Arrive back at the camp with deboned meat ready for the grill
I harvest many hogs each season on Louisiana public land, but ever since I became self-taught on how to backpack deboned pork out of the woods, I never think about shooting a smaller pig: I always go for the biggest one to get the most meat.
I’ve heard several times about other hunters not shooting hogs because they don’t feel like dragging them out of the woods. But by backpacking the meat out, there’s no excuse for passing up ethical shots on these tasty invasive critters.
The hog’s carcass really doesn’t mess up the area, either. Sure, I usually try to move the pig away from a tree I might plan to hunt, but usually within two to three days the entire carcass is fully eaten by hungry woodland animals.
In fact earlier this season, my wife shot a boar on a ground hunt and we cleaned it there. A couple weeks later she set up 75 yards away on another ground hunt.
And what do you know — a racked buck came out 20 yards from her just before dark and passed on the same trail where the hog bones remained. (Unfortunately, it was post-rut and the buck came out just after legal shooting hours.)
On a recent trip last month, I was stalk-hunting with the legal small-game tungsten shells in my 12-gauge over-and-under when I saw a pack of hogs. The biggest one was nice and fat, and I locked in on it and slowly made my move.
I could barely see them in the misty conditions, which made the semi-flooded forest floor perfect for a silent approach. The hogs were moving away, rooting up the ground looking for worms and late-season nuttall acorns.
I had several 50-yard shot opportunities, but passed and waited for a closer, higher-percentage shot. But the pack continued to work nearly 100 yards further away until they started circling an oak tree.
I had to flank around wide to keep the wind in my favor take cover behind a set of trees and palmettos to hide from the 10 sets of eyes.
My creep worked, and I lined up a 30-yard broadside shot on a fat spotted sow. My shot sent over two dozen BBs right through the lungs, dropping it on the spot.
Pigs took off everywhere, but instead of wasting another expensive $5 shell on a running hog, I saved my second shell in case the fat one got up. Luckily, no more tungsten was needed.
Usually, I just clean my hogs on the ground in under 20 minutes. I did an article and video a few years back demonstrating how here.
But for this hog, I wanted to show a different strategy since many hunters might not want to clean a pig on the ground — which can get the meat slightly muddy if you’re not careful. Usually my meat stays very clean during my ground-cleaning process, but hoisting the hog up is always the cleanest method.
I usually hunt alone, but this was a rare weekend when I had a hunting buddy nearby — Brian “Dago” Cifreo was on a 10-plus-mile training jog with my dogs.
So I left my backpack — including my scent-free garbage bag and knife — and ran out of the woods and snatched up Dago, who was at the 9-mile mark of his run, and informed him his next few miles would be off-trail.
We sprinted back in the flooded woods, excited about some fresh pork back strap before a long day of post-season camp chores.
I had gotten a new scale from my wife as a gift and wanted to weigh this pig. It ended up tipping the scale at 210 pounds, and had eight piglets onboard that will never get the chance to tear up any woods.
Taking out nine invasive hogs with one shell is definitely an efficient way to help rid the forest of these destructive creatures.
For hoisting a pig, all you need to do is throw the rope over a sturdy tree branch or fork in a tree, and tie one of the hog’s back legs to the rope. Since this hog was pretty heavy, we put a few knots and a stick on the free side of the rope to use as grips.
I bear-hugged the beast as Dago pulled. We grunted and gave it our all and got a little dirty in the process, but that’s all part of the fun for swamp guys like us.
For smaller pigs or deer up to 180 pounds, I have done this process myself by simultaneously lifting while using one free hand to take up the slack in the rope until the animal is off the ground.
The video of us hoisting the big pig, me solo-hoisting a nice racked buck and other hoisting and cleaning options can be found here.
For a larger pig by yourself — or even with a buddy — a block and tackle pulley system is a big help. I’ll do a future article and video demonstrating this when I take a bigger hog – hopefully next season.
We de-skinned and deboned the 210-pound pig in very short order, and put the meat in scent-free garbage bags and into my backpack for an easy hike out. And throughout the next week, we ate delicious, tender pork.
I had such a fun time that I went back for more pork on the final weekend of February, but I grabbed the Ziploc bag of BB steel shot Speedball shells — which are the same color as the much more lethal tungsten-filled Dead Coyote shells I typically use.
I’ve lost a pig with BBB steel shot at 15 yards before, and my buddies have lost several with steel on close shots. The steel has very little penetration power, but I figured if I got close enough I might have a chance so I continued on with my hunt.
Sure enough, a big hog ran by — but it happened at the most inopportune moment. I was using the bathroom with only one boot on and my pants around one ankle when some startled wood ducks took off just 20 yards away.
Instead of grabbing toilet paper, I grabbed my gun and turned on my cameras. A 150-pound boar appeared from the palmettos and stopped, quartering forward at about 12 yards.
I shot it twice in the shoulder. The hog stumbled, and then ran out in front of me. I quickly reloaded two more shells and shot it twice more in the other shoulder at 10 yards, but the pig kept staggering along.
I quickly reloaded two more shells again and chased it down — with one boot on while dragging my pants through the water to get within ten yards for two more shots.
Still, the hog kept going, but I finally heard it stop out of sight. With only two more shells in my bag, I left and gave the pig time to expire.
I stalked another 250ish-pound boar to within 25 yards, but passed on those nonlethal shots with my weak steel ammo in case I needed my last two shells to finish off the first boar.
But later on the track, no more shells were needed and six loads of BB steel flying at 1,650 fps proved to barely be enough. None of the hundreds of BBs in the hog went through the pig’s thick bones or shoulder plate, but luckily a few pellets from the final two quartering-away shots got into the guts and lungs.
I quickly cleaned that pig in the woods on the ground, which took less than 20 minutes and ended my 2016-17 hunting season on a happy note with a successful final hunt.
For anyone hunting and not wanting to drag or cart out a big hog, try cleaning it in the woods on the ground or hoisting it into a tree. Not only does it save time and leave no mess at the house, but when you arrive back at the camp, all that deboned meat is ready for the grill.