Gone to the Hogs

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How the Texas Hog Problem has become the state’s fastest growing Hunting industry

It is a question we get every few months here at Texas Fish & Game. Out-of-state readers and visitors on fishgame.com want to know where to go hog hunting.

“I have been seeing all of the stories coming out of Texas about hogs and the problems they cause and have seen on television where landowners are looking for people to help control their numbers. I would love to come to your state. Can you give me a listing of properties to go do this? I would love to hunt hogs.”

That was a message we received from a reader from New Hampshire. When I replied that there are plenty of places to hunt hogs but they all cost money, he was shocked.

“Wow. I didn’t expect that,” he replied.

The concept of leasing and pay per hunt has spread to all states, but in many of them it is not the dominant culture. The message being sent around the country about feral hogs in Texas is not accurate either.

Hunting hogs in Texas has little or nothing to do with managing the herd. Sure, killing hogs decreases their numbers to a certain extent, but I dare say 99 percent of hog hunting efforts are about enjoyment on one end and dollars and cents on the other.

I am all for capitalism so I have no problem with landowners and outfitters charging for hog hunts. I have paid to shoot hogs many times over the years, in fact, but I do think we are being dishonest about hogs in Texas.

Members of the general public do not pay $2,000 to climb into a helicopter to contribute to game management, nor do they invest thousands of dollars and hours in dogs, traps and corn to do the same. Landowners and game managers do this to target hogs and sometimes employ professionals to assist but on the public end, hog hunting is about enjoyment.

It always has been, and always will be.

With that thought in mind, here are four points about hogs and hog hunting in Texas that I believe have been overlooked or simply not considered by the majority of the hunting industry.

We have vilified the hog to the point of it being vermin, worthy of only disdain, but in reality they are magnificent game animals that have become as much a part of Texas’s hunting heritage as whitetail deer.

The numbers don’t lie.

The Texas deer take has rested around 600,000 over the last decade while the last number I saw for hogs was more than 750,000.

According to the Texas Agrilife Extension Service, hogs cause around $52 million in damage to land and crops annually, a huge hit for farmers and ranchers around the state, no doubt. I do wonder however about the hog hunting-specific economic impact. It has to be in the tens of millions at this point. Hogs are essential to Texas hunting.

Trophy hog hunting has incredible growth potential. A mature boar is far superior to a whitetail deer in intelligence and is near its equal with the sense of smell. Hunters proudly display huge hogs they take, but those are mainly random trophies, not seriously pursued ones. There have been a number of hog scents and calls put on the market over the last two decades, but no one has really put a system for pursuing trophy boars out there.

When someone does connect the dots and can get across to the public seasonality and life cycle events tied into hog breeding, behavior and other facets of their life they will become a hunting legend. Hunting a specific trophy boar in my opinion is harder than hunting a specific trophy whitetail. If the public figures this out, hog hunting will go into a different and unique direction.

From a political standpoint hog hunting is the industry’s achille’s heel. This revolves around hunting hogs with dogs, hog-dog trials and Youtube.

Hog hunting with dogs is extremely effective, fun and a strong tradition, but there is no question when the general public sees a pit bull locked onto a young boar or sow and squealing (like a pig) it creates an impression—often negative. For animal rights people this is an opportunity.

My worry for Texas is that one day we will get a process known as initiative and referendum, which allows virtually any law to be proposed if the group supporting it gets enough signatures to put it on a ballot. This is how mountain lion hunting in California was banned and is the source of various hunting bans in other states.

If we get this in Texas, expect a campaign against hog hunting. It will start with the hog-dog trials which take place in rodeo arena-like enclosures and go from there to hunting with dogs in the field. There is nothing we can do about it until something like this is put on the ballot but we should be aware of what the animal rightists are planning.

Public land hog hunting opportunities are minimal. If hogs are such a huge threat to our resources as they are portrayed, then perhaps public land in Texas should be opened up to more hog hunting.

For example, baiting is illegal in the national forests but why shouldn’t it be legal in the off-season for hogs? It is hard to kill them without it unless you are using dogs, but that is prohibited in most areas.

Hogs are complex animals that spawn a complex management issue. We have always written about hogs in TF&G but will be expanding our coverage.

Love them or hate them, they have earned the respect of many hunters in this state and beyond.

Story by Chester Moore

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