Public Land Hog Hunting Strategies!

June 28, 2013


Wanna bet this post title sets new records for hits?

“There are no pigs on public land.”

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that I could probably afford ammo for my hog rifle.  But if you ask a lot of hunters, especially CA hunters, that’s a common refrain.  Of course we know it’s not true, but looking at CA, there’s a whole lot of land, and a whole lot of hunters, but not much success.  Still, when you think about those first two things, that last one makes sense. 

Hogs are smart.  Seriously, they’re pretty much on par with dogs, if not smarter.  They learn… and they retain.  It doesn’t take many run-ins with humans before they figure out where to go and when to go there.  They’re also not afraid of logging some miles between dinner and bed, so if one place is a little too hot, they’ll find someplace else.  So if you put a bunch of hunters in an area, the hogs are going to find another area… at least during shooting hours.  And despite the fact that the place may be covered in sign, you never see a hog.

Very little is as frustrating as hitting the trail in the morning to find dozens of fresh tracks crisscrossing the ridges you just hunted all the previous day.  They’ll poop in your footprints, and then trot off giggling their little piggy giggles.  I’ve literally rousted myself out of camp to see fresh rooting less than 50 yards from my parked vehicle.  I even heard grunting outside the camper in the wee, dark hours.  But then you’ll spend the day busting your ass up and down over ridge and rill, glassing like a madman, only to find… well, nothing.  No pigs, big or little. 

So tip number one for public land hunters… hunt where no one else hunts. 

If you’ve been hearing about a particular spot for years, don’t go there.  Everyone else has been hearing about it too.  And they beat you to it.  Hogs like crowds of other hogs… not crowds of hunters.  You’re going to find them in the place you never heard about. 

Here’s a typical scenario.  Joe hears about this spot where Jim saw a lot of sign.  Bill told Jim that Sam shot a pig there six years, four months, and seven days ago.  Joe asks Jim to ask Bill to ask Sam where he shot the pig.  Sam tells Bill to tell Jim to let Joe know that the pig was in a clearing about 200 yards south of the big rock that’s just in the shadow of the forked oak tree.  Joe takes off in search of that oak tree, finds it, sees no pigs, and comes back to tell Jim to tell Bill to let Sam know that there aren’t any more pigs there. 

A couple of likely things have happened here.

The first possibility is that, by the time Joe heard the tale, odds are that a dozen other hunters also heard it.  They all came to try their luck.  The pigs said, “the heck with all this noise,” probably after Sam’s first shot, and they boogeyed on down the canyon to a new place.  If Joe had persevered and covered some ground outside of that “comfort zone”, he might have found himself a hog to shoot. But instead, since the hot spot didn’t pan out, Joe declared the whole area a bust.  Tomorrow, he’ll be asking Ralph to tell him where Ann told Sue that her boyfriend, Buck, shot that hog.

And that brings us to tip number two… never underestimate the value of hard work and perseverance. 

What Joe should have done is spread out and work the area hard.  Cover ground.  Find sign.  Locate key features such as water, bedding areas, and food.  And then hunt the hell out of it.  If you just drop by once a month or so when you’ve got nothing better to do, you might as well just be rolling the dice on success.  It could happen, but it probably won’t.  You need to be willing and able to hammer an area good and hard if you find good sign.  Get out there before the sun rises, and don’t leave until it’s dark… or better yet, pack a tent and stay out there.  Keep after it and then, maybe if the breezes of fortune are gentle across your fantail, you’ll have the same kind of luck that Sam had.

Of course, the more likely possibility is that Sam lied.  Hunters do that.  Successful public land hunters probably do it even more. 

And this leads us to tip number three.  If you find a good spot, don’t give it away. 

It’s tempting, of course, to come off as the hero.  We all want to be the nice guy, right?  More importantly, we want to be perceived as the great hog hunter who found hogs on public land.  So we share a little info about a hot spot, or pass along a tip to a friend.  Maybe it’s texting someone a GPS coordinate, or maybe just circling a general area on the map with admonishments to, “keep this to yourself.” 

“Oh, your secret’s safe with me,” your friend will assure you. 

Sam’s secret was safe too… until he told Bill. 

Look, it’s not some nefarious, ill-willed plot to ruin your honey hole.  It’s just that people talk.  You share that special info with a trusted friend who shares it with a trusted friend… it’s how things work.  If you want a hot spot to stay hot, you have to keep it to yourself… at least until you have a new hot spot to replace it. 

You don’t have to be unfriendly about it.  In fact, be helpful.  Just not too helpful.  Give a few suggestions about other places you’ve seen hog sign.  Give away someone else’s honey hole, like the place where you heard that Ann’s boyfriend, Buck, shot his public land hog.  Even better, pass along the advice I’ve just shared here. 

Think of it like the old aphorism about teaching a man to fish…

If you give a friend your honey hole and he goes there and kills a hog, you’ve lost a friend and a honey hole.  If you teach a friend to find his own honey hole… well, you’ve probably still lost a friend because if he’s smart, he isn’t going to tell you how to find his honey hole.

It’s a vicious circle, this public land hog hunting.  Vicious.




9 Responses to “Public Land Hog Hunting Strategies!”

  1. The Suburban Bushwacker on June 28th, 2013 06:09

    Nice post, one day, one day we’ll actually get to put all this into practice, on our way to the bar where we can tell one that got away stories late into the night

  2. Phillip on June 29th, 2013 07:29

    Sten, that would be an awful cool thing. And one kind of hunt at which I really excel is the hunt for the bar!

  3. David on June 28th, 2013 13:27

    Dude – How did you know about the shadow by the forked oak tree? I thought I was the only one who knew about that spot.

  4. Phillip on June 29th, 2013 07:28

    Somebody must have talked, David. 😉

  5. Suburban Bushwacker on June 29th, 2013 07:40


    I was just looking online at a Mountain Lion hunt in UTAH that a friend of mine went on, its not too far from you, SteveB, and chad
    I miss the US I’ve not been back in years

  6. Phillip on July 2nd, 2013 07:21

    Sten, I think what you need is a Colorado elk hunt in 2014!

  7. Greg C on August 21st, 2013 13:12

    Phillip, I think that public hog hunting in California….err… Successful hog hunting on California public land is almost a myth… LOL. Your right though, you will get successful hits! Have you found any good areas in your area in Texas lately? I’ve still been looking over here in the Cleveland National Forest…. Nothing. They say theres a hog problem, but I haven’t seen any evidence.

  8. Greg C on August 21st, 2013 13:16

    P.S. I love reading your articles, your insight is spot on and a great thinking tool for all hunters Sir!

  9. Phillip on August 21st, 2013 13:23

    Thanks, Greg.

    I haven’t had a lot of luck with the hogs here yet, and probably won’t until the drought breaks. I’ve been talking to some folks, though, and the bottom line is if you’ve got water on your property, you’ve probably got hogs (unless you trap the hell out of them). The key to hunting them is to get access to private land, and that’s something that takes time… or money.

    As far as the Cleveland NF, it is funny how you’ll hear about a “hog problem”, but then can’t seem to find any sign of hogs. Makes you wonder sometimes about the definition of the word, “Problem,” doesn’t it? Good luck, and stick with it. They must be there somewhere.