There is a great deal of information available on most aspects of wild hog hunting but the art of using calls to attract porkers within shooting range is one that is often skirted around, probably because of lack of factual information. Through the years, I’ve had very limited success using calls to attract hogs. The lion’s share of my failures I attribute to lack of skill on my part and possibly the fault of the calls I used to perfectly duplicate the sounds made by wild hogs.
Yes, I’ve heard hogs in the woods for years. I have watched sows and boars use their snouts to whack nearby hogs out of the way when the porkers are feeding on corn under one of my feeders or acorns under a heavily laden oak tree during the fall. That stout punch from a hog’s snout almost always causes the recipient to emit a loud squeal and on occasion is will cause a scuffle to occur when a couple of larger hogs are involved. I’ve heard the contented grunt of boars and sows while feeding. I’ve even heard the distress squeals made by little pigs when being attacked by coyotes.
Southeast Texas call-maker Cleon P. Carraway, owner of Carraway Calls, not only knows how to make calls that consistently attracts wild hogs, just as important, he knows how and when to use them. Back in high school, Cleon was an accomplished lead guitarist in a rock band, his band played in the Astro Hall in Houston for the teen fair in the late sixties, so this call maker obviously knows sounds and has always possessed a keen ear for deciphering minute changes in pitch and tone.
“For much of my life, I have been a member of a big hunting club that borders the Trinity River in Liberty County, not far from the community of Moss Hill in southeast Texas," says Cleon. "The lease has 9 lakes and several good size creeks that traverse the property. The big cane breaks and thickets, combined with a year around supply of water, makes the place a real hog haven. Plenty of water oaks usually supply a good crop of acorns each fall. I’ve spent untold hours in the cane breaks and areas of heavy cover learning all the sounds that a sounder of wild hogs make. I’ve developed calls that perfectly imitate everything from the high pitched squeals made by pigs to the guttural grunt of mature boars. This big piece of wild real estate has served as a testing and proving grounds where I’ve perfected my skills as a call maker. It is where I learned the sounds made by hogs that I wanted my calls to duplicate. I look at the place as a big test lab made up of some extremely rugged real estate where I have developed a hunting technique and calling system that is extremely effective.”
Cleon says that in order to call hogs, one first has to locate them.
“I look for tracks, rubs and wallows that are freshly made," remarks Cleon. "Many hunters get tricked up with sign that was made days or weeks earlier. Hogs often move a lot in their search for food and it’s important to concentrate hunting efforts where the hogs are, rather than where they were a week earlier.”
Areas of the heaviest cover is where Cleon concentrates his efforts.
“I’ve had some very successful hunts from mid morning throughout the middle of the day by keying on heavy cover close to water," tips Cleon. "These are areas where hogs bed but they don’t simply head to cover, sleep all day and then come out in late afternoon to feed. In heavy cover, they often mill around during the day, feeding or creating wallows. They feel protected from man and other predators in this thick stuff.”
Cleon likes to hunt with a partner and tries to get into the thick of the cover.
“It’s important to move slowly, shuffle along the ground to mimic the natural movement of undisturbed wild hogs," he explains. "Keeping the wind in your face is most important. A little movement such as brush moving and scuffling of leaves sounds natural to hogs but one scent of human and they’re out of there."
Once into the thick cover, or on the edge of it if it’s too dense to walk through, Cleon begins making occasional, guttural soft grunts with his call which puts the hogs at ease.
“This lets nearby hogs know another hog is up and feeding and, because of a hog’s gluttonous nature, I believe it arouses curiosity," says Cleon. "It often causes bedded hogs to get up and begin rooting for food. It’s very common to hear them coming your way.”
When Cleon hears hogs moving his direction, he continues with grunts and occasionally throws in a squeal which he is positive nearby hogs decipher as a feeding hog whacking a smaller animal that is infringing on his area. He’s masterfully creating the illusion of contented, feeding hogs up and moving and his illusion more often than not results in pork on the game pole.
While still hunting is a very exciting method of covering lots of ground, stand hunting can also be highly effective.
“I use my calls when hunting over corn to entice hogs out of heavy cover during daylight hours," he states. "It’s pretty common for mature boars to ‘hang up’ in the brush near feeders and make their appearance after dark. A little calling will often bring the hogs into bow or rifle range while there is still light.”
Cleon was once hunting a climbing stand about 25 feet up in a white oak when he spotted a sow about 120 yards through the woods in an area that provided limited visibility.
“The sow was crossing from my left to right, obviously heading somewhere other than to my position," recalls Cleon. "I stopped her with a short squeal. She made a few tentative steps in my direction and seemed to lose interest. About the time she turned to resume her previous travel route, I’d hit the call again. This scenario continued until the sow came right in to my stand location. She stopped five or six times but curiosity got the best of her. She just had to get a look at those hogs (me) that were making all the commotion!"
When asked the percentage of time Cleon has had wild hogs respond to his calls, his reply was “near 100% of the time when the hogs can hear me.”
“There is always a good bit of skepticism among folks that have never learned that hogs, like most social animals, are very receptive to the right call made at the right time,” says Cleon. “ I’ll never forget a humorous event that occurred at a hunting show in Houston a few years ago. A guy running the booth down the aisle came by and he stated bluntly that hog calls don’t work. I told him I didn’t remember selling a call to him. He said he used another brand but eluded to the fact calling hogs simply doesn’t work, anywhere, anytime regardless the call used. He didn’t appear to be someone that spent a lot of time in the woods. Later that day, another exhibitor came by with a small tame feral pig on a leash. I began a short series of calls and the pig actually broke away from his owner and ran about 30 feet to my booth and stopped right at my feet. The little pig gave the arrogant fellow a good dose of humility when several of the guys went by his booth later and bragged about their success using the calls. I sold everyone present at least one hog call, thanks to the little pig.”
You can learn more about Cleon’s calls at: wildgamecalls.com or call 281-573-1989.