Texas law: New spin on helicopter hog hunting
Texans are turning a fearful eye to the sky – not searching for tornadoes or wildfire smoke, but for helicopters loaded for bear, or I should say, loaded for hog.
At the end of the regular legislative session in May, HB 716 was sent to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. This bill, authored by legislator Sid Miller, concerns the “taking of certain feral hogs and coyotes using a helicopter.” It flew through the House supported by the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee (“Culture”? Supporters of the Houston Ballet and Opera are probably shuddering). The Natural Resources Committee of the Senate sent it flying to the floor which is understandable as no one disputes the fact that feral hogs are causing major damage digging up everything from crops and pastures to manicured subdivisions. Texans may actually consider wild hogs a “natural resource” and a “tourist attraction” as the state seems to contain almost half the feral hog population in the U.S. Feral hogs have proven to be tough, smart competitors: learning and eluding traps, corrals, and hunters. At this point, the most effective way of hunting down the varmints is from the air.
Hunting feral hogs from the air by state permitted helicopter companies has been legal in Texas. But HB 716 now allows anyone with a hunting license to load into a helicopter, and zoom out to the hunt. No training is required.
And that lack of training part is what has veteran high-flying hog hunters worried. Vertex Helicopters, one state permitted company considered to be experts, is often hired by desperate landowners around the Houston area. Although his company will benefit from this new law, President and pilot Mike Morgan is worried. He requires his helicopter hunters to receive serious training in both helicopter safety and the use of guns from helicopters before ever getting into the shooter’s seat.
It’s seems pretty exciting to swoop around shooting down at fleeing animals, but there are things to consider. Helicopters dart, bank, and turn quickly to follow the erratic racing charge of hogs. Hunters will have to remember it’s different from shooting from the ground – or even from the back of a moving pick-up (Yeah, I know you: dark, moving pick-up, bright lights, dogs running deer…Oh, adrenaline junkies never do that in deer season? Game wardens wish.) If the shooter isn’t braced and anticipating helicopter movement, bullets can fly wildly towards anything on the ground – or worse, a helicopter rotor. With money to be made, new companies will probably spring-up. Pilots without experience could easily get into trouble,too. Recently a helicopter ran into low power lines during a hunt and crashed. He worries this bill passed without serious evaluation of potential problems.
Another concern is the number of helicopters in the air. The skies of Montgomery, Brazos, Galveston, and Harris counties already contain flocks of whirlybirds: frantically competing news helicopters, police helicopters, State Highway Department helicopters, medical transport helicopters/Life Flight, Coast Guard helicopters, offshore rig service helicopters, hired helicopters transporting CEOs and jet setters, sightseeing tour helicopters, even realtors, and privately owned helicopters. With all these whirlybirds, it’s amazing the feathered variety of birds have any space left to fly!
People on the ground may have concerns,too. Aerial hunting will offer an exciting new unique adventure. Inexperienced hunters are a problem even if they are on the ground. Some ranchers actually do paint “Cow” on the sides of cattle during deer season. As a child, our free ranging romps in the woods and fields had to become more cautious during hunting season even on our own property. We always had to wear really bright colors because some hunters will shoot at anything that moves. Bullets often travel farther than expected and can ricochet into a new path. Common sense says any hunting should require some training.
So the hogs gone wild now have a new flock of predators to match wits against. And “Fly like an Eagle” has a new meaning in Texas.
Poised for flight,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.
(For Related posts: click sidebar tag “Wild Hogs”. See Comments for A&E TV shows about hog hunting)