That was not a word the hunting public was familiar with until a couple of months ago when Texas agriculture officials gave the green light for a warfarin-based toxin to kill feral hogs.
Since then a firestorm of controversy has erupted as has been covered on these pages at fishgame.com. Check the letters section for this issue to see just how much feedback TF&G has been getting. That’s only a portion of the emails and social media messages received on the issue.
The number one issue raised by most, is access. The majority of comments said in effect that if landowners were truly concerned about the feral hog issue, then hog hunting would be far less expensive.
“I saw a program about how hogs were such a menace in Texas and then started looking around for a place to hunt. My assumption was that people would allow you just to come hunt hogs to help wipe them out. Boy, was I wrong!
I have always known Texas was a pay-to-hunt state, but I figured with hogs the farmers and ranchers would be glad for anyone to come kill them. The cheapest hog hunts I found were around $500 and they went up to $2,000. That told me the problem must not be as bad as they are reporting.” (John Carr/Ohio)
Texas’s Jason Carter said landowners complaining about hog problems and then charging huge amounts to hunt hogs is hypocritical.
“People have the right to do what they want with their land,” he said. “However, we hear a lot about hog destruction and then see almost no one allowing free access to hog hunt. In fact, I would say there is almost no one allowing affordable access.”
Another hot discussion item has been public land.
Millions of acres of public land in Texas offer zero, to marginal hog hunting opportunities. Among these are national parks, national preserves, national grasslands, state wildlife management areas and state parks. All of them could offer some level of public hog hunting opportunities, and in fact some do. But for the most part that access is severely restricted.
For example, hog hunting is greatly restricted on state-ran wildlife management areas (WMA). That includes the Sam Houston National Forest, which is managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).Areas of the federally-owned National Forest that are managed in partnership with TPWD include Moore Plantation (Sabine), Bannister (Angelina), Alabama Creek (Davy Crockett), Caddo (Caddo National Grassland) and the entirety of the aforementioned Sam Houston National Forest.
In terms of hog hunting restrictions, it’s illegal to bait on any federal land. It is also illegal to bait on WMA land unless an exception has been made on a specific piece of property. The following Q&A is directly from a federal handout on hunting national forest land in East Texas on the aforementioned tracts.
Is it legal to hunt hogs with dogs on the National Forest at night?
Yes. A courtesy call to the local sheriff would be appreciated.
Can you hunt feral hogs at night in the WMA?
No. Hunting of feral hogs is restricted to daylight hours only.
Can you hunt feral hogs with a firearm in the WMA during archery season? Yes, hog season is open year round‐and you can use all legal means and methods within all the WMAs except for the Sam Houston WMA and Caddo WMA. Sam Houston WMA has the archery only area-—no firearms period. The Caddo WMA has a season for feral hogs. You can only use a bow during archery season for feral hogs.
What other restrictions are there on hunting with dogs within the WMA?
It is illegal to hunt deer, turkey, and feral hogs with dogs.
In East Texas that puts hundreds of thousands of acres of land either off access or greatly restricted to hog hunting, thus giving hogs huge areas that are essentially sanctuaries where they can breed and disperse. When you factor in WMAs all across the state you can see a smaller version of this happening in dozens of areas.
In addition, there are thousands of acres of National Wildlife Refuge lands off limits to any kind of hog hunting along the coast. Aransas offers hogs to be killed during limited archery-only whitetail hunts, but that is the only federal hog hunting opportunity we could find on refuges along the coast. Most of these areas have huge hog populations. This once again creates huge sanctuaries for hogs and no hunting zones for Texas hog hunters.
Some of these lands do employ trapping and even aerial hog hunting, but why not allow Texas hunters unfettered access to the hog hunting in these publicly owned lands? And hog hunting is pointless without the ability to bait or use dogs or hunt at night and trapping should be taking place full time.
Then you factor in all of the private lands where no real hog hunting opportunities are allowed. Add to that greenbelts in urban areas that are becoming increasingly populated by hogs and you see there are plenty of sanctuaries for these animals.
Hogs have a greater propensity to move large distances than whitetail deer for example.
TPWD biologist Rick Taylor wrote that hogs usually live in a range of less than 5,000 acres but can move up to 70,000 acres. That is more than 100 square miles. One study conducted in 2004 showed that hogs will travel as much as 15 miles to look for food.
That means hogs can easily operate in areas with little or no pressure, move out to feed and come back.
Another issue that needs to be examined is hog transport.
According to Texas Agrilife the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) regulates the movement of feral hogs, holding facilities, and release on hunting preserves. Those preserves must be licensed by TPWD.
“Movement and release of females (sows and gilts) and males (boars and barrows) are regulated differently. Think of females as the production factory contributing to increased feral hog populations. They may not be transported and released onto another property. They should be removed from the population.”
“Female feral hogs may be held for up to seven days in an escape-proof pen or trailer. They can be taken directly to slaughter, or sold to an approved holding facility, who then takes them to slaughter.”
Extension officials wrote that male feral hogs may be held for up to seven days in an escape-proof pen or trailer.
“They can be sold to an approved holding facility, slaughter facility, or authorized hunting preserve. An approved holding facility can take them to slaughter or sell them to an authorized hunting preserve. Only male feral hogs may be sold to an authorized hunting preserve.”
“Fencing of authorized hunting preserves must be inspected by TAHC-led inspectors and determined to be swine-proof. Male feral hogs must be individually identified using a form of identification including ear marks, brands, tattoos, or electronic devices prior to release on the hunting preserve.”
Whether or not all landowners abide by this rule when moving hogs is not only questionable. There is no doubt some illegal activity is going on in this regard.
In fact both New York and Kansas have banned hog hunting due to research that shows hunters moving hogs into areas have contributed greatly to their spread. They believe they can control the fledgling numbers in their state better if there is not an incentive to move them or stock them on ranches.
This is a big, big issue with many angles.
As one reader said, “Hogs are a big deal in Texas, and that also means big business. Hopefully, we can figure out a management strategy that recognizes that and allows more hunter access and ends up with fewer hogs.”
—story by Chester Moore