Wild Hogs

A hog that was shot on Kevin Counsil’s property in Madisonville.

Posted 3/18/20

As the pickup rumbles along through a once-smooth hayfield on Kevin Counsil’s ranch in Madisonville, the feral hog problem in rural Texas becomes all too visible.

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Wild Hogs

A hog that was shot on Kevin Counsil’s property in Madisonville.

Posted

As the pickup rumbles along through a once-smooth hayfield on Kevin Counsil’s ranch in Madisonville, the feral hog problem in rural Texas becomes all too visible.

Over the last two decades especially, countless farmers and ranchers have worked tirelessly to manage the damage inflicted on their property by the ever-growing population of swine invaders.

“When you kill these hogs out, there will be another unrelated group that comes into the exact same spots in these fields and does it again,” said Counsil as he stood next to a particularly large patch of uprooted earth near a creek that runs through his property. “They have hit every one of these fields I got out here like this.”

As a result, the property owner is required to disc the area or entire field in order to regain the smooth surface necessary to properly operate.

“That is what you have to do,” Counsil said. “You have to disc this all up and do it three or four times until you can get it nice and smooth. If you are not getting (the hogs) out, they will come right back up at night and tear it all out.”

Counsil’s property is bordered by Interstate 45 on one side and Highway 75 on the other and is outlined with multiple 10-20 acre stretches of wood, which is where the hogs presumably sleep during the day.

Counsil, part of the Madison County Beef and Forage Committee, attended a County Commissioner’s meeting in January to request county action on controlling the feral hog problem.

The Commissioners began discussing possible plans at their Feb. 25 meeting, which included input from Madison County Extension Agent Chadd Caperton.

“As long as you’ve got deer stands pumping corn all around, you are going to have feral hogs,” Caperton said. “They are fat and happy.”

Other options discussed included investing in traps and consulting an outside professional on the matter.

While high-quality traps would be the best option, they are also quite expensive. Clark Osborne of Madisonville, who has dealt with the hogs as a hobby and a career, has a trap on his property that alerts the owner with text messages and pictures throughout the day of possible movements.

“Hogs are smart,” Osborne said. “If it looks like a trap, smells like a trap, feels like a trap, it probably is. The idea is to use a big, pin-like trap and put a feeder in there. If I see hog pictures via text, I can log into the camera and switch into live video mode. The idea is to wait until the last hog is in the trap. You do not close the door if there are five standing outside, because then you just educated those five.”

Another potential solution is to build a hog-wire fence around the property where you wish to keep the hogs out, as Counsil did on his farm.

“It is real costly,” Counsil said on the fencing. “But (feral hogs) are so much worse now than what they were just 10 years ago. If I do not start doing something now, I’ll say why didn't I do that 10 years from now.”

Hogs and other animals can sometimes find vulnerable points in the fencing, but it still dramatically slows the influx of unwelcome guests.

Osborne started his own hog hunting company, Tactical Hog Hunting (THC), in 2009 and featured sophisticated equipment such as night vision scopes and thermals in favor of using dogs. While the feral hog problem became more prevalent, particularly in Texas, Osborne’s company began to garner national attention.

“I wish I knew how many hogs we killed,” Osborne said. “It is in the thousands. It really just blew up. We were really fortunate when we first started because we had a buddy with a booth in the Texas Trophy Hunters Show. He let us share his booth and we got some of that publicity.”

That publicity ultimately led to a story on their operations on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2011. During their time in business, THC was also featured in a segment regarding the hog problem in Texas on ABC Nightline in 2012 along with a number of television programs.

“We always guaranteed a shot opportunity on a hog within 100 yards or we would give you your money back,” Osborne said.

THC would charge $600 per person per night and supplied all of the necessary equipment for the endeavors themselves. They did not limit the number of hogs nor charge trophy fees. But as the problem grows more and more prevalent, numerous individuals are looking for a piece of the action.

“Everybody and their brothers are becoming hog hunting guides,” Osborne said. “It is becoming a cash cow and that is part of the problem. All the farmers and ranchers still want them gone while their neighbors with hunting operations may not.”

Many farmers and ranchers sustaining damage to their livelihoods have been adamant about the development of a poison to control the ever-growing hog population. In 2017, the Texas Department of Agriculture released a warfarin-based poison (traditionally known as a rat poison) for that purpose, but the method has been criticized by many due to the amount of time it can take a hog to die from the poison as well as environmental concerns.

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