By Woodrow Polston
In the 1982 action film ‘First Blood,’ actor Brian Dennehy played ‘Sheriff Teasle,’ who conducted a search on John Rambo, portrayed by actor Sylvester Stallone. Finding a 14-inch survival knife, Teasle demanded to know what Rambo intended to use it for. Rambo replied with only one word, ‘Hunting.’ Teasle exclaimed ‘What do you hunt with a knife?’ Rambo’s famous reply was simply, ‘Name it.’
Pike County resident Jim Talley might have said the same thing, as he also has plenty of experience hunting with a blade. Traveling to numerous states including Texas multiple times a year for hunting expeditions, Talley has taken feral hogs with various methods including the use of a hunting knife, handgun, rifle and a night vision scope. He said that he started hunting when he was 8-years old.
“I started hunting with my dad when I was about eight,” said Talley. “I didn’t start hunting hogs until 2002, while I was visiting a ranch in Tennessee. After that, I fell in love with hog hunting and I started regularly going to Texas with a group of hunters to hunt private properties. It wasn’t long until I went on my first hunt with a knife, which was physically demanding. Most of the hunts that we go on include both daylight and nighttime hunts. During the day, we use dogs for the hunt, who scent and run the hogs. At night, we go out on thermal hunts with the use of night vision scopes. Most of the meat that we harvest is donated to local families in need of additional food,” he added.
According to the USDA, the feral hog problem is costing the U.S. as much as $1.5 billion in agricultural damages each year. In 2014, in response to the increasing damage and disease threats posed by expanding feral swine populations in the U.S., Congress appropriated $20 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the creation of a collaborative, National Feral Swine Damage Management Program. The overarching goal of the APHIS program is to protect agricultural and natural resources, property, animal health, and human health and safety by managing damage caused by feral swine in the U.S. and its territories. There is an estimated 5 million feral hogs in the U.S., of which an estimated 2.6 million live in Texas. Talley said that he is doing his part to help curb the problem.
“I am happy to do my part when it comes to eradicating this invasive species. I have taken hundreds, perhaps close to 1,000 hogs since I started hunting them. On my last trip I took another 16 hogs before returning home. What they are doing to the land is just horrible. The landowners in Texas hate the hogs primarily because of the substantial loss of their crops. While out hunting in Texas, we have come across as many as 60 hogs at one time. In one night, a group of hogs this large can literally destroy an entire field of crops,” said Talley.
Although there is a known feral hog population in southern Missouri, Talley said that the hog population in Texas is dramatic. It has become such a problem in fact, there is no tag or hunting permit required for residents or out-of-state hunters who want to hunt the hogs. Not only do the hogs ruin crops but they are also a big problem for the whitetail deer population. Talley said that the Missouri Department of Conservation seems to be doing good with their efforts here at home.
“MDC has had a different approach with trapping but they seem to be doing a good job,” Talley said. However, I don’t know if anything can stop the feral hog problem. They reach sexual maturity at only six months and a sow can have as many as two litters in a 12-month period. Aside from the MDC trapping effort, landowners are allowed to kill a feral hog on private property here in Missouri. The big difference between here and Texas, is that you have much larger properties in Texas that can be hunted with the permission of only one landowner being needed. Therefore the hogs are more accessible to those who are tracking them,” explained Talley.
According to the USDA, feral swine are not native to the Americas. They were first brought to the U.S. in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food. Free-range livestock management practices and hogs escaping from enclosures led to the first establishment of feral swine populations within the U.S. Feral swine have been reported in at least 35 states, and their population is rapidly expanding.
“I prefer to hunt with thermal at night,’ said Talley. “You are able to take out more of them at a great distance using this method. I can typically identify a hog at about 600 yards with the night vision scope that I use. The furthest shot that I have made was around 300 yards. As far as trophies go, it really depends on what the hunter considers to be a trophy. Many trophy hogs are determined by their size and variation in color. I believe the biggest hog that I have killed was around 300 pounds,” he added.
Talley intends to continue doing what he loves as he adds yet another Texas trip to his calendar. He has hunted all over the U.S., including antelope in Wyoming and black bear in Maine.