Hunting wild boar has a proud tradition in Europe, but in the U.S., where they’ve been introduced or escaped from farms, Sus scrofa is non grata due to damage they cause. Here’s how to pursue them.
STORY BY JIM DICKSON • PHOTOS BY SHUTTERSTOCK
Hunting the wild hog is a tradition as old as man himself. In Europe the wild boar was considered a worthy opponent for heroic warriors who faced him with sword and spear. Throughout the centuries, many men were killed, as the European wild boar is a brave and savage animal that can fight unflinchingly to the death.
Often he will disdain to squeal or cry out even if mortally wounded as he fights to the bitter end. If cornered by dogs, he normally will shake them off and charge the first man on the scene.
Only death will stop him. That is why boar spears have a short, thick,
wood crossbar lashed to the shaft behind the massive spearhead used
on them. That is to prevent the boar from running up the spear shaft to
get at the man at the other end. These boar spears are heavier-bladed and thicker-shafted than the ones used on men in wartime, as they want to inflict the maximum amount of damage and bleeding to the quarry and the shaft must not break, no matter how much the stricken boar pushes the hunter on the other end around.
If that shaft breaks, the boar is on the hunter in a heartbeat and only quick skillful use of a sword can save the hunter then.
When a boar bites a man, he takes out a plug as clean as a cookie cutter in dough, and those big jaws take out a big plug. A single bite has often proved fatal over the centuries.
In past times, men sometimes wore their armor when fighting wolves,
boars and bears with spear and sword –a very smart move that greatly
increased their life expectancy. This tradition of hunting boars with cold steel has never died out in Germany, where boar spears are still
made and used in the dark primeval forests by hunters adhering to the
old heroic ideals of the hunt. This is as thrilling as dangerous game
THAT IS NOT to say that hunters of them do. One of the charming things about the great city of Berlin is its parks, yet most Americans do not know that you can legally go wild boar hunting there inside the city. You are required to use an elevated stand so that all bullets exit the boar into the ground and none go horizontally through the park to imperil picnickers or walkers. In recent years there have
been the usual anti-hunting protests there, just like everywhere else in the world.
In Berlin, a wild boar provided the best response to them when he invaded a city shop and chased everyone out while he wrecked the place. It’s amazing just how much mayhem and damage a big wild boar can cause in the small confines of a shop. It is better imagined rather than
experienced first-hand, though.
Wild boars are tough to stop and perfect shot placement is more important on them than most other game. The Germans found that nothing stops a wild boar’s legendary charge with more authority than 12-gauge Brenneke slugs. You can buy double-barreled shotguns and drillings regulated for these slugs in Germany. Double rifles are popular among those who can afford them because of their fast two shots.
The most popular calibers are the rimmed version of the 8mm Mauser, the 8×57 JRS, and the 9.3x74R, a .375 H&H Magnum equivalent. While the 8mm can take out two boars running close together past your stand easily, the more powerful 9.3 needs a mercury recoil reducer in the stock to match the speed of the lower powered 8mm.
A sorbuthane recoil pad and a mercury recoil reducer are a great help for any gun that you have to shoot fast and this type of hunting in
Germany often means fast shooting. For those whose wallets are less well endowed, bolt-action rifles for the rimless versions of these two cartridges, the 8×57 JRS and the 9.3×62, are preferred.
It should be noted that while the American loads for the 8mm Mauser are
underpowered and hit like a .30-30, the European loads are much more
powerful and hit more like a .338 Magnum on game.
WHILE THE EUROPEAN wild boar (often called the Russian wild boar in the U.S.) is the ancestor of your domestic pig, it is a much smarter, stronger and fiercer beast. It is a lean animal with razor-sharp tusks extending 3 to 6 inches that slash out quickly, propelled by the powerful shoulders and low hindquarters.
They can run as fast as a deer and they can easily weigh from 350 to 600 pounds. They often will turn on dogs intent on pursuing them, instead of running. Forty percent casualties among the dogs is common. While this seems unnecessarily cruel to the dogs, these nocturnal animals can be difficult to hunt without them.
