Want to Fight the Feral Hog Problem in Texas? Start With $8k, a Helicopter and a Machine Gun.

Want to Fight the Feral Hog Problem in Texas? Start With k, a Helicopter and a Machine Gun.

“Feral pigs have become a problem for one reason: The food-safety agencies tasked to insure safe, wholesome, and affordable food have made them illegal to sell commercially. The commonsense solution is to put them back in the human food chain where they have been for thousands of years of human history.

 

Free-range pork is at least as wholesome and safe to eat as the tainted pork produced in the filthy, inhumane, and ecologically disastrous pig factory-farms that blight large sections of our country. The American pork industry is now controlled by a few corporate giants, the largest of which, Smithfield, is owned by a Chinese multi-national company. This means that America’s largest pork producer, like all Chinese companies, is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party.

 

The pork oligarchs don’t want to compete with millions of free-range pigs that are now so plentiful they are a nuisance. The pork monopolies have “captured” the regulatory system. Together, regulators and Big Pork keep these animals off the market. This deprives consumers of better, cheaper pork and landowners of hundreds of millions of dollars of annual income. And now a national resource is a growing national liability.

 

With respect to so-called sport hunting from aircraft as depicted in the video below, it is unbelievable that gunning down animals from helicopters with automatic weapons, often leaving them to rot, is considered “sporting” by anyone, or tolerated by our game regulators who claim to be defenders of “Fair Chase” hunting.

 

Plenty of people in the regulatory and wildlife agencies could fix this, but they have been marginalized or eliminated altogether from the ranks of decision makers whose policies have led to these perversities.

 

NOTE: this article was originally published to HoustonChronicle.com on May 2, 2022. It was written by Ryan Nickerson.

 

Because Texas classifies feral hogs as unprotected, exotic, non-game animals, they can be hunted by anyone using any method at any time of year. Private businesses take advantage, charging customers thousands for the opportunity to hunt hogs from the sky.

 

 

“We get quite a bit of clientele from places like New York, California (and) Chicago, where the firearm laws are extremely restrictive,” said Chris Britt, co-founder of Helibacon in Bryan. “They come to Texas and the idea that you can shoot a machine gun in a helicopter is just mind-blowing to them. They think of it as the Wild West.”

While hunting hogs via helicopter may sound outlandish, it’s actually one of the most effective ways to eliminate the animals, if done correctly.

Once in the air, the sound of a helicopter will start to get a group of hogs, or a sounder, running. The pilot pushes the sounder to an area where they can work and the gunners can start firing.

“It’s very safe and very controlled,” Britt said. “But it sounds so outlandish and exciting that it’s a really big draw. People enjoy the experience.”

 

 

Chuck and Kathleen Settle walk in their yard on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, that had been damaged by feral hogs in The Woodlands. Feral hogs have been a problem in the neighborhood, damaging yards.

Brett Coomer/Staff photographer

 

Feral hogs caused significant damage to nearly all of the beds in Tyrrell Park Botanical Gardens. Photo taken Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Kim Brent/The Enterprise

 

Feral hogs forage for food during winter months, and the destruction they leave behind can be a nuisance for Texans.

Shannon Tompkins/Houston Chronicle

 

The Beaumont Botanical Garden at Tyrrell Park once had to halt plantings after feral hogs destroyed 90 percent of the fall garden as it had become too expensive to keep replacing the plants.

Photo courtesy of Doug Oldbury

Finding a flight

Booking a helicopter hog hunting trip is usually straightforward.

Normal packages cost between $2,000 and $8,000, depending on party size, and usually include weapons, ammo, and at least a few hours of flight time. Helibacon outfits customer with semi-automatic AR-15s, with the option of upgrading to fully automatic machine guns at extra cost.

Some bookings even include meals and lodging. In San Angelo, Helicopter Pig Hunting and Divided Find Lodge & Ranch to offer corporate events that make an entire weekend retreat out of the experience.

 

Demand for the trips is high, with companies routinely seeing long waitlists.

A representative from Helicopter Pig Hunting said they fly about 70 hours a month and are booked all year long, while Britt said Helibacon’s business has been “roaring” since the pandemic slowed in late 2020.

James Walz, co-founder of HeliHogHunt, says his company’s clients range from corporations to former military and even some celebrities.

“The damage we’ve seen to our everyday farmers, landowners, and ranchers alike (from feral hogs) is why I put my foot down on making sure it’s more about making a difference,” Walz wrote in an email, “and we landed many of those hunts for that very reason.”

That said, some companies won’t book with just anyone. Many only book customers with valid Texas hunting licenses, even though state law hasn’t required it since 2019.

“We have been very selective on who hunts with us,” Walz wrote.

Helibacon is among the many private businesses around Texas that sell helicopter hog hunting as an experience.

Courtesy/Helibacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it actually effective?

When done right, shooting from helicopters is one of the best ways to eliminate large groups of feral hogs at once, according to Michael J. Bodenchuk, state director of Texas Wildlife Services (TWS).

By regularly culling the population of hogs in an area, Britt said they can reduce their numbers by a noticeable amount, resulting in less crop damage and fewer overall problems on ranch lands.

Bodenchuk has doubts about how much the commercial trips are actually helping. “Anybody who kills a pig is a friend of mine, but they may not be getting rid of them.”

For one, private businesses have a financial incentive to not eliminate the hogs entirely.

“I don’t want to be cynical,” Bodenchuck said. “It’s just in my nature, I guess. But some of these guys are getting $1,000 an hour from the gunners to take them up and do that. And so it might be to their advantage to keep some pigs on the ground.”

Killing an entire sounder also requires strategy.

The hogs tend to run in a straight line due to the noise, but can scatter easily without the right tactics. Bodenchuck says the most effective way to eliminate as many hogs as possible is to shoot them from back to front so the hogs won’t scramble when the one in front gets killed.

Businesses also tend to use smaller helicopters, which require a lot of forward momentum to stay in the air.

Feral hogs forage for food during winter months, and the destruction they leave behind can be a nuisance for Texans.

Shannon Tompkins/Houston Chronicle

 

HeliHogHunt has been giving individuals and groups of friends, family or co-workers the experience of helicopter hog hunting for over 6 years.

Courtesy of HeliHogHunt

 

 

 

Feral hogs forage for food during winter months, and the destruction they leave behind can be a nuisance for Texans.

San Antonio Express-News

 

 

Jimmy Meyers flies with his brother, Joseph Meyers, of Flying J Services, over a farmer’s field in search of feral hogs in Atascosa County, Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News

 

 

 

Feral hogs run through a farm in Atascosa County, Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News

 

 

 

Feral hogs forage for food during winter months, and the destruction they leave behind can be a nuisance for Texans.

Shannon Tompkins/Houston Chronicle

 

 

“If you fly faster than the pigs are running, you’re going to fly past them and their groups are going to split up,” Bodenchuck said. “If you look at videos of aerial hog hunting, watch how many pigs these guys fly past.”

According to Britt, helicopter hog hunters have to submit a quarterly report to TWS. With all of the data that hunters submitted in recent years, they’ve only killed about 2% of the state’s feral hog population.

“Helicopter hog hunting in and of itself does not reduce the total feral hog population by a very large amount,” Britt said, “but it can manage a regional area.”

“Texas is just a big place. If you talk to the local farms and ranchers that we do hunt for on a regular basis, they love us because they can definitely tell that it keeps the feral hog population in check in that area.”

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Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.
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