Omar enrolled in the U.S. Army in 2004. In 2007, he was deployed to Iraq. On May 24, 2007, the vehicle Omar was riding in struck a 200-pound Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. The blast left burns on 75% of his body and resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
His strength and spirit, however, were unphased.
A Quest for Healing
After retiring from the U.S. Army in 2010, Omar vowed to never let his injuries control his life. Since then, he’s been on a quest for recovery, physical therapy, and spiritual healing−free from dependence on medication to combat the intense emotions tied to his experiences in combat. He wanted his peace to come from the natural world, not a pill.
One day, Omar’s phone rang. When he answered, his friend asked, “Hey, what are you doing this weekend?” Omar didn’t have any plans, so his friend asked him to go hunting.
The night before the hunt, after packing his gear, Omar laid in bed and questioned his decision. He’d made great progress since retiring from the U.S. Army, but he wasn’t comfortable with his injuries.
“I kinda feel like an outcast… I’m not gonna be accepted,” he thought. “I’m not gonna go.”
The next morning, the alarm clock Omar forgot to turn off woke him up bright and early. He thought to himself, “Well, my truck’s packed, everything’s in there… just go. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Within a few minutes, Omar was on the road.
A Shift in Perspective
As his drive transitioned from loud, crowded city streets to the vast, sprawling countryside, Omar felt an inner peace wash over him. To his surprise, he felt comfortable.
“Wow, what’s going on?” he thought.
When he arrived at the lodge, Omar walked up and rang the doorbell. He was greeted with excitement by a man in a wheelchair with no legs. “What’s up, brother?!” the man exclaimed with a huge smile on his face. In an instant, Omar’s perspective changed. He felt a sense of acceptance, belonging.
That night, as was common at this point in his life, Omar couldn’t sleep. He made his way out to the fire pit where he was joined by another guest of the lodge for a drink and conversation.
The man was a retired U.S. Navy SEAL. The conversation flowed as Omar and the man shared intimate details about their combat experiences and life after the military.
At a point in the conversation, the man asked Omar, “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great,” Omar replied.
Unsatisfied with that answer, the man restated the question, “No, how are you doing?”—this time, gesturing to clarify that he was asking about Omar’s mental health.
That was one of the first times Omar really opened up and shared his true feelings with another person. It was a huge step forward in his healing process.
Omar and his newfound friend continued to talk for hours. Before they knew it, their fellow hunters were coming out of the lodge to get ready to head out into the field.
Omar’s friend approached him and asked him with surprise, “Dude, you been awake the whole night?! What have you been doing?”
“I’ve been with that dude,” Omar replied, pointing to the man he’d talked to all night.
“You mean Chris?” his friend continued.
“Yeah, Chris,” Omar confirmed.
“You know who that is?” his friend questioned intently. “That’s Chris Kyle.”
Up to that point, Omar was completely unaware that he’d had been up all night having an intimate conversation with the legendary American Sniper.
The Experience That Changed Everything
After Omar got ready and walked back outside, Chris informed him, “You’re hunting with me.”
With that, the pair headed to their blind.
Omar and Chris sat, scanned, and talked quietly. Before long, a whitetail buck appeared within range.
“Alright, that’s the one we’re gonna shoot,” Chris whispered to Omar.
Immediately, Omar began shaking. He’d never shot a buck before. In fact, he’d never shot a deer.
“Control your breathing. Get him in your crosshairs,” Omar thought to himself to calm his nerves.
As Omar squeezed the trigger, the shot rang out. He watched in awe as the deer dropped. He’d just harvested his first deer—with Chris Kyle. Excitement overtook the two friends as they high-fived and celebrated Omar’s milestone.
In that moment, something clicked for Omar. It was as if something he hadn’t felt in a long time had suddenly returned.
This was more than hunting. It was healing.
From Passion to Peace
After that unforgettable experience, Omar was hooked. His appetite for learning was insatiable. While his friends went out to shoot pool, he sat at his computer researching his new obsession.
Hunting was no longer a hobby—it was a lifestyle.
In the time that has passed since Omar’s epic hunting experience with Chris Kyle, his passion for hunting and the outdoors has grown. Not only does he hunt personally, he jumps at the opportunity to bring others into the field to experience the healing power of the outdoors the same way he has. To date, he’s hunted with friends, disabled veterans, and Gold Star Families—family members of service members who tragically lost their lives.
Christensen Arms was honored to partner with Omar on the Hunt to Heal documentary. We have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by members of the US Armed Forces and their family members, as well as the healing power of the Great Outdoors.
On the surface, the thought of heading into the woods to shoot a turkey seems simple. Listen for a gobble, move in its direction, make a few imitation calls, and take your shot. After all, they have brains the size of a peanut and lack a strong sense of smell.
