Feral Hogs: An Easy Hunt?

hog hunting
A sow and her piglets.Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

The 5,000 acres of bottomland the Po’ Boy Hunting Club owns in southwest Arkansas is loaded with hogs. The caretaker—who left Mexico 25 years ago and whose real name is Jesus, although everyone calls him Chewy–routinely sees groups of 10 or 20 or 40 when he making his rounds to replenish feeders. Thomas reckons the hog population somewhere in the hundreds, although nobody knows for sure.

We’ve been sitting for 3 hours in a tower stand. Eighty yards away at our 12 o’clock is a feeder. At our 9 o’clock is a 400-yard-long grassy four-wheeler trail. If the hogs come to the feeder, I’ll whack one with Thomas’s scoped Browning .243. If they appear in the trail, Thomas is ready with his new bull-barreled AR from Rock River Arms. I’m excited. I’ve never killed a wild pig. They gorge on the bottom’s acorns at this time of year. Thomas says they’re fantastic eating.

Thomas Shurgar is 20 years my junior and had the luck to grow up on a farm. He killed his first deer at seven, recalls that he twice replaced the differentials on his truck on high school dates, and once killed a running buck at 400 yards. When you grow up shooting, it’s not that big a deal. “It’s not much different than shooting birds,” he shrugs. “You get a feel for how much you have to lead  and just swing through.” The family farm wasn’t far from Stuttgart. Thomas doesn’t remember exactly when he realized that he lived in the middle of the best duck hunting in the country. He just got used to limiting out in the first hour. If he didn’t, that was unusual. The duck hunting at Po’ Boy, for example, is excellent. But Thomas said he had to stop himself when a member bragged about the time he’d caught the duck he’d just shot in his hand before it hit the ground. I asked why he had to stop himself. “I think I’d done that at least a hundred times before I graduated from high school,” he said.

We tell each other lies as the afternoon wears on. When Thomas laughs, the whole stand shakes. Around 5, three deer materialize silently and work their way toward the feeder. It’s a mama, her offspring, and a button buck that the doe repeatedly chases off. Eventually, something beyond the feeder spooks them and they take off.

Five minutes before legal light ends, five or seven hogs show up. He’d told me they generally sound like an army approaching, especially when the woods are this dry. But these make almost no sound. I put the scope on nice one but then it faces away. Thomas is telling me to shoot, so I move right, to another hog. Thing is, they’re all black. As is the scope reticle. With so little light, I must judge where the pig’s shoulder is. I also have to center the reticle solely by the visible parts of the crosshairs. It’s not rocket science, but it’s apparently more than my brain can handle in the excitement of the moment. I fire, a cloud of dust rises by the feeder. “I believe you missed,” he says.

I had. We looked all over for blood, which would have been easy to see on the dusty ground. We went out the next day and both sat in stands and drove around in the gator hoping to jump some pigs. We saw one group but they skedaddled well before we could get our rifles on them. Long story short, no pigs. Turns out hogs are just like deer or geese or turkeys. They’re all over the place until you pick up a gun or a bow, when they disappear as if they’d just gone extinct.