America has a hog problem. And it’s going to get worse before it gets any better. What started as a nuisance for Southern landowners has grown into a full-fledged epidemic as wild hog populations have spread like wildfire throughout the Deep South and California. Conservative estimates put the total US population at 6 million. Females are able to reproduce at just six months old, and can have two litters of six to eight (and often as many as 12) piglets every year.
Unchecked, the hog population can TRIPLE every three years.
But it gets so much worse. Wild hogs wreak havoc on their ecosystem. They kill fawns and young livestock. They destroy crops. They outcompete native species for food. They turn fields of grass and vegetation into mud pits. And when they exhaust all available food from an area, they move on to a new one, repeating the process and leaving decimated land in their wake. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that hogs cost an estimated $1.5 billion each year in damages and control costs.
While the hog epidemic has caused problems for farmers and landowners, it has also created a unique opportunity for hunters. In many southern states, hogs may be taken year-round on private property with no bag limit (check state laws first). Spot-and-stalk hunting, stand hunting, baiting and trapping are all viable and all fun.
But the MOST fun? It’s gotta be heli-hoggin’.
If you’ve never heard of it, buckle in. For a fee, you can experience the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of sitting in a helicopter gunner seat while a skilled pilot takes you to known hog hang-outs and lets you blast away at moving targets.
Heli-Hogging is among the hottest new destination hunting opportunities available in the US, and trips are often booked months in advance. You call one of guide services and arrange a time and place. Hunts can take flight over privately-owned land (with owner permission), and many guide services have their own hunting grounds. Pork Choppers Aviation, for example, has over 100,000 acres…so no matter what, you’ll be covering a lot of ground. Most guides make it a point to fly over dense brush in river bottoms, cultivated land, mesquite, and other types of terrain to give you as much variety as possible. A select few services even allow you to heli-hunt your own land!
You can bring your own magazine-fed AR or shotgun, but pretty much every company is willing to provide you a fully-kitted AR and all the ammo you can shoot. When you arrive, expect to take both a helicopter safety course and an aerial gunnery course.
Typically, you’ll be going up two at a time in a Robinson R22 or R44 helicopter, as they’re agile and fast. Pilots are typically very skilled and experienced, and—*most* of the time—you can expect to have the opportunity to kill 20 hogs in two hours. Companies like Pork Choppers Aviation will even record the hunt and edit the video for you! That way you’ll have something to show your friends when you’re bragging.
As for what happens to the dead hogs, some companies leave the meat to the vultures and other scavengers. Some companies donate it. As a general rule, you’re not going to get the best-tasting boar from a helicopter shoot: once the adrenaline courses through the meat, it becomes tough. And nothing gets a hog’s adrenaline pumping like being chased by a helicopter. Point being, you’re not going to get much meat out of the deal. But that’s about the only downside.
Imagine it. The heart-pounding excitement as the chopper’s blade spools up. The rush of skimming the tree tops and watching hogs flush from the relative safety of cover. And you, dumping mag after mag into the invasive animals below. There’s nothing like it.
It’s an opportunity to have some good-old American fun while also helping the environment. And the silver lining? Heli-hoggin’ has brought quite a few tourism dollars to the state of Texas. Companies like HeliBacon, a guide service operating out of Bryan, Texas, are helping Texans offset the cost of hog management while offering shooters and hunters a once-in-a-lifetime experience.