"HOGS FROM HELICOPTERS?" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Its been said that there are two types of ranches in Texas; those with hogs and those about to get them! Wild hogs create an estimated $400 million in annual damage to agricultural crops, hay meadows and rangeland in Texas alone. Hogs, domestic and wild, are highly prolific. Sows breed at 6-8 months and litters range from 5-10 piglets. Considering that half of a litter are sows, its easy to see the number of hogs that one breeding sow can propagate in a matter of a few months. There is no doubt that keeping their numbers in check is of primary concern to everyone but, HUNTING THEM FROM HELICOPTERS by paying clients? I dont think so! Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) is being asked to formulate rules for hunting hogs from helicopter. Its been legal to control hog numbers via helicopter since back in 1996. Through the end of last year, a little over one thousand permits were granted for controlling wild porkers with the use of choppers. I have no problem with properly permitted landowners controlling hog numbers on their ranches from the air. Sporting, its not but when trained shooters and very experienced chopper pilots are involved, shooting hogs from the air can be an efficient, albeit expensive means of reducing their numbers and, the damage caused by the gregarious porkers. Present laws prohibit charging a recreational (guide) fee for hunting hogs from the air. If the new law is adopted, guided hunts from helicopter will be legal. If this proposal becomes law, I can see all kinds of resulting problems. Lets assume a qualified helicopter pilot, books a hunt with a couple guys to go on an air hog hunt. Chances are pretty good this will be the first time either flew in a chopper and definitely the first time they did any shooting from the air, granted, a few might have been machine gunners on a chopper back in the Viet Nam era, but the vast majority will be sportsmen out looking for a bit of excitement. Imagine the mishaps that could occur when folks begin banging away at running hogs from the air. Adrenaline levels would be high; the potential for accidents vastly outweigh the benefits. What would happen when an excited client is tracking a running pig through his rifles scope in heavy cover, banging away and kicking up dust around the fleeing porker. Shooting at running game requires intense concentration, even when shots are taken at ground level. After a few missed shots at the running hog, a cow or horse appears in the line of sight. Will the shooter have time to react or, being caught up in the excitement of the moment, continue shooting? Photo by Luke Clayton Im all for hunting wild hogs and I fully understand the necessity to control their numbers but, to my way of thinking, trapping or hunting them with dogs is far more reasonable and much safer than allowing anyone with the guide fee to shoot them from the air. I truly believe that once this proposed legislation is thoroughly studied by TPWD, it will never become law. If it does, I would suggest making sure the deer lease you will be hunting next year does not allow shooting hogs, or anything else, from the air. I certainly do not wish to have to worry about someone from above spreading rounds over the mesquite flat where my bow stand is situated, especially when Im in it! Just for fun, imagine some of the conversations that could occur between the hunters and chopper pilots IF this ridiculous idea did become law: Here, hold this cold one, I think I see a hog down there. Or, Youll have to keep this thing more steady. Here take this shotgun, I think Im gonna be sick! Or, Do you allow grenades? Or, Do we still get charged the full rate if you arent able to get the pigs to slow down enough for us to hit them? Or, Do you do the field dressing, or do we, once we get back on the ground? By the way, how do we find the hogs weve shot? Everything looks the same from up here in the air! Or, Did you say its ok to flip this thing on fully auto? Ive been wanting to give it a try on something running! Or, Does meat processing come with the price of these chopper hunts? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ SPRING TURKEY HUNTING UPDATE - I recently interviewed TPWD biologists across much of the state in an attempt to get a handle on the upcoming spring season. It appears, over the majority of the state, the extremely dry conditions last year took a toll on the hatch and survival rate on young turkeys. Survival was low for the poults that did hatch, because there was little green vegetation to provide cover and food. A dry fall and winter added to the already bad conditions. But, if you hunt in areas that traditionally have large numbers of birds, dont be disheartened, there should be plenty of carry over mature gobblers from previous years. We probably wont see the large number of bachelor flocks of young Jakes this year. A bright spot seems to be up in north east Texas, especially in Red River and Lamar Counties where the population of eastern turkeys is doing very well. Mike Ford, owner of the Rio Rojo Rancho in northern Red River County says there was an awesome hatch in the area last spring with lots of young birds. He reported hes also seeing plenty of mature gobblers in the areas. Listen to OUTDOORS WITH LUKE CLAYTON radio show each week at www.catfishradio.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Cabelas King Kat Catfish Tournament at Lake Tawakoni, Feb 28. Team entry fee is $200. Tournament headquartered at West Tawakoni City Park. Hours at 6:30am.-3 pm. The trophy blue catfish bite has been excellent at Tawakoni this winter and its entirely possible for several 60 pound plus fish to be weighed in, catfish pros Ive visited with are expecting fish of this size and possibly larger. If you cant fish the event, make sure and stop by around 3 for the weigh in and, bring your camera! For more information, call 270-395-6774 or email firstname.lastname@example.org the web site is www.kingkatusa.com. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Expo is slated for March 5-8 at the Ft. Worth Convention Center. Cost is $12 per person or $25 for family. This is the first time the Expo has been held in Texas and will give Texas hunters a great opportunity to visit with outfitters, attend elk hunting seminars and witness the world championship elk calling contest. This event is excellent for hunters planning their first trip to the Mountain States to hunt elk. For more information, visit www.rmef.org. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ County DU Banquet is slated for March 6 at the National Guard Armory in Greenville. Festivities begin at 6 pm. For more information, contact James Handley at 903-455-1631. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!