Learn about wild boar hunting and requirements for different states.
Big game hunting adventures within the United States often include wild boar hunting, a sport that helps control non-native wild pig populations and the damage they cause. Feral hogs can be large and dangerous when threatened, which attracts hunters in search of a challenge.
Wild boars are most often hybrids of Russian and Spanish pigs introduced to North America in the early 18th century and again for hunting in the 20th century. They can measure three feet at the shoulder when fully grown and can weigh up to 500 pounds. Wild boar sport long, wiry hair and, depending on the incidence of breeding with domestic pigs, come in a variety of colors and markings. The animals also possess long, curved tusks that are sharp enough to do serious damage, reportedly even eviscerating the horses and dogs of pursuing hunters.
While most feral pig populations thrive in the southern and coastal areas of the United States where ample water supplies abound, wild boar hunting is a sport that can be enjoyed in most of the continental United States. Hunters should have the necessary license and be familiar with their state's hunting laws before pursuing wild boar.
Hunters need credentials to hunt in any state, but laws governing wild boar hunting differ, depending on the status the state grants the animals—nuisance or game. Hunters looking for fewer restrictions can look to states without legislation designating wild hogs as game mammals. Feral pigs in Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, for example, are considered nuisance animals. These states have more loosely applied hunting laws, but a hunting license and adherence to laws are required.
Much of wild boar hunting occurs on private land, but it is still subject to the hunting laws of that state. In California, for example, 93 percent of pigs were killed on private land. California hunters can participate in special pig hunts on public lands throughout the state for an additional fee.
States may have other restrictions on what time of year and even what time of day wild boar hunting is allowed. In Illinois, licensed hunters can hunt wild pigs only during daylight hours, unless they come across the animals while hunting for other game at night, while following the laws for hunting the other game.
Wild boar hunting season coincides with deer season in some states, such as California, so deer hunters who have purchased deer tags can legally take, or kill, pigs while hunting deer. Kentucky's laws limit wild boar hunting to conservation areas but open up the season to run concurrently with deer season and allow pig takes for licensed deer hunters.
States that view wild boar as nuisance animals will have fewer restrictions on hunting. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, feral hogs have been sighted in 26 Ohio counties, and year-round wild boar hunting is encouraged to anyone with a valid Ohio hunting license or to landowners on their own land. That policy is restricted only during deer season, during which time non-land-owning hog hunters are also required to possess deer hunting licenses and comply with the season's gun laws.
Missouri hunters are asked to shoot wild hogs on sight at any time of year without any permit or bag limits, but those regulations become a bit more restrictive during turkey and deer hunting seasons. The laws governing wild boar hunting in Florida are perhaps the most restrictive, limiting the hunting of wild pigs to state conservation lands during scheduled, government-run hunts.
For many states, wild boar hunting is restricted to private or certain public lands. Hog populations and hunting statistics are other factors to consider when deciding where to hunt. All but two of California's 58 counties boast wild pig populations, but the best hunting areas depend upon the most recent pig takes within each county. The higher the number of takes in recent years, the more wild pigs will migrate to areas where hunting pressure is less severe. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, the 2007 season continued an upward trend of wild pig takes, totaling more than 4,400 returned pig tags out of more than 54,000 tags sold. Of those totals, hunters in the central area of the state had the most successful hunts.
Neophyte hunters or those who just want the royal treatment have the option of hiring a wild boar hunting guide service or participating in organized public hunts, both of which offer guided or semi-guided hunting services. Most wild boar hunting services are run on private land, which means that in states such as Texas, which has a wild pig population estimated to exceed two million, guided hunts are offered year-round to hunters licensed by the state.
Hunting guide services offer many options and hunting levels. A typical guided hunt may cost $100 per hunter for a single day of rifle hunting from a stand with a one-pig limit, with a basic charge per head or per pound for second and subsequent kills. Multiday excursions may include rustic lodging or luxurious amenities, depending on which level the hunters select. Some guide services include the cost of horses or tracking dogs in the wild boar hunting packages they offer, when state regulations permit the use of dogs.
Other services included or offered à la carte by many hunting guide companies include:
The hunting license may be included in the guide service. Whether using a guide or not, wild boar hunters are responsible for ensuring their hunting licenses are in compliance with state regulations and that the wild boar hunting methods they employ follow the letter of the law in whatever state they choose to hunt.