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How Hogs Have Gone Wild and Hurt Turkey Populations

provided by John Phillips

Tad Brown of Missouri is a Mossy Oak ProStaffer and has been hunting turkeys for more than 45 years and trapping for 50 years. Turkey populations throughout many areas of the country have been in decline for several years now. Brown believes that the three main reasons may be: loss of habitat, unfavorable weather conditions and increasing predation. 

“Hunting clubs, private landowners and hunters can’t stop the loss of habitat or change the weather patterns,” Brown said. “However, by helping reduce the number of predators, especially nest predators, we can influence the growth of turkey populations on the lands we hunt.” 

wild hog

Feral hog populations have increased across the nation. They damage crops, destroy property, root-up woods and roads and compete with deer and turkeys for food. Many farmers have realized that raising crops and being able to sell them is often dependent on keeping hogs off their lands. Removing them not only helps the farmer and the land manager, it also helps the turkey populations.

However, here in Missouri where I live, killing hogs on public lands is illegal at this time. The only way you can harvest them is to hunt private land where you have permission to remove them. The reason for this regulation is that the Department of Conservation has realized that when you start shooting hogs, they’ll scatter in all directions and become more difficult to trap. The most effective way, to date, to remove hogs from a property is to trap the entire sounder (family group or groups that stay together). The method that is most current is to build a trapping pen using corn as bait and have a camera on top of the trap. Then you can see how many wild pigs are in the trap before you remotely drop the door to catch as many as possible. 

On the property I hunt, I’ll put out a feeder and a trail camera. Once I start seeing hogs and coons, I’ll set up near it and shoot them. Lately, I have partnered with a gentleman from the USDA and have sent him pictures of my hogs. He said, “I’ll send you a trap if you want to use it to catch the entire sounder.” 

So, you can trap, bait or shoot hogs to try and get rid of them, but just like trapping predators, there’s no guarantee that you will get rid of all of them forever. Trapping hogs and predators has to be an on-going yearly management program to have good populations of turkeys and deer on your property. As a matter of fact, the presence of hogs has led to the legalization of new methods of hunting. In some states, you can hunt feral hogs now at night, using red lights and thermal-imaging scopes.

On the 80 acres where I live, I trap every year. I usually catch 5 or 6 coyotes every year but this year I caught 12. I generally trap 10-12 coons per year, 2-3 bobcats per year, 6-8 opossums and 4-5 skunks. I’ve caught as many as 12 possums in one day - but on multiple farms. 

big wild hog

Weather will determine how many hogs I can catch or shoot. When my area has wet springs and summers, the hogs will migrate into my property because they like to root in that soft ground. If the year is dry, they will stay closer to a main water source. They usually move up and down rivers and creek systems that flood. During most years, I’ll take 6-8 hogs off my property and should be able to harvest 2-4 longbeards every spring. I’m convinced that if I wasn’t taking the predators off my land, I might not be able to take any turkeys off my 80 acres. I know from my own experience that there is a definite relationship between the number of predators your land has, and the number of turkey and deer you can have. If you’re not trapping your predators on a yearly basis, you may watch your turkey population decline.

I know the South has had some really tough turkey hunting years in the last 5-8 years, and like I’ve said earlier, land usage and weather patterns play a big role in determining the numbers of turkeys you have on a piece of property. However, turkey hunters can’t do anything about those two problems, but the third factor is predators. Hunters and landowners can have a major impact in the number of turkeys they have each year by going to war with the predators. Most departments of conservation and county agents have plenty of information and help for landowners who want to learn to trap, shoot and remove predators. So, if you want to improve the overall number of animals and birds on your property, I suggest you seriously consider starting a yearly trapping regimen - whether you do it yourself or hire it out.

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