At MeatEater, we get endless requests from frustrated hunters who can’t find a place to hunt wild pigs. The story is always the same. They see and hear endless accounts about the overabundance of wild hogs that are wreaking havoc on the American landscape and destroying agricultural lands across an ever-expanding range of habitats. Logically, they figure that they’ll strike a happy deal with the landowners: the farmer or rancher gives them trespass rights, and they help him or her with the hog problem. It makes perfect sense, right?
Not quite. In fact, all their efforts to gain hunting access on these pig-infested lands are denied. They either get outright turned down, or they are asked to pay an outrageous sum of money in exchange for hunting privileges. Sometimes, they hear that the landowner has leased pig hunting rights to an outfitter who limits harvest of the animals in order to increase the likelihood that his clients can kill older, trophy-sized boars—in other words, an outfitter who’s purposely encouraging the expansion of the hog problem. Even stranger, they find that the least expensive hunting opportunities available are on high-fence properties where land managers provide hogs with artificial feed in order to increase the size and abundance of these supposed pests.
These things are obviously puzzling, as evidenced by all those emails we get from hunters who want a list of landowners who allow pig hunting. But they need to understand that the economics of wild pigs are not what they seem—at least from the perspective of a hunter. Sure, the animals do massive amounts of agricultural damage and seriously degrade habitat for native species. That’s undeniable. But in the foreseeable future, I would not expect to see free and readily available hog hunting opportunities on private lands. I would not expect a “list” of places where you can show up unannounced and start shooting pigs. While America’s farmers and ranchers might very well be experiencing increased hog problems, they often have money problems that are even worse.
If you want to hunt on these private lands that are overrun with hogs, you’re gonna have to earn your permissions in the same way that deer and turkey hunters always have. You need to rely on family connections and on the social networks of friends and coworkers. (That’s how I’ve gotten my pig hunting permissions.) Failing that, you might need to swap a weekend’s worth of labor for a weekend’s worth of hunting privileges. Failing that, you might just have to pay. It’s unfortunate, and it doesn’t make absolute sense, but it’s reality. Many farmers and ranchers are having legitimate wild pig problems, but they are also having money problems. If they can turn a nuisance into a dollar, they’re not going to pass up the opportunity.