Should be easy, right? Wrong!
You’ll quickly realize chasing turkeys requires a distinct skill set. This article is going to provide the knowledge you need to develop these skills and harvest your first bird or more turkeys in general.
Image Credit: Hazy Mountain Media
Part 1 – The Best Time to Turkey Hunt
SPRING —the time we get to leave the house and enjoy the sunshine.
It’s also the best time to turkey hunt.
Spring is when male turkey, or toms, are more active and vocal, strutting around and showing off for the hens. This season falls from late March through late May, depending on the location and climate. Be sure to check your local regulations for season information.
Another time of the year when turkey hunting is open is the fall when most folks are out deer and elk hunting. During this timeframe, it’s a good idea to keep a turkey tag in your pocket just in case. During fall season, keep in mind that birds often travel in flocks and can be a little trickier to hunt, as they won’t be in peak breeding season or roaming around alone. They tend to be smarter in flocks.
The Best Time of the Day to Hunt Turkeys
The early worm gets the bird!
If you’re not a morning person, now is the time to become one. Why? Because the best time to hunt turkeys is typically shortly after first light. Get out to your blind early and listen for the yelps, cackles, and gobbles of turkeys as they start their search for breakfast. You might even get lucky and catch one flying off the roost.
Turkeys are most active in mild weather. As a general rule of thumb, turkeys are most active during calm, clear days in the morning and early afternoon hours. Studies show that they are the most vocal when the temperature is between 60 – 69° Fahrenheit. Much like humans, if it’s too hot or too cold their activity slows down.
You might think that rainfall puts a damper on turkey hunting, but you’d be wrong. Rainfall is great for turkey hunting, contrary to popular belief.
Image Credit: Hazy Mountain Media
Part 2 – Where to Hunt Turkeys
The truth is, you should hunt wherever you see the most turkeys—assuming you can legally access that area, of course.
If you’re driving around and see a pile of birds in a farmer’s field, don’t be afraid to call or knock and ask for permission. There’s also a ton of public land available to hunters, so don’t hesitate to venture onto public land because you think it will be loaded with other hunters. Chances are, there are plenty of places that folks aren’t willing to walk to or areas that most people don’t go. Searching for hidden gems requires additional work and scouting time, but it usually pays off.
Hunting Public Land
If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort—which you should—public land can produce just as much success as private land. Some of the best turkey hunting can be found in overlooked creek bottoms or right off a two-track in a large patch of old hardwoods. The first step is to get out and scout. Search for ridges, timber cuts, creek bottoms, and land close to private land or subdivisions with bird feeders.
Hunting Private Land
If you know a landowner who’s willing to let you hunt their land, or will hunt with you, you’re in great shape! If not, don’t sweat it—you can likely get access to private land simply by calling the landowner or knocking on their door and politely requesting access.
Pro tip: It’s usually easier to get permission to hunt private in the spring. In farming states, farmers who see turkeys as a nuisance might be glad to let you hunt their fields. Also, there aren’t as many turkey hunters as there are deer hunters so your chances of gaining permission are better.
Keep in mind, if you foster a good relationship with a landowner in the spring, they may allow you to hunt deer on their property come whitetail season.
Finding Turkey Habitat
The best way to figure turkeys out—their patterns, food and water sources, travel paths, etc.—is to go where they go. Find their habitat. The type of habitat they’re in will dictate your tactics and gear.
Image Credit: Tyler Hawley
Turkeys love the open, brushy areas and grasslands rich in bugs. They also need to nest, so look for grass-rich areas they can get cover in.
Turkeys are incredibly adaptable and can live in many different conditions. From roosting on a rooftop to residing in a neighborhood backyard, turkeys find homes in a wide variety of spaces.
In many locations, especially rural areas, you can benefit from using topography while scouting. Digital mapping apps like HuntWise, HuntStand, and onX give you the ability to find high ridges with flat spots, steep banks on the side of a river, or even spaces of old growth where a turkey could be roosting. Topography is your friend when you’re trying to find these elusive birds.
Turkeys can also be found in fields. A great morning spot to hunt when the turkeys are more active and searching for food. They often roost in trees surrounding a field so they can head down to feed early in the morning. If you’re going to hunt a field, it’s best to set up right on the field edge and use decoys and calls to bring them in range.
Forests and thick wooded areas are great for turkey hunting, too. Acorns and nuts attract birds directly to these areas. A good indicator of turkey activity is feathers under large trees where they roost, tracks, and droppings. These areas are harder to hunt due to the thickness of the habitat, but that’s why the birds seek refuge there—and it’s part of the challenge!
