Hunting the Elusive Warted Hog (Part 1)

I am going to treat you, our faithful subscribers, to a two part treat into the warthog species.

As far back as I can remember, from my childhood, I have always had a fascination with the warthog. I am going to treat you, our faithful subscribers, to a two part treat into the warthog species. This part 1, will contain a background on the species and ecology, identification while in the veld, hunting season for the species (related to their breeding cycle) and the recommended calibres to hunt warthog (well at least, my preferred calibres). Part 2 will contain a 100 year old traditional German wors recipe, as well as a great warthog roast recipe (with credits to my hunting and fishing partner Jared Norman).

Background and Ecology

The common warthog as it is commonly known, also identified by the scientific name Phacochoerus africanus, is a wilder version of the pig family and can be found in grasslands, savanna and woodlands in Sub-Saharan Africa. Warthog can be found throughout the whole of South Africa, up into Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. A Sub-species of the warthog can be found from Mozambique, through to Kenya and up into Ethiopia, with this species having slight differences to the common warthog found in South Africa.  

The warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing and savanna habits. One may argue that a bush pig is also in this league, but to be completely honest, a bush pig is a scavenger and will eat anything it can find and will much greatly prefer decomposing meat over grass and shrubs. The warthogs diet is omnivorous, with the exception of the odd insect or bird’s egg if they get lucky, which will account for the taste of the meat, which can be described as being not very porky and being more gamey like a regular antelope. Just to mention a little secret, I have major pork allergies and tend to become rather ill when I eat pork or bush pig, but this isn’t the case when I eat warthog, as previously mentioned, for me, the meat is more like regular venison.

Warthogs are very powerful diggers and use their snouts and feet to build massive burrow systems, while also being opportunists by claiming burrows built by aardvarks. If you ever encounter an active warthog burrow, approach it with caution, as warthogs occupy their burrows with their head facing the entrance, ready to bail out if necessary, with you standing there like bowling pins to be knocked over by the warthog if he decides to bail out. Warthogs are generally not considered as aggressive animals, with their main defence being a high speed run, with their tail high in the air, in the opposite direction of any danger. They will become aggressive when two boars meet in rivalry, when a sow is defending her young ones, when she is in a burrow with her young ones or when wounded and cornered.

In concluding, I hope to wish you well for the last half of the 2020 hunting season and wish you much luck and excitement for the rest of your season. Only harvest what you can consume and always practice sustainability for our future generations. Stay tuned for part 2 where I share two killer recipes for cooking your next warthog!

Kyle Schmidt

Identification in the Veld

There are a number of ways to identify a warthog in the veld and they are usually difficult to mistake for another species, as they are very unique in the way they look. Below are a number of simple techniques to spot and identify warthogs in the veld;

  • When you see a pig looking animal in the bush and want to be sure it’s a warthog, first look for the massive warts on their face, large white curved tusks coming out of the sides of their bottom jaw and an erect tail with a tuft of hair on the end of it.
  • Look for burrows. First identify if the burrow is active, this can be done by spotting freshly dug earth at the entrance to the burrow, small hoof like tracks around the entrance of the burrow, hearing snorting inside the burrow, spotting warthog dropping near the entrance of the burrow or smelling a musky/muddy smell coming from within the burrow.
  • If you find an active burrow and want to coax the warthog out, get your buddy to jump on the ground behind its burrow and stand clear for the chaos that’s about to take place when he comes shooting out at a million miles an hour.
  • Listen for a snorting sound, as you often hear a snorting sound when you stumble upon a group of warthogs without spooking them.
  • When hunting in tall grass, keep an eye out for a little tail with a tuft of hair on the end that is moving around poking itself above the grass, as a warthog always has its tail flying high like a flagpole.
  • Keep an eye out for dead trees that have been scratched upon, as a warthog may have been their looking for grubs.
  • Look around for uprooted and eaten bulbs.

An important identification to make when hunting warthog is whether you are looking at a boar or a sow. The most obvious way is to look for a pair of balls hanging between its legs, but if this can’t be seen due to the vegetation or angle its standing, then two key things to look at are body size and tusk size. Boars generally have bigger and more pronounced tusks which tend to curl more than that of a sow, while their bodies are also bigger, stockier and more muscular than that of a sow. Generally speaking, a sow is better eating than a boar, but try avoid shooting sows when they have suckling young or when they are pregnant.

Hunting Season

There is no specific hunting season to hunt warthog, but ethical hunting would suggest that warthog sow should only be hunted between May and July and I agree 100% with this statement. From August through to March warthog saw are in breeding. The warthog gestation period is 152-183 days, which means that a sow will be pregnant in the months of August through till January. Generally speaking if you shoot a sow in these months you will more than likely be shooting a pregnant sow and will kill her, along with her unborn young, which is definitely unethical. In the months of January through to end of April, the sow will have suckling young which rely on their mother for milk and cannot fend for themselves, therefore if you shoot a sow in this time that has young ones, they will end up dying of starvation and this is again unethical hunting. From May to June you can now shoot a sow, as if she does still have young ones following her at this time, they will be big enough to fend for themselves and will keep the bloodline going. On the other hand, with regards to boars, you can shoot them all year round.

My Preferred Calibre

Most hunters will have their own thoughts and opinions on the best all round hunting calibre, as well as the best calibre for smaller game such as a warthog. I have no intention to start a debate on the best calibre at all, there are plenty of online forums where that can take place, or even around the fire after a hunt with a couple cold ones. I am merely going to suggest some of the calibres I have used and preferred on warthog, as well as what to look for in a calibre for a smaller animal like a warthog.

Over the years I have shot warthog with anything from a .222 up to a 7 x 64 breneke. I personally like to stay away from a round that moves too fast, as some of the faster moving rounds tend to do a little more meat damage than others (but to be fair, any load that isn’t set up correctly can cause meat damage and provide for bad results). Try to use a round with slightly less velocity and slightly more stopping power. Below are some of the calibres and loads I have enjoyed using for warthog.

  • .243 with a 100 grain Sierra Game King (use the brand and head that gives you the best results out of your gun).
  • .308 with a 150 grain Sierra Game King.
  • 7 x 64 breneke with a 150 – 160 grain Hornady (forgive me for not mentioning the exact Hornady head used, but it was older heads that my uncle had which are no longer manufactured and after reloading the heads boxes went missing).

As I previously mentioned, I am only providing information on the three calibres and respective loads for each that I favour for smaller game such as warthog, these may not best the best combinations in your mind and I don’t wish to start any debates, but they are my favoured combinations that have provided the best results for me.

In concluding, I hope to wish you well for the last half of the 2020 hunting season and wish you much luck and excitement for the rest of your season. Only harvest what you can consume and always practice sustainability for our future generations. Stay tuned for part 2 where I share two killer recipes for cooking your next warthog!

Yours in hunting

Kyle Schmidt

Primal Provider #149


Warthog Images : San Diedo Kids and Live Science

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