Sunday, January 9, 2011

Scouting for Hogs

© 2009, 2010, 2011 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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"It looked bad, but it wasn’t like I was bleeding all over the place and in danger of imminent death."
You can only just make out the scars now, it has been that long.  Sun, wind and weather have faded them to faint lines on my forearm.
DumbAss Credit: Albert A Rasch
The splintered end of the branch had skewered me but good. About four inches of it had stabbed through me, just under the surface of the skin. It had, by sheer luck and happenstance, missed going through muscle, artery, or tendon. I pulled my impaled arm off the branch cursing and sputtering deprecations at anyone and anything I could think of. I had already dropped my rifle anyway so my free hand instantly wrapped around my forearm as it cleared the spearlike point of the broken branch. All I had time to see was the bloody splinter sticking out of my forearm before I pulled my arm off, and now my hand was clamped onto my arm and threatening to cut all the circulation off to the other hand. It’s as if it had a mind of its own.

Image Credit:
I had been scouting for hogs that morning. As usual, my route took me right up the railroad tracks going through the local ranches. The track maintenance crews use a mechanical, one-armed, articulated monster with a three-foot diameter circular saw on the working end to hack back the encroaching trees and brush. Among the shredded remains of the plant life are an innumerable number of branches that are left jagged and splintered, Punji stake like, waiting for an unwary idiot like me to impale himself. Which is exactly how I was now to be found.

At that particular point, I could have cared less if Britney Spears was prancing by me nude, naked, or disrobed. I was on the job, scouting for hogs, and now I was out of commission. Well, I might be curious why Britney was there and what brand of mosquito spray she used, or if she put on enough sunscreen and maybe needed some help making sure she had enough on, but that’s about it. Seriously... Maybe.

Scouting for hogs, or any animal for that matter, requires a bit of thought. When you are out their looking for hogs, you have to start by taking a broad view. I mean that both metaphorically and physically. Step back a moment and considering the hogs needs first. Then making calculated decisions based on your observations.
Image Credit: Mape_S
Let’s say you are scouting an abandoned farm or grove that you now have access to. Hogs move from cover, to feed, to water; that’s pretty much their routine. Throw in a wallow at the local mud hole and you pretty much got it. They tend to move early in the morning to their feeding areas, then quench their thirst with the regulars at the watering hole, and move into heavy cover before the day warms up too much and makes them uncomfortable. Breeding is a year round affair so there is no rut to contend with. But a sow in heat will attract every willing male in the county. Regardless, the first thing to do is determine if they are making regular forays into the property and why.

Image Credit: Stile di Pallanti

A great tool for pre-scouting or familiarizing yourself with an area is Google Earth. Back in the day we had to buy topographic or aerial photographs of the area in question. Now you can get all sorts of whizbang satellite imagery! My biggest issue is that I can’t seem to figure out how to save a screen shot or print it out. So I’ve used shrink-wrap and fine tipped markers to trace the terrain and landmarks directly on the plastic while on the screen and then transferred it to paper. Maybe someone will take pity on me and explain to me how I can do it on the computer.

Image Credit: Retro Traveler
Maybe if I had taken a better look at an aerial view, I wouldn’t have jumped off where I did, and found myself looking like an Hors d'oeuvre on an oversized toothpick. My arm was throbbing under my cold, clammy grip, and I could tell I was suffering from a mild case of shock. My face felt cold even though it was the middle of summer. I sat down, took a couple of deep breaths, and quickly decided what I should do. First thing on the list was: Get a better map… Hell, get any map! Next on the list is a shot of Bourbon, for medicinal purposes of course. Time to get a flask…

There’s a lot you can learn from an aerial or topographic map. The overall lay of the land is better understood from the vantage point of a satellite or airplane. You can see how land, vegetation, and features make natural corridors and lanes, which will guide any kind of traffic including air movements. You can see where thick vegetation may be, and how it might be accessed. It gives you a starting point for your scouting and helps you visualize the context of what your feet are standing on when you are there. Now you can see the forest and the trees!

Image Credit: Lucycat

Now that you have a broad view of the property, let’s look for the specific needs of wild hogs. Is there a food source for them right now; if so what is it. Food sources that are constantly replenishing themselves will have the hogs visiting regularly while the food is available. For instance, when nut trees ripen and drop their mast, it is over a period of time. Hogs will visit for the time that the trees are dropping their bounty. Once the nuts stop dropping, the hogs stop visiting, except by happenstance if they happen by to see if they can glean a few more nuts out of the ground. Old orchards will also be attractive to hogs for the same reason. Grain crops have a narrower window depending on the amount of grain and the size of the predation. Once millet or corn is ripe, it’s all ripe and that’s it. A hungry boar can chew up and destroy a substantial amount of acreage in a night, but when the food is gone, it is gone. Wild pigs will also graze and root for vegetative matter. In the spring time hogs will graze new growth and in the fall they will use those bulldozer noses to rip out tubers and roots.
Image Credit: Valeriep
One thing to be aware of is that rooted up areas are a sign that hogs were there, as in past tense. They are unlikely to be back in that general area. They’ll find another area to root up the following night, sometimes far away from the one you are looking at. It is a good sign that the pigs are in the area, but nothing more.