Turkey Food and Water Sources
Turkeys love to eat green grasses and acorns. They’ll also fill up on fruit, nuts, and insects when given the chance. After a hard rain, you can almost guarantee you’ll find them in a farm field scavenging for worms. Turkeys also need water almost daily, so hens rarely nest far away from reliable water sources such as a creeks, springs, rivers, and ponds.
Image Credit: Tyler Hawley
Roosting a Turkey
Turkeys usually fly up to their roost trees at or just after sunset. They do this to get away from predators and danger.
Knowing this, one of the best turkey hunting tactics is to find the tree where your target tom roosts the night before your hunt. This strategy, called “roosting” or “putting a bird to bed,” allows you to position yourself in a spot that gets you closer to a turkey as they get off the roost.
The highest probability of success is first thing in the morning, especially when toms are roosted without a hen. Get as close as you can, but not close enough to risk busting the bird off the roost. It’s not always productive to be right underneath the tom you’re after because they see really well and any movement even in the dark will spook them.
When roosting, be sure to keep a safe 100- to 200-yard distance. Even if your target turkey comes off his roost in the opposite direction, you’ll still be in good position to call him in.
Image Credit: Tyler Hawley
3 – How To Turkey Hunt
Rifle, Shotgun, or Bow?
Your weapon of choice is up to you, so there is no right or wrong answer here. Rifles are allowed in a few states, but not all—so check your local rules and regulations before heading out on a turkey hunt with your rifle.
If you choose to hunt turkeys with a rifle, our Ranger is a terrific option! It comes chambered in .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR, which are all appropriate for turkeys.
When rifle hunting, shot placement is key as you’ll typically be further away, aiming at a smaller target. You’ll need to place your shot strategically to avoid damaging the meat.
If you want to use a shotgun, you’ll need to pattern it. Do your research to determine which brand of ammunition and which shot size will work best for your shotgun at various ranges. Different combinations of ammunition, firearms, and chokes will produce different patterns. There are a wide variety of loads on the market now. Copper-plated lead, bismuth, and tungsten are commonly used in turkey loads. They will all do the job.
What’s critical is knowing how your chosen load shoots out of your gun / choke combo before the season. Don’t be the person that wings it… literally. Identify the maximum range distance which you can shoot that produces a clean pattern to ethically harvest your bird.
If you’re going to use a bow, you must be highly proficient with it to ethically harvest a turkey. Make sure you know your effective shooting range with the broadhead you plan to use. Some broadheads are designed for shooting at the turkey’s neck and head. These broadheads have a very limited range in which they fly accurately and are not meant for aiming at the body.
Other fixed blades and mechanical broadheads can be used to aim at the neck and head, or the vitals. It’s important to keep body posture in mind when body-shooting a turkey with a bow. A tom at full strut can be harder for the hunter to visualize where the vitals are.
Since penetration is generally not an issue for turkey hunting, a larger mechanical broadhead is popular among archers. This allows for more margin of error with shot placement.
Calls are an essential part of turkey hunting and are typically used to mimic the sounds of a female turkey or a gobbling Tom, to bring them into close enough range to make a shot. In order to become an effective turkey caller, you need to learn to speak their language. Learn what sounds they make and what they mean. Some examples are:
Cluck: One or more short notes. It’s used by one bird to get the attention of another and a good call to reassure an approaching gobbler that a hen is waiting for him.
Purr: A sound made by hens when they are content and feeding. These can be used to relax a bird and get them to come the last few yards needed for a shot. A fighting purr is much louder and more aggressive than a regular purr.
Yelp: The most common call used by turkeys to communicate with and find each other.
Cutting: Combining sharp clucks with yelping. Hens often make these sounds when they’re excited or agitated. This loud call can be used to stir a reaction from a turkey to see if there’s one in the area, or used to get a stubborn gobbler to come in those final yards.
Ki-ki-run: This can be effective in the early season and in the fall. This is an excited hen attempting to regather her group or has lost sight of the group.
Gobble: One of the main sounds made by a male turkey. Commonly used to communicate with hens and lets them know he’s in the area.
Types of Turkey Calls
There are a lot of different types of turkey calls on the market. Everyone has their favorites, but it’s extremely beneficial to be proficient in at least a few types of calls.
We’ll break calls down into main three types:
Image Credit: Hazy Mountain Media
Mouth Call (Diaphragm): A mouth call is basically a stretched latex reed(s) stamped into a tape that’s cut to fit the roof of your mouth. There are different configurations of reed cuts: latex stretch, number of reeds, and dome plates. Mouth calls allow for a wide array of sounds and they free up both hands so you can maintain a ready grip on your gun or bow. They’re also among the most versatile as far as volume and tone control. Every turkey hunter should pick up a few different styles to see what fits them best and routinely practice before the season. Once you find one that works, buy multiple. They often get lost and / or dirty, and you don’t want to be without them when it matters most!
