Troublesome wild hogs leave us searching for solutions

Dec 30, 2017
This adult wild hog is part of a criminal class in Texas, one that does more than $50 million in damage annually to roads, crops and other property. Scientists still are trying to develop a safe chemical agent to keep hog populations under control in this state. CONTRIBUTED

I still remember, and vividly, the first wild hog I ever saw.

I was in high school and was squirrel hunting in Panola County, where I grew up. The weather was cold as it is now, and there was a nice sunny afternoon that just called out for some time in the woods.

I had spent a little time sneaking into a spot where I had seen a couple of squirrels, and knowing their tendency to hide from any perceived danger and then forget why they hid, I took a seat against a hickory tree and brushed the leaves away so I wouldn’t make much noise if I had to stand up suddenly.

A couple of minutes later, there came a rustling in the leaves 20 yards in front of me, and I looked up to see an adult gray fox trot into the open. He was big and fluffy and had a fine winter coat that flashed and shimmered in the afternoon sun.

I didn’t want to keep my squirrels hiding any longer than I had to, so I just watched him tiptoe on through my clearing and out of sight over a small rise. About that same time, I heard something coming along the same trail he’d followed. It was large and noisy and could have been a deer, I thought, so I hid like the cat squirrels. And waited.

Except it wasn’t a deer. It was a hog, a giant, black boar hog, sides encrusted with mud and a tail that was swishing back and forth as he hoovered acorns out of the leaf litter. He stopped right in front of me, about 20 yards away, just standing there being a hog.

I was carrying an old .410 shotgun loaded with No. 6 shot. And being a good East Texas-bred kid, I quickly ran through the things that might go wrong if I shot him and just as quickly scratched them off my list.

Squirrels be damned. I’m shooting this hog!

I raised the full choke, single shot .410 and placed the bead right behind his shoulder (I know now that an adult wild hog has an armor plate over his shoulders that can be more than an inch thick and can deflect a modern arrow and broadhead), and I touched it off.

At the shot, the pig kind of jumped into the air and ran back down the trail he’d come in on, leaving me shaky and frustrated. It’s doubtful that a single pellet from that little gun penetrated through the skin and into the layer of fat that was certainly beneath it.

He couldn’t have felt anything except maybe the few pellets bouncing off his tough old hide, and I know he wasn’t hurt because he never squealed and he left that part of the woods running full blast back toward the Sabine River.

It’s the kind of thing a young hunter never forgets but files away to be pulled out at some point down the line, when he needs it. I once was helping a hunter skin out a big hog he’d shot and just at the base of that hog’s jawbone was a full load of 12 gauge goose shot and part of the plastic empty hull that had lodged there when someone else shot the pig at some unknown point in the past.

That pig wasn’t even chewing funny so I’m certain my old boar died a normal death somewhere down the line. Maybe he got shot by another hunter, this one with a rifle, and that ended his reign as the biggest and baddest boar in the bottom.

This is all in response to a couple of news stories this week in the American-Statesman. One concerned attempts to come up with some kind of poison or birth control for wild hogs. The stuff in question is sodium nitrite, and it’s supposed to kill a pig within 90 minutes by shutting down his respiratory system.

It’s not known how much impact there could be on other animals, but at least there’s some testing going on in Texas right now. And unlike Kaput, the supposed perfect control system that was pulled from the market earlier this year, the sodium nitrite only really acts on wild hogs.

The other story is from down below Uvalde, where a wild hog ran into traffic and caused a wreck that took several lives and left others injured. This on top of the fact that hogs already are causing more than $50 million in damage every year to property and crops and water sources all over the state.

And finally, I killed my first hog of the year just two weeks ago. This from a deer stand in Kerr County when he came out of a cedar break and tried running some deer off a feeder I was watching.

The best thing about that hog was that he was big and old and needed to die; but also he was chousing deer. The acorns were finally beginning to dry up, and that’s why we saw several hogs that weekend when we hadn’t seen more than one or two all season long.

I guess what I’m hoping is that we can find a way to control feral hogs in Texas without endangering deer and turkeys and other animals, not to mention any hunters who might want to cook a ham for themselves and their families.

It’s a long-standing problem but maybe we can do that. Meanwhile, any hogs I see while I’m squirrel hunting might want to turn around and run. Or not. Depends on whether I’m using a .410 or not.