Woody's Woods & Waters -
About a half-century ago, the Tennessee Game & Fish Commission spent lot of money stocking wild hogs.
Now the Commission’s successor, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is spending a lot of money trying to get rid of them.
Wild hogs were initially promoted by the Agency as one of the state’s prized “Big Four” big-game animals, along with deer, bears and turkeys. Now the same Agency considers them destructive nuisances.
The wild hog fiasco is the biggest hiccup in the Agency’s long history of otherwise stellar game management, and continues to create controversy.
In recent years the TWRA became obsessed with the wild hog “crisis.” Its swine fever has cooled somewhat, but the Agency still devotes a full page in the Tennessee Hunting & Trapping Guide to the pig problem, with dire warnings about disease and destruction.
It offers a $3,500 reward to anyone who’ll squeal on illegal hog stocking – the same stocking once done by the TWRA.
The Agency was warned when it did it. If wild hogs were released into rugged wilds like 80,000-acre Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, they couldn’t be contained nor controlled.
Sure enough, the wild hogs ran hog wild, destroying crops on adjacent farms and rooting up natural habitat.
The most effective way to hunt wild hogs is with dogs, and that created conflicts with other types of hunting, especially on public lands.
When the TWRA tried to reign in hunting with dogs, hog hunters revolted. Backroads were sabotaged with spikes, creating so much havoc that Catoosa had to be closed to the public.
The TWRA does a great job managing other wildlife, but I’ve never understood its pig policies.
Famed Caryonah Hunting Reserve is located a few miles from Catoosa, and for over a half-century hunters have come there to hunt wild hogs and other game. They pay as much as $1,000 to bag a hog – the same hogs the TWRA is spending money to exterminate.
One year an Army buddy from Wisconsin hunted on Caryonah and collected a coal-black wild boar with big, curved tushes. He was so proud of it he had a full mount made.
The Agency expresses concerns about wild hogs’ propensity for diseases, and cautions against their consumption. But why is it safe to eat a wild hog killed on Caryonah, but unsafe to eat one killed on nearby Catoosa? I’ve asked, and can’t get an answer.
Everything about the Agency’s hog management seems muddled.
It has relaxed hog hunting regulations somewhat, but they remain convoluted and complicated. A private land-owner must obtain an “exemption” for hog hunting, and the hunting is restricted to a specific number of “designees.” Also, an annual harvest report must be filed.
Why such a tangle of red tape? Why not simply let hunters take wild hogs whenever and wherever they find them?
Nothing has ever made sense about Tennessee’s wild hog management -- starting with someone’s bright idea to turn a bunch of them loose.