Where to go: Here in California wild hogs are found throughout our state and naturally some areas are more productive than others. Mendocino, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Santa Barbra, Tehama, Colusa, Fresno, Calaveras, Humboldt, San Benito, Sonoma, Siskiyou, Santa Barbara, Tulare, King, Paso Robles, Yolo, Lassen and Fresno all harvest wild boar. I would recommend you start your search with private land owners. The Department of Fish and Wildlife reports show that 92.4% of successful hog hunts are done on private land. Of course you can get a hog on public land, but you only have a 7.6% of a chance of successfully harvesting a boar off public land. Plus private land owners do not want hogs on their land because of how destructive they are.

Starting your hunt: Often hog signs are hard to find because they move around a lot. So this means a lot of hiking! Hogs can be found almost anywhere, but the one thing they can’t live without is water. So this is a good starting point. Find where a pig would get water and start looking near those water sources especially in areas that have dense cover. Keep looking for the freshest tracks and any signs that you can and follow them. 

Just because they are not where you saw them last time doesn’t mean they are not there. It’s hunting not shooting, some days they are there and some days they are not.  Some days you find them in the morning and some days you find them in the afternoon. Use those days that you are not seeing any signs to get to know how these pigs move. This will help you learn the land even better and sometimes you run across one hiding under a bush, or you come over a ridge and there they are. When you don’t find them in the common areas that everyone sees them in they can be holding in the areas in-between them. Make sure to use your binoculars to look INTO the thick brush. The easiest thing to spot in the woods are ears and horizontal lines, diligently look at every rock, bush and shadow. You will be surprised when some of them will turn out to be a hog.  

Learn the routes that they naturally take and don’t be surprised when you jump one in the place you least expect it. Be careful, they hold really tight and can come charging out at you at any time. But most of the time they will be running away from you. Regardless you need to be prepared to take a shot within seconds at any moment. If other people are getting pigs in the area and you are not, just remember pigs move a lot and just because they are not there when you were that does not mean the area is bad.  A lot of the time a successful is hunt is when opportunity and preparation come together at the same time, this is also known as luck to some. I will tell you that I am not lucky, I just work harder them most. I learn as much about the area as I can, so I can move to other areas where they may have moved to or gone thru. Often I have a person that wants to hunt from the truck and I am ok with that.  It makes for less hiking when I need to get picked up 2 to 12 miles from where I started, meaning I don’t have to hike back over areas that I have already covered. 

Hog terrain and what to look for: 

  • Habitat. It would be easier for me to say there is just about nothing a hog will not eat. All hogs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals.  They are the complete opportunist and will eat virtually every plant or animal available to them. When you think of a hog you don’t think of them as a predators, but they are.  Anything that they can overpower they will eat.  They really like reptile’s even rattlesnakes, amphibians, birds and their eggs, insects, worms, and any smaller mammal, dead or alive. I am sure you have heard the old saying, “that is why you don’t ever mess with a pig farmer”, because they will eat bone and all. Favored vegetation are acorns, any fruits, seeds or nuts, mushrooms, roots, bark, and although they are not grazers, they will eat some grasses and they love eating the buds off flowering plants in the spring.
  • Trails. Hog trails are a valuable sign. Sometimes it's possible to see worn trails on the ground and tunnels in the brush. The tunnels run through really think cover and are generally not that easy to be seen. If the brush is lower you will likely easily see these even from a distance.  
  • Wallows. They love to roll around in wallows to cool themselves off and to help to get rid of insects and parasites. You will be able to smell the wallows as they have a strong odor.  How a pig makes a wallow is they urinate and defecate in the water and then they roll around in it. Once you find the wallowing area, you will want to look for trails and tracks. This is good for you to know and remember as it will help you down the road in finding more clues on were they might be or where they might be going.
  • Hog Rubs. A hog rub is when the mud dries on the hog, and they run and scratch it off on nearby trees. When you see trees with hog rubs on them, it’s a good sign that you are in the right area.
  • Hair.  Wild hog hair bristles will be found most of the time on the bottom side of barbwire wire fences, by scat, near or in wallows and or by favored vegetation.
  • Rooting and Nesting. Now rooting is the easiest to see. It looks like a rototiller turned over acres of land and sometimes it happens in just one night. This is one way that they get meals. They bulldoze into the ground and turn over the top layer for food. You are also looking for chopped up dead wood that have been scattered. Wild hogs will cut and tear into old fallen trees and logs looking for meal worms, insects, fungus and an occasional small mammal or bird that live in them. Hogs also root their beds in the ground. They lay in the holes which keep them cool in summer and warm in winter and also help them hide. The beds are large, bowl shaped craters most often under cover, but they can be in the open too, so don’t just look in the hard to see places. A sow (female hog) will make a nest in a hole that she made, on flat land or hidden into a woodpile or under thick cover and often, just like a bird, you can see them plucking leaves and other soft vegetation and carrying them in their mouths to line their nest.
  • Scat. Wild hog scat can vary in what it looks like depending upon what the boar’s diet is. They will eat the feces of other hogs, so don’t always count on finding it. Just because scat is not visible now does not mean it was not there this morning.
  • Smell. Don’t underestimate your sense of smell. Some hogs smell and the more time you’re around them the better your ability to smell them will improve. We typically don’t rely on our sense of smell as much as we should. Be sure to pay attention, it’s not that you can’t smell them, you just don’t know what you are smelling.  There are many states where you can use dogs to hunt wild boars, but in California we cannot. This means we have to spend a lot more time scouting for feral pigs.
  • Tracks. Tracks are one of the best signs, because you can see where they were coming from and where they are going to. Even old tracks tell a story, make sure to spend the time following them and to learn from them. When I’m learning a new area and I come across old tracks, I follow them to learn the movements of the animal, I do this on all of my big game hunting. 

