Yep, sure is hot. August is always a scorcher. But, how much do you love hunting? Aug. 15 is the opening day of WMA squirrel season, and wild hogs are also legal to take. I consider this to be the easiest time to fill my freezer with wild pork or bag a trophy boar.
In answer to the above, I do love hunting enough to brave the heat, further enhanced by the fact that WMA hogs have been left alone for nearly three months. A calmer animal is easier to hunt. Because of the heat, they can be easier to pinpoint as they will be drawn to the cooler swamps, drainages and floodplains to wallow and lay up. If a high and dry food source is a good distance away, they will have a very defined travel corridor, there and back. Cut across some fresh sign, and track ’em down.
Covering ground, runnin’ and gunnin’ WMAs has always been my favorite hog strategy. We have a lot of WMAs with hogs, some loaded, some less, and some with hogs on occasion.
Brandon Beasley, of Oak Park, arrowed this nice 120-lb. Di-Lane WMA boar on May 30 despite the eradication of more than 400 hogs on Di-Lane and the surrounding area by federal shooters in a helicopter. Brandon likes to stalk the many hardwood and pine flats on Di-Lane. Keeping the wind in his favor and following the freshest sign, he will pay special attention to any thickets along the way. This is where the hogs will be bedded when they’re not feeding nearby or en route to one of the many dove fields or adjacent agricultural lands. The trip before his success, he actually found them bedded in a thicket in the middle of a fairly open area. The wind wasn’t in his favor, so he backed out. He returned a few days later, found the wind in his favor and resumed the stalk. As he neared the thicket, he smelled the hogs. Brandon said, “CLOSE! The bushes started shaking, and I heard a couple moving off. I waited for 10 minutes as I knew more were in there. I eased around the next bush, and there stood one looking right at me. I let the arrow fly, and he crashed 30 yards away.”
Over the years I’ve been successful and have accumulated a list of waypoints that I now check every August. Hogs are either there or they’re not. If present, I put the ol’ Indian stalk on ’em. If not, I’ll keep moving to the next spot or next WMA.
Go all day. I’ve taken many hogs at midday, with many of them on the move feeding. Others bedded or perhaps in a wallow, which is a great midday spot. Get on sign, and follow it.
Preparation is going to be key this time of year. You need to cover ground efficiently and comfortably. Here are my key essentials for hog hunting WMAs in August.
Ice Water: Hydrate well before the hunt. Take plenty of water with you, and have some cold drinks at the truck when you return.
GPS and Extra Batteries: No time for being lost. Knowing the most direct route back out is crucial.
Backpack: Inside will be bottled water, cleaning knife, latex gloves and large ice bags to store meat, so I don’t bloody up my backpack. Learn to quarter out meat on the ground at the kill site. It’s too hot to be dragging all that extra weight around. You’ll be needing to get your meat on ice quickly.
ThermaCell and Skeeter Spray: A must. You may not always need these, but when you do, they are hunt savers.
Extra Tees: You will be getting sweated down. A fresh shirt feels wonderful.
This year on May 16-31, we had our first WMA coyote/feral hog season. Being that I like to do articles with fresh photos, this would be my only opportunity to do a run on several WMAs before the August season opener. With only two weekends during the short 16-day season and folks tuned more into May fishing, I knew it would be a challenge.
I recruited a few WMA hitmen, and off we went. On the following three pages are the results of those efforts. Each successful hunter offered up a photo and their hunt story. These stories are designed to teach you something and give you success in August.
By looking at all the pictures and information, it looks like we have a lot to look forward to on many WMAs. Hope to see y’all hunting on the fly in August. If you need any advice or help, give me a holler at [email protected]
Josh Stapler, of Bowdon, with a Hannahatchee WMA three-footed hog he took on May 26. Josh and his friend Shane Turpen located some fresh sign and rootings in an area, set up a ground blind and waited them out. A large group of hogs soon approached with a large boar bringing up the rear. The one above neared their blind a little too close. This August, Josh or Shane, show us that 300-lb. boar!