Pot and Striker: Utilizing friction between a wooden or plastic striker and an aluminum / glass / slate pot, this pot and striker calls are both user-friendly and extremely effective. They’re commonly called “slate calls.” Regardless of what material you choose, a pot and striker call will allow you to add a bit of reverb and pitch to the sounds you make that are hard to achieve with a mouth call. Slates also are great for purring and cutting. Note: these calls require hand movement, so be aware of the tom’s location as you call so he doesn’t spot you and run.
Box Call: A box call is as simple as it sounds: a wooden box with a wooden lid handle that hinges side-to-side on a single screw and spring. The friction of the lid against the box makes the sound. This is the easiest call to learn and possibly the loudest of the three. Box calls are great for loud yelps and cuts used to locate gobblers on windy days. However, they’re the least versatile in terms of call variety and they require a lot of movement in comparison to the first two options—which may alert turkeys of your presence.
All three calls have their place. There are lots of other configurations to explore, as well, such as a push call, wing bone, or gobble tube. Calling is what makes turkey hunting exciting, so learn as much as you can before the season!
Want to learn more about turkey calling? Check out the video below:
Using Turkey Decoys
Decoys can be highly effective for attracting turkeys into range. If you’re going to buy decoys, make sure they look realistic. It’s worth paying more for good decoys. Buy once, cry once—as the saying goes. When researching and purchasing decoys, watch out for shiny paint and reflective materials that look unnatural. Turkeys have small brains but they aren’t stupid.
When setting up your decoys on a hunt, make sure they’re in a natural-looking position, set up at a distance to give you a clear shot. Also, keep in mind that different decoys command different responses. Some toms will sprint into the sight of a strutter decoy and a hen, instantly challenging what he assumes is an intruding bird. This will generate some trial-and-error situations as you progress on your hunting journey. A turkey’s reaction is very dependent on the bird’s age, aggression levels, mood, and more. Some toms will run at the sight of a decoy; others will try to fight it.
In an open setting, where a tom can see your spread from a few hundred yards, it can help to have multiple decoys spread apart to look as real as possible on his walk-in. Running and gunning in timber may call for fewer decoys and more calls. In thick cover, you’ll rarely need a decoy.
Image Credit: Tyler Hawley
Staying Concealed with Blinds and Good Camo
Be still. Turkeys have incredible eyesight that allows them to see movement very well. Their ability to pick out what doesn’t belong is unparalleled. Being completely concealed is key in turkey hunting. They see every little movement, so one false move often means the difference between eating turkey or tag soup.
Most of the excitement of turkey hunting is bringing a thundering tom up-close-and-personal, so dress accordingly. These are not colorblind deer, so cover your hands and face. In a ground blind, wear black and blend into the shadows.
Turkey hunting is a great way to challenge yourself or just get out and have a good time with friends. It’s great for new and veteran hunters alike, and helps fill the void between deer and elk seasons.
Not only does hunting turkeys provide an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, it requires a great deal of strategy, patience, and skill—things that will make you a more educated and well-rounded hunter. Wild turkey is also a sustainable and ethical source of food for those who choose to consume it.
That’s all we’ve got, for now. Get out there and have some fun!
Spring is the time of year when we hunters start to get cabin fever and the itch to get outside. Shed hunting is a perfect activity to get outdoors and help pass the time between seasons!
When and why do animals shed their antlers?
Antler shedding is a natural process that occurs in response to hormonal changes in the animal’s body. During the harsh winter months, the Cervidae family—deer, elk, moose, caribou, and others—shed their antlers. This happens as their testosterone levels decrease, causing the antlers to loosen and eventually fall off. It’s quite fascinating. The shedding process gives us insight into how well-fed the animals are and their yearly stress levels.
Antlered species typically shed their antlers between January and April, making the first four months of the year an ideal time to go shed hunting—depending on your location.
Fun fact: Unlike other species, axis deer shed their antlers on their birthday 🎂
Hunting for shed antlers is growing rapidly in popularity among hunters, especially out west. It’s a fun and exciting way to extend your hunting season, while also learning about the habits and behavior of the animals you’re hunting.
Successful shed hunting requires a combination of miles on boots, knowledge of animal behavior / habitat, and a little luck. This guide provides tips to help you find a pile of sheds this spring.
