OVERTON — Many landowners hate the thought of having feral hogs on their property because of the potential for damage to crops, ranch facilities, livestock, and wildlife.
But others view feral hogs as an emerging popular game species for Texas hunters.
Since feral hogs are not considered wildlife by legal definition, no season or bag limit is set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. As a result, feral hogs can be hunted all year, according to Dr. Billy Higginbotham of Overton, Extension wildlife specialist.
Since 1539 when Hernando de Soto first introduced feral hogs to this country, and the mid-1600’s when the LaSalle expedition brought feral hogs to the upper coast of Texas, the state’s population has grown to an estimated 2 million head. About 18 other states also have feral hog populations.
Worldwide, 23 subspecies of feral hogs are recognized. In Texas, feral hogs are either domesticated hogs gone wild, Eurasion boars or a cross between the two. Texas is one of the few states that may still have the pure strain of the Eurasian (Russian) boar.
Some Texas landowners, already battling to reduce hog populations using snares, traps or dogs, are seizing the opportunities that hunting allows, he said.
A 1993 survey by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service indicated that hog hunters paid $25-$1,000, or an average of $169, per hog hunt. Hunting is concentrated in the areas with the largest hog populations: the Pineywoods, Hill Country, South Texas and the Rolling Plains, he said.
Hog hunting is especially popular among bowhunters and black powder enthusiasts, although most hogs are taken with rifles of .25-caliber or larger.
Although feral hogs may weigh more than 300 pounds, weights of 100 to 150 pounds are more common, he said.
A little knowledge about the biology and habits of feral hogs can help make hunters successful. Hogs are extremely intelligent animals with a keen sense of smell. Many deer hunters are amazed at how hard hogs can be to outwit.
Feral hog boars are solitary animals that generally don’t associate with other hogs except during breeding season. Feral hogs breed year- round, but there are peaks in the breeding cycle where the pigs are born in the fall and spring.
Females and their offspring travel in family groups called sounders, he said.
In general, hogs prefer moist areas in dense cover. During the cooler months, hogs are active during daylight but during the summer are mostly nocturnal. However, hunting pressure can result in a hog population that is rarely seen during the day, regardless of the season.
Hunters can enhance the odds for success by learning to identify hog signs. Wallows in wet areas indicate that hogs are in the vicinity. Hog rubs that leave mud against power line and fence posts or on trees are another tip-off. Hogs are creatures of habit, so places where they cross under fences can be located by looking for coarse hair left on the wire.
The most popular way to hunt hogs is from a stand near a corn feeder.
“However, stalking can be an exciting hunt for those who can manage to stay downwind from the quarry,” he said.
Successful hunters should field dress feral hogs with the same techniques used for white-tailed deer.
However, plastic gloves should be worn during processing since at least one disease called swine brucellosis is carried by some wild hogs can be transmitted to humans.
The fun of hog hunting doesn’t end with the kill. Prepared properly, feral hog makes excellent table fare. In fact, LaSalle County hosts an annual Wild Hog Cookoff during the second weekend in March that attracts contestants from near and far.
Hunters should challenge their skills by pursuing feral hogs since hunting is allowed throughout the year, and plenty of landowners are interested in reducing hog populations in their areas, he said.