The Ins And Outs Of Hunting Wild Boar in Florida
Did you know you can go hog hunting in Central Florida? Yes, and you’re about to find out how awesome this experience can be. Just read on!
Florida has some major problems when it comes to invasive species. From pythons in the everglades to iguanas in Miami to Cuban Treefrogs pretty much everywhere else, combating the infiltration of non-native critters is a constant battle.
In central Florida, one intruder runs rampant, the wild hog. Luckily, this is one invasive species that is popular with large game trophy hunters and is also delicious on a dinner plate.
If you’re ready to come face to snout with this unique game animal, here’s an overview of what to expect. We’ll take a look at regulations, tracking tips and the best times for Central Florida hog hunting.
Wild Hog History
Wild pigs (aka wild hogs, wild boar or feral swine) are not native to Florida. They originated as an old-world species and were brought here by early European settlers.
Over the years, they interbred with domestic pig species and population numbers skyrocketed, especially in the Gulf states.
Though mostly concentrated in the south, wild hogs have been reported in at least 45 states with a range as far north as Michigan, North Dakota, and Oregon as well as a few Canadian provinces.
Though mostly concentrated in the south, wild hogs have been reported in at least 45 states with a range as far north as Michigan, North Dakota, and Oregon.
High concentrations of wild pigs negatively impact the delicate ecosystems they inhabit. Feral hogs wander the land looking for food by rooting up the topsoil with their broad snouts. This results in severe habitat destruction for the more delicate native species.
A heard of swine can leave a previously pristine environment looking as if it was tilled by a plow. Florida soil, in particular, is extremely delicate and disruption of any kind can be very destructive. For this reason, population control is an important ecological necessity.
Wild boar meat has become quite popular in homes and restaurants recently. This is an encouraging (and delicious) trend that has spurred interest in hunting and, as a result, population control.
What Is Hog Hunting
According to the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), a wild hog is defined as free-roaming and cannot be legally claimed as a domestic hog in private ownership. These wild pigs tend to travel in small family groups (called a sounder) but can also be alone.
Hunting hogs is different than hunting deer or fowl. One popular hunting method relies heavily on the use of dogs for tracking down and restraining targets. Since wild boar can be a dangerous force to be reckoned with, these specially trained dogs have to be assertive, brave and strong.
There are two roles dogs can play in the hunt, bay or catch. The bay dogs will find and pursue the pigs. The catch dogs are then sent to keep the hog immobile until the hunter arrives.
Popular hog hunting dog breeds include:
- Black Mouth Cur
- Walker Hound
- Catahoula Leopard Dogs
- American Bulldog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Cane Corso
- Dogo Argentino
Other hunting methods use a tree or box stand situated near a feeder. Hunters can also follow tracks over terrain themselves without canine assistance. This “still” method eliminates the need for trained dogs. However, wild boar can be quite aggressive when threatened so caution is crucially important.
Wild Hog Hints
In Florida, hog hunting is particularly popular in the central region. There are numerous Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that are open to the public. A hunting license is not required to take wild hogs, however, a permit is required to hunt on WMA land in most cases.
It’s important to check the local FWC regulations on bag limits, open season dates and allowed hunting methods (crossbow, rifle, dogs etc.) as they vary from location to location.
There are two Wildlife Management areas in central Florida that are open to a year-round dog and still hog hunting, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Rolling Meadows Unit in Polk and Osceola counties. A management area permit is not required in either of these two locations.
On non-WMA land, hog hunters are allowed to use any legal rifle, shotgun, crossbow, bow, pistol or air gun. There are no size or bag limits, and both males and females may be bagged. Written permission from a landowner is required to hunt on private property.
For sportsmen interested in discovering the thrill of wild boar hunting, there are a number of companies in central Florida that offer hog hunting expeditions for trophy or meat purposes. This is a nice option if you’re looking to get experience with tracking but don’t their own trained dogs.
Best Time Of The Year For Florida Hog Hunting
If you’re ready to feel the rush of tracking down boar, there’s one last thing to consider. What are the best times for Central Florida hog hunting?
Hog hunting on non-WMA land is open year-round so you are able to enjoy the thrill of tracking these magnificent creatures at any time. However, many hunters feel that the best time is after deer season (around December-February).
Because the weather is cooler in the late winter and early spring, the swine tend to eat more and for a longer period of time. This gives the hunter a better chance to locate a sounder. They are also more likely to visit feeder sites in the morning to keep their energy level up during the cool days.
Another bonus of cool weather hunting is the meat will be less likely to spoil. During the hot months, you have to process and cool the meat very quickly to prevent spoilage and bug infestation.
Winter is also the dry season in Florida so you will be less likely to have to trudge through muddy lowlands and swampy areas. There is less vegetation at this time as well so you have better visibility of your target through the brush.
Another thing to consider is the time of day. Feral hogs are nocturnal and like to feed under cover of darkness. Nighttime hunts during a new moon are popular. Hunters will use lights, heat-seeking equipment or special night hunting alert modules to locate the catch. If you’re not equipped for a night hunt, early morning and early evening are also popular times to come up on a sounder of hogs feeding.
It’s easy to see why hog hunting is so popular. It’s thrilling, the regulations are lax, and the meat is delicious. Get ready to chase down some wild Florida porkers!