It’s hard to talk with a Lowcountry deer hunter (or a farmer who allows hunters to use his land) who doesn’t have a wild hog story. Usually it’s a story about a large destructive nuisance who destroys crops. But for some hunters, wild hogs are a bonus opportunity to fill the freezer.
“A lot is perspective,” said Charles Ruth, the deer and turkey project supervisor for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the de facto DNR contact on wild hogs.
“Typically, if you’re talking to landowners, they generally would rather (hogs) not be on their property. But if you are talking to a hunter who may not have a vested interest in the property … you have something else to harvest and eat,” Ruth added.
Ruth said from an agricultural and a habitat standpoint, it would be better if we didn’t have to deal with wild hogs. South Carolina has an estimated wild hog population of 150,000.
A multi-agency wild hog task force has been formed in the state that includes DNR, Clemson Extension Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the Clemson Livestock Poultry Health Department.
Ruth noted that wild hogs are not native to North America but brought over by Spanish explorers as a food source. Eventually, the hogs escaped and adapted in the river flood plains system of the Southeast.
“That was 500 years ago. They’re not native, but they’re naturalized at this point. They started out as a domestic animal in the hands of the Spanish, got away and turned feral,” Ruth said.
Over the last 20 years, wild hog populations have expanded into the Piedmont, and from what biologists can determine, it was through hunters who came to the coastal areas, saw the hogs as a bonus and transported and turned them loose, Ruth said.
Because of this scenario, there have been some changes in the laws governing wild hogs. Unless you have a permit, you cannot remove a hog from the woods alive. It must be killed before placed in a transport scenario, Ruth said.
For hunters who enjoy eating wild game, the biggest difference from domestic pork is that the meat is generally leaner and doesn’t have the amount of body fat or marbling.
“They’re just leaner,” Ruth said.
For those who love to hunt, there’s also the bonus that there is no closed season or bag limit on wild hogs on private land. On public lands, hogs are generally hunted in conjunction with whatever else is open for that time of year.
More information about wild hogs can be found at dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/hog/index.html or clemson.edu/extension/natural_resources/wildlife/wildhogs/index.html.
If you peruse DNR’s Rules and Regulations booklet, you can find additional hog hunting opportunities using dogs on Wildlife Management Areas.