What a herd of wild hogs can do to a farmer’s crops is a lot more
cruel, as is what they may do to the farmer’s children or the farmer
himself, for a wild boar with a sow and piglets is very prone to attack
on sight. They rank with the old man-eating European wolf and the
European brown bear (which is identical to the American grizzly bear) as Europe’s most dangerous big game animal and there is a long line of graves dating back to the Stone Age backing up that rating. In terms of
the number of people that they have killed down through the ages, they
rank behind the European wolf (a much deadlier animal than his North
American counterpart) and ahead of the European brown bear, which is normally not a man-eater like the European wolf is and the bears are not
as mean and vicious as the wild boar.
This savage animal was imported from Germany’s Black Forest to the game preserve of Austin Corbin in New Hampshire in the 1890s. The Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee got three stocking punches. A man named Barnes imported some from the Schwarzwald around the turn of the century and two North Carolina brothers brought some breeding pairs in from Russia after World War I. An Englishman named George Moore established a hunting preserve in North Carolina and brought in his group in 1910. As any farmer could have told these folks, you can’t keep a hog in with a fence and you can’t keep a fence up in the woods with all the trees falling on it.
The hogs soon spread out into the Smoky Mountains, where they quickly earned a reputation as the most dangerous animals in the woods. They
have even killed black bears that tried to prey on them.
MANY OF THE wild “Rooshuns” have interbred with the domestic hogs gone wild, called razorbacks. This produces a more dangerous hog than the usual tame hog gone wild. The domestic hog gone wild has proved an environmental disaster, as the pigs’ ability to breed fast like rabbits and subsist on most any food has resulted in them eating the food and young of more highly valued wildlife, to say nothing of the devastating effect they have on the farmer’s fields. Turkeys, grouse, quail, pheasants, ducks, geese, etc., all build their nests on the ground where the pig’s keen sense of smell can locate them. Then it’s eggs for dinner. Until the young are fully fledged and can fly, they have no chance of outrunning a pig and they are gobbled up like popcorn.
The pig’s overdeveloped sense of smell often makes hiding from them futile. Rabbits and other small game also are vulnerable to losing their young to hogs. Even fawns have been taken. Hogs have also been known to eat all the available food in an area, like a herd of sheep, before moving on.
When a herd of hogs has eaten all the food in an area, there is nothing left for anything else to eat so that area is now barren of wildlife. Due to their incredible breeding and reproductive ability, herds of wild hogs can become huge fast. The effect on the wildlife is often more devastating than that of the coyotes that have recently spread outside their native habitat.
When both are present, you will really see game populations plummet.
Like coyotes, they no longer have any natural predators to keep their
numbers in check and there are insufficient hunters to fill the gap. As a result, their population keeps growing while the desirable native species populations decline proportionately.
A herd of hogs can destroy a farmer’s livelihood overnight and they
multiply faster than they can be hunted out. They are a problem in more than half of the states now. Most places have no closed season and no bag limit, plus you are allowed to hunt them at night. That’s a necessity for their control, as they are nocturnal. Large numbers of night vision devices and thermal imaging scopes are bought by hog hunters. Silencers open many areas to hunting, as most people do not want to be awakened by gunshots all night long. Farmers work hard and
need their rest. Staking out the fields they forage on at night can be very productive.
In some places they are hunted from planes and helicopters, as this is a matter of a farmer’s economic survival and not sport hunting. Dogs are always popular for running them down, but even the domestic pig gone wild can be very tough on a dog pack. Still, this is often the only way to make a dent in their numbers in the daytime.
MANY OF THE hogs shot are smallish due to their enormously fast reproductive rate turning out so many each year. For this reason, the 5.56mm has been popular. Personally I would go with the M1 carbine over the 5.56mm any day because it has so much more stopping power. Bigger guns are better, though. I know of at least two of these hogs that were shot and turned out to weigh over 1,000 pounds. I do not think an elephant rifle would be out of place for either of those two overgrown monsters.
