DIFATTA: Getting acquainted with Mississippi's wild hogs

By PHIL DIFATTA,

When I began deer hunting in Greene County years and years ago, there were no wild hogs, at least none that I saw. Then, a couple of years later, while easing down a swamp road on the way to my stand, a huge boar came barreling out of a marsh, stopped and stared me straight in the eye less than 10 yards away.

He was dripping wet from splashing through the water, and suddenly I was dripping wet from, well, something else. No, I didn't really wet my pants, but if I had, I surely wouldn't admit it!

Needless to say, I stood as still as a rock, albeit a nervous rock. I dared move only my eyes, looking for a tree to climb. But none with limbs low enough for me to reach did I find. So, we just stared at each other for a moment.

You'd have thought that all I had to do was raise my gun and blow him away, simple as that. Trouble is, I was hunting with a bow, and all my arrows were tucked away safely in my quiver. It took some time, but eventually I got the nerve to slowly reach for an arrow. When I did, the ol' hog grunted, in pig language, as if to say, “You're dead!” And I thought I was.

I figured he'd charge at the blink of an eye, but I had no choice, so somehow I managed to get an arrow in position and came to full draw. Talk about nervous! My bow arm was shaking like a leaf, and my arrow was making circles like a hoola-hoop.

But luck was on my side and when my sight pin came remotely close to my target, I released the razor-tipped arrow and hit the hog square in the throat, burying the arrow clean up to the feathers. Fortunately, the porker turned and ran directly away from me, and I'm sure I'd have seen the arrow sticking out his hams like it was on a rotisserie, but this hog was far too big, and the arrow would have had to be four feet long to exit out his, uh, you know.

Regardless, I was quite relieved as I listened to him run back through the swamp, splashing water for what seemed like five minutes. When all grew silent, I drove into town, borrowed a gun from a friend and returned to take up the trail just as it was getting dark. What? Did you think I'd trail a massive wounded hog with only a bow? And trail, what trail? There was no blood trail in the swamp water, but I looked and looked and looked before finally giving up.

That was my first encounter with wild, or feral hogs in Greene County, but certainly not my last. Oh, I'll admit it was a lot of fun at first, because if the deer weren't stirring, I could pretty much count on getting a pig. But sadly, now the deer population has thinned immensely in that area. The poor deer have literally been eaten out of house and home in some areas by these, the most prolific large mammals in North America.

But deer are not the only native game negatively impacted by the invasion of feral hogs. Wild hogs will eat anything that doesn't eat them first. They scarf up acorns like a vacuum cleaner; I've seen 'em do it. And those are acorns that deer, turkey, squirrels and other game species depend on. They eat quail and turkey eggs, even young birds and fawns. They eat and root up food plots, as well as native browse.

It gets worse: Feral hogs cause $1.5 billion or more in damage each year to levees, crops, pastures, food plots, forests, wetlands, roadbeds and on and on. Man is really the feral hogs' only natural enemy, and if we, especially the sportsmen, don't step up and do something about this expanding problem, the next thing we know the wild hogs will have voting rights.

There are at least a couple of sportsmen in the Pine Belt area, both friends of mine (I only have two friends) who are doing more than their fair share to combat the feral hog invasion. Earl “The Pearl” Sellers, of Purvis, works at Longleaf Plantation, a commercial hunting operation near Purvis, where he hunts and traps wild hogs almost on a daily basis. He sends me photographs of the hogs regularly, too. Trouble is, sometimes it's hard to tell the hog from Earl (now I have only one friend)!

Chip “The Chipster”  Tatum, of Hattiesburg, is another dedicated hog slayer. He, too, often sends me pictures of some monsters he killed all across Mississippi. I really don't know whether Chip does it as a hobby or job, but he does a great service either way by taking out as many pigs as he does. Thanks to both Earl and Chip for the support your photos give this Weekly Mistake, and for the service you do for the sportsmen of Mississippi by helping keep feral hogs in check. With your service, future sportsmen and women will have preferred native game to hunt, photograph or simply enjoy watching.

Speaking of future sportsmen, I can't think of a better way to create more of them than by taking a kid hunting, fishing, camping or hiking … every time you can, like today!

PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached for story ideas, comments and photos by emailing him at pdifatta@hotmail.com, and he encourages both his readers to do so. Readers may also text photos and announcements, with contact info, to 601-596-4475.

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