There is nothing like a little good ol’ fashioned competition to spur some interest among a salty group of hog hunters. Put some Ben Franklin’s on the table as prizes and you just might draw a crowd.
The Texas chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Texas Forest Service are hopeful a mob will come when the first annual Lone Star Wild Hog Tournament gets under way Feb. 26.
The event, which runs through March 6, will award cash prizes up to $1,000 to the winning teams or individuals in three different regions across East Texas. Second place will pay $750; $500 for third.
Rather than measuring hogs by weight, winners will be decided by the total number of feral hogs they bring to designated check-in points over the course of the nine-day tournament.
“It doesn’t matter if it is 10 inches tall or 200 pounds. A dead hog is a good hog,” says tournament organizer Scotty Parsons of Bayou Vista. “They all count the same.”
Parsons is a senior regional biologist with the NWTF. He says the idea for the tournament started after private landowners adjacent to national forest lands continued to complain about escalating feral hog populations.
According to Parsons, year-round hog hunting opportunities are limited on some national forest areas as the result of friendly agreements with multiple-user groups. He says wild hogs have learned to gravitate to these types of areas to get away from hunting pressure, a move that has allowed their numbers to multiply without interruption.
“Hogs might use a national forest area like refuge by day, then spill over onto adjacent private property and pastures to do their dirty work at night,” he said. “It is a pretty big problem.”
It is not just an East Texas thing, either. Feral hog populations across Texas represent a virtual powder keg with a volatile history of past explosions to fuel the existence of what many wildlife experts consider to be one of the most invasive, destructive species on the planet.
They are also are among the most prolific. A healthy sow might raise two litters per year. The average litter is about six, and those youngsters are sexually mature at six months of age. Hogs reproduce like rabbits.
Not surprisingly, feral hog populations are at an all-time high in Texas, and the numbers continue to mount. With an estimated population of 2 million animals roaming the landscape, Texas has more feral hogs than any other state.
And they cost us dearly. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates wild swine do more than $400 million worth of damage across the state each year.
Contestants may enter individually for $20 or $35 for a two-man team. Hogs may be taken on designated tournament days only using any legal means or methods, including traps, firearms, archery gear, etc. The use of dogs is allowed. No stockpiling of hogs until tournament time is allowed.
All contestants must have a valid Texas hunting license.
To learn more about the tournament rules and see check-in station locations, see nwtf.org/texas.