It was cool around the time of sunrise in early March, when Steve Billmeier hopped the fence off of Highway 922, dressed in full camouflage with crossbow in hand.
The ground was still wet from recent rains — ideal conditions to hunt hogs. Billmeier trudged through the underbrush, inspecting tracks, peering through trees and paying attention to the changes in wind direction.
There was plenty of evidence that hogs had been rutting in the area, but they were nowhere to be found, and after about an hour of tracking, Billmeier simply said with a laugh, “that’s why they call it hunting, not killing.”
He is one of a few local hunters who prefer to track their prey with a crossbow, particularly around the northern edges of Ray Roberts Lake. It’s a prime habitat for hogs to wallow in mud and low water. Billmeier, a Pilot Point resident, said he’s killed over 50 hogs with a crossbow. The largest was around 300 pounds.
“I like the thrill of getting in close; it’s an adrenaline rush,” Billmeier said, just before heading out on another hunt on March 20. “Hogs are unpredictable, and you don’t know how they are going to behave, especially once they are injured. It gets even more exciting.”
A crossbow has other advantages than just pure excitement. It’s a quiet tool for an animal with keen senses.
“It teaches you how to be stealthy in the woods and use the wind to your advantage,” he said. “Hogs have an excellent sense of smell and they will pick you off in a hurry. I’ve always been told they’ll hear you three times, they’ll see you twice, but they’ll only smell you once — you can’t fool their nose.”
Billmeier said the crossbow shoots through brush better than a compound bow. Hogs will hold up in brush during colder months, but will move closer to the lake when things warm up (pigs do not sweat, so they need mud to keep cool in the heat) and will even move up semi-dry creeks.
“For hunting success you have to be patient and all you can do is get out there and walk the woods, because you never know. You could see hogs one week, come back the next week and all you see is the damage they’ve done,” he said.
With so much prime territory, hogs are always on the move, Billmeier said, which makes them difficult to track sometimes.
“That’s another thing about Ray Roberts is that there are numerous stock ponds that are out of the water. For some reason they love the stock ponds that are not under water,” he said.
Hunting hogs at Ray Roberts requires a public land hunting permit, which can be purchased at any location that sells hunting licenses.