Regulations on shed antler hunting
Before you get started, keep in mind some states have local laws and regulations regarding shed hunting. Many states have specific dates when shed hunting is legal, and some require hunters to take a certification course and carry a certificate of completion. For this reason, it’s critical that you research regulations in the area(s) you plan to shed hunt so you comply with the law at all times.
Though shed hunters don’t love them, these restrictions play a critical role in the ecosystem, as they limit the amount of pressure on wildlife.
Deer, elk, and other antlered species get pressured all hunting season—they quite literally fight for their lives. As hunters, we have a duty to give these creatures a breather when it’s no longer legal to hunt them. That means less venturing into their territory to reduce their stress.
In the end, the less stress they endure, the more likely these animals are to grow and remain healthy, which means better hunting next season.
Benefits of shed antler hunting
Even though we become “giddy kids on Christmas” when we find a shed antler, there are many benefits to shed hunting beyond just finding sheds. It’s a great way to exercise and explore the outdoors, and it’s a terrific opportunity for families and kids to learn more about nature and wildlife.
Shed season can also help you learn more about the behavior of the animals you hunt.
By studying the patterns and locations where animals shed their antlers, you gain valuable insights into their movements and behavior throughout the year. It also gives you an idea of how many bucks survived the year.
These learnings will help you in the fall when hunting season starts. You’ll learn the land well enough to know exactly where to set your tree stands, establish basecamp, and stalk your quarry—as well as where choice food sources and bedding areas are. Combine this info with your scouting findings and you’ll be well prepared for next hunting season.
Plus, in a time when the personal connection happens most frequently through digital devices, exploring and searching for dropped antlers is a great way to connect with other hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in real life.
Frankly, we can all use more outdoor time, less screen time, and more in-person time with family members and friends. Many hunting clubs and organizations even host shed hunting events and competitions, which can be a gateway to meeting new people and learning more about the sport.
We find that the greatest friendships often result from getting involved in the community!
Tips for successful shed hunting
There are two main tactics to shed hunting:
If you’re a wanderer, pick a spot where you know antlered animals have been and go. The more ground you cover, the more likely you are to get lucky and trip over an antler!
Plan ahead and choose an agriculture field, food source, or bedding area where you know chances are going to be highest.
Search the right habitat
To increase your chances of finding antlers, it’s important to look for areas where antlered animals are likely to spend time. You should focus on feeding areas, bedding areas, and travel routes. Deer, elk, or caribou tend to shed their antlers in areas where they feel safe and secure, so look for areas with good cover.
Think like an animal! Where would you get food and water? What route(s) would you travel?
Also, keep in mind that animals think and act differently in winter and spring than they do during peak hunting season. If you’re out shed hunting in March or April, focus on where animals are at present—not where they were in October.
Use the right gear
The right equipment can make all the difference when you’re shed hunting.
Terrain and weather should also always be considered. It’s smart to prepare for rain, so wearing or packing waterproof outer layers is always a good idea. If there’s still snow on the ground, snow shoes or even removable crampons might be ideal. Hiking sticks often come in clutch, as well.
Binoculars are a must-have for scanning the area for antlers, and a good pair of boots will keep you comfortable and help you traverse rough terrain. A backpack is also essential for carrying water, snacks, and any antlers you find.
Plus, if you don’t have one already, a digital mapping app like HuntWise, onX, or HuntStand will help you keep track of critical information.
These apps allow you to add waypoints to mark where you find sheds, bedding areas, food sources, animal sign, and more. You can even track your path for reference as you plan your next hunt.
Technology like that can be a game-changer for hunters!
Go slow and look carefully
When searching for antlers, it’s important to take your time and scan the ground carefully. Again, learn to train your eye for sheds the same way you do wildlife.
Image credit: Heartland Bowhunter
Antlers can blend in with the surrounding foliage, so it’s important to pay attention to your surroundings. Walk slowly and carefully to reduce the chance of missing antlers that are hidden in the brush. Don’t be afraid to kick up leaves, snow, and other organic materials in your path. In many cases, you’ll find that the tip of the antler is the only thing peeking out at you.
A little hint when trying to find sheds with binoculars: you’re bound to see a lot of branches that look like sheds. It will be difficult to distinguish one from the other at the beginning, but over time you’ll train your eye to tell the difference between branches, brush, and antlers.
Use a four-legged friend
Using a well-trained dog can be an excellent way to increase your chances of finding shed antlers. Plus, what isn’t better with Man’s Best Friend?! Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can help you locate antlers you may otherwise miss.
A great resource if you’re looking to train your dog is DogBoneHunter.com. They provide tools and videos to help you train your pooch to find antlers like a pro!
