Where did the term “helicopter hunts” for hogs originate? Helicopter “shoots” would be much more descriptive of the act of flying over a sounder of hogs and blasting them with semiautomatic rifles or shotguns from the air. Killing hogs from the air has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of hunting. I have nothing against killing a hog from the air, providing the pilot and shooter keep the chopper over only the property that has been permitted. But there are way too many safety issues with these chopper shoots. An occurrence in Hill County last year that I’m about to tell you about is a good case in point.
A few years ago, Texas passed a law that allowed permitted helicopter pilots and their “shooters”, (clients), to kill hogs on properties with landowner permission. In truth, these pilots are outfitters that charge rates of upwards of $1,500 for a few hours in the air.
Regular readers of my column might remember over a year ago, I gave my thoughts on the pitfalls of these Texas Parks and Wildlife sanctioned helicopter hog hunts. I am totally against the way these “shoots” are conducted and regulated. Hogs are killed and numbers reduced but the sounders are also dispersed onto adjacent properties. Other wildlife is disrupted by the low flying choppers and pushed from one property to the other. Trapping is a much safer and more effective method of reducing hog numbers. Trappers sell the hogs for a profit and the meat is ultimately put to good use. Way too many pounds of good pork is left on the ground to fatten coyotes on the helicopter shoots. Then there is the issue of the shooter accidentally hitting livestock or, God forbid, a human on the ground.
There are way too many variables involved when it comes to shooting from the air. Proper identification of property lines is another big issue. I worked as a survey crew chief much of my life and I know firsthand how challenging it can be to determine property lines by trained professionals on the ground. From the air, under current lack of regulations, it is impossible in some instances.
A couple of years ago, I witnessed a chopper flying over a small tract of land I have leased. They were obviously pushing hogs off my tract onto and adjacent ranch where they had permission to shoot. I heard them open up with gunfire right across the fence line. The chopper was disrupting my hunt one moment and gone the next. If would have prosecuted had I been able to get numbers off the chopper or identify which “outfitter” was doing the flying.
Let’s fast forward to a few days ago. I received a call from a lady that said she read my article on the pitfalls of shooting hogs from the air. I won’t identify her in this article or the details of an upcoming trial that deals with the illegal trespass of a chopper on her land but we will discuss the events that led to this case coming to trial.
About a year ago, the lady was in her house on the 200 or so acres she and her husband own. Her husband was somewhere out on the farm. She heard a low flying chopper overhead and several hundred yards from their home, the shooter opened up, killing several hogs on their place. The chopper pilot did not have permission to conduct hunts on their farm. The lady was terrified and worried that her 80 year old husband might have been in the line of fire. Luckily, he was afoot, walking on a different part of the farm from where the shooting took place.
Who knows how many times this particular pilot had broken the law and trespassed over farms that he was not permitted to hunt over but this time, he picked the wrong farm and the wrong people. Through many talks with local law enforcement agencies, state game wardens and FAA inspectors, the pilot and shooter were positively identified. As it turned out, the pilot was on record for much the same offense in an adjacent county. He was charged and arrested last year and the trial is slated for later this month. Granted, he did have legal rights to shoot hogs over some properties but only those properties.
To my knowledge, this will be the first time that illegal trespass and hunting from helicopters has come to trial and I plan to be in the courtroom to observe the outcome. I’m hoping the trial will bring the issue to the forefront and some changes will be made in the laws that regulate these “shoots”.
I would like to see a minimum amount of land permitted, say 1,000 contiguous acres and at least one person on the ground with an ATV to do public relations with the landowner and remove hogs that are killed. I would also like the permit to state that the pilot has to keep the chopper at least 200 yards inside the property lines to avoid spooking game from adjacent tracts where he is not permitted to shoot hogs.
These helicopter hunts have been popularized by outdoor TV shows and I’ve even had a few fellow outdoor writers from back east or the upper Midwest come to Texas and do articles on the “shoots”. I’m sure when some of these viewers/readers hear about these exciting tales of killing hogs from the air, they want to begin saving their dollars for their own “hunt”. I wonder if the killing of hogs from helicopters would be so appealing if folks took the time to consider all the negative ramifications involved.
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Better wrap this article up. I have a hog trap I need to check and an area I’ve been baiting back in the woods for an evening hog HUNT!