Hunters should prepare for wild hog encounters
Hunting season preparation is done to increase our odds of harvesting some of the special and iconic native species that we are fortunate to have in Mississippi, whether we're targeting white-tailed deer, small game, waterfowl or a combination of quarry.
Whatever we hunt throughout the rifle season, we all want to increase the success of our outdoor, sport-hunting experience -- while at the same time, decreasing the available space in our freezers.
Mississippi hunters frequently encounter and harvest wild pigs, which have become second only to white-tailed deer in sport-hunting popularity over the past several years. While they are fun to hunt, there are a few things to keep in mind when afield for wild pigs.
Wild pigs, a highly destructive, nonnative, invasive species, cause incredible damage to our state's natural resources and economy. They directly compete for vital food and habitat with our native wildlife, decreasing the amount and quality of resources available to white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkeys, grey and fox squirrels and other species.
With that in mind, many hunters may want to target this nuisance species this year and kill as many as possible, which is not necessarily the wrong mindset. However, there a few things to consider before hunting these animals.
People in many areas of the state, whether on public or private land, are trying to significantly reduce wild pig populations and have active trapping systems in place. In fact, trapping is the only meaningful way to control and remove pigs in the numbers necessary to limit their impacts on Mississippi's resources. That said, wild pigs are among the most intelligent creatures in our state.
Hunting actually educates them further, making it more difficult for landowners and wildlife officials to trap them. It also causes pigs to scatter, which further complicates trapping efforts and makes it less likely to trap entire groups, which is the ultimate objective. Moreover, hunting pressure may cause them to move onto other properties, increasing the amount of trapping efforts required to remove them. It also spreads their impacts over larger areas of land.
Current Mississippi regulations allow only the "incidental take" of wild pigs on all Wildlife Management Areas and other various public lands. Sport hunting of pigs on Mississippi public land is discouraged, and it is the responsibility of the hunter to be familiar with these rules. Each hunter should check with the state or federal entity that is managing the specific area before hunting. Consult the specific state regulations on any of these public lands before harvesting a wild pig, as these rules may vary depending on the location.
As fun as it may be to hunt wild pigs, keep in mind that the species we truly love, appreciate and value -- the species that represent everything that is great about outdoors in Mississippi -- are seriously threatened by this destructive species. It's these wonderful species that we should be promoting as our hunting season progresses.
For more information, visit https://www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wild-hog-program/ or http://wildpiginfo.msstate.edu/.
[Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.]