Check fence crossings and bedding areas
Bucks, bull elk, and other antlered species often shake loose antlers when jumping creeks and fences, so it’s a good idea to check fence and water crossings when you’re out shed hunting. Deer and elk also spend a lot of their time in bedding areas so you’ll want to search tall grasses, brushy thickets, swamps, and heavily wooded timber pockets.
Sadly, sometimes animals get stuck in fences or trees—and you’ll end up finding a dead head (complete skull). If you find a deadhead, make sure to check local laws and regulations to find out if you can legally keep it. Plus, wildlife management groups often want to confirm the animal’s cause of death in an effort to combat poaching and the spread of damaging, infectious diseases.
Many people like to honor these animals by euro mounting the skull so their story lives on and their beauty can be appreciated for years to come.
Look for sheds in pairs
Deer and elk typically shed their antlers one at a time, so if you find one shed antler there’s a good chance that the other antler is nearby.
Once one side is off, it will be uncomfortable and uneven for the buck to carry the other antler. Look carefully in the surrounding area for the other antler, as it may be hidden nearby.
Setting up a grid system will help you find pairs and likely more sheds, as well. You’ll typically find them within 100 – 200 yards of each other. Establish a square search perimeter and walk in straight lines within its confines to increase the likelihood of finding your shed’s other half. This is where a digital mapping app can be a great asset to help you mark waypoints where you find antlers and record your walking path to track what you’ve already covered.
Turn your sheds into art—or cash
Sheds are commonly collected and sold for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s for decoration, jewelry, or a dog chew, the antlers you find might be worth some money. Sheds are usually graded by condition and size. They can be taken to auctions and sold by weight or as individual pieces if you find a real trophy.
As always, double-check local laws and regulations before attempting to sell sheds.
Be respectful of the environment
This goes without saying, but bears repeating.
When shed hunting, it’s critically important to be respectful of the environment and the wildlife that inhabits it. Avoid disturbing vegetation and wildlife, and always leave the area better than you found it—a great habit to adopt anytime you’re outdoors. Take trash with you and leave any gates or fences as you found them.
Hog hunting in Texas sits high atop many hunters’ bucket list. It’s a breed of hunting all its own that has exploded in popularity over the past decade.
In this post, we answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about Texas hog hunting.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide to all applicable regulations for hunting hogs in Texas. As with any type of hunting, it’s critical that you review all applicable laws, restrictions, rules, and regulations for the area(s) you plan to hunt in to ensure you remain in full compliance with the law!
The short answer: just about anyone. So long as you can lawfully possess a firearm, you’re physically up for the task, and you’re in compliance with Texas hunter education requirements, you’re eligible to hunt hogs in the Lone Star State. Oh, and there’s no season—you can hunt hogs year-round in Texas.
There are, however, regulations you need to be aware of before you head out on a Texas hog hunt.
Do I need a hunting license to hunt hogs in Texas?
The answer depends on whether you plan to hunt hogs on public or private land.
Can I hunt feral hogs on private land in Texas?
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas law, SB 317, which was passed during the 86th Texas Legislature, states that both Texas residents and nonresidents may hunt feral hogs on private land without a license—so long as the hunter first obtains landowner consent. Failure to obtain consent prior to hunting hogs on Private land in Texas is a violation.
SB 317 applies regardless of whether or not hunters pay to hunt hogs on a private landowner’s property. However, it’s important to note that, in order to collect financial reward or other consideration in exchange for allowing people to hunt feral hogs on their property, private landowners must first acquire a hunting lease license from TPWD.
It’s also important to know that a valid Texas hunting license is required if you plan on trapping or snaring hogs, as doing so can affect other wildlife species.
Can I hunt feral hogs on public land in Texas?
Unlike private land, though, if you plan to hunt hogs on public land in Texas, you must have a valid Texas hunting license. Additionally, hunting feral hogs on public land in Texas comes with more restrictions than private land, so study up before you set out on a public land hog hunting excursion.
The most common methods of hunting feral hogs in Texas include:
One of the more popular methods of Texas hog hunting is stalking.
If you’re looking to hit your step goal, stalking on foot might be right up your alley. Hogs are extremely fast and cover immense areas, making hunting them on foot a challenge—one that’s highly rewarding when it ends in success. Trail cameras can make a huge difference when stalking hogs on foot, as your chance of success is significantly higher if you know right where they are!
That said, hunting hogs by foot isn’t a great idea in the heat of a Texas summer and/or in unforgiving terrain inhabited by snakes and other predators.
If you’re on private land (with proper permission, of course), ambushing comes into play. That’s when the vehicles come out. For hog hunting enthusiasts, ambush hunting is where it’s at.
