The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency just completed a special wild hog control season on the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area near Crossville, Tenn. Biologist Kirk Miles is presenting a report to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, the governing body over TWRA, in Nashville Thursday.
Wild hogs have been a major focus for TWRA the past two years, as biologists say illegally imported and relocated hogs are showing up in various pockets around the state. They say the hogs are extremely detrimental to farmers' crops and the environment, and they think the illegal stockings are the result of hunters hoping to expand the population.
As a result, the TFWC passed stringent regulations restricting hunting while allowing relaxed regulations on landowners to try to eradicate hogs by virtually any means possible. The Legislature also passed strict laws governing the illegal importation, transport and possession of "wild-appearing hogs." TWRA also adopted a hog-eradication policy on the Catoosa WMA, a historic and well-known hunting area for wild hogs.
Hundreds of hunters, especially hunters who enjoy using dogs to pursue wild hogs, protested quite loudly. Under pressure, the TFWC established a special 10-day hog hunt on Catoosa that just ended Wednesday. The hunt was open to all hunters, no license required, and dogs were allowed. Many hunters say the only effective means to hunt wild hogs in rough, mountainous terrain is to pursue them with hounds to drive them out of thick cover or put them at bay.
Miles said that there were a total of 1,565 participants in the recent Catoosa hog hunt, for an average of 157 hunters per day. He said a total of 36 wild hogs were killed over the 10-day period.
The special hunt follows the continuing full-time wild hog eradication effort by TWRA staff on Catoosa WMA. Using traps and firearms, wildlife managers have been working hard to substantially reduce the wild hog population on the area that has long been known for harboring a healthy population of white-tailed deer and hogs. Many hunters say they were attracted to Catoosa because of the opportunity to hunt both species.
From June 2011 to August 2012, Miles said that TWRA staffers have removed a total of 370 wild hogs from Catoosa. Biologists say they know it will be impossible to completely eradicate hogs from the 80,000-acre, mountainous wildlife area, but they do hope to reduce the population significantly.
It remains to be seen whether the TFWC will establish another public hog hunt on Catoosa or not. TWRA is currently soliciting public comments regarding the 2013-14 Tennessee hunting seasons. They say all comments will be considered by TWRA’s Wildlife Division staff and may be presented as proposals for regulation changes. Comments may be submitted by mail to 2013-14 Hunting Season Comments, TWRA, Wildlife and Forestry Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “hunting season comments” on the subject line of emailed submissions.
The comment period will be open until Monday, Feb. 25.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.