Many of the men who hunt them with dog packs use pistols to kill them. I know a holster maker who has sold some of these men Western buscadero holsters like you see in the cowboy movies because they want to make a fast draw when the hog and the dogs are mixing it up before they lose some dogs to those tusks. I would not recommend anything but .45s and .44s for this game – and definitely would not consider anything smaller. Some of these men evoke the European hunting tradition of the short hunting sword when they use a bowie knife to kill a hog the dogs are holding onto. Hog hunting can be as dangerous as you want to make it. In most places hog hunting is a desperate fight to keep their numbers down. They are an invasive species that wreaks havoc on wildlife habitat and the wildlife itself. They can bankrupt a farmer in no time. While most of these razorbacks will run from you, there is always one who may attack. I have seen a hog put a man up a tree faster than a squirrel could climb. I didn’t think that that guy could move that fast. You would think that lesson would have taught him not to go out in the woods without a gun, but I am afraid some people can never learn. I also have seen one chase a man like a dog chasing a car that 2019has no intention of catching it; he just wants to chase it.
Pigs are smart. Make no mistake about it. Just ask any farmer who has raised some. They can outwit a hunter because they have the home turf advantage. You are playing on their home court and they know the terrain and all the possible moves that are open to them. On the rare occasions that they are not fully occupying their minds with thoughts of food, they can put those piggy brains to good use, plotting and planning with the best of them. One tactic that is fortunately not too common is the massed charge at the hunter. You’d better be able to shoot fast and accurately when that happens. This is a time for military-type semiauto assault rifles with big magazines and full-power military cartridges instead of reduced power assault rifle cartridges like 5.56mm and 7.62x39mm. All herd animals are capable of employing this tactic and I have seen it often enough in different species that I will never overlook that possibility in any type of herd.
Most of the time these domestic hogs gone wild are too busy trying to escape to be a danger. Most of the time. Just remember, they can turn on you and be prepared for whatever. I have been around hogs all my life and I have always had a deep-seated distrust for them, just as I do for cattle. Both hogs and cattle can get it in their heads to hurt you for no reason and they are both capable of killing you. Just a few months ago in Europe, a woman fell in her hog pen and was eaten alive. They were not starving or abused pigs, either. Just plain old barnyard hogs. Over the centuries, chopping up a body and feeding it to the hogs was used repeatedly to remove the corpus delicti and thus hide a murder. While rare, there are reports in past times of rogue man-eating wild boars in Europe. Considering the hogs’ taste for meat, some of these stories are undoubtedly true.
NOT TOO LONG ago I crossed the tracks of about a 500-pound wild hog on my farm. I was instantly gunning for him, but he had already passed through and I did not get to shoot him. He never came back but if he does, I am after bacon and not any “peaceful coexistence” tripe. That is one animal that I am definitely not sharing space with. Just one more reason I carry a .45.
In these northern Georgia mountains, the mountaineers have a long history of hog hunting. In the old days you notched your hog’s ears for your mark and then turned them out in the woods to fatten on acorns and anything else that they could find until cold weather came and it was cool enough to butcher them and preserve the meat. Then you went hunting for your own hogs and not your neighbor’s. Shooting the other fellow’s hogs was the start of many a deadly feud in the old days when that meat was crucial to your family’s survival.
Hog butchering was a big job and families often got together and went from one farm to another with everyone helping skin and butcher the hogs. That’s a big enough job that you really need any help that you can get to process them for the winter. It was another good reason to have big families, especially if you did not have neighbors close by.
Today it bothers me to see a lot of hogs wasted, but when you have to kill so many just to save the native wild game and the farmer’s crops, it often is just not possible to deal with them all. Despite these methods, the pigs are winning this war. They are reproducing faster than they can be found and shot. Like coyotes that have expanded outside their native habitat, they are a scourge devastating the areas they infest. They have a major economic impact on the farmer and an incalculable impact on the hunting industry because of their destruction of game animals and their habitat. No game animals, no hunting, no revenue from the hunters and their purchases. A decline in hunting means less hunters and that also means less defenders of the Second Amendment. The damage wild hogs are doing to this country extends to all levels. They are a serious threat to be exterminated and not considered a game animal.
STORY BY JIM DICKSON • PHOTOS BY SHUTTERSTOCK