By Lee Mason
If you haven’t read my previous post titled “Hog Hunting Texas Public Land: Access, where and when to hunt, restrictions,” definitely check that out first before reading this article. Then come back and check out 10 helpful tips for hunting hogs on Texas public land!
Let’s get right into it. You want to successfully hunt hogs on Texas public land. Maybe it is your first time, maybe you just haven’t had much luck, maybe every time you go you wind up with soaked feet because there is two inches of water on the ground. Regardless, here are 10 tips for success hunting hogs on Texas public land:
1 - Check the Weather
Hunting in the rain can be a fun and different experience. I love to stalk whitetail deer with my longbow on drizzly days because it wets the leaves on the forest floor and you can move much more quietly. Hunting hogs in the rain can be a lot of fun too, but on many east Texas WMAs like Old Sabine Bottom, Big Lake Bottom, Richland Creek and others rain can quickly bring flood conditions. Many WMAs are in low-lying areas, often bordering lakes or rivers, and although a few inches of rain doesn’t seem like much it is often enough to make access to public hunting lands difficult or impossible. Some east Texas WMAs have a more varied landscape and are often huntable despite the rain, but my favorite hog haunts are all lower lying and prone to flood.
In short, check the weather and monitor flood conditions so you don’t get out to your hunting spot to find the road washed out or the forest under a foot of water.
2 - Bring Waterproof Boots, Even if it hasn’t Rained
A good pair of boots is a blessed thing. Keeping your feet dry and comfortable can be the difference between an enjoyable hunt and a horrible experience. Piggy-backing off the first tip, the best hog WMAs are often low-lying, so even if it hasn’t rained the terrain usually still has lots of water. Crossing sloughs and boggy areas in search of pigs will be a necessity, so waterproof boots are a must.
My favorite kind of boots for this are any of the 9-inch high variety with a waterproof membrane. They can be standard leather boots so long as they are waterproof or at least water resistant. You can usually cross a small creek or bog in a shallow spot quickly, so knee-high rubber or neoprene boots usually aren’t necessary. I got my personal hunting boots at Academy Sports for about $59 and they work great, you don’t have to break the bank.
If there has been some rain, or you just want to be better prepared, take a pair of knee-high rubber or neoprene waterproof boots with you just in case. These boots aren’t as comfortable so I only wear them when necessary, but having them can save a hunt. I always have them just in case.
3 - Be Ready to Walk
Wild hogs are nomadic. They don’t usually have home ranges like whitetail deer do although the bigger, older boars sometimes do set-up shop in a particular area. Hogs go where the food is. Once they clean an area out they move on and don’t look back, which is why stand hunting can be a bore unless you know for sure you are on an active food source. If hunting a new WMA, or a WMA you don’t hunt very often, there isn’t really a way to know what food sources are active and drawing hogs, so the best way to find them I have found is to walk.
My technique is to pick a terrain feature, a creek, or just an existing trail and stalk along it slowly but deliberately. Don’t move too fast because you will be noisy and the pigs will spook before you see them, but don’t move so slow that you can’t cover some ground. I have walked for miles and suddenly jumped a boar hours into a hunt. Had I not covered that distance I wouldn’t have ever found him. Speed versus quietness is a balancing act that takes some experience and is heavily dependent on the particular terrain.
Don’t get me wrong, stand hunting can also work, but you must be familiar with the area. I have successfully taken several hogs on several different hunts on my favorite WMA from one stand site. It is near a grove of large oak trees with active travel routes nearby, near a shift in terrain, less than 300 yards from the parking lot! The only reason I have been able to do this is by getting familiar with the area and putting in the time to scout. With time and effort you are sure to find potential stand sites as well.
4 - Pack Light, but have what you need
With walking being a common theme to successfully hunt hogs on Texas WMAs, packing light makes sense. Ounces turn to pounds and pounds turn to pain, so less can be more. Over the years I have trimmed down what I take with me in the woods to a few essentials. This keeps me light and able to move freely and easily. Remember, if you kill a hog you will suddenly have a lot more weight to haul!
Here is exactly what I take with me:
All that can actually be kept on my person, especially if I’m wearing a vest with pockets I can put the water bottle in. I can carry the rope on my belt. If I won’t be out of the woods for lunch I also carry a small satchel with food in it, or just stick a protein bar and some mixed nuts in my vest. I also down two or three bottles of water before stepping off to ensure I’m hydrated. The one bottle of water carried is just a back-up.
