Hog Wild in Texas

Farmers and ranchers across the South, from California to Florida, have been dealing with the destruction wrought by wild pigs for several years. However, you know there’s a BIG problem when the big city dailies start publishing dire warning about the hog apocalypse. The Dallas daily is just one of many news outlets to go hog wild about this problem.

 

According to the Dallas Morning News,  “Wild pigs may not look like much, but they’re among the most intelligent animals in the United States, which makes them formidable adversaries. And they’ve taken over Texas and have been documented in every county, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.”

“If you’re not already dealing with pigs, you’re going to,” said Brett Johnson, an urban biologist for the city of Dallas.

The newspaper added that these pigs cost Texans about $52 million in agricultural damage every year!

Here’s Why Hogs Rule

It’s safe to say that the wild pig population explosion is a Malthusian  nightmare. The numbers tell the tale and it is very depressing.

  • Wild pigs can have two litters a year, typically giving birth to three to eight piglets per litter. Texans would have to remove two-thirds of the feral hog population every year to keep the number of pigs stable. Right now, the state is removing 29 percent of the population. That number has to (somehow) rise to 75 percent!
  • They are mostly nocturnal, seeking cover near water and eating both plants and other animals.
  • About 79 percent of the land mass in Texas is considered suitable environment for wild pigs, which descended from hogs brought in by European settlers in the 1500s.
  • Adult feral hogs don’t have many natural predators and are highly adaptable. Tepid efforts to capture them may result in “trap-smart” pigs. Unprovoked attacks against humans are rare.

Some cities have taken up abatement efforts. Earlier this year, Dallas leaders approved a three-year $347,000 contract with a trapping company that corrals pigs on city-owned land and sells them to a meat-processing plant in Fort Worth.

The newspaper cautioned the city-slickers who wouldn’t know a pig from a peacock. “Even if you’re not a farmer, here’s why you should be concerned: Feral hogs tear up lawns, parks and golf courses; they skulk around highways and train tracks; and they poop in our water supply. Estimates peg the number of wild pigs in the U.S. at 4 million or more— and somewhere between 2 million to 3 million are in our state.”

Let’s DO Something

In the spirit of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and all of the other heroes of the Texas Independence 1836, I think it’s time to call in the cavalry of hunters from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

In the words of that pork chop aficionado, the late Warren Zevon, y’all send lawyers, guns and money! OK, forget about the lawyers, unless they know how to shoot hogs! However, bring those guns with you.

Here are four things that can be done to begin to get the wild pig problem under control

#1 Add the talents and brainpower of Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to the mix

This problem is bigger than “agriculture” and the misguided proposal of the commissioner of the Texas Department Ag to use warfarin  to poison these animals proved this. Fortunately, the state legislature (not usually known for its good sense) killed this bonehead move before it became law.

Ultimately, this is a wild game management issue and the public policy and biological experts in the TDPW, who manage regulations and enforcement of hunting and fishing in the state need to get involved in this mess, pronto. They will need a budget and programs that make this hunting effort sustainable.

#2 Build consumer demand for this pork

There is definitely a place for the Agriculture folks to help. They need to start building a demand for the pork harvested by hunters and commercial meat purveyors. This can be done by enlisting the help of meat processors, farmers, ranchers and hunters and making the world understand the nutritional advantages and amazing flavor of this very lean meat. Developing recipes for wild pork (e.g. sausage) which are available online for no charge and getting high-profile “Food Network” type chefs involved will encourage consumers to give this nutritional and delicious meat a try.

#3 Reduce the out-of-state rates for hunting licenses that are issued for hog hunting

If we want the hunters who call themselves the “Cajun Navy” or the “Tennessee Volunteers” to come in a take home the hams, pork chops and backstraps of Texas hogs, we need to make it easier for them to afford the trip. Part of that involves making it less expensive to hunt hogs in Texas. Charge ten bucks (or less), call it the “Hog Wild” hunting license (which is good for 3-days) and promote it to the hunters in surrounding states. We could also point out that hog hunting is a year-round hunting opportunity. So, in the doldrums of summer, when no other hunting is available, hunters will have a place to keep their skills sharp and put some meat in the freezer.

#4 Build a database of places to hunt hogs

A hunter in Mississippi or Alabama has no idea where to start when looking for an opportunity to hunt wild hogs. Having the Ag Department put together a database of farms and ranches that want pigs harvested on their place and a list of processors who will get the meat ready to take home for a small fee will get hunters on the road to Texas!

Share Your Thoughts with Us

There are likely dozens of other great ideas to humanely reduce the number of wild hogs in Texas while still adhering to the principles of fair chase. If you are reading this post and have some, send them my way.

 

Something on your mind? Hit me up. From mule deer to music, I answer every email art@theoutpostmagazine.com.

