The Fourth of July is traditionally one of the biggest barbecuing days of the year in the United States. For our family, it is definitely a tradition to fire up the grill whether we are at the lake or the beach. Jason usually brings some meat from the freezer such as deer steak or wild hog, but in the last few years wild hogs have become so prevalent throughout the South that you don’t have to rely on freezing the meat for later. Because there are so many available, a sow can be caught or killed easily whenever you want one. Try to catch a hog in a pen about 2-2½ weeks before your big event. You can then feed it corn and leftovers from home until you are ready. Before butchering the meat for barbecue, Jason hangs the hog for two or three days to age it before dressing it.
Jason has found it is easier to trap hogs in the summer than during the rest of the year. During the summer, there is a lack of acorns; so, if you bait an area, they will be sure to return for the food you put out. With less movement, trappers can more easily bait and watch an area set with traps. Also, hogs will usually become nocturnal if they are exposed to outside pressures such as the sound of guns and presence of humans.
The hog traps are either 4x8 or 4x16 cages built out of cattle panels (available at your local Quality Co-op). Permanent traps can be made out of 16-foot panels. To bait each trap, Jason fills a five-gallon bucket half-full with corn, then pours water over it almost to the top, and finally he adds a can of beer. Stir the ingredients thoroughly. This inviting mixture then sits in full sun for seven or eight days until it sours. If you have never smelled this before, I can only describe it as a corn-mash-brewery kind of stink that makes you wonder how anyone could drink beer or even eat corn after smelling it. But the hogs love it. Also, this special mix is less likely to be eaten by deer, so you are more likely to attract the prey you want.
The goal for a hogger is to kill as many sows as possible for food and to thin the sounder; however, finding and killing the dominant boar hog can provide a nice trophy. A dominant boar hog is a lot like a whitetailed buck. He is smart, so you have to be clever to keep him around the pen so you can catch him. One way to keep him interested is setting up a "scratching post." Put a wooden fence post into the ground near the trap. Then take an old towel and soak it in burnt motor oil and wrap the towel around the post down low to the ground. Hogs will rub on the post to keep off ticks and flies.
Always remember that transporting live hogs is illegal in Alabama. Transporting hogs for hunting is one of the ways wild hogs became such a widespread problem. Keeping them in a pen prior to killing them is legal. Be sure to set up your traps under large trees out of the sun and the coolest place you can find. Set up an automatic feeder over the pen and tie coolers of water to the fence or a tree where the hogs can’t turn it over. Setting up your trap properly ahead of time means the hogs will be okay if you can’t check on them for three or four days.
Wild hogs are scavengers, eating food such as grubs, roots and acorns. That means they are leaner, so there will not be as much meat. Because of this, the bigger the sow is the better. Jason tries to find one that is 120-150 pounds. A hog this size will feed up to 30 people.
For your next barbecue, one wild hog may be exactly what you need to feed your family. Try cutting it into large chunks and putting it on the grill to cook slowly on low heat. It has little fat, so you don’t want to get in a hurry. Season with salt and pepper and you can also wrap it in bacon to add flavor and juices. Baste the meat often with your favorite liquid to keep it moist. Once the meat is cooked, add your own jezebel sauce or try an Alabama-made product like Berdeaux’s Sweet Island Dipping Sauce. Jason ran into the owner of the Berdeaux brand recently and, after trying the sauce, he brought home two bottles. This summer, experiment with local recipes and even your own concoctions. Add side dishes like Zesty Summer Vegetables (recipe below), baked beans and slaw, and your next meal will be something your family will remember throughout the year.
Vinegar Barbecue Baste
5 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons squeezed and save lemons
¼ cup salt
Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. Use to baste meat often.
Zesty Summer Vegetables
4-5 yellow squash, cut into chunks
4-5 zucchini, cut into chunks
1 large can whole tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 Vidalia onions, chopped
Olive oil, enough to be able to gently coat vegetables
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (if you like spicier) or Lawry’s Seasoning Salt (if you like milder flavor)
Preheat oven to 350° or get grill started. In a deep roasting pan, place squash, zucchini and onions. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and toss to spread seasoning. Add tomatoes and stir. Place pan in oven or on the grill for added flavor. Cook about 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
Note: Thickness of chucks will determine cooking time. Check them with a fork as they cook.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.