Believe this: there are wild, tusk-gnashing, razorback hogs roaming the forests of Indiana and they are dangerous in more ways than one.
To many of us wild hogs are a double-edged sword. They are a dangerous species that make for exciting hunting. However, they are also a seemingly unstoppable invasive species that can wipe out crops, kill fawns, destroy turkey and grouse populations, spread disease, have no natural predators, and will change the nature of wildlife in Indiana. So I am torn. As a hunter, I want to have the excitement of hunting wild hogs. As a conservationist, I want to aid the IDNR in eradicating wild hogs from Indiana, but what can be done?
Trapping and destroying entire family units in specially built live traps is the best way to stop their expansion, but few have the resources and connections to effectively find and trap wild hogs. Plus, wild hogs are wary and any that escape are almost impossible to catch thereafter.
Unfortunately, recreational hunting in not considered a viable option for keeping the hogs in check. They can easily out produce any predation of their numbers. In fact, some INDR biologists consider hog hunting counterproductive to their trapping efforts. They also rightfully fear that promoting hog hunting will lead the unknowing or the uncaring to release more wild hogs into even more areas. We have to look no further than the willful spreading of the zebra mussel and shad in Indiana’s lakes to realize there are some that can see no farther than the ends of their own selfish noses.
However, regardless if you feel Indiana hog hunting is useful to control the population or a counterproductive focus, there is no argument that few people have more Indiana wild hog experience than Chuck Brenner. He has made it a personal crusade to purge them from Indiana.
I had a chance to hunt with Chuck and his passion and knowledge of hog hunting impressed me. I saw firsthand just how different hog hunting in Indiana is from places like Texas, and I saw why we should be taking every step necessary to stop this invasive species while we still can.
Razorbacks are currently only found in small areas of Indiana, but those areas are some of the most wild and inaccessible in Indiana. The learning curve on wild hog habits and their habitat is steep, literally and figuratively, which is why Chuck shares his experience and tips.
- Knock on lots of doors in hog country. Some landowners will tell you no, but others will say yes. Some folks may not even realize they have hogs on their property until you show them pictures of a hog killed nearby. Provided you are respectful, and share some fresh cut pork, you will be allowed back.
- Forget game feeders. Unlike Texas and other hog hotspots, Indiana’s hogs have little competition for food and lots of foods to choose from. Hogs are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything available from acorns and hickory nuts to wild turkey eggs and poults. In Texas the hog populations are such that they have to compete for food, so feeders work well to draw them in. In Indiana a wild game feeder is just one of many food sources so hogs may or may not visit them reliably
- Hogs in Indiana are nocturnal feeders. If hogs do visit a feeder, it is usually after dark.
- Razorbacks sleep during the day. Wild hogs can have multiple denning areas and they are usually in thick brushy, overgrown areas with multiple escape routes.
- Get to know the hog’s territory. With multiple denning areas and countless places for them to feed a good hunters must know the likely areas that the hogs will be in at that time. If Chuck doesn’t find hogs at one den site, he knows the other dens sites they use, plus he knows the best routes to get there with a minimum of effort and noise.
- Know what hog sign looks like. Some hog sign goes together. Low spots in logging roads collect water and make great locations for hogs to roll in the mud, known as wallows. Finding muddy water and fresh wallows are a good sign that hogs have visited it within hours before. If they are very fresh the hog’s bristly hair can be seen imprinted in the mud. Along with the wallows are rub trees. Once hogs are coated with mud, they like to rub against trees nearby. Often there will be a stand of trees with their trunks coated with mud. When boars rub their tusks often leave gashes in the bark. Judging the height of the gash marks and the mud can indicate how large the hogs are. Wallows are also great spots to see hog prints. To the untrained eye they look like deer prints. However, a hog’s dew claws are much closer to the ground and they often leave indentations as well as the hoof.
- Hogs can have piglets any time of the year. If you see what appear to be fawn tracks long after fawning season is over, they could very well be piglets.
- Hogs often feed by rooting. With their keen sense of smell hogs root out favorite grubs, roots, tuber, and freshly planted crops. This rooting can be in clumps or long trails of overturned dirt that look like someone has gone mad with a shovel. Once you see where a hog has rooted you realize just how destructive they can be.
- Use the proper gun for the job. INDR considers wild hogs to be a nuisance animal and allows any legal means to hunt them. The idea is to shoot as many as possible, big and small. Chuck prefers an open-sighted semi-automatic 30.06 Browning for the job. Since most daylight hog hunting means pushing them out of their den sites, they are often running. Trying to find a moving razorback in thick brush with a scope is next to impossible. Jacketed bullets are also recommended as the hog can often have a thick layer of fat that blunts the force of buckshot and slugs.
- If a trap is built it has to be big enough, high enough, and strong enough to keep in possibly thousands of pounds of hogs. Keep in mind releasing any trapped hogs back into the wild is illegal. It is also illegal to possess or transport live wild hogs. All trapped hogs, no matter how small and cute, must be destroyed.
The future of Indiana’s wildlife is at stake. No states that are infested with wild hogs think they are better off. They all wish they could turn back the clock and time has not run out for Indiana, yet. How you choose to make a stand is up to you.
See also: Indiana’s Wild Hogs
For more information about hunting Indiana’s wild hogs go to www.indianasportsman.com
IDNR asks that observations of wild hog activity or killed wild hogs be reported to:
Dr. Joe N. Caudell, Ph.D.
Wildlife Disease Biologist, USDA – APHIS – Wildlife Services
Information regarding illegal live possession or illegal releases of wild hogs in Indiana should be reported to the 1-800-TIP-IDNR line (1-800-847-4367).