The conservative estimate for the feral hog population in Texas is upwards of 2-million animals, depending on how many Lewis Mitchell was able to capture in a given week.
“Thousands,” the retired Houston firefighter and now 30-year hunter of wild hogs says of the number of animals he’s captured near his Madison County home. Although he has used trained dogs to help him corner and kill the hogs he now prefers to use homemade cages to help him get the hogs to dinner tables in Europe.
This week we found Mitchell at H2 Ranch and Cattle Company, a property that belongs to his neighbor Kevin Hartley.
“I don’t like ‘em,” Hartley said of the hogs that tear up his pastures and devour his cattle feed. “Oh Lord, thousands,” he guesses of the number of hogs in and around his several hundred acres east of Interstate-45.
So for the last several years he’s allowed Mitchell to place his homemade hog traps in his pastures at night. In just the past month Mitchell says he’s captured 160 hogs just on Hartley’s property.
“They’ll kill you if they get a chance,” Mitchell said of the hogs he’s now capturing as quickly as he can. “I said man those things look like they’re good to eat. So I started killing ‘em and eating ‘em.”
But the hogs he captures now—and Texas wildlife officials ask that hunters capture and kill as many of the nuisance animals as possible—are not headed for his own dinner plate. Mitchell is among hundreds of trappers who capture the hogs live and ship them to a processing plant in west Texas where they are processed for sale mostly to markets in Europe.
Mitchell is paid 40 cents a pound.
“The gas and everything, the feed you gotta feed, you don’t make that much money,” Mitchell said. “I just love it.”
Mitchell said he hunts hogs in his retirement merely for the excitement.
For the eight pigs he captured this week he got paid $122.
The feral or wild hog population is causing damage in both rural and suburban areas throughout the state. It is considered so bad that feral hogs may be killed at any time of the year by any legal means. The Texas Animal Health Commission regulates the trapping and transportation of feral hogs. By Texas law the animals can be slaughtered or sent to market. Texas landowners do not have to get a hunting license to remove the animals if they are damaging the landowner’s property. Aerial hunting, usually by helicopter, is also allowed with the proper permits.