Hog Trapping 101
Here's are good trapping methods to catch numbers of pesky wild pigs.
Wild hogs, feral pigs, wild boar, boar, porkers… pests, nuisance, exotic impostors! These critters have a growing repertoire of names and descriptions to match their rapidly expanding range. Wild hogs have become such a pestilence in some places that land managers are scrambling to find ways to keep up with their growing numbers. Hunters are told to shoot the pigs no matter what, but they let them pass because they don’t want to scare off the deer by firing a shot. After deer season most hunters have used up their allotted free time in the woods — until turkey season anyway — and the hogs never get the pressure needed to control a burgeoning population.
A trapping program can be done by a single person and can be highly effective in the number of man-hours spent versus the amount of pork removed from the habitat. A trapping program? Yes, hogs have expanded so swiftly that the traditions and knowledge that should go along with them have not been able to keep up. If you really want to put a dent in a wild-hog population, read on.
I can’t remember the first hog trap I saw, but it was definitely during the Johnson administration. My father and uncles had permanently built traps all over their property. They were constructed from heart-pine boards and stood about five-feet tall. They were a single room, six-foot by eight-foot affair with one sliding trap door, also made of heart-pine boards.
Back then hogs were trapped for different reasons. Big boars were sometimes sold to “big-game ranches” and shoats (yearling pigs) were transported to a farm pen. There they were wormed and fattened on pure corn for a couple of months before being invited to a barbecue or turned into sausage — the best barbecue and sausage you will ever taste. Boars were also castrated and released to fatten up naturally. The technical word for a castrated boar is a “barrow,” but the colloquial term heard most often in the south is shortened to “Barred Hog” or “Marked Hog.”
What you do with the hogs is something you need to think about when planning to trap them. It’s very helpful to find someone who has experience with hogs to give you a hand. If none of your friends or club members qualify, you can get helpful advice from your local county-extension office.
There is a Department of Agriculture regulation that says it is illegal to transport live feral hogs until they have been tested for brucellosis and pseudorabies within the last 30 days. If you don’t kill the hogs on the spot, there are two ways to transport live hogs once the tests come back negative — one is to tie all of their feet together (hog-tie), or you need to have a transport pen with a trap door that you can back up to your trap’s door and herd the pigs into it. If you don’t know how to hog-tie a pig, then I recommend the latter, as it is foolproof, whereas the former can provide unneeded excitement!
Before you even construct a trap, begin educating your hogs on how good corn tastes. This will take all of one day. If you are running feeders on your property, they already know, and you will either need to turn the feeders off while you are trapping, or put the traps directly beneath them. You want to create a corn dependency, and feeders can put out too much.
Each day at roughly the same time, drive slowly through your property, dribbling corn out of your hand, just a few kernels at a time. Try to cover all of the woods roads you have. Don’t worry, the pigs can smell the corn from wherever they are and will come to the roadside to get their share. You will be able to control hog movement because they will rapidly leapfrog each other following the meager trail of sweetness. Do not molest them. Although tempting, do not rush the harvest. You may get one or two, but you can do much better than that by being patient. After a week the pigs will begin to lose their fear of vehicles, and will associate them with food. They will eventually start meeting you on the road. You will soon recognize each pig and will know when you are seeing the same ol’ sow with the mangled right ear that you have nicknamed after your junior prom date, or if you’re seeing a new hog. As long as new hogs are showing up, keep everything nice and friendly.
As you are getting them used to your welfare program, be planning on the spot for the trap, and place it as soon as possible. The trapping spot need not be way off in some hard-to-get-to place; just somewhere that is convenient to your vehicle and the pigs. A dead-end road is a perfect final destination. If your land has few roads, use a 4-wheeler instead of a car to deliver the corn, and set the trap at the jumping-off point. You need to be able to get to the trap by pick-up.
Once you have a willing following of corn junkies, begin shortening the distance you sprinkle the corn, but go very heavy approaching, all around, and inside the trap. After a period of days, you will have most of your pigs waiting for you around the trap. Do not set it, just leave the door wide open and let them make themselves at home. Don’t be frustrated if it takes longer than you expected for them to all get used to going inside, they will. Gradually shift from spreading corn all around to dumping it all right in the center of the trap and around the base of the “set-stick” (read below) which is, for now, leaning harmlessly against the side of the trap. After baiting the area, back off and watch with binoculars from inside your vehicle. The mature boars will be the most cautious, but they too will eventually warm up and give in to the irresistible corn. Keep in mind that the pigs will get spooked if you step out of your vehicle. Don’t do anything at this point that will make them suspicious. If you are using your ATV, stay seated and don’t make sudden movements.
