Texas hog hunting can be a wild experience.
Feral hogs are a huge nuisance for the Lone Star state. It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million wild pigs roam the Texas backcountry, destroying farms and ranches and killing native game animals and other wildlife. What is worse than the damage is that wild pigs mature quickly and reproduce like rats.
Some experts say that up to seven out of every 10 animals must be shot just to keep the current feral hog population stable where it is. That's a tall order, even for a gun-happy state like Texas! As a result, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has given hog hunters a lot of leeway in how the animals can be taken. In fact, if you're on private land with permission, you don't even need a hunting license to pursue them, even if you're a non-resident!
Today we're going to look at some of the more unusual methods we've found. These go beyond simple gun or bow hunting. These hunting methods aren't usually legal anywhere else because most areas don't have problem like this.
Other than some predators, there aren't many animals you can hunt free range after dark. Texas allows hunters to use either spotlights, thermal or night vision. Although it is worth noting that the TPWD asks that you notify your local game wardens if you're going the spotlighting route as a common courtesy to help avoid misunderstandings.
Going at night is one of the most popular methods of feral hog hunting in the Lone Star State right now because success rates are high. Sometimes it is easier to sneak up on a sounder of feral hogs in the dark with some friends and take the whole group out. Just remember to take extra safety precautions when doing a hunting trip at night and you should be able to help the local farmers out by filling a pickup bed full of pigs in a hurry.
Helicopter Hog Hunting
Speeding along at low altitude shooting wild hogs as you flush them out of the dense brush? Yep, that's a real thing that happens in Texas. You do need a special permit from the TPWD, but most of the time this style of hunting is done with a certified and licensed outfitter. Yes, an entire industry has sprung up around this style of hunting. A helicopter hog hunting package for you and a buddy or two will usually set you back a few thousand dollars at a minimum for just one or two hours of hunting.
As unusual as this style of hunting may be, it is highly effective for eliminating large groups of problem animals. Some helicopter guides have even obtained the necessary licensing and permits to allow their hunters to use fully-automatic firearms to take down the various wild boars you'll be chasing through the Texas backcountry. Many of these outfitters have an easy time obtaining permission to fly over a farmer's land too. They're more than happy to give access if it means these invasive animals will be taken out quickly!
Hot Air Balloon Hunting
If you thought helicopter hog hunting was unusual, hot air balloon hunting is even weirder. The funny thing about this method is that as far as we can tell, no one has taken advantage of this method yet. The bill that made this method legal was first introduced back in 2017. We re-visited the issue a while back, but we still haven't found any evidence that anyone has tried it.
Which seems strange to us. It seems like a balloon might be a different option for sneaking up on hogs that have grown wary of helicopters buzzing them consistently. It seems like it would be easier to line up and get a more ethical shot from a balloon since it's not going to be ripping through the air quite as fast.
Honestly, we're surprised one of the big hunting YouTube channels hasn't done it just for kicks by now. The guy who introduced the bill, Texas State Representative Mark Keough, said it would open a new industry to eliminate hogs. Doesn't look like that's happened yet, but hey, there's a business idea for hog hunting if you were looking for one!
Tannerite and other exploding targets
Most gun enthusiasts know Tannerite and other products like it. These targets are usually two binary compounds that once mixed, become reactive and can be ignited by a high-velocity bullet. Tannerite is not sold as an explosive, but rather a target marking substance. However, in large quantities, Tannerite can do some serious damage.
Because feral hogs are labeled as exotic livestock and are not considered to be owned by anyone, it opens the methods for dealing with them. Some hunters have taken to using Tannerite to try and take out an entire sounder of the animals with one shot.
However, this does raise some ethical questions. Is it humane to kill problem hogs using this method? The other side of the argument is that the animals are such a nuisance, that all methods of eradication should be considered. Personally, we're not sure what to think about it, but until the TPWD explicitly puts a stop to it, we imagine the use of it for hog hunting will continue.
Trap and Shoot
As we've already noted, wild hogs grow quickly and reproduce at rapid rates. Just shooting one or two every so often won't cut it for control purposes. That is why live trapping has taken off as a popular method. The method is simple. Construct a large trap and place a feeder at the center to draw the animals in. Cameras monitor the setup and a transmitter is used to slam the gates shut once a whole sounder is in the pen.
After that, the hunters can come in and euthanize the whole sounder quickly and humanely. The only downside is that setup is time-consuming. This method also requires some patience because hogs are smart animals. They are often reluctant to enter the trap. It can take weeks to get a large sounder comfortable enough to enter. When done properly however, it isn't unusual to catch 20, 30 or even 50 animals at once. That's a big dent to the population and a welcome relief to farmers and ranchers!
Hunting with Dogs
Texans are known for an extreme way of doing things and that is most evident in the use of dogs for hog hunting. This is not like flushing pheasants and upland birds. It's also totally different from running deer with a pack of hounds. Nope, many hog hunters pick large, tough breeds like the pit bulls for the down and dirty task of not only running the hogs, but catching them too. The dogs are often fitted with heavy body armor to protect them from the sharp tusks of the pigs. This style of hunting is as primitive as it gets because the hogs hold the hog in place until the hunter can arrive. In most cases, the hog is then dispatched using a spear or large, sharp knife to the heart. This is as up close and personal as it gets in probably any form of hunting. It's a little intense and it's not for the weak of heart, but for some people, it's the only way to pursue hogs.