According to TPWD, In Texas it’s lawful to hunt animals from a motor vehicle as long as you’re within the boundaries of private property. Many Texas hog hunters ambush hogs using Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs), which are large, powerful off road vehicles that seat up to four passengers and feature plenty of storage space. It’s not uncommon to see die-hard hunters hunt out of SUVs and trucks, too, some of which have been outfitted with elevated seats and custom gun rests/mounts.
And if tricked out hog hunting rigs just don’t do it for you, you can even (legally) pay to hunt feral hogs by helicopter—with machine guns.
Yes, you read that right.
As the saying goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas!”
That statement is especially true of Texas hog hunting.
Baiting is another tried-and-true method for hunting feral hogs.
Baiting is especially popular amongst hunters who use ground blinds, elevated blinds, and tree stands—especially bowhunters. Although a highly skilled hunter can harvest a hog with a bow by stalking, your best chance of arrowing a feral hog is likely to be over a bait pile from a blind or tree stand. Baiting is also effective for stalking and ambush hunting, as it can bring hogs into your area so you can strike with the element of surprise on your side.
If you’re up for a good time, ask every hog hunter you know what their go-to bait is. There’s a good chance you’ll hear a different answer from every person you ask. Shelled corn, semi-fermented grain, rotten pumpkins, dog food, soured fruit, white bread soaked in Big Red soda or Kool-Aid, Jell-O… you name it, people have probably used it to bait hogs in Texas.
The Internet is a treasure trove of homemade hog bait recipes and commercial baits, as well.
Trapping is another highly effective means of feral hog removal. Unlike the other methods described in this article, trapping is by far the most passive—set it and forget it, so to speak.
Trapping involves placing bait inside substantial metal traps, which are often made of heavy, welded steel. After all, feral Texas hogs can easily grow to 300 pounds or more, and they’re incredibly strong—especially when they’re threatened and extremely agitated. You’d be amazed to see how much punishment a huge, angry hog can inflict on even the beefiest of traps.
What’s the best time to hunt hogs?
Daytime vs nighttime
Feral hogs can be hunted in daylight and darkness. They key is understanding their behavior and movement patterns.
Texas summers are brutally hot, and during summer months hogs tend to hide out and conserve their energy. That behavior makes nighttime hog hunting more ideal. However, in areas with extreme hog populations, those who can withstand the heat can have great success in the sweltering sunlight.
For daytime feral hog hunters, the best times to get after it are right after sunrise and 30 minutes to an hour before sunset. When scouting for hogs, hunters look for typical hog sign: fresh feces, torn up ground, wallows—large, often muddy, indentions where pigs lay to cool off. Hogs often hang out near water sources, as well. Fun fact: feral hogs are unable to thermoregulate, which leads them to concentrate near water sources to cool off.
Sound plays a key role in scouting, as well, as hunters can pinpoint the location of a pack of feral hogs by listening for their telltale grunting and squealing. Once a hunter has located their targets, they can take their pick between stalking, ambushing, and stationary hunting tactics.
Nighttime hog hunting is a unique and thrilling experience that has become extremely popular in Texas. It involves more gadgetry than daytime hog hunting, including thermal optics or lights. Hunters can also leverage night vision technology, but that comes with a hefty price tag so we’ll focus on thermals.
When searching for the best thermal to purchase, key considerations include budget, resolution, magnification range, and refresh rate. Battery life is another important selling point, but it’s secondary to the features and functionality listed previously. There are also clip-on thermal optics that work with your existing day sight, should you want to run a setup like that.
Naturally, budget is the first consideration. After all, you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford. Thermal optics range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well in excess of $10,000. Knowing your ideal budget range going in will narrow your search and save you a lot of time.
As is the case with most anything, you get what you pay for; the more you spend, the better your thermal will be. The good news is that there are great entry-level options for new thermal hog hunters, so you can get started without breaking the bank and improve your gear over time.
The key component to any thermal scope is its thermal core. The core is the most critical (and expensive) part of the optic. This is where resolution comes into play. Higher resolution equates to more pixel density, which means a clearer picture.
When it comes to resolution, higher is better—and more expensive. With resolution, you want to pay attention to the resolution of the thermal sensor and not just the display. This is crucial!
For example, a thermal may boast a display resolution of 1024×768, but a sensor resolution of 320×240. That’s not to say it’s not a quality thermal. Many great thermal optics feature those resolutions, work great, and get wonderful reviews. You just need to know that your sight picture quality is determined by the sensor resolution and not the display resolution.
As you bump up in price range, you’ll start to see high-end thermal scopes that offer 640×480 sensor resolution paired with a 1024×768 display resolution. That will be a crisp picture!
