New-school hog hunting

What’s that green glow?

It’s a beacon for bacon.

Owen George is always on his iPhone when he’s hunting. He’s constantly staring at it like many thumb-flicking 30-somethings. To the uninitiated, it looks like he’s just wasting time on Facebook until it’s time to drag butt out to the stand. But appearances can be deceiving, because George is checking the photos on his trail cameras — in real time. With two cameras connected to his phone via their own cellular signals, they send him text messages with images whenever the trigger is tripped. It’s like George is always in the woods. When he’s at his camp, he’s “hunting” even when he’s not in a stand.

“I was sitting at the camp one day, watching a movie; it was probably 11 o’clock or so,” George said. “I got a text and it showed a nice hog at the feeder right then and there, so I grabbed my rifle, did an Elmer Fudd sneak through the woods barefooted and dropped her.”

As we were approaching the camp in Bossier Parish, La., his phone lit up.

“There’s a pack there now,” he said as his phone gave away a sounder. He inched the gas pedal closer to the floorboard, carving up the county road.

We arrived, threw the truck in park and immediately sprang into action. Hyped up on adrenaline, George grabbed his rifle, inserted a loaded magazine and we took off into the woods on foot. I was still in sandals. As we approached, with sweat pouring from every gland, the sounder was there feeding, but the pigs were on alert. We were behind tall grass and didn’t have a shot; our only option was to climb into the blind and try to squeeze one off. After climbing into the stand as quietly as possible, the pack had left. They’re highly sensory critters and can smell as well or better than a deer. The pack wouldn’t return until the next day, when George dropped a 120-pound sow in her tracks at 6:25 a.m.

I’d heard of cellular-equipped trail cameras, but never considered using them this way. That is, effectively. George relies on Bushnell’s Trophy Cam HD Wireless models. He sets his cameras to scan the area every 20 minutes and capture images if there is any movement. If left to scan continuously, he will wake up with 70 or more text messages of the same thing.

George also uses a green LED light system that hangs on the bottom of the feeder that isn’t intrusive to the hogs once they get used to it. Add these two weeks before your hunt to allow them to acclimate to it. Once the lights are in place, you can plainly see what’s under the feeder even from 100 yards away.

Feed ’em on a schedule

Hogs can be as predictable as the sunrise — as long as you stay consistent with your feeding.

“If you’re specifically targeting hogs, you need to feed them regularly,” said George. “If they come by once or twice and the ground is clean, they’re moving on and won’t be back for a while.”

It’s no secret that you need to feed hogs constantly to keep them coming around, but George has the timing down to a science.

“When you start feeding them regularly, you can expect them every day about two weeks after you begin, as long as it’s constant,” he said.

George even has the time-stamped photos to prove their regularity; give or take 10 minutes, the packs of hogs are there the same time every day. The unexpected visits are where the cellular trail cams come in handy; they give away the swine at unusual times, such as the middle of the day.

The regularity of the visits is affected each time you enter the woods and leave scent, so try to minimize intrusions. George fills up his Moultrie feeders with three bags of corn and sets them for a 3-second dispense. This gets enough corn on the ground to make it worth the hogs’ while. If he wants them to stay around a little while longer, he’ll either up the dispense time or sling a bag within a 40-yard radius of the feeder to keep them around. Never pile it in one place; this makes it too easy for them to park and chow down, and they might be obscured or eat the corn too quickly. 

George sticks to the bulk corn available at sporting goods stores and box stores.

Tools of the trade

There are plenty of solid choices for pig extermination. 

Choosing a hunting arm is a very personal decision, and it can be a very easy one or an anguish-inducing episode. On one hand, you’ve got the guy who grabs his .30-30 levergun from under the bed and shoots it at camp the day before the season. On the other are guys such as Owen George who are bona fide gun nuts.

George has plenty of guns capable of whacking a hog, but he places ethics above all else when it comes to hunting. Clean kills are a must. His go-to rifle is a modified Remington 700 chambered in .308 Winchester (7.62x51 NATO). He’s put it in a Magpul stock, added a muzzle brake and topped it with a Vortex scope. It’s capable of groups of less than an inch at 100 yards, giving George the confidence he needs to make each shot at an animal the best it can be.

In Misssissippi, there are no restrictions on when you can hogs, weaponry or bag limits. You just need a hunting license. In other words, they’re regulated like a cockroach; you can step on it any time of day, and you’re not relegated to only stepping on it, you can crush it with a mallet if you so choose. Because of this, sometimes George opts for an AR-15.

The AR-15 is a good choice for hog hunting because it is semi-automatic. In case you were wondering, the “AR” in AR-15 stands for “Armalite Rifle” not “automatic rifle” and definitely not “assault rifle.” AR-15s are available in a multitude of caliber, up to and including .300 Win Mag, but most are chambered in .223 Rem./5.56x45 NATO. This might be considered the bare minimum for hog hunting ,and it’s the legal minimum for many states when it comes to pursuing big game such as deer. A good option outside of .223 is .458 SOCOM, 6.5 Grendel and .450 Bushmaster. These are hard-hitting hog stoppers. George uses a .223 AR loaded with 62-grain Winchester Razor Back XT ammunition. It’s a tough, bonded bullet that’s designed for deep penetration on thick hog hides and performs admirably for its caliber and weight. As always, shot placement is paramount. It doesn’t matter if you hit an animal with a .300 Win Mag if you miss the vitals.  It’s going to be wounded and suffer unnecessarily.

Channeling his inner savage, when I asked about his rifle George’s eyes got narrow as he looked at me and quipped, “I don’t know what it is; I just know the sound it makes when it takes a hog’s life.”