high on the hog: Feral pigs offer numerous hunting chances.
In the late 1980s, established populations of wild hogs in the United States lived in 17 states, according to the Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension Service. Today, wild boars exist in at least 45 states. In the United States, damage by feral hogs is estimated at more than $1.5 billion in agricultural losses every year.
Because feral hogs are so plentiful and widespread throughout Mississippi, opportunities abound for anyone who wants to harvest some wild bacon and ham. On private land, there are no bag limits, no caliber limitations, and only all-game hunting licenses (the most economical of three possible licenses) and written permission are required for state hunters.
Gale and Chuck Perry are general managers of Perry Farms in Yazoo City. Chuck's grandfather bought the farm in the 1930s, and the family hunted the land. Today, the Perrys hunt hogs after deer season closes in January.
"Everybody has problems with (hogs)," says Chuck, whose farms are located near federal and state wildlife areas in the Delta.
The Perrys' hog-hunting experiences are not unlike other guides and facilities around the state. They put hunters in deer stands to wait for hogs to feed on corn used as bait.
At the Rock Hill Hunting Club near Meridian, club vice president Curtis Clearman says the club concentrates on deer hunting; however, he notes that hogs are everywhere around Meridian. "We will carry people out to the stand, but we are not set up for hog hunting only," he shares. "In the offseason (for deer), we allow people to bring dogs and run hogs on the property."
"They are getting to be a nuisance for us," he says. "We start killing some during deer season, but the hogs go nocturnal during deer hunting."
Stephen Washburn of Yazoo City-based The Hog Patrol agrees that feral hogs have destroyed Delta croplands. He helps out local farmers with their wild pig problem and supplements his income by offering night hunts. "You suppress or maintain the number of hogs," he says. "You can't stop them; you just hope that you can maintain the number.
Our goal is to try to reduce the numbers and put pressure on them so they will go somewhere else. You move them on and never give up; it's a never-ending process. I like to call it job security."
Washburn leads groups of two or three people on hunts using night-vision and thermal imaging equipment to take down the wild hogs at night on local farms.
"If somebody wants to hunt with us, we supply everything," he says, adding he has suppressors for .556, .22- and ,30-caliber guns. "We have another option for you to bring your cool gun, and we'll make it cooler for you."
Using the sophisticated technology, Hog Patrol hunters get a chance to try the hunting equipment before they buy it, Washburn notes. "They may not use the equipment that's right for them, but they will get a chance to look at the technology." Washburn tries to get within 50 yards of the feral hogs. "It's a real adrenaline rush because you don't have the depth perception, and the hogs can run right past you." Hunts with The Hog Patrol range from $380 to $700 per night depending on the number of hunters and their ages.
Buddy Ballard of eastern Marion County has bred dogs to chase wild pigs for more than 20 years. He takes his dogs to the Delta when he gets a chance to help out farmers. "They actually close their operations during deer season to allow us to hunt there," Ballard says. For Ballard, the family has gotten involved, and he's glad to pass down the tradition. "A lot of people are about the numbers and the meat, but not me," he says. "I don't care if I kill another one; I don't care if I ever catch another one. I like running the dogs because they don't have a lot of years left on them." Ballard's dogs have been bred for hog hunting, so he must give them the room to run. "My dogs can run against my pickup truck, and they'll last a tank of gas," he says. "With so many small landowners in Marion County, I have to take them to the Delta, where the land is wide open. Sometimes, I will take them to Woodville; we will take 25 to 30 hogs out in a day."
Like other natural nuisances in Mississippi such as kudzu and cogongrass, feral hogs are expected to be around for a long time as recreational targets in the Magnolia State.
HOLLAR FOR HOGS
Gale and Charles Perry
The Hog Patrol
Hog Hunting Guide
Rock Hill Hunting Club
Caption: Stephen Washburn of The Hog Patrol in Yazoo City shows off a hog killed during a recent nighttime hunt. The happy hunter is Wyatt Nichols (center) while Kristy Ingold participated.
Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Hog Patrol in Yazoo City kills pesky feral hogs one of three common ways, including night hunting with infrared technology. Successful during a recent hunt are Destin Winter, Kristy Ingold, and Derrick Wilcox. Deilida Dalton also enjoyed successful hunt Stephen Washburn poses with a big pig. Washburn and shooter Joshua Carney cull the feral hog population.