A Cold Christmas on the Farm

One of the most memorable Christmases I ever had was also the coldest. I remember coming home to spend the holiday with my folks in the small Texas town where I grew up and hearing a radio weather forecast that called for freezing temperatures. This was no big deal. It was Christmas, after all, and it’s not supposed to be balmy. However, as it turned out, this forecast was a little too rosy. It was about to get very cold.

 

On Christmas Eve day I was out hunting bobwhite quail on our family farm about 10 miles outside of town and I noticed that my Dad’s cows were acting stranger than usual. They were huddling up in groups around the trees in the pasture and the calves were in the middle of the groups. He also had some sheep and goats and they were also hanging out together much more than usual. Not only that, there were very few quail coveys flushing and what mourning doves I saw were all headed south. Everybody seemed to be hunkering down.

 

That afternoon, the bottom fell out, at least in terms of the weather. One of the legendary Texas blue northersblew in and the thermometer started dropping like a stone. The little moisture that was in the air turned into sleet and snow and one of the few white Christmases that I can remember was happening before my eyes.

 

The next morning was Christmas. It was barely light outside but you could see that there was snow on the ground and everything was beautiful. As I drifted back to sleep, I realized that my dad was shaking my shoulders and mumbling something about needing to make sure the animals at the farm had food and water. The temp had dropped to a very brisk 7 degrees.

 

My brother and I bundled up with every stitch of clothing, coat and glove that we could find, joined my dad in the pickup and headed out. Since the pipes in our old house had frozen, we had no water and therefore no coffee was forthcoming on this fine Christmas morning.

 

When we got to our farm, the snow was about two feet deep and all three of the stock tanks were completely frozen over. Since this seldom happens in this part of Texas, my Dad was worried about his animals because they had no water to drink. I was also worried about the wild game that got their water from these same sources.

 

My brother and I were dispatched to find the calves, lambs and kid goats who might be separated from their mamas and bring them back to the barn – which my dad had apocalyptically called the ER.He had a flair for the dramatic, especially if it involved his animals.

 

Sure enough, we found three lambs in the middle of nowhere, freezing to death and one baby goat whose tiny hooves were frozen to the water on one of the stock tanks and a very cold, young calf who was obviously in serious distress. We rescued them all, put the little ones in the pickup cab with us and the calf in the back covered with feed sacks. Their eyes said, “Thanks guys! You boys got here just in time. Turn up that heater, will ya?”

 

When we got back to the “ER,” my dad was waiting for us and he had a couple of weird gadgets called pear burners.Basically, these are little flame throwers that shot out a stream of fire and allowed us to burn the prickly pear thorns off of this cactus plant and make their moisture packed “ears” available for the animals to eat and get some liquid in their systems.

 

We started burning the thorns off of the cactus and the cattle began eating the plants like they were candy. In our usual fashion, my brother and I took this opportunity to break into a little tune that we both felt was appropriate to our flame throwing.

 

I…fell…in…to a burning ring of fire!
I went down, down, down…
And the flames went up higher!
And it burns, burns, burns.
In a Ring of Fire.
In a Ring of Fire.

 

We both agreed that they just don’t write ‘em like that anymore. We also decided that this pear burner would heat up the water troughs and parts of the stock tanks, so we lit the flame and started heating up water.

 

After a few hours, the weather was still cold but the lost baby animals were safely in the ER, the cows and sheep were eating roasted prickly pear and drinking freshly boiled water from the trough and tanks. As I looked out to one of the stock tanks that we had warmed up, I saw one whitetail doe and three fawns down at the water’s edge, getting a long drink of water. After a few minutes, a few more whitetail deer came out of the trees to wet their whistles.

 

While we were saving the farm animals, we had also made it possible for some wild animals to get some much needed water. After we left, they probably came up and munched on some roasted prickly pear. That sight of these deer lapping up the water that we had recently unfrozen is still a great Christmas memory.

Selfie Gone Terribly Wrong!

Jacklight SelfieHere’s a little selfie I took a while back. I know it’s hard to see me with the camo and everything!

Back in 2014, The Oxford English dictionary, officially crowned the word “selfie” as Word of the Year. Not-so-coincidentally, this was the same day when those damn “Millennials” (the know-it-all young adults born between the 1980 and early 2000) decided that taking selfies and posting them online was about as lame as the old people they have to work with!

All it takes is a bunch of old folks saying something is cool for the young folks to say “nah,” it’s not so cool. Of course, this contrarian attitude is not new. It’s been going on since Adam and Eve’s kids stopped eating apples. In fact, we old farts did the same thing when our parents started liking or DOING something we liked.

For now, the anti-selfie backlash is running rampant among everyone except the old doofus set, whose timing is always just a few month (or years) off.

In an effort to test whether the allure of selfies is really kaput, I undertook a little experiment. I sent a selfie of me in a complete commando state to my better half’s mobile phone! Of course, there were some strategically placed items covering selected areas of my Adonis-like body. Needless to say, they were very LARGE items. Wink. Wink.

