Back in the 1960s, before I was born, my dad took my mother on an archery hunt for feral hogs in Arkansas. One day they got into a herd of pigs that included a super aggressive boar. Some of the exact details have been lost to time and death, but somehow my dad managed to wound the boar with a wooden arrow fired from his recurve – and also to lose the rest of his arrows from his quiver. As my dad ran off to follow the boar, he instructed my mother to retrieve his arrows and then come find him. She followed his directions, and got to the arrows just in time for the boar to come circling around and chase her up a tree. My dad came running to her rescue, though he had no way to shoot the pig with an empty quiver. Thankfully my mom was able to toss an arrow down to him. He picked it up, loaded it on to his bow, and killed the boar.
I tell this story in my first book, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. I also say that it had a profound impact on my impression of wild pigs, as my mother was the last thing I expected to find in a tree. That a wild hog put her there said something dramatic about the animal’s ferocity. And while I’ve had a number of experiences with wild hogs since writing that (including an occasion when I killed two of them with a knife) my estimation of their toughness has yet to fade. They are true badasses.
That being said, I want to clarify that I do not consider feral pigs to be the bogeymen of the American wild. At least as they are portrayed by numerous TV shows and news outlets and bogus claims of hogzillas. If you believed half of what you saw and read from such sources, you’d come away thinking that wild pigs are going to overrun the nation and kill us all and desecrate our corpses and rape our pets.
None of which is true, at least not in my opinion. Instead, wild pigs occupy a peculiar position on the American landscape. Like us, they did not evolve here. Like us, they have negative impacts on the ecosystem. And also like us, they are not entirely bad. For anyone who wants to see some of these ideas explored, and also to see some hot pig hunting action, I urge you to watch this week’s episode of MeatEater. Ideas will be discussed; a bullet will be fired; wild pork will be cooked and eaten. Tune in.