Hunting the other white meat

Published 12:03 am Sunday, December 24, 2006

Since Katrina, many folks have been asking about how the hunting will be here in south Mississippi.

I usually start off by explaining that the hunting will still be great, we just may have to change the way we hunt and also the game that we hunt a little.

One animal that will explode in the mangled woods is the wild hog.

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This is not something most land owners are excited about, and if you have any type of farm with pasture or a golf course, you have a real hate for these four legged living bulldozers.

The average wild hog in Mississippi is a mix of feral swine and wild European boar which were released around the state.

The majority of wild hogs are black to “grizzled” in color. The average adult male (boar) is about 4 to 5 feet in length and stands approximately 30 inches at the shoulder. Adult females (sows) are slightly smaller. Adult males average about 250 to 300 pounds, with some animals tipping the scales at 400 pounds or more. Females average about 150 to 180 pounds.

The extreme problem comes in with their breeding characteristics. A sow can breed at 6 months of age, but 8 to 10 months is usually the norm.

The average estrous cycle of the wild hog is similar to that of its domestic relatives and averages 21 to 23 days. Once bred, the gestation period usually lasts 115 to 120 days with the sow giving birth to 4 to 6 piglets. However, under good conditions 10 to 12 young are possible.

These animals are very adaptable to any area and studies have shown that in years of good hard mast production, this being acorn crop, the proportion of reproductively active females is higher. Likewise if acorn production is down and it is a dry season, the number of young piglets will be few.

Sows are able to have 2 litters per year with the peak occurring in late fall and early spring. The late fall period corresponds with the acorn drop and the early spring peak coincides with spring “green-up.” Studies have shown that the spring period is when the peak of production occurs for the entire year.

Just put this into a simple equation, 1 mature sow has a litter in October and the mass production is fair.

Since the acorn production is fair she has seven piglets with 4 of these being females. In seven to eight months, these four females will be bred and drop an average of six babies, along with the original mother. Lets do the math, mother has six more with her four female offspring having six more, the total in just eight months is up to 30 babies. If you have just five mature females on your property, this could explode to 150 in a short time frame.

Another factor contributing to the hog’s recent population explosion is its ability to eat just about anything. The wild hog is omnivorous, meaning they will eat plant and animal matter. During spring and summer, the most important food sources are grasses, roots, and stems. In fall and winter, hard and soft mast account for the bulk of their diet. An adult wild hog can eat over 160 pounds of hard mast during a winter. Hogs are also known to eat animal matter including other hogs, armadillos, white-tailed deer fawns, birds and their eggs, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. Researchers do not know how much of the meat diet taken in is actually predation or scavenged.

It is easy to see why this animal is and will be a huge problem.

The storm has created one huge thicket here in south Mississippi and this will lead to an even bigger explosion I believe. With the increase in cover, fewer hunters spending time in our woods and their adaptation to any climate or habitat, it is a wait and see what happens. The darn thing about this is that the four legged earth movers were brought in here and released and not put in Mississippi by God, but man. Just goes to show how we screw up things when we start messing with nature.

Changing the way we hunt or what we hunt here in Pearl River County could help keep this problem from getting to big. Maybe we need to have a Magnolia record book and scoring system for wild hogs, I will work on that. In the meantime keep the photos coming and be sure to spend plenty of time with your family during this Christmas season.

Many of you are stressed out from shopping on this last day before the morning around the tree, but this is just plain wrong and backwards and we “intelegent” people have turned a great season into another keeping up with the Jones, stressed out, anxiety filled running like mad few days without enjoying the reason for the season or our families.

Nothing wrong with giving to the kids, but we adults need to get a grip and begin to show our kids that it is not all about the presents.

I guess I will not get on a soap box today, but just remember this, “the one that dies with the most toys, dies, then what”.

From my wife Marsha and our children Colby, Caylie and Courtnie, we would like to wish each and everyone of you a Merry Christmas.

And as always, get outdoors and enjoy what God has given us.