Mississippi hunters, landowners confront the problems caused by feral hogs, and how to take action against them.
It has been said that there are two types of hunting property in Mississippi; those that have wild hogs, and those that don’t have hogs yet. Those on the “have” side of the issue, in most cases, wish they didn’t.
Yes, feral hogs are another target for hunters. Yes, wild hogs, when properly cooked, are deemed by most as good table fare. But having hogs to shoot is not a desirable end result of any game management plan, anywhere. Emphasis should be placed on eradication, plain and simple. Shoot them on site, trap them and shoot them, shoot them at night: boars, sows, shoats, barrows, even piglets. Kill the whole sounder if possible.
Anthony Ballard, a biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks who oversees nuisance species, offers a perfect perspective on the removal of feral swine: “You don’t manage the cockroach or mouse populations in your house, so why would you want to manage a hog problem on your land.”
Ballard said he gets requests from people wanting to hunt feral swine on WMAs during the time when other seasons are not open.
“We discourage the sport hunting during the offseason, because that is the time when the agency personnel are placing emphasis on eradication,” Ballard said. “There are many opportunities within the existing season framework to shoot hogs on public land.”
Eat what you will from the slaughter, but feel no guilt for leaving the remains of the others for the buzzards and other carrion-loving critters. This may go against what sportsman have been taught for generations, but it is the right thing to do. If your property is like most of Mississippi, you’ll have a new sounder moving in within a matter of months.
“Although recreational hunting is one tool often used to help manage wildlife populations, taking feral swine opportunistically while deer hunting has little impact on reducing feral swine populations to stop damage,” said Aaliya Essex, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Feral swine damage management and eradication operations, such as those used by USDA and its partners, are a methodical process targeting the removal of feral swine from specific areas in order to reduce or eliminate associated damage. Entire sounders must be targeted — often trapped and removed — otherwise, feral swine will quickly repopulate an area.”
Conservationists and biologists, along with responsible land owners, have been pounding away at the feral pig problem for years.
Stopping interstate and intrastate transportation has made some progress, and hefty fines have been handed down to lawbreakers. Baiting, trapping and night-hunting have accounted for scores of hogs being removed. We can’t allow the effort to slow. It’s doubtful the complete eradication of the species will ever be complete, but we must try.
The effort to champion the cause of annihilation is not helped by those who chose to glorify hog hunting. But as one Texas wildlife biologist said, “You can’t shoot your way out of this problem.” As long as someone is profiting from feral swine shooting opportunities, they will be difficult to completely eradicate.
Hunters have reported more hogs than deer harvested in the past two seasons. This should serve as a wake-up call that efforts thus far have done little to curb the rapid spread of the feral hog menace. Deer hunters alone cannot stop the epidemic; it requires a concerted effort by landowners and hunters working together.
“We have pigs on our hunting lease in Kemper County,” Steve McFarland said. “They have ruined food plots, rooted hardwood bottoms to the point deer and turkey can’t possibly find acorns. The hogs have even destroyed young pine plantings. We pressure them with hunting and trapping, but when pressured, they move to our neighbor’s property. When the neighbor puts pressure on the pigs, they just move again, eventually returning to our property.”
McFarland said deer and hogs don’t like to mix. When deer are in a food plot and hogs appear, the deer leave. A hog or two will be killed, but the deer hunt is ruined. Members of his hunting camp have never passed on an opportunity to kill a hog.
“At my Rankin County home, deer and hogs are pushed out of the Pearl River swamp and sometimes find their way into my back yard,” Becky Hemphill said. “We put in food plots for deer, and the hogs root them up, so we try to kill all we encounter. I’d much rather hunt deer and never see another hog.”
Questions of other of state wildlife agencies brought the same comments: hogs are an environmental menace; they have the ability to alter an entire ecosystem, and there is no better hog-control method than trapping and killing.
Traps run the gamut from simple to very advanced. Early traps were simple pens with a bait source inside and a trip wire that an animal would trigger to close the gate. The problem is that often, only a few pigs were caught, and the others were educated. Pigs may be ugly, but they are among the more-intelligent mammals. Mature pigs will become trap-shy and refuse to enter an enclosure, a learned behavior not soon forgotten. More recent trap designs involve closures that will drop a large pen all at once. Using the technology, found in modern trail cameras, the operator is alerted via cell phone when hogs are around the bait source. When the time is right, the operator can activate the trigger via cell phone and drop the trap, capturing the greatest number of hogs possible. All traps should have an open top to allow non-targeted animals such as deer to escape.
A danger to people
All too many motorists know the cost and aggravation of a deer-auto collision. Some cars can be repaired, others are totaled. Hog collisions have been compared by some body shops as far worse. When struck, deer may go over the hood and maybe the roof of the vehicle; hogs have a lower center mass and cause more damage.
While feral hogs choose flight to avoid human interaction, the muscular beasts are well equipped to defend themselves. Strong jaws and razor-sharp incisors have the ability to inflict serious injury on a person. Sows will become aggressive if their litter of piglets is threatened, and boars will attack anything they perceive as a threat. In 2019, a woman is Texas was killed when feral swine attacked her.
Any good deer rifle is fine for shooting hogs, but one shot may be all you get if you use a bolt-action. Repeaters such as pumps and lever guns allow for quick second shots but still lag behind the modern sporting rifle for the firepower to destroy a sounder. The .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO are the most-common modern sporting rifle calibers. Full-metal jacketed ammo weighing around 55 grains will stop a hog with the right head shot, but shoulder and torso shots with non-expanding bullets are iffy at best.
The 6.8 Remington is gaining a following as both a home-defense and hunting round. Federal offers a round in its excellent Fusion line of ammunition that fires a 115-grain, soft-point projectile at 2,470 fps. This gives a pig sticker a little more confidence of a clean kill.
Using soft-pointed ammo will cure some of the deficiencies of the .223/5.56, but to get the most out of the weapon, hunters would be wise to invest in one the stronger thumpers. Heavier bullets at even modest velocities are deadly on feral swine, perhaps the newest being the .350 Winchester Legend, which will launch a 180-grain soft-point pill at 2,100 fps, with ample energy to get good expansion. In a modern sporting platform, you can deliver a magazine full of carnage on pigs in short order. The same can be said of the .450 Bushmaster and other short-action bruisers. What the .450 Bush Master loses in velocity, it makes up for in bullet energy delivered to the target.
Mississippi has taken the gloves off when it comes to feral pig control. Night optics and silencers are legal for those who can afford them. Such weapons cost upwards of $2,500, and special licensing is required for silencers.
The feral hog problem did not manifest itself overnight, and it will not have a quick fix. Hogs have the uncanny ability to adapt. Their diet is so varied they can find nourishment where other species cannot.
Mississippi hog particulars
The transporting of live hogs into Mississippi is prohibited by state law. The intrastate transport of wild swine is allowed by permit only. Special permits are required for this transport, such as from a trap location to a holding pen.
Hogs are considered nuisance animals. All regulations governing wild hogs can be found at www.mdwfp.com. Follow the hunting header and navigate to nuisance animals.