What do Wild Boar tracks look like:
Hog track are usually easily distinguished from a deer track.  

A pig hoof is rounder at the toes and the toes can be spread because the animal is heavy, or they can spread from the impact of running. You can tell when a pig is not in a hurry because his toes will not spread very much in the mud. On harder ground they would be even closer together. If the hoof tips don't clear the ground, they can drag forward to make lines in the dirt that make the toes look pointed. This will sometimes make the hog track look like a deer track. But the drag marks will be as long the hog’s stride, a good way to tell how big the game you are hunting is.

Deer tracks comes to a point in-between the toes. Deer tracks are thinner and curve outward on the inside of the hoof. Deer tracks can imitate hog tracks if the toe tips push deeply into the softer ground. However, the deer track is much more narrow than the hogs and the inside is back cut, hogs do not have that.  The hogs get a little fatter on the inside not skinner. 

Both deer and hogs have dew claws that can leave an imprint on either side of each track if the hooves sink deeply into the ground for whatever the reason. The hogs tend to be to the outer side of back of the track, where a deer tends to be directly behind the back of the track. If you pay attention to them you will not be tracking the wrong animal, which does happen to a lot of hunters.

Hog Tracks:

​Deer Tracks:

​Submitted by: Michael Dickerson, All The Outdoors

Recently, I had the opportunity to take my son and wife on their first hog hunt.  It was nice to go without any expectation other than just teaching them. We were able to see wild boar tracks, several deer feeding, and even bear and mountain lion tracks! 

One thing that I have learned over the years is when taking a new person out with me on the hunt, that today may be the first time anyone has ever taken the time to explain the outdoors to them. As you are scouting and seeing signs, remember to point it out to them so they can learn to read a game trails, what tracks and scat belong to which animals, tell them what the forest is telling you and explain it to them as its happening. 

Don’t be so focused on the hunt that you don’t get to enjoy the time just getting outdoors. It was a nice day teaching them how to read the forest like a book. And that's my kind of reading!

Here is some of my research and helpful tips to help with your next hog hunt:

First they have many names: American Wild Boar, Razorbacks, Feral Pigs, Russian and European Boar. The average adult boar is between 150 to 250 pounds. They have larger heads and snout, but the ears are smaller than domestic hogs. Their legs are longer and higher off the ground compared to domestic pigs. With broad shoulders that taper back to the hind quarter, this is the bone that grows between the inner hide and the meat of the pig providing armor to protect him while he is getting into fights with other male boars. Domestic hogs don’t have this armor. First on the list of predators are humans then bears, packs of wolves or dogs and panthers. A pig let (shoats) are young pig that can be taken by dogs, coyote, bobcats and the larger raptors such as owls and eagles. True to the hog's ruthless nature, shoats and pigs are commonly cannibalized by larger hogs.

There are 23 subspecies of hogs worldwide, but there is only one species in the US, Sus scrofa. The family is Suidae, thus the hog call, "sui". Just as our countless breeds of dogs were all derived from the wolf, our varieties of domestic hogs and all of their feral relatives were all derived from the Eurasian Wild Boar. They are incidentally not at all related to the southwest's javalina (collared peccary). The ancestors of the hog go back to the Ice Age, and their domestication was somewhere between 5000 to 9000 years ago. The American continents have no native hogs as the cold, snow and glaciers of the Ice Age blocked the hog's access to the North American Continent. Columbus in 1493 brought eight hogs to the West Indies. Importation to the American mainland was in the mid 1500's by Cortez and De Soto, and in the mid 1600's by La Salle. Pure Eurasian boars were not brought here until they were imported for sport hunting in the early 1900's. In the US the pure Eurasian hog is classed as an exotic, and the rest of the wild boar, originally domestic animals gone wild, are feral.

Wild pigs are normally black but they can have colors and patterns, here are some examples:

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