I’ve been going down to Texas quite a bit this year, and even though you can now hunt all game species with an airgun there, I still make trips specifically to hunt feral hogs. It is possible to hunt hogs in several states, but Texas is my favorite because of the varied hunting terrains, and the sheer numbers of hogs. There is no place quite like it. I get a lot of mail from airgunners that would like to hunt pigs, and the frequently asked questions are: a) where do you go, b) how do you book a hunt and what does it cost, c) what guns do you use, d) what techniques do you use to hunt hogs, and e)what do you do with the meat? I’ll give you a quick answer to each of those to get you started on planning an airgun hog hunt of your own!
I’ll start with the questions on the where: where do you go, how do you book a hunt and what does it cost? Unless you live in a state that has populations of feral hogs, you will probably have to travel to areas that you aren’t familiar with. Even if you have hogs in your region of the country, you may not have any contacts that can aim you in the right direction. The first thing to work out is if you intend to hunt private land or public land. Some states have feral pig populations on public land, though the animals tend to be more heavily pressured and have lower population densities. To find potential locations to hunt, I start by looking at state fish and game / wildlife management resources, as they will often tell you if hogs are found within the boundaries of a national or state forest, wildlife management areas or on BLM land. You can then call a local wildlife district and do a little detective work, sometimes they are helpful some times not, it’s luck of the draw and depends who you reach to speak with. You can also ask on forums or do on line searches, but we’re all protective of the places we find, and unless you know somebody well it’s atypical that they’ll share their secret sites with you.
Even if you find a place with a huntable population, another challenge is that it is not productive to walk into a tract of forest or swamp you’ve never been in, and start hunting. You may spend the first few trips scouting and getting the lay of the land, but you’ll still want to carry a rifle as an opportunistic shot is always a possibility. Some states have quite a bit of public land, while others such as Texas, have virtually none. The pros of public land are that it cost less than most private land hunts, you can do it yourself, there are often times camping opportunities available, and it’s an accompaniment hunting public land. The disadvantages are generally lower game populations, the populations are more pressured (which often drives them nocturnal, it can take a lot of time to familiarize yourself with the terrain and localizing potential hunting spots. I don’t typically hunt public land anymore, unless I hire a guide that has local knowledge. Such a guide can offset most of the cons of private land hunting, though the costs do rise. But you have to ask yourself, what will cost more, several “dry” scouting trips or paying for a guide. If you have a long way to travel or have limited time, avoiding guide services may be false economy.
Another strategy is to hire a guide to take you on a public land hunt, and use it as an opportunity to learn an are that you can come back to do a DIY on future trips. Not only will you get insight as to the terrain and local natural history, but also see what equipment is required. This could prevent you from showing up for a swamp hunt in Florida and finding out you need an airboat or a canoe to get to the right place.
The other approach is to hunt private land, and again there are two basic options: find a place that charges you a trespass fee, then lets you hunt on your own, or find an outfitter that provides you with a guide, the land, and transportation in the field. This will cost you a bit more, but your chance of success are greatly improved. The cost are not too high when compared against paying for an outfitted deer or turkey hunt, and if you shop around finding something in the $400 – $700 range, that includes a pig or two and a place to stay, food or a place to at least cook your own supplies, and often lets you go after predators or small game in your down time is not too bad.
So how do you find a guide or outfitter? Word of mouth is the best way, if somebody you know and who’s opinion you respect has had a good experience and gives a recommendation, it’s probably a safe bet. Or you can go online and start searching outfitter websites, looking for someone that hunts for the animal species you’re interested in, and is priced in your price range. I then call them and ask several questions about the hunt: what type of hunting do they do (spot and stalk, blinds, etc), how much land do they hunt over and what are the game populations like? How many hunters do they have at any given time, what is their success rate, is there an opportunity to hunt predators or small game? I ask about bow hunting success specifically, as airgun hunting is some where between archery and firearms in terms of range and methodology. You can ask for references, though going online and finding reviews is probably more helpful. I go by my gut feeling, if I get a sense that this guy is trying to con me, seems disinterested, or comes across as a jerk, I move on.
You can check out my website as well americanairgunhunter.com, I have a section on guides and outfitters that I recommend, and I’ll be adding to it as I hunt with new outfitters in different regions. When I find a place I like, I tend to keep going back. I will say, to be completely transparent, that in recent years I’ve met several land owners around the country that provide me with places to hunt. However, for many years I used the methods above to find my hunting grounds.
In the next installment I’ll talk to you about the guns I prefer and the methods I use to hunt feral hogs, catch up with you next post!