Protecting this year’s corn crop is almost a military operation—night vision equipment, helicopters and semi-automatic weapons are now needed to stop an enemy that’s doing $1.5 billion in damage to our crops each year.
If it sounds like overkill, you need to meet the enemy—the feral hog. Experts at the LSU AgCenter estimate there are about 400,000 of them in Louisiana and in order to keep that number from growing, hunters would have to kill about 80 percent of those hogs.
That’s 80 percent casualties just to keep the status quo, which is why Brandon McCartney, a farmer in Red River Parish uses army-style equipment to hunt hogs.
“This is what we use,” McCartney said as he pointed to his equipment before a recent hunt. “These are military-grade, night-vision goggles. This is a handheld thermal imager we use as a spotter. To shoot, we use semi-automatic AR-15’s with a thermal scope.”
It’s by attaching a recorder to that scope that McCartney gets video evidence of hogs eating his corn. McCartney said in one night, hogs can destroy upwards of 40 acres of corn. That comes out to more than $20,000 in damage.
“I’ve spent all day on a tractor planting corn and then I’m back out here at 11 p.m. We’ll be here until two or three in the morning and if you’re getting on the tractor again tomorrow, it quickly becomes work.”
For McCartney, eradicating these hogs almost seems like an impossible job because the current law does not allow him to hunt hogs at night during deer season and it also prevents him from killing hogs on his neighbors’ land, even if he has their permission. That gives these hogs a safe haven to breed.
“With the current process that we have, we can’t go help them,” he said. “It’s off limits. It’s illegal.”
There’s a bill that will come before the Louisiana legislature this session which could allow farmers and ranchers to get an upper hand on this explosion of wild hogs by allowing year-round night hunting. Rep. Richie Burford (R-Stonewall) filed a bill to allow year-round night hunting of hogs without a permit. Farm Bureau Legislative Specialist Joe Mapes says Burford’s leadership is the first step.
“We’ve got leadership in the form of the chairman of the Senate committee, Sen. Gerald Long and leadership with Secretary Robert Barham of Wildlife and Fisheries,” Mapes said. “With those two together, we should be able to get it out of the House and finally let this bill out of the Senate.”
House Bill 167, filed by Rep. Burford will first go before the House Natural Resources Committee. Similar bills filed by Rep. Burford passed through that committee in the last two sessions only to die in the Senate. Mapes said it appears farmers and ranchers now have the support of senators who opposed the bill in the past. If you want to help stop this scourge, call your representatives to tell them to support passage of HB 167.