The warthog is an ugly, yet likeable, animal that inhabits much of Africa. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about warthogs.
This article is the first in a weekly series about the many different species of animals that may be hunted in Africa. In this series, I plan on describing the physical attributes and distribution of each species in addition to recommended hunting methods, recommended cartridges, shot placement, and the estimated cost of hunting that animal. My first article is about one of the most widely distributed animals in Africa: the warthog.
The warthog is ugly to some people, beautiful and charming to others. Either way you look at it, the warthog is one of the most popular animals to hunt in Africa. When I made my first African safari nearly a decade ago, a warthog was the first animal I hunted on the continent (below).
The thrill of that experience got me completely hooked on hunting Africa. Yes, warthogs are ugly, but they are still magnificent creatures who are extremely exciting to hunt.
The warthog is a medium-sized pig and is found across the majority of sub-Saharan Africa. Warthogs are most commonly hunted in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. However, those are not the only places that they are hunted. If you can believe it, three of the current top 10 warthogs in the SCI record book (including the current #1) were taken in Ethiopia.
Warthogs usually weigh between 100 and 250 pounds and stand two to three feet tall at the shoulder. They have skin growths that look like warts (which is where they get their name) that grow on their face below their eyes.
Warthogs have a coat of sparse brown or black hair that covers their body. Their tail is long, thin, and hairless except for a small tuft at the end. When running, warthogs will hold their tail up above their back.
There are a few key characteristics to look for when trying to determine the sex of a warthog. Both males and females have tusks, but the tusks on males are usually (but not always) larger. Don’t attempt to judge the sex of a warthog by the size of the tusks alone.
Instead, look at the warts on the warthog’s face. Males (top) have two sets of warts on their face (below the eye, and between the eye and tusks), while females (bottom) have only one set (below the eye.) Also, females will generally have piglets with them and males will often have a highly visible penis and testicles.
Recommended Calibers for Warthog Hunting
Warthogs are very tough animals and they should be treated with respect. I feel that .22 caliber centerfire cartridges and even the .243 Winchester are too light for warthog hunting. Instead, I recommend using a cartridge in the .270 Winchester-.300 Winchester Magnum range.
This includes cartridges such as the .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield, both of which are great choices for hunting most species of plains game, including warthog. Especially for those hunters who are hunting warthog in addition to dangerous game like buffalo and elephant, the .375 H&H Magnum is not “too much gun” for warthog.
Many people also use a bow when hunting warthogs. Hunters pursuing warthog with archery equipment should use a heavy (at least 500 grains) arrow with a sharp, fixed blade broad head shot from a bow with at least a 55-pound draw weight.
Warthog Hunting Methods
There are two primary methods of hunting warthog: from a blind overlooking a water source or via walk and stalk.
Warthogs usually drink water daily and are quite fond of rolling around in the mud at a water source. Because of this, sitting in a blind can be a very efficient use of time when hunting warthog, especially during the warmest parts of the day.
However, a great deal of warthogs are hunted via walk and stalk. One of a warthog’s main handicaps is the fact that they also have below-average eyesight. Because of this, it is possible for a hunter to slowly and carefully approach to within shooting range, as long as the wind is favorable.
Warthog Shot Placement
As with most animals, the best shot placement on a warthog is to aim for the heart and/or lungs (AKA: “the boiler room.”) If the warthog is standing broadside to you, aim at the center of the shoulder approximately one third of the way up the body (this goes for both rifle and bow hunters.)
Not only will this shot likely hit the heart and/or lungs, but it gives you a margin of error of a couple of inches in all directions in case your shot is slightly off. Don’t worry if the warthog runs off after the shot: if you hit the warthog in the boiler room, you will likely find it within 100 yards.
Also, don’t forget to adjust your shot placement if the warthog is quartering towards or away from you. You should aim slightly forward of the shoulder if it is quartering towards you and slightly to the rear of the shoulder if the warthog is quartering away.
The important thing here is not to aim for a fixed spot on the warthog’s skin. Instead, you should visualize where the vitals are located in the warthog and place your shot so that the bullet hits them. While a quartering away shot is fine, I do not recommend taking a shot on a warthog quartering towards you with a bow.
Warthogs have a very large head relative to the rest of their bodies and they tend to look around less often than antelope do. Due to these reasons, warthogs are one of the few animals that I can recommend a headshot on (with a rifle, not a bow).
As long as the range is short and the hunter is a good shot, a headshot on a warthog is a relatively simple proposition. The frontal brain shot is the only headshot that I recommend on a warthog and should only be taken if the warthog is stationary and facing you.
To take a frontal brain shot on a warthog, simply aim between the eyes (don’t forget to slightly offset your shot to the side if the warthog is not directly facing you). If the warthog has his or her head down, aim slightly high.
If the shot is good (like the one in the video below), the warthog should immediately drop with the hind legs giving way first. If this does not happen, immediately chamber another round and shoot again, this time aiming for the heart or lungs of the warthog.
Cost to Hunt Warthog
Fortunately, warthogs are generally some of the most affordable animals to hunt in Africa. In addition to the fact that they are so common, their popularity probably has something to do with the fact that they are also reasonably priced. While their exact price depends on the country and outfitter, a warthog trophy fee will generally cost $300-600, with an average of about $400.
Ready to go warthog hunting?
Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.