5 - Try to Hunt Weekdays
If at all possible try and hunt weekdays rather than weekends. Public hunting land is just that, public, and the most hunting pressure occurs on Saturday and Sunday for obvious reasons. Hunting weekdays will give you the run of the place. You can usually hunt anywhere with few if any other hunters around. We all have jobs and most of us, myself included, typically only have the weekends to hunt, fish and do whatever else we’d like to in the outdoors, but if you can get out during the week it is worth it
Weekends are by no means off limits. I have shown up on a Saturday morning to a WMA in January or February with no one else in sight. Extra cold weather will also keep a lot of folks indoors and away from the woods.
6 - Hunt Near the Entry Points
Going in deep isn’t always necessary, or desirable. Imagine killing a 225-pound boar 3 miles deep in the woods. Now you have to get that sucker out somehow. I know because I have done that not once, but a few times. It kind of sucks.
A lot of hunters think they have to get way-off the beaten path, miles from the road or parking area in order to have a chance at killing game. Are there pigs deep in the woods? Absolutely. Are there pigs twenty feet from where you parked at night when you aren’t there? Yes indeed. Getting away from other hunters doesn’t always mean trekking far into the woods. Think about it, if everyone is way back in there, then there’s nobody within a quarter-mile radius of the entry point. The pigs don’t care that that’s the entry point, they care about food, water and cover. If all those things are near the parking lot, go hunt there. You might kill a pig.
7 - Carry a Lightweight, Comfortable Rifle
This goes back to tip #4, but deserves its own section. Bolt action rifles with big scopes and magnum cartridges seem to be the standard nowadays but they can be heavy and awkward to carry long distances (or short distances for that matter). Such rifles are more suited for stand hunting in more open terrain than where you’re likely to find wild hogs on Texas public land.
My go-to hog rifles are all lever action 30-30s, although I am putting together a purpose-built pump-action Remington 7600 Patrol .308 just for hog hunting. I have killed more hogs with an iron sighted Winchester 94 30-30 than any other rifle and it is a dream to carry in the woods. At 6 ½ pounds it is a feather compared to most bolt actions. The receiver fits in your hand like it was meant to be there. No scope keeps the weight and bulk down, plus ranges are almost always short. My farthest shot on a hog on a WMA has been about 40 yards. The 30-30 cartridge is powerful enough for hogs of normal size, they don’t take up much space and a Winchester, Marlin or Henry lever action will hold 6 of them in the tube magazine (plus 5 more on the buttstock in a Cartridge Cuff).
You don’t have to carry a lever action 30-30, but a lightweight rifle of any kind is easier to tote than a heavy rifle meant for the range or box blind.
8 - Listen, hogs are noisy
While walking quietly through the woods looking for pigs, keep your ears open too. Often you will hear hogs before you see them, then you can put the stalk on them while still a ways away. When feeding, hogs play around and fight with each other, especially if the group consists of younger pigs. They also crunch acorns loudly and rustle leaves and vegetation due to their shear numbers. A group of 10 or 20 pigs (not uncommon) can sound like a circus.
Larger, older boars will usually be solitary and a lot less vocal unless fighting with another boar for breeding rights. A successful hog hunter will use all their senses.
9 - Try new areas
There are many WMAs sprinkled throughout east Texas and each has its own character. I have found certain ones a lot more to my liking than others, even if I have to drive farther to get there. Also, trying out new hunting spots keeps it fresh and interesting, you never know what you might find.
10 - Keep trying
Success at anything takes effort. We all strike out sometimes and with hunting we are going to strike out more often than not. Enjoy the experience, take in the outdoors, breath in the cold air on a late winter morning. Take pleasure in the process, not just the finish line.
It took me quite a while to bag a hog on a Texas Wildlife Management Area and at first I got frustrated, but I kept at it and before long I was surrounded by a group of pigs along the bank of the Sabine River. That day I bagged 4 hogs with my 30-30 and suddenly had my work cut out for me. Before long you too will have a piney woods rooter in your sights and wild pork in the smoker!
Bonus - Take a Kid Hunting!
If you have a son or daughter, or know a kid that might love the opportunity to explore the outdoors and go on a hunt, extend the offer and see if they’d like to go hunting. It is an experience they (and you) will never forget and may plant the seed that grows into a lifelong hunter.
Thank you for reading! I hope that these 10 tips will help you get started hunting hogs on Texas WMAs! I’d love to hear if you have success: shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know about your hunt!
Lee Mason is the owner and craftsman at Mason Leather and has been leatherworking since 2011 and hunting since he could carry a rifle.