How the problem started

Hog hunters have seem like they are everywhere in Texas any more. All over the state, farmers and ranchers are having big problems with wild hogs. These intelligent and adaptable creatures can wreak havoc on cultivated land and even prey on livestock. They can live in any kind of terrain, from forest to swamp, from brush to desert.¬† According to Texas A & M University, Texas is currently home to an estimated 2 million feral hogs descended from various European breeds imported as livestock. It’s a practice that goes back to the 1680s.

As destructive predators and disease carriers, the feral hog population has naturally attracted the attention of hunters. These hogs provide great sport for many of my neighbors. Here, people raise horses, and recently they’ve taken to raising hog dogs. In fact, my own “head of security” is a very large Catahoula Cur, a favored breed among hog dog breeders. So, the opportunity to reduce the feral hog population and get outdoors on horseback with a pack of dogs is irresistible to many folks around here. It’s a rare and justifiable opportunity to live the cowboy life in the 21st century.

Sometimes stuff goes wrong in spite of every precaution

I just learned about an accident a young man I know, a hog hunter and hog dog breeder, had last week. I knew that the boy had broken his collar bone, but I had not heard how, so this morning when I saw his dad I asked what happened. The details made me sit down with a thump. The story was way scarier than I imagined, and it took place on a hog hunt. Now, before anyone has a chance to assume that youthful carelessness was the cause, let me stop you. The family in question know all about hunting safely. They know how to ride horses, and they took all the they were as careful as they knew how to be. The boy was not allowed to go hunting without adults present  because his dad knew the risks.

It could have happened to anyone

The hunt was on horseback, on family-owned land with dogs and a whole bunch of seasoned, grown-up hunters. They were driving a large group of hogs through a wooded area and moving fast. The kid simply hit a tree while ducking and dodging limbs. It could have happened to any of the hunters that day.

The injury was worse than just the broken collar bone I’d heard about, but the young hunter is going to heal. I expect that the images from that day will forever be burned into his father’s brain. He said he thought as he rode in the ambulance beside his son that he’d gotten his boy killed. Just telling me the story made him choke up. That dad is giving thanks to the Almighty today that he still has his son. And it was an accident that could have happened to anyone. It happened in a heartbeat. (Don’t they always?)

So I’ll close with a simple reminder to all you wild, crazy adventurers: Have a good time, but be careful. We are not immortal. That young hog hunter was fond of telling his dad, “Nothing’s going to happen,” but as the dad told me, “He wore that excuse out.” I’d like to add . . . Kids, your parents aren’t as dumb as they look!

In depth information about the Feral Hogs in Texas can be found at http://feralhogs.tamu.edu/, and in particular check their resources section: http://feralhogs.tamu.edu/publications/

© 2011, Kimberly Davis
“Hog Hunters in Texas” originally appeared in the Extraordinary Jobs for Ordinary People online newsletter.