Dale Anderson, of Callahan, Fla, with a trio of Griffin Ridge WMA hogs taken on May 19. The author guided him to the HAT Honey Hole. Stalking in unison, the pair quickly caught up to a group of hogs rooting slowly along the funnel spot of a lengthy travel corridor. Learned from past experiences, this is the route hogs use when swapping ends of the WMA, which lies along the Altamaha River corridor. This particular funnel spot is a narrow hardwood flat between the main river and a large bay swamp. The acronym HAT stands for Hogs Always There. Any takers for August? Then, the squirrels will start cutting the early overcup acorns in the tops, which leaves a lot of crumb residue and the dropped acorns they bit and tested. That will attract even more hogs and stall others as they travel through.
Mark Williams, of Blackshear, with a fine gilt taken at Dixon Memorial WMA. By staying on the move checking multiple spots where he’d seen rooting sign in the past, Mark crossed paths with a large group of hogs. With open cover and the wind right, he waited until they fed into some tall sawgrass before stalking and finished up with a shot at a mere 10 yards. Mark kept his nose to the grindstone, even with the sun up and getting hot. Mark hunts the contour edges of the main Okefenokee Swamp and is aware they will feed at any time of the day.
Lucky Beasley, Brandon Beasley and Ron Shaw, of Oak Park, enjoy preparing the rewards of their WMA May sausage run.
The author with a midday hog taken at Big Hammock WMA on May 25. He reports, “Fresh sign was all over the area, but it was of little amount, just where one to three hogs pilfered through and wouldn’t return. Apparently food was scarce, only to consist of worms, grubs, bugs, grass roots, rotten acorns, etc. They were surviving by constantly searching, meaning you had to get ahead of these hogs or walk your tail off until you bump into one. It took three morning hunts, but I finally gridded off enough ground to meet up with three of the ghosts alongside a slough rim, just shy of a thick bamboo run. August will be a lot better, as there will be a few early live oaks falling. Squirrels will start cutting in the tops of the other oaks (white, water and pin) that will soon drop on their own in September. Find those early acorn trees with cuttings or acorns under them. If there’s any hog sign, check morning, midday and evening. If no success on the oak trees, check the nearest palmetto patches (hill or swamp), high bluff banks along the river with willows and canegrass and the swampiest sections around the many interior oxbow lakes. The morning after a good thunderstorm is a great time to find hogs, as it blows acorns out the trees, and these rooters are easier to track.
Steven McCumbers, of Hazlehurst, with a Flat Tub WMA trio of two gilts and a young boar taken on May 20. He began a long phenomenal stalk, tracking the hogs across an entire half-mile block, running slam out of woods. He crossed a dirt road, picked up the sign and continued across a dry pinch point of a river slough into a 6-acre block of chest-high bamboo grass. After a 100 yards or so, he soon heard rustling in the thick cover. They were bedded in there for the day and were now milling about, only 20 yards away. With very few openings and the wind right, he opted to wait as evening was fast approaching. Forty five minutes later, the hogs made their move. When the first one popped out, he took quick aim and dropped it. As the second one burst out right before him, he killed him. Hearing noise to the side, he spun and hip-shot another one at only 3 yards.
Ron Shaw, of Oak Park, with a fine Tuckahoe hog taken by bow on May 18. At midday, Ron checked a known wallow site, found some real fresh sign and began back-tracking. Crossing a road, he followed the sign until he caught up with them in their bedding area. They had just risen to feed and were coming in his direction. Being caught in a semi-open area, he squatted to his knees and came to full draw. He held anchor for over two minutes. The larger hogs were bringing up the rear. One of the smaller ones had come within 15 yards and then started to turn away. Ron could judge by body language that it was about to bolt, which would scatter them all. Taking careful aim at the lead hog, Thwack!
Mark Williams with his second May hog, this one from Penholoway Swamp WMA on May 23. The author and Mark were hopping islands by boat off the Altamaha River. Mark reports, “Stalking along the mud-covered oak flat without making noise was easy enough. Doing so without squatting mosquitoes, not so much. As I eased along keeping the wind in my face, I was intentional on stopping every three to four steps to look for movement but also to listen. An hour into my hunt, I caught movement to my upward left. It was a mature black boar slipping along a much swampier area. I propped up against a nearby oak and waited for a window of opportunity in the nasty fringe of cover which lay along the muddy backwaters of a flooded slough. Seconds later, the hog stopped broadside, and I sent a well-placed .270 round into his shoulder.”