After getting the pose just right and carefully covering the interesting parts, I sent this work of performance art to her phone. This was a big mistake.

When she got my text, instead saying: “OMG what a hunk!” (which I modestly expected) she started laughing and couldn’t stop. She laughed so hard our dog ran under the bed. Tears of hilarity were running down her sweet face and she couldn’t catch her breath. I thought about calling 911 but I didn’t know what I would tell them caused these convulsions!

Finally, some semblance of decorum was reestablished. Since she was due get a haircut that day, unbeknownst to me, she took her phone to the salon and showed it to the girls who work there. Upon returning home, she related that the same fit of hilarity enveloped this group of purple-haired, heavily inked hipsters who cut hair.

“I wish you could have been there They…were…dying…from…laughing…so…hard!”

Then she handed me $3.73.

“The girls at the salon took up a collection to go towards your monthly fee at 24-Hour Fitness,” she said. And then she went into convulsive laughter again!

As you might surmise, there will be no more risqué selfies from me. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow the lead of your kids and stop taking those silly selfies too.

Willie, Sunny, & Me

Art & his best friend SunnyA few days ago, we buried one of my best friends – Bob Richardson  – in Austin. While driving back to my home in Dallas with my dog Sunny, at about noon I realized I had had a gallon of coffee only one piece toast since 7:30. I was starving (in a First World kind of way).

Unfortunately, with Sunny in the car, I would normally have to drive through some fast-food trans-fat-a-torium and eat the swill they sell in my car with her or find a place that will let me bring my well-behaved pouch into the establishment with me to eat real food…like barbeque!

I decided to gamble on a small town barbeque joint that I vaguely remembered being in Abbott, Texas  which is the hometown of Texas legend Willie Nelson . We exited I35 just north of Waco and found “Still Smokin’ Barbeque” just where it was supposed to be.

 

I went in and very politely asked the gentleman who was in charge if it would be possible for me and my well-behaved dog to come inside…go way in the back of the café…and have lunch. He said, “Sorry podna, ‘ats against the law and I don’t need no more trouble. “ (My better judgement kept me from asking WHAT type of trouble he had been encountering.) “Y’all kin get some food to-go and eat in your car, but I caint have no dogs in here.”

 

My stomach demanded we get some food and Sunny was barking her lungs out in the car (presenting a strong counter-argument to my claims about her well-behaved nature!), so I got a pound of brisket, a pint of potato salad and a pint of coleslaw, paid the man and headed for the car. It was at this moment that I had an epiphany.

 

We were in the hometown of Willie Nelson with enough barbeque to feed an army. Hell, why not get out one of my Willie CDs, find a park and have a damn picnic?

 

I couldn’t find a park but I found the high school football stadium and that’s where we put down Sunny’s security blanket on the grass, got the food out, opened the doors of my truck and cranked up some vintage Willie – Crazy, Hello Walls, Mr. Record Man and about a dozen more. It was the perfect lunch.

 

Sunny and I sat out in the beautiful fall afternoon, ate brisket, listened to Willie and thought about our buddy Richardson who has gone on before us. He would have dug it.

What about Vegas

Art YoungLike the rest of the world, outdoor sportsmen and women were stunned by the senseless violence on October 1st in Las Vegas . Questions about hotel security, better psychological screening for gun buyers, outlawing semi-automatic weapons and more rigorous regulations for gun ownership, while they will and should be debated by security experts, are beside the point at this time.

Fifty-nine innocent souls were lost on that Sunday night and nothing will bring them back. They were killed by a deranged psychopath who had meticulously planned his crime. He chose to use guns for this mayhem but they were only his tools. He could have chosen to use explosives or to have driven a car through the crowd to satisfy whatever demons were causing him such hatred. However, he chose guns. In the minds of otherwise intelligent people, guns, which were legally purchased and registered, are the cause of this heartbreaking event.

Reasonable men and women can disagree about the efficacy of greater gun control and that debate should occur. We should also discuss better security around entertainment venues, mental health availability and policies about firearms in hotel rooms. Ultimately, no regulations, laws or well-meaning policies will stop an insane person who is bent on inflecting pain on random strangers whom he sees as everyone who has ever done him wrong.

Guns and Teen Suicide

While the politicians and pundits are using the tragedy in Las Vegas to support their agendas, it’s interesting to note that a well-known pro-gun organization is trying to solve another terrible problem that is based on psychological stress – teen suicide  .

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month , the National Shooting Sports Foundation which is the trade association for the firearms industry, and Project ChildSafe , NSSF’s national firearms safety education program, are reminding gun owners of the critical role secure firearms storage plays in helping to prevent suicide.

NSSF has provided valuable resources and free firearm safety kits, including cable-style gun locks through the Project ChildSafe program, to help prevent firearms accidents, thefts and misuse, including suicide. More information on Project ChildSafe can be found at

http://www.projectchildsafe.org/