How do I hunt thee, fair swine? Let me count the ways…
“Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon.”
Add that to the list of ways you now, legally, can hunt wild hogs in Texas. Back in May, in the latest attempt to stem Texas’ forever rising tide of feral hogs, the state authorized pig-shooting from hot air balloons.
I laughed out loud. They’re slow, occasionally loud (or will “sink”), and can only travel where the wind takes them. Nonetheless, Texans can add hot air balloon hunting to a list that includes hunting from helicopters, hunting at night and hunting these animals year-round by any lawful means or method—which includes a lot of lawful means and methods.
Down near the bottom of that same list, notably, you also will see some eraser marks. That’s where “with poison” was removed after short-lived permission was granted to Texans to use a product called Kaput for the eradication—as if that were possible—of wild pigs in Texas.
I never was a fan of pig poison and disliked the idea for many reasons. Lawmakers heard from many smart people who agreed with me, and the use of Kaput swiftly was, well, kaput. State wildlife managers, same as their counterparts in 40 or so other states now, have been saying that “something” needed to be done about wild pigs for decades.
We’ve got millions of them, as a loose guess, and they do billions of dollars in damage annually. These animals are highly adaptive omnivores with keen abilities to elude capture. Trapping works, but for every pig captured, five or six are not. And those that dodge the traps reproduce at an alarming rate. Years ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department noted that avoiding any population gain among wild hogs on a property requires “removal” of around 70 percent annually of the existing herd.
If you start January with 100 pigs, that’s a tall pile of pork to climb by December. Know also that wild, Texas pigs are tasty animals, especially “petite” sows that scale inside 75 or so pounds. Their meat is sweet and tender and, in Europe, fetches a premium often beyond that of prime-cut beef.
So what’s the best way to hunt feral hogs in Texas? That depends on where you are and how much experience the local pigs have with hunting pressure. “Bait and bang” works for a while, especially around mechanical feeders, but only until the pigs realize that the noise they keep hearing at mealtime isn’t thunder and their buddies aren’t napping. Then they go nocturnal.
That’s when you either move your feeders or follow the pigs into the night with thermal-imaging scopes and noise suppression. Or, just do like most Texas hunters do and hunt pigs whenever you can, wherever you can, stay with it until you run out of bullets, and then go get more bullets.