Arkansas deer hunt leads to hog trap

Arkansas deer hunt leads to hog trap

June 17th, 2010 by Dan Cook in Sports - Outdoors

Contributed photo from Georgia DNR A wild hog on Georgia's Ossabaw Island.

Contributed photo from Georgia DNR A wild hog...

A memorable deer hunting experience has led to a means of controlling some of the deer's biggest environmental competitors -- non-native wild hogs that challenge them for food.

Randy Kelley of Camden, Ark., developed a special trap for the swine. It is steadily growing in popularity among wildlife officials and sportsman club groups.

"I saw these feral hogs taking on an eight-point buck," recalled Kelley, who was seated in his Arkansas deer stand at the time. "The buck, which had two does with him, was standing his ground."

But then came another development: the recruitment of more hogs for the battle.

"One of the hogs went back and got about 18 to 20 more," said Kelley. "It was like a military operation. The hogs were after food, of course. There was a good mast crop there."

An expanding wild hog population has been a problem, especially in southern states, for years. They have competed with native wildlife for food. They have destroyed ecosystems in their plundering.

In March 2008, Kelley founded his own business -- Hawg Stopper LLC -- to sell the 250 pounds trap, which is 7 1/2-feed wide and 42 inches tall. Among its features is an area at the top enabling turkeys getting caught in it to escape.

The trap is being used in nine states, including Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. Kelley recently was contacted by Tennessee wildlife officials interested in using the trap.

Although he works in the industrial pipe industry, he built 83 hog traps by himself a year ago. His goal for 2010 is 100.

The trap has been an important aid in assisting natural sources, such as bears, coyotes and the weather in hog control.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been hit hard by hog destruction. Since the animals have no natural predators and can adapt to a variety of environments, they generally have free range.

Many wild hogs in the southeastern states are offspring of Russian wild boars brought to the United States in the early 1900s. They tore down fences on a preserve near what's now the Smokies during a scheduled hunt. With a sow capable of producing three litters within a span of 18 months, they multiplied rapidly.

Georgia and Tennessee has seasons for hunting wild boar. The Peach State allows hunting for them whenever deer are in season. Additionally, a few hunts are aimed directly at hogs.

But they're not nearly as big a problem in North Georgia as elsewhere in the state, said Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Agency biologist Brent Womack from his Armuchee office.

"They're really in just pockets in our area," he explained. "For instance, we have hogs on Pine Log and Cohutta (wildlife management areas). Generally they're tied to creek and river drainages."

The most effective means of controlling wild hogs has been trapping, Womack added.

Hunters on private land in Georgia can get permits to legally trap hogs outside the regular hunting season. Unfortunately, not enough are interested to make it an effective tool, Womack said.

"You would probably have to have a major depression (with a strong demand for meat) to make any dent in them," he explained.

Bob Miller, spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, says hogs are here to stay. This is despite the park's use of paid hunters to trim the numbers at a cost of about $120,000 a year.

"We had a huge year last year for hog control," Miller said. "We removed 620. That was the biggest year since 1987 when we took out 785. We had a bumper crop of hogs because of a big mast crop in the fall of 2008."

The recent 2010 total was 287. That's ahead of the pace for most years, when the average is close to 260.