
One thing I have noticed with big boars especially, is that more than other smaller hogs, they tend to have what may seem like an "every now-and-then" approach to hitting a feeding area. The good news is, that more often than not, there is a pattern.
Maybe it's every 2nd or 3rd night between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. Maybe it's only once or twice a week. A few pictures only tell you that he’s there, but the more pictures you have at your disposal, the more likely a pattern will emerge and help you to seal the deal on an elusive creature.
Smaller hogs, especially sounders with lots of smaller hogs, will usually hit the same feeding areas, at the same time, for the same length of time. They are in direct competition with each of their group members for food. This is why there is usually some sort of fighting under feeders with smaller groups of pigs. The big boars don't have this problem. Even if they get to the feeding area later, they can forage better, over a wider area, and have also learned how to bump feeders to get more corn. Their younger cohorts probably haven't learned that trick yet. So be patient, pattern the ole' guy’s movement, learn when, where and how long he spends at your set-up, and then you'll have the upper hand when it‘s time to let the hammer fall.
Feeding Times and Small Cycles
Rather than using one or two long feed times, try using a 1 second feeder throw every 1 to 2 hours. Especially during later times of the night. After the sun goes down, the feeding starts. Bigger boars are usually more active later at night compared to their younger hoggish counterparts.
Bigger boars are moving all throughout the night and the sound of a feeder going off will get their attention to your setup. Now, you might tell yourself that this technique will do you little good because you aren't going to be hunting between 2 and 4 am in the morning, but if you happen to get a few pictures of a monster peacefully eating your corn at that time, you'd be surprised how early you can wake up to hog hunt. It's trophy time!
The Area of Circle
Bigger boars are known for their circling behavior. Even smarter younger boars will exhibit this behavior. The bigger trophy’s tend to enter a feeding area and make a wide circle around the feeding area in order to not only inspect the visual aspects of their dining table as it were, but to get a whiff of what’s on the wind from all angles before committing to their gluttonous ways. In my experience, the smarter, usually older, the boar is, the wider his inspection circle will be.
So obviously the father back you can place your stand or blind, the better chance you will have of a big boar circling upwind in front of you, versus behind you (downwind) and busting you. Every yard helps….
HERE'S A VIDEO OF HOG CIRCLING BEHAVIOUR.
YouTube - HOG CIRCLING BEHAVIOUR.flv
Movement And Brushing Up
Without a doubt, the one consistent behavior I have noticed with ALL of the larger Sus Scrofa I have taken over the years has been the fact that they inspect their immediate surroundings WAY more than small or even average sized hogs. While a hog's vision is considered by many hunters to be poor, the majority of seasoned pig-getters will tell you that it isn't as bad as most would like to believe. It’s not so much is the quality of a pig's eyesight we‘re concerned with, it’s what they’re seeing we should worry about.
The first thing to catch a bog hog’s attention obviously is movement. If there’s a larger boar in your kill zone, aside from smell, the first thing which will alert him to your presence is your movement. Either conceal it, or move very slow.
Some pigs will come in and feed while keeping their head down the entire time. This makes them an easy target when we want to get in position to take a shot. A big boy though will usually have his nose to the ground for only a few seconds before popping it up to inspect his surroundings, and usually he’s going to look around in more than one direction. You've got to be still to pull this one off. Move slowly and in small increments.
Another thing I’ve noticed with bigger boars which I have not noticed with smaller hogs, is that they tend to notice out of place shapes, or at least particular shapes which have represented danger to them in the past. IE: Round pop-up blinds, tri-pod stands, lean-to ladder stands, etc. It’s not rocket science. If every time a hog sees a round or square box blind, one of his buddies gets whacked, or even worse - he gets wounded, he's probably going to remember that. Given a pigs intelligence, it's not a hard stretch to say that such an occurrence would be a memorable event. So, do yourself a favor and ensure that the big boy's chance to spot your set-up is as minimal as possible. Simply conceal your ambush home as best as possible.
The Big Boar Trend
It does exist! If you have had the exceptional experience of harvesting a larger than average boar in a particular area, hang on to that area. The fact is, that the conditions were obviously right for that big hog to be in your area, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for other large boars. Activity might dry up for awhile, but persistence on your part will pay off!