April 16, 2014 - 12:46
Hog season changes urged
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Wildlife Committee members from Polk and surrounding counties met with local lawmakers, wildlife commissioners, and TWRA last Tuesday to discuss the need to revisit hog hunting regulations in Tennessee.

Wildlife Committee members from Polk and surrounding counties met with local lawmakers, wildlife commissioners, and TWRA last Tuesday to discuss the need to revisit hog hunting regulations in Tennessee. Regulations passed in 2011 changed the designation of wild hogs and took away the ability to hunt with dogs. Questions about the rights of propertyowners, economic development, and the heritage of the sport have been raised in several Tennessee counties.

Polk County Commissioners passed a resolution in October asking that hog hunting with dogs be fully restored with a dedicated season on wildlife management areas where hogs were hunted historically, and asked that private property owners be allowed to deal with hog problems on their own property in any way the deem appropriate to curtail crop damage. Similar resolutions have been passed in surrounding counties.

Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commissioner David Watson and TWRA representative Chris Richardson were on hand at Tuesday’s meeting to take note of the concerns; no decision was made at the informational meeting.

John Qualls, with Polk County’s Wildlife Committee, explained the regulations in Tennessee were the strictest around. He said Tennessee was completely off kilter for sportsmen, landowners, and farmers in Tennessee. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas all have regulations allowing for more hunting, less limits, and the ability to hunt with dogs on private property.

County Executive Hoyt Firestone said part of the issue was economic development in Polk County. He said with no industry, recreation was a strong point and bordering two states with more liberal regulations meant hunters would go there instead. Mickey Torbett, who has property in the Cherokee National Forest, said it was also a safety issue.

“Walking up on a feral pig is unpleasant. They run in packs. It’s almost a weekly thing that they come through,” Torbett said. He said they were not stupid, knew how to survive, and were being pushed into Tennessee because of more liberal regulations in surrounding areas.

McMinn Wildlife Committee member Wayne Rutherford said he felt TWRA had promised farmers they would deal with the issue, but those who he’d spoken to felt like nothing was being done. Bradley County Commissioner Adam Lowe said while hunting was not a historic part of Bradley County, his concern was the right of farmers to eradicate the nuisance and put a stop to crop damage.

Polk County Commissioner and Wildlife Committee member John Pippenger said he had heard from a lot of hunters in Polk County who did not plan to ever buy a hog license in Tennessee again because it was much easier to go to Georgia or North Carolina. He said revenues were hard to come by. Benton Mayor Jerry Stephens said his family had land bordering the forest that had not been farmed for 8 years because of hogs problems.

Questions about the ability to kill hogs during bear season were also raised. According to current regulations, a hog can be hunted “incidentally” during bear season. While bear hunting, someone could come across a hog and shoot it, but going out to hunt hogs specifically would technically be a violation of the law. Lowe asked what would happen if someone was out squirrel hunting and came across a hog, and whether or not TWRA would believe them.

Trapping hogs is cited as the most effective way to eradicate them, but according to Pippenger, “You can put out a live trap and catch a human as easy as a hog.” He said box traps don’t work because hogs will not go in them.

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