By Kevin Tate
Two weeks ago, when Al Smith of Prairie – located in Monroe County – got word that a large wild hog was harassing his cattle, he reached out to members of a local hunting club who were more than willing to help. They eliminated a threat and confirmed the unusual report at the same time.
“It was all like it was meant to be,” Smith said. “I sent a distress call and they got right on it.”
What hunters Ron Simmons, of Monroe County, and Dave Lewis, of Sulligent, Ala., got right on turned out to be a large boar that was, in fact, in the act of trying to get at a newborn calf when they found it. Feral hogs are opportunistic omnivores and a specimen of this one’s size, which turned out to be 375 pounds, is certainly large enough to make many of its own opportunities.
“About a week before Ron shot the hog, a neighbor called me and told me there was a big boar out there with my cattle,” Smith said. The neighbor was without a rifle when the hog was sighted, though, and couldn’t take care of the problem on the spot. Smith later got a similar report from a state highway department employee who said the hog was chasing calves.
“The cows were calving just then and I sure didn’t need to lose a calf,” said Smith, who was working cattle at another location at the time. “I texted several folks from the hunting club and asked if they could shoot it.”
“That Friday, Feb. 7, I contacted Ron Simmons and said, ‘Hey, let’s go see if we can find this thing,’ ” Lewis said.
Finding the hog didn’t take long.
“We went to the area where the hog had been seen and got on the back side of a hill,” Lewis said. “We were working our way into the wind and I could smell him. We came up over the top of the hill and there he was.”
“They found the hog going around and around a cow after a calf,” Smith said. “Mr. Ron, being the sportsman he is, made sure the hog was clear of both cow and calf and shot him.”
“It was about a 75- or 80-yard shot,” said Simmons, who used a .35 Whelen for the task. Using an ATV, he and Lewis got the hog back to their hunting camp, where a new set of scales was put to use.
“The scales we weigh deer on had broken not long ago and when we went to replace them, we couldn’t find the kind we normally use and wound up buying a set with a higher maximum weight just to get the job done,” Simmons said, “not that we thought we’d ever need to weigh something that heavy, but it came in handy.”
Populations of wild pigs in every shape, size and color are quickly on the rise across the state, and an aggressive control program undertaken one property at a time appears to be the only recourse. According to studies and hunter surveys quoted in the MSU extension service’s online content, in any given group of wild hogs, between eight and 50 percent of the group’s population will be removed through regular hunting methods in the course of a year, with a 20 percent removal rate being the norm in most areas.
Considering the frequency and size of new litters of wild pigs, officials calculate a 60 percent removal rate to be the bare minimum simply to keep any group’s population from expanding year to year, a tall order for regular hunting methods to fill.
To learn more about hog populations and control methods, go online to wildpiginfo.msstate.edu.