If you have followed these directions, the swine are now ready to be removed from the habitat. You have an estimate of how many hogs you are going to end up with as well as their ages and sexes from your observations. Maybe you have promised the meat for your club’s work weekend and your family reunion, or even traded a corn-fattened hog to a guy that is going to bush hog your trails in September, or secured a choice spot on a dove field in exchange for supplying the pork for the opening-day cookout. All of these promises are based on the strength and quality of your trap. Remember: a trapped hog is not always a “caught” hog.
As mentioned, my family’s early traps were constructed of lumber and were not mobile. If another spot needed a trap, another was built. That may, or may not be, the way to do it on your property, but before tackling that issue, you need to simply understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to a building a hog trap.
Basically, a hog trap is a fenced-in area with a trap door. A good hog trap is a fenced-in area with a trap door that’s more or less hog-proof. I have seen hogs climb out of wooden fences. I have seen big boars charge a heart-pine wall, banging their heads against it until it splits open, and then I’ve watched in disbelief as they squeezed through the not-quite-big-enough-hole to escape. I have watched hogs take their snouts, fling up a trap door, and run out from under it before it came back down. I have many times found my traps totally cleaned out of bait, but not sprung. Hogs are smart and very adaptable; they are quick learners and can leave you in frustration. The first time the trap door slams down they will become educated, so make that first time work right.
For the hogs you missed, you can fool them again, but it will take additional time and corn.
There was one particularly smart boar that I was attempting to trap around the time Jimmy Carter was elected President. My father and I nicknamed him “Houdini.” We were using one of the old heart-pine traps and Houdini, a large tenor-framed black boar with a white shoulder list, used all of the above-mentioned methods of escape. In the end, however, his weakness for corn eventually led to a soprano singing career!
Today there are many more building materials available besides wood, although it remains one of the easiest to work with. For a permanently situated trap, simply build a sturdy fenced-in enclosure with a sliding trap door. If using wire, make sure it is heavy gauged, stretched tight, and very snug against the ground. Its best to run a board all the way around on the bottom instead of just wire. If a hog can get his nose under the bottom of a trap, he will try to squeeze under, but if the hog can’t see daylight, or detect a weak spot, he usually won’t tunnel out. Regardless of building material, if there is a gap below the fence, the hogs will capitalize on it, but if they can only see solid ground, they usually will not. They will almost always root a pit in the middle of the area, pushing additional dirt up on the edge. As mentioned above, they will charge the sides and attempt to break through. Use plenty of big nails. If using boards, watch the gaps between them, as the hogs may use these as footholds when climbing out. They are not as quick to climb wire, probably because it cuts in and hurts when they try.
If you have the access to a welder, I recommend fabricating a trap frame out of two-inch galvanized pipe and stretching chain link fencing to fill in the sides. The best traps I have ever used were made of these materials, and they outlast even the most expensive treated wood. For total mobility, weld a trailer axle underneath it and a trailer hitch on the end. When you set it up, take a shovel and dig holes just big enough for the tires to bottom out in, and the trap will sit down solidly. Make sure you pick a level spot to do this to avoid gaps underneath.
If you only have a few pigs on your property, a single-room trap will suffice. However, if you are trying to remove a big group, or even one sow with piglets, you need a double-sided trap with a divider that also has a door. You will invariably catch the sow and some of her pigs, with the rest left outside. If you have the other side set as well, they can be caught and you can use the middle door to reunite them.
Whether using wood or metal, the opening for the trap door needs to be 12- to 18-inches wide and about 30-inches tall. A channel twice that tall must be created for your door to slide up and down in. The channel needs to be sturdy enough and tall enough to support the door when it is up and set to fall, and also when it is closed and being attacked by an angry boar-hog. If the channel-to-door fit is sloppy, the door may bind on the way down and not close completely. If possible, at the threshold create a lip that will not allow a snout to pry the door back up. The most effective door I have seen was made out of treated 2x6s, bolted together with two pieces of 1 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch angle iron. This resulted in a door too heavy to be snout tossed, and it closes with authority. Three-quarter to one-inch treated plywood will work, but for best results you may need to add weight. Remember also to rig a way to hold the door open when not being set — a screen-door hook will work.
The final piece of hardware is the set stick. This is a hardwood limb or sapling five- to six-feet long that you set the trap with. The trap door should have a 1/4-inch by two-inch notched-out spot on it. The set stick should be cut at an angle so that only a small but sturdy edge connects with the notch like a sear and trigger. The other end of the set stick is placed at about a 45-degree angle in the bottom of the trap and covered with corn. It is usually necessary to crawl into the trap and prop the door open with the stick. Be very careful on the way back out. If alone, put a forked stick under the door to catch it in case it accidentally falls while you are under it, or if you have a partner, have him hold the door.
If you really want to put a dent in a wild-hog population, try a trap. The hogs will enter the trap, go for the pile of corn, root the stick out of the way, and the door will slam shut.
Nothing to it.