Newcomers to Texas, as well as out-of-state visitors, often complain about the lack of opportunities for “public” hunting. Much of this is justified, as the majority of hunting land in Texas is privately owned. People from many other states – especially in the west – are accustomed to many acres of public land which can be hunted at no charge for those who can obtain permits. I especially hear complaints from those who wish to hog hunt, because they have heard all the stories of nuisance hogs damaging farmlands. They expect to be welcomed as a solution to this problem. The hard reality is that many landowners are reluctant to throw their property open to all comers, because in many cases the hogs do less damage than allowing “strangers” free access. What I have heard is that hogs don’t leave gates open, they don’t steal or damage equipment, fences or gates, and they don’t leave piles of trash and litter behind. There are also liability issues, and that may really be the elephant in the room – hogs don’t carry guns, so they don’t shoot many head of livestock, “by mistake”. Now, not all hunters do these things, but some certainly do. Since most owners of a fairly large property expect to earn income from their substantial investment in land, in a down economy hunting income can help to pay the bills. Deer hunting on private land can be especially expensive, because the animals are often given supplemental food, and such things as stands and feeders do not come cheap.
A hunter who had moved here from Florida recently took me to task over this subject, and had some very unkind things to say about our state. He wanted to try hunting in Louisiana – where he had heard it was much easier to find a place – or go back to Florida to hunt. I doubt he will have much better luck in Louisiana, and the only hog hunters I know in Florida pay to hunt on leases.
Some property owners charge a fee for hog hunting, also – which is certainly their right. Those who do not own land often have trouble understanding this, and some get pretty upset about it. To those folks I will promise them that demanding hunting access, or becoming angry about it is certainly NOT the way to get a place to hunt! Many hunters DO get invited to hunt hogs at little or no cost, but these are usually the ones who either know the landowner pretty well, or have demonstrated that they can reduce the hog population somewhat, while respecting the property. The plain fact is that “sport” hunting is not the most effective method of reducing the number of hogs in an area. A combination of trapping and hard hunting with dogs is usually much more productive. Even shooting hogs from helicopters is not that great, as the animals soon learn to associate the sound of the chopper with danger, and get very hard to find. Since they are often mostly nocturnal, anyway, after the first big hunt, they will hunker down in thick brush until the danger passes.
So, if a hunter wants to operate on private land, and doesn’t have close friends of family who own suitable property, a hunting lease is about the only answer. Many deer leases will allow their hunters to shoot hogs outside of deer season, and might even encourage this at no extra charge. Almost certainly, deer hunters are encouraged to kill every hog they see during the season. I know hunters who lease land just for hog hunting, and usually at a lower cost than a deer lease. There are also “day lease” type operations that specialize in hog hunts.
What confuses many would-be hog hunters is that since hogs are considered an undesirable species, with no closed season or bag limits, and with hunting legal day or night by almost any means imaginable – there is a feeling that more hog hunting would be encouraged. I know of one outfitter who does very successful night hunts who told me he had even gotten calls from hunters out of state who not only expected to hunt for free, but thought there food and lodging should be provided, possibly even the use of a vehicle during their stay! I don’t hunt a lot in other states, but would almost bet this is not the case elsewhere!
Another problem is that the state of Texas, while bemoaning the “Hog Problem”, actually does little to encourage more hog hunting, and is actually still pursuing the idea of poisoning feral hogs. Some hunting is allowed on state lands, in Wildlife Management Areas, for instance, but no night hunting or baiting is allowed, nor the use of dogs – limiting the success of those who would like to take advantage of this opportunity. I discussed this yet again with Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. personnel last February at the Texas Outdoor Writers Association Conference in Corpus. When I pointed out that there were hunters from all over the Untied States who would like to come to Texas and hunt hogs, one gentleman said it sounded as though I should go into the hog hunting business myself – which I certainly would if I had enough property to make it feasible.
My advice to someone really wanting to hog hunt would be to explore public land opportunities. The TPWD website will have information about hunts on State Parks and Wildlife Management Areas, and they are also trying to get landowners involved in a sort of hunting co-operative. County Agents and even Game Wardens can sometimes help find landowners who would be open to hog hunting on their properties. There are websites that list hunting leases all over the state, and some ads can be found in hunting magazines.
Hunting in Texas can be expensive, but hunting in Texas can also be very, very good!
If any readers know of more hunting opportunities in Texas than I have suggested – or even actually are seeking hunters to shoot hogs on their land, please let me know and I will try to help both sides out.