Great-eating wild hogs are never out of season if you know where to go.
Wild hogs, also called wild boars or feral pigs, aren’t native to Florida. They either were introduced by colonists or may even have been brought over by the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto as early as 1539. Either way, they have adapted and prospered in Florida’s mild climate and are plentiful throughout the state, found in all 67 counties.
They live in various habitats but prefer moist forests, swamps and pine flatwoods. Abundant populations of wild hogs occur west of Lake Okeechobee, between the Kissimmee and lower St. Johns river basins, and farther north along the Gulfcoastal marshes between the Aucilla and Withlacoochee rivers.
They’re not listed as game animals by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) but are considered wildlife. And even though wild hogs can have negative impacts on native vegetation and wildlife, they’re an important food source for several native species including the alligator, black bear and bobcat as well as the endangered Florida panther and American crocodile.
And as far as hunters are concerned, wild hogs make for a great hunting opportunity. I have to admit, as much as I love the taste of a deer’s backstrap, it doesn’t touch wild hog that has been smoked all day and then pulled. On private property with the landowner’s permission, you may trap or hunt wild hogs year round, day or night, using any weapon you’re allowed to own. Also, there are no size or bag limits. You may harvest either sex, and again – you don’t even need a hunting license to do so. That goes for nonresidents as well.
If you don’t know how to clean one, not to worry because I’m sure there’s a good game processor in the area you can take it to. But if you do decide to dress one yourself, there’s some precautions you should take.
As with any wild animal, wild hogs can carry parasites and other diseases – some of which may be transmitted to people. One such disease is swine brucellosis.
Hunters shouldn’t be overly concerned with this disease but should practice a few good-hygiene, safety precautions.
Don’t eat, drink or use tobacco when field-dressing wild hogs, and use latex or rubber gloves when handling the carcass or raw meat. Avoid direct contact with blood, reproductive organs and fecal matter. Wearing long sleeves, eye protection and covering any scratches or open wounds that you may have will help protect you when butchering your hog. And wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when taking a break and when finished.
When hunting one of the state’s many wildlife management areas (WMAs), you’ll need to obtain the area’s regulations brochure to learn what you can and cannot do regarding hunting wild hogs. These brochures contain maps of the area, and you can pick them up at county tax collectors’ offices that are in close proximity to the WMA. They can also be downloaded from the FWC’s hunting website at MyFWC.com/hunting.
In addition to still hunting for hogs from a stand, some hunters prefer to catch them with traps or by the use of dogs. Special pens with trap doors work well when baited with acorns or slightly fermented corn. And dogs like black mouth curs and pit bulls make good “catch” dogs because they can be trained to capture hogs, which they do by biting down on their ears and pinning them to the ground. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman April 2013