The Hog Hunter's Image by Krystal Rohan
Recently there was an article printed in a Houston/Dallas area social publication depicting hog hunting with dogs as a cruel sport with detailed and exaggerated descriptions of the dogs tearing a hog apart. Thousands of city folks were able to read this one writer’s view of what “hog doggin” is about. The general public is led to believe that dog hunters are uneducated “Red-Necks” that subject their children to bloody violence of animals for shear pleasure. Several good and honest people talked with this reporter and offered him truthful information by taking him on actual hunts and allowed him to witness a bay trial. The author of the article twisted words and painted the picture in a negative light with personal bias to reach out to the general public and animal rights sympathizers. Unfortunately even with all the hunters out there that offer free services to farmers and land owners by helping remove the destructive wild hogs, the possibilities are few and far between of our sport being looked at in a positive aspect by the general public.
I am so very passionate about the sport of hog hunting that every time I read or view something negative in the media about “my sport” that leads to accusations of cruelty, I take it personally. It is all about the image that is perceived by the general public, not whether it is right or wrong. It is a misconception that hunters feel as if they have the “right” to pursue hogs with dogs. It is our heritage and a tradition passed down from generations of hunters. The use of dogs to bay and catch hogs is not specifically defined in the constitution or by Texas Parks and Wildlife. We are allowed to hunt hogs by any means other than poison. Therefore it is not illegal, but it is not a “right” because it has not been defined in the way blood recovery dogs have been in the state of Texas. This puts dog hunters in a grey area when it comes to defending hunting hogs with dogs. Anti-hunting activist groups are extremely well funded, well organized, and consistently working toward their goal of eliminating hunting all together. I have had conversations over and over again with folks that do not believe it is possible to eliminate hunting hogs with dogs. However, I do believe that it is possible by indirect laws that are being proposed on a regular basis. First of all by eliminating bay pens, then by banning “types” of dogs through breed specific legislation (which has already been passed in several cities & counties). Are you ready to give up your Pit Bulls, American Bulldogs, and other catch-type dogs? Last year a couple of bills were proposed with regulations on methods of housing your dogs, the size of area allowed to contain a dog, and the length of chain used to hold a dog. These did not pass. However as the next legislative session begins, we can be assured we will see these “ideals” proposed again on upcoming bills. Also many communities have been establishing ordinances to limit the amount of dogs housed on one property without a kennel license. I know this gets into politics (which I never cared for…until now!) but you have to do something if you do not want it to affect your way of life when raising and training dogs to pursue wild hogs.
I want to point out that if all the above mentioned proposals are passed into law, and one was to be criminally charged with animal cruelty, you could be looking at a felony charge. So not only can your beloved hunting partners (dogs) be confiscated, but you may be labeled as a felon for the rest of your life. I know that this will hit home with a lot of folks because now it can affect your livelihood and means to support your family. Politics may not directly affect our hog hunting but indirectly pick away bit by bit until only a privileged few will be able to maintain a way to use dogs for hunting. It may be years away, but then it could be just around the corner. Hog dog hunting would then be something you tell stories about to your grandchildren instead of teach them
Now let me get back to the “IMAGE” issue. I am not trying to tell you what or what not to do. However, I want to persuade everyone that uses dogs for bay pen sports or actual hog hunting to at least take the time to consider the “image” we may be portraying to the general public every time we leave with our dogs. I know that everyone of us knows somebody that is against hunting, or at least chooses not to partake in the sport. How do those people perceive “us”? Try to look at it from another point of view. Could it be that they see a pick-up truck loaded down with a bunch of scrawny, scarred, mutt-looking dogs headed to who knows where, coming and going at odd hours? The driver usually wearing dirty tattered mud and blood-stained clothing and sporting an unusually large knife. The truck, and possibly a trailer too, are mounted with cages of steel that probably show the signs of rough wear and tear. The dogs are sporting collars that look as if they are going to war. I know that is what a lot of hunters’ dog rigs look like, including mine. Most of us are proud to have a good set-up with some good dogs. This is what we do, and these are part of the “tools” of the sport. Keep in mind that we are a minority, and most folks do not know what, how, or why. No matter how much talking you do, a lot of people just don’t understand. When folks do not understand something, they are more likely to be against it. I believe that improving the image of hog dog hunters can make a big difference for the future of dog hunting and will be relatively easy to do.
Most hunters are good-hearted, hard-working, honest Christians to begin with. Taking that into consideration, it would not require much effort to take a few extra steps in order to preserve our beloved hunting, by portraying a more positive image. Most of us take more hogs every year than our own families can consume, so share with others less fortunate. There are programs already in place where meat can be donated to be given to a needy family in your area. Secondly, educate a young person. Offer them some wholesome time in the woods. Become a role model by taking them hunting and getting them in the woods and off the streets. Next and very importantly, take care of your dogs. Keep your dogs healthy, keep records of your monthly worming schedule, and make sure they have current rabies vaccines. I cannot stress enough how important it is that your dogs have adequate shelter, shade, fresh water (no green slime), daily feeding, and clean surroundings. If the dogs are injured while hunting, do not parade them around in front of the public. Give the wounds proper attention.
Our behavior not only represents us as individuals but the whole group of hog dog hunters. Foul language along with rude and crude behavior can leave bad impressions. Just think about it next time you stop at a convenient store for fuel, or the next time you drop in for some lunch on the way home from hunting. Who might be sitting or parked next to you? Think about the impression you might make. Is it the “image” that will turn people’s heads or their stomachs? When hunters start uniting in a common belief that we are not just here for ourselves and do a part in contributing to others, the public can and will notice that “hog doggers” as a group aren’t just a bunch of “bloodthirsty red necks”. We don’t mistreat our dogs. We do help feed the needy while helping a neighbor land owner with his problem, and we influence the next generation to relish the great outdoors and take pride in their future of hunting.
For folks that want to do even more to turn people’s heads and enlighten others into what positive contributions the sport of hog hunting has to offer, there are a few programs that each individual can become involved with to help reach large groups of the general public. To get involved you can join the Texas Dog Hunters Association. It is always looking for some good people to volunteer, donate, or participate in the organization on many levels. Hunters’ Harvest is another non-profit group that distributes food (meat) to the underprivileged. U.S. Sportsman Alliance also has working programs for the education of youth in all aspects of the outdoors. The Texas Outdoor Council is a political action group working for the rights of outdoorsmen (hunting & fishing). If you want more information on these groups you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Property Owners Needing Hog erradication: www.texashogcontrol.com
This article was first published in Wild Boar USA Jan./Feb. 2007, Volume 1, Issue 2