As a lifelong hunter, I believe that in today’s political arena, we that love the outdoors have to stick together. There is no room for bickering between compound bow hunters or those that choose to hunt with crossbows or, rifles or shotguns for that matter. I could care less if someone hunts with a muzzleloader or, a pistol as long as the weapon they choose is legal.
But hunting hogs from helicopters is a bone of contention that I’ve given a great deal of thought to.
As an outdoors writer, I’ve been invited to get the necessary permit and shoot hogs from the air. I politely declined.
This week, I’ll focus on a few facts about these helicopter hunts that became legal in Texas back in 2011 with the passing of House Bill 716.
It’s my intent to highlight some pros and cons of killing hogs from the air. Let’s begin with a question posed by a Texas Parks and Wildlife news release pertaining to helicopter hog hunting.
The question was, “Is sport hunting from any aircraft for feral hogs or coyotes legal?” The answer from TPWD is “NO! It is a violation of both state and federal law to sport hunt from an aircraft.”
I’ve got a huge problem with this. Cost for these so called ‘chopper shoots” averages between $1,000 and $1,800. The ‘gunner’, who is referred to as the ‘qualified landowner or landowner’s agent’, applies for a permit and undergoes training before boarding the chopper. With permit in hand, the gunner pays a helicopter outfitter service to provide the necessary training, take them up, flush hogs out of cover and kill them.
In this same Q&A from TPWD, the question, “What changed as a result of House Bill 716?"
“A qualified landowner’s agent may now contract (pay) to participate as a hunter or gunner to take depredating feral hogs or coyotes from an aircraft.” (This landowner's agent is another term for gunner with enough dollars to hire pilot/helicopter, the way I see it).
Do you see the contradiction here? TPWD says sport hunting is illegal in one instance and follows up the previous statement.
So, just what is someone that flies in a chopper and shoots hogs. Is he or she a ‘shooter’ or a hunter? To my way of thinking, most definitely not a hunter.
I am trying hard to look at both sides of this story. While looking over the web sites of several of these “helicopter hog hunting outfitters,” several plainly state that “hogs killed will not be recovered; we let nature take its course on the dead hogs.” This is a huge waste of great tasting meat. Granted, the older mature boars usually don’t make the best table fare, but thousands of pounds of prime pork is left to rot or feed coyotes as a direct result of these chopper hunts. It’s a biological fact that when food is abundant, coyotes reproduce at a much higher rate than when food is scarce. This sounds like a bit of a catch 22 situation to me!
I fully understand the necessity by farmers and ranchers to reduce feral hog populations. Trapping and, on larger tracts of land, hunting with dogs is a safe, tried and proven method of accomplishing this. Today’s thermal imaging night vision is a great way to control hog numbers, costly but not nearly as expensive as keeping choppers in the air. I recently interviewed a fellow up in northeast Texas that outfits night vision hog hunts who stated that his clients have killed hundreds of hogs at night but not one was butchered and put to use, but that’s another story. Hogs are not considered game animals and there are few restrictions on killing them.
Through the years, I’ve know a good number of landowners that ‘loved to hate hogs.” When asked for permission to hunt their land, they often declined. Many quickly learned that there are plenty of hunters more than willing to pay a trespass fee to hunt their land. Leasing land to hog hunters is a viable way for landowners to not only reduce the number of hogs on their property but to put a few dollars for taxes in the bank as well.
I hunt hogs close to a big ranch upon which a helicopter hunt was recently conducted. I heard that several hundred hogs were killed and left where they were shot. I also heard reports that hogs were driven into the open from adjacent properties and shot when they crossed the property line.
I’m opposed to hunting hogs from helicopters as the rules currently stand for several reasons. I spent over a quarter-century as a surveyor and I know how confusing property lines can be when one is on the ground, much less in the air. I also despise the wanton waste of all the meat.
If pilots were forced to walk the lands upon which they are conducting these ‘hunts’ first to learn the exact location of the property lines (fence lines are not always property lines) and if a ground crew was required to salvage all the hogs that are suitable for eating, I’d be much more inclined to favor shooting hogs from the air. An added fee could be included in the outfitters charges for this which could require donation of the meat to the needy in the area. A client willing to pay $1,500 for a hunt could just as easily afford $2,000.
I believe these chopper shoots should only be allowed on large ranches to avoid conflict with adjacent properties and a buffer zone of several hundred yards from property lines be observed.
I’m quite sure the time and money necessary to enforce these regulations would make hunting from the air cost-ineffective.
It would be interesting to know just how many non-swine animals have been killed on these hunts by accident. In the heat of the moment, in a moving chopper, how easy it is to distinguish a small black calf from a herd of big hogs running through thick cover.
Poisoning is another means of reducing the number of wild hogs that is under study. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services branch (used to be called Animal Damage Control) is testing a feeder which, advocates say, only hogs can access. I just can’t fathom the idea of poisoning hogs. I’d rather seen them killed in large numbers from a chopper and left where they lay than to under the agony of poisoning. This is coming from a guy that annually kills between 10-25 wild hogs, most with compound bow but occasionally with muzzleloader or crossbow.
I have absolutely no problem with killing hogs, but poison them? How would this idiotic practice affect the rest of the food chain, including man?
DRUM RUN UNDERWAY AT GALVESTON Guide Capt. Mike Williams reports the annual black drum run is in its early stages at Galveston.
“We already catching some big drum up to 40 pound,” says Williams. “The peak of the run occurs around spring break but fishing gets really good the first couple weeks of March. We’re using quarter sections of blue crab for bait and planning our trips around moving tides. These trips are ideal for the family where catching 15-20 big fish weighing between 20-50 pounds is very common.”
Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com. Contact Luke via the web site with hunting and fishing news from your area.