I hadn’t seen any sign like rooting, but I knew that there were plenty of hogs in the area. I thought I would scout out what looked from the ground to be a promising area, after crossing the overgrown right-of-way. Now I was sitting there like a dummy. I screwed up my courage, let go of the arm, and took a look at the carnage. It looked bad, but it wasn’t like I was bleeding all over the place and in danger of imminent death. So I took the water bottle, poured some over the holes and poked at it with my dirty fingers. The pale jagged edges of the punctures looked like I had tried to use a drill on my arm, and where the splinter had run me through, the flesh was bruising and full of dark blood. I washed it with more water, pulled the now famous do-rag off my head, and proceeded to wrap up my arm.

Image Credit: BamaWester
Water plays the most important role in animal movement, and of course affects how and where you scout. If there is a scarcity of water, it makes sense to concentrate your efforts on waterholes, streams, and rivulets that will attract a thirsty pig. Again, when scouting, look at the big picture. Where are the avenues from potential feeding areas to the water? Hogs will follow established paths to their preferred drinking areas. If you can determine how they get there, you are close to bagging your hog. Now if you don’t have access to the areas with water then your plan must by force, look elsewhere. In other words you must look to the food and shelter aspects.

Image Credit: Paul Voskamp

My preferred method is to find the wild boars’ travel corridors, and lie in ambush. Usually it is either from a bedding area to a feeding location, and these can vary according to season, or from the watering holes to the bedding areas. In Florida, during the wet season, food sources are the easiest areas to locate and prepare for. Water can be everywhere down here! But during droughts and the dry season it is very much like those pictures you see from the Serengeti plains. All animals go to the limited water.

What I had seen from the railroad tracks was what looked like an open corridor through the scrub and palmetto. It was hard to tell from the roadbed, which is why I had jumped into the right of way in the first place. I picked my .308 Mauser up out of the dirt where I had dropped it and climbed back out of the ditch. I could feel my forearm starting to swell, and I had to force my hand to make a fist. I knew I was in for an uncomfortable night.
Image Credit: Zedaxis
Look for corridors, natural or man made, that hogs travel on

Narrow or wide corridors create edge avenues that animals exploit for movement or even feeding. Animals will use the edges to move adjacent to the corridor, and then possibly feed in the open areas if they are grazing, or cross at certain points to access other routes or feed locations. Hogs in particular will move along the overgrown right of way, adjacent to fence lines, and on the edges of wooded areas, before stepping out or crossing into an area where they might feed. Look for a depression under the wire where hogs have scooted under, and also check out low spots on stone walls for places they have gone over.
Image Credit: Markeveleigh
My suggestion to you, and this works for any game animal, is to concentrate on how the animal gets to and from its food sources and water. Start with aerial views to help you narrow potential areas of interest, and then put in the footwork that is needed to confirm your hunches. Look for fence lines, hedgerows, timber edges and corridors that guide or funnel animals from one area to the next. Remember to minimize any disturbances. Don’t walk on game trails, keep your distance. Don’t push into bedding areas, skirt around them. Mind the air currents. Try to get out early, preferably before dawn, find a vantage point based on what you have determined, and observe what is going on. Keep a sharp eye out, and listen intently; wild pigs can be noisy! Many birds also sound the alarm and scold animals moving through.

Most importantly, go out there and enjoy what you are doing!

As for me, by the time I got home, I could no longer close my fist. I mean it hurt! I stuck the arm under the kitchen faucet, turned on the hot water, and proceeded to scrub the wound with dish detergent and a wash cloth. I grabbed my first aid kit and jeweler’s loupe and went to the table where the light was better. After a thorough examination, it looked like it was debris free, so I pushed some anti-biotic cream into the holes, stuck a couple of band aids over the holes, and poured some Bourbon over ice.

A few days later it opened up and left me with an angry, nasty, open gash, but it started healing right away and after a couple of weeks I could finally use that hand fully again.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Josh said...

To get pics of google maps/satellite. Use the print screen function, on a mac it's

Hold down Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 3


Hold down Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 4 and release all keys then use your mouse select what you want to print.

For windows

I think there's a print screen button on the new keyboards. Otherwise, do a google search on how to 'print screen' for whatever operating system you use.

Doug said...

Great story. I too have made the decision that an injury looks ok and kept moving. In hindsight, I usually need to get stitches.

how do you tell the difference between hog trails and deer? or do they use the same?

Ian Nance said...


Having a tough time with the piggies this year. No water! And the acorns are thick so they won't come to feeders. Haven't seen a one all season...which is very very strange.

Albert Quackenbush said...

Thanks for the insight, Albert, and the graphical description of the carnage left on your forearm. Ouch! Holy #$%@, ouch. I very much appreciate the how-to in hog scouting. I was trying to explain this very post to a fellow hog hunter (who has more than 10 years hog hunting experience that I do) and he kept saying you can't pattern a hog. I told him I beg to differ and, well, after having him set up on a couple of spot he's been killing plenty of hogs. Now I need to get one!

Rebecca said...

Smile, you're on candid camera...
Ok, maybe it isn't like that, but you have been chosen as one of this weeks Featured Outdoor Bloggers on the Outdoor Blogger Network!
The announcement post is up and your RSS feed is now live on the OBN homepage for the week.
You've done an amazing job on your blog here and we hope lots of new people discover it as well.
Rebecca and Joe

Albert A Rasch said...

Hey guys,

Thanks for all the comments and thoughts.
Thanks also to the folks at Outdoor Bloggers Network for choosing me this week!

Best Regards,
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Albert Rasch In Afghanistan

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Such a great bit of story telling

CJW said...

Hey man, great site you have here! This is C.J. from Trapping Supplies Review. I'm glad you visited and left your link. I added you to my blogroll and I'll be visiting often! Best wishes!