Luke Clayton: Hog trapper with a plan
Wild hogs’ numbers must be controlled. This is an absolute fact. I’ve read that over half the population must be removed each year just to maintain current numbers. I get it, but probably because I spent my younger days on a small farm where my Dad raised hogs for meat and to make a few extra dollars each year, I have always considered hogs to be a valuable commodity.
When the wild hog population began to increase across the state 30 or so years ago, I and many hunters were elated with the prospect of having another animal to hunt, one that provided meat that many of us consider tastier than venison.
When I see trailers stacked high with dead hogs destined to make the coyote population fat, I find myself wishing all that pork could be put to good use. But I also understand the logistics involved in getting the wild hogs to folks that would use and appreciate the meat. Transporting the hogs to a processor and then distributing the meat is definitely a challenging proposition, but one for which my friend Coy Hirth with Slappy’s Hog Trapping has found a workable solution.
Trapping wild hogs and getting the processed meat to those that need it definitely comes with a monetary cost. Traps, fuel, corn for bait and processing cost dollars, not to mention the man-hours required. Coy went to his accountant and presented his challenge and with some expert help, devised a plan that is working. He was advised to create a nonprofit origination where proceeds from removing excess hogs would be put back into the coffers to pay for all the expenses which, as his trapping program grew, included paying for extra help to run the traps and transport the hogs. As Coy’s network of places to trap and clients seeking help in removing hogs increased, he expanded his operation to encompass several counties including Dallas County where there in places the wild hog population is on the increase and, counties to the east. He and his helpers travel east as far as Smith County to pick up hogs caught by other trappers.
I recently joined Coy to help him run several traps on a 7,500-acre ranch located in the Trinity River bottoms not far from my home southeast of Dallas. His operation has exclusive rights to hunt and trap wild hogs on this big piece of bottomland that is home to a healthy population of wild porkers.
As we drove to check the first trap, Coy explained why this particular ranch requires year around attention. “Hogs love to travel waterways and the Trinity River runs through this entire ranch. As soon as we think we are gaining on reducing hog numbers, more appear. It’s common knowledge that roving sounders of hogs use waterways as travel routes.”
Trapping has been consistent throughout the summer and fall but Coy is expecting a banner trapping season this winter. The Trinity bottoms are loaded with wild native pecan trees and the lowlands along the river pull hogs in like magnets when the tasty nuts begin hitting the ground.
As Coy drove slowly along the ranch road, pulling a trailer that was getting heaver as we checked the many traps, I mentioned the business “model” that he, with expert advice from his accountant, has developed. His operation can only cover a limited amount of territory but why couldn’t his model of a nonprofit hog trapping operation be implemented statewide.
“I was amazed at all the benefits from creating a nonprofit provided”, says Coy. Government grants to help offset the costs are available; it’s just a matter of seeking them out. Someone wishing to create a program such as mine must first have a love for being outdoors and obviously know how to trap hogs, a skill which can be acquired by spending time in the field. It’s also a must to have a processor willing to take care of turning the wild hogs into pork for the freezer so that it can be distrusted to those who need it. I work with Kuby’s Game Processing in Dallas and for a reduced price, they make packets of ground meat from the hogs we bring in. We’ve found most folks welcome the ground meat which can be used many ways, everything from spaghetti to burgers to breakfast sausage when spices are added.”
To provide needed dollars for the operation, landowners and companies with hog problems pay for his services and many folks donate directly to Kuby’s Game Processing with instructions to apply their dollars to help with processing. Currently Coy has a few guys that he pays to help on a part time basis with the operation.
As Coy mentioned, “There is no way I could afford to do this full time, after all, it’s nonprofit. I have a regular job in the trucking business. I begin my work day early and I’m off at 3:30 which allows me time each day to devote to trapping and day to day duties of processing and distributing the meat. Anyone wishing to use my model to begin their own trapping operation must first give serious consideration and decide if they have the time to devote to a nonprofit. A candidate to begin such an operation must obviously either have a job flexible enough to allow them to devote the necessary time or, be finically independent and I don’t know too many hog trappers that fill that bill. A love for the outdoors and a passion for trapping is also a prerequisite.”
When I inquired as to how Slappy’s Hog Trapping actually gets the processed meat to those that need it, the answer was social media. Coy has a strong presence on social media, especially Facebook, that he uses as a mouthpiece for getting the word out on his operation.
“I will put the word on social media that I can be at a given location on a certain day at a certain time. I will usually get several folks responding that they can meet me there and that’s how we actually get the meat those that will use it. The meat is free to anyone that wishes to use it but of course we get a big kick out of putting it in the hands of those that really need it but I have no problem with folks that are curious about just how tasty wild pork will be, they are welcome to give it a try also, it might just turn them into a hog hunter or trapper!”
To learn more, “like” Slappy’s Hog Trapping on Facebook. Pictures and updates are posted on an almost daily basis.
Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website, www.catfishradio.org .