Feral hogs beware! They are a nuisance in Oklahoma

I have only really been hunting once in my life.

While I was in college, one of my roommates (Jerry Foster) and I went to visit his parents in Lone Grove in southern Oklahoma (near Ardmore). Jerry’s late father was an avid outdoorsman and he asked us if we wanted to go squirrel hunting.

I said yes.

I had riflery training as a young boy when I went to summer camp at New Life Ranch. I learned gun safety and how to operate a .22 rifle, which is what I was going to use to hunt squirrels.

Jerry, his dad and I went into the woods near their house. I was told to be very quiet or I would spook the squirrels.

(I thought the way you hunted squirrels was to hike into the woods and act like a nut.)

We walked in a parallel line about three paces apart for a couple of reasons. First, we didn’t want to get in anyone’s line of fire. Secondly, when the squirrels in the woods hear you or see you, they scoot around on the side of a tree so you can’t see them. If the hunters are spread out, it is harder for the squirrels to hide.

We didn’t see a lot of squirrels. I shot at one and killed him. I hit him in the rear end (I was aiming at his head).

You don’t hunt squirrels for fun but for food. We took several squirrels back to their house and gutted and cleaned them. Then we had squirrel and dumplings for dinner. It was good, but I would prefer chicken and dumplings.

For several weeks after that, whenever I saw a squirrel in my neighborhood or a park, I thought, “Wow, I could pick that one off so easy.”

Of course, you can’t shoot squirrels with a .22 in the city limits. Plus, people in a park might get upset if they saw you blasting the local wildlife next to a playground.

We have squirrels in our backyard and they have stolen some of our tomatoes (I think we have solved that problem this year with a new tomato cage).

Again, it would be so easy to pop open the door and shoot some squirrels. But I don’t want to skin them or cook them. Instead, I tell my Boston terrier Maggie to go chase them. She really enjoys that (she caught one last summer) and I think the squirrels like teasing her.

The Oklahoma Legislature has passed a law making it open season on feral hogs. There are estimates that there are more than a half a million wild hogs in Oklahoma and they are in every county.

The hogs are very destructive to farms and landscape and are dangerous. Some are very dangerous.

But now in Oklahoma, you don’t need a license to hunt hogs. You can kill them day or night all year long and there is no limit to how many you can kill.

I spoke to a friend who had a hunting buddy who went out in the woods in Nowata County one weekend and killed 18 feral hogs. Not only did the land owner give them permission but they were tickled pink to get rid of these smelly, dangerous creatures.

I have been told that feral hogs are great to eat. Someone else told me that only the sows are good to eat. If I went hog hunting, I would want to salvage the meat so that it would not be a waste.

Apparently, in some parts of Oklahoma, enterprising farmers let hunters pay them to hunt and kill hogs on their property.

In Texas, it is legal to hunt feral hogs using a helicopter (or a really slow flying airplane).

I guess you could hunt feral hogs with a shotgun or a deer rifle. I know they are harvested by bow hunters. I think if I were on a hog hunt, I would want a rifle or a shotgun and a powerful handgun on my hip – just in case. I wouldn’t hunt with a bow and arrow but if I did, I would carry an extra gun. The hogs have big teeth and they don’t like it when people come after them with guns.

The hogs are nocturnal and very smart. It used to be against the law to hunt them at night because of the possibility of stray bullets hitting unintended targets (like people). But since the hogs mostly come out at night, that severely limits the success of a hunt.

This is such a problem that the Noble Foundation in Ardmore has devised a very clever baited trap to catch feral hogs. You pile hog bait under a large circular cage that is monitored by a remote TV camera. Hogs have a great sense of smell but they don’t look up much. When they all gather under the cage (about the size of a large above-ground swimming poo), you pull a switch and the cage drops on them.

An older method was to take metal fencing and set up part of it with bait. Then you gradually add more bait and more parts of the trap until it is complete. You have to hope that the appetite of the hog will overcome its sense of danger.

I may put hog hunting on my bucket list…