Magnification range describes the thermal’s ability to zoom in on a target at longer distances. It’s important to note that zooming your thermal narrows your site picture and may reduce image resolution and refresh rate. Doing so can also impact the thermal’s ability to positively identify targets, so there are tradeoffs to magnification.
Regardless, having a thermal with good magnification—4x or 8x, for example—can increase your chances of success. As you can guess, the more you can afford to spend on a thermal scope, the better its magnification and detection range will be.
Refresh rate is a measure of how frequently a thermal refreshes the scene, which impacts how clearly you can detect movements in the sight picture. The standard frame rate range is between 7.5 Hz and 60 Hz. The faster / higher the refresh rate, the better. High refresh rates also correlate with higher cost.
Trusted thermal scope brands
If you’re in the market for a thermal scope—through our personal experiences and recommendations of trusted friends and industry experts—we feel confident pointing you to the following brands:
Any time you get into a “best caliber for [insert species] hunting” conversation, strap in for a debate. Chambering opinions are typically strong.
We’ve seen and heard about feral hogs dropping with a well-placed shot from a .22 LR, as well as hogs living to see another day after taking a heavy punch from a 308—or at least making it far enough to be unrecoverable before expiring. Feral hogs are simply built different.
In general, though, these chamberings that are highly reliable for taking down feral hogs:
.223 / 5.56 / .223 Wylde
.223 and 5.56 rounds are capable and effective for hog hunting. They don’t have the same knockdown power as .308 or other .30-caliber rounds, but they’ll almost always get the job done.
Christensen offers several Modern Sporting Rifles chambered in .223 Wylde, which is a hybrid chamber that accepts both .223 and .556 rounds. .223 Wylde does a great job regulating pressure for both rounds. We also offer rifles chambered in .223 Remington.
.30-Caliber, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC
.30-caliber, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 PRC rounds are capable of taking down just about any big game you’ll find in North America, and they’re highly effective for feral hog hunting. Popular .30-Caliber chamberings include .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .300 PRC.
Christensen offers Modern Sporting Rifles and Bolt-Action Rifles chambered in many of the .30-caliber calibers preferred to today’s hunters:
Modern Hunting Rifle
Ridgeline FFT Titanium
Mesa FFT Titanium
Bolt-action versus semi-automatic
Whether you prefer to hunt hogs with a bolt-action or a semi-automatic rifle is up to you. It’s a matter of personal preference.
For greater precision at long range, a bolt-action rifle with a longer barrel is ideal. In addition to long-range accuracy, as you can see above, Christensen’s bolt-action rifles come in a wide variety of .30-caliber and 6.5 chamberings that pack an immense punch with heavy knockdown power.
However, if you find yourself in a position to engage a large group of hogs—which is common in Texas, not to mention a lot of fun—a bolt-action rifle’s magazine capacity could hold you back.
For that reason, the firearm of choice for many Texas hog hunters is a semi-automatic Modern Sporting Rifle. Our MSRs come chambered in .223 Wylde, .308 Winchester, and 6.5 Creedmoor, giving hog hunters options on which round they want to use. Plus, our MSRs accept a variety of magazines, which can dramatically increase the number of rounds at the hunter’s disposal—although, at the cost of increased weight. But when you get on a big group of hogs, though, the more rounds, the better.
Outside of Texas, according to CNBC, feral hogs are estimated to cause up to $2.5 billion in damage, annually, across the 39 states in which they’re known to reside.
In addition to crops, feral hogs can negatively impact livestock production efforts. Feral hogs love to root, and in doing so they can facilitate weed growth in livestock grazing pastures that impacts livestock’s grazing opportunities and can result in both production losses and steep repair costs.
Hogs often eat feed intended for livestock, causing further issues. They can even introduce diseases that negatively impact livestock health. If that’s not enough, hogs have been known to kill young goats, sheep, and even young calves.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says that from 1982 to 2016, the feral hog population in the United States boomed from 2.4 million to 6.9 million—with an estimated 2.6 million wild hogs residing in Texas alone. Hogs are migrating north, too.
Why is the hog population rising so rapidly in Texas and other U.S. states? Reproduction.
Female hog reproductive maturity has been reported in as few as three months of age, although successful breeding typically doesn’t begin until they reach 6-10 months of age.
In addition to their ability to reach reproductive maturity very early in their lives, female hogs can breed multiple times per year, and they average an average litter size of 4-6 young per litter. These factors are major contributors to feral hogs’ explosive, sustained population growth.
If we had to sum up the importance of hog hunting in Texas—and other states where they’re prevalent, for that matter—two words would suffice: damage control. Feral hogs are some of the most damaging creatures in the U.S., wreaking havoc on the environment and causing immense physical and financial damage. They’ll likely never be eradicated, making population control critical.
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