Anyone traveling along Interstate 65 overlooking the Mobile Delta has to wonder what kind of wildlife flourishes there. The area looks like a wonderland for ducks and like a whitetail deer haven. Despite the obvious benefits for both waterfowl and deer, it is the wild hogs of the Delta that have taken advantage of this area’s terrain and habitat to establish a vibrant population of porkers just waiting on adventurous and determined hunters to enjoy.
For hunters there’s nothing like having an over-populated species that needs thinning. When it comes to the wild hogs of the Mobile Delta, we might be reaching that point.
Feral hogs have been increasing in number in the Delta. Along with that increase comes the destruction of this valuable eco-system. The hogs cause quite a mess with their rooting practices in search of food. When hunters aid in the control of these animals by harvesting the hogs, it becomes a win-win situation for hunters and the environment of the Delta.
Local Wildlife Biologist, Keith Gauldin is in charge of the W.L Holland and Mobile Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Areas. These tracts are located south of I-65. He reported that the wild pig population in these areas is abundant, offering hunters plenty of opportunity to harvest a wild hog.
The majority of hog hunting is done on the W.L. Holland area. Because of the terrain and food sources, the hog thrive in this environment.
“Local lore has it that farmers put hogs on the islands of the Delta in an effort to contain them till time of meat harvest. Along the way many of the hogs escaped into the Delta and quickly established viable populations that have increased ever since. These swine became feral after that,” Gauldin explained.
Over the years the word has spread about this ever-growing population of wild hogs. Hunters across the state have become anxious to get in on the wild hog action.
“Hog hunting in the Delta has become extremely popular,” Gauldin said. “Each year I get more and more hunters calling to get information about hunting regulations and where to hunt the animals.”
As with all animals, hogs will be where the food is. Gauldin gave a few pointers as to where to look for the hogs.
“The hog’s main food source in my area is the acorn crop. Finding live oak trees dropping acorns is a very essential way to find the hogs. Their rooting activity is very evident. Another food source the hogs love is the fruit of the palmetto bushes. In the fall, the palmettos sometimes have fruit. It doesn’t occur every year, but when it does the hogs are sure to find it,” Gauldin said.
Wild hogs are not known for having keen eyesight. This helps hunters get close, as long as they apply common sense when using wind direction to your advantage.
“Hogs have poor eyesight, but their sense of smell is pretty good. You must approach them from down wind if you want to be successful,” Gauldin advised.
Gauldin also offered some other tips on traditional methods of taking wild hogs in the Delta.
“After finding hog sign or activity, you can set up a ground blind or use a tree climber. Just remember when you get off the ground you are required to use a safety harness,” Gauldin warned. “Another very successful way to harvest pigs is to use very low tides to your advantage. When the tides go way out, particularly when pushed by a strong wind, the hogs come out to the waters edge and the mud line. The pigs are actually seeking out freshwater mussels or clams. This is evident by the vigorous rooting sign they leave.”
If you choose to look for hogs out on the banks you must resist the urge to take a shot at these animals while underway in a boat. Failure to do so could result in a game violation.
“It is legal to hunt hogs from a boat, but that boat must not be under any mechanical motion when you take a shot. It is legal when you are being pushed by the wind or tide though,” Gauldin added.
One of the ways hunters using boats locate wild hogs in the Delta is with the aid of a trolling motor or sculling paddle. Being very quiet and attentive will often lead to success.
“As I said before, you cannot shoot any animal with the aid of anything mechanical moving you along. However, finding the animals and pushing the boat ashore, thereby stopping all motion, is legal,” Gauldin said.
“Hogs are very vocal creatures. During their rooting activities they often bump into each other. This is usually followed by loud grunting or squealing, leading you to their location, he continued. “Halt your motion and then you can legally attempt to harvest the hogs.”
Gauldin added another thing that hunters must do to stay legal.
“All hunting on the management areas requires the use of hunter’s orange, in the form of a cap or vest. We want the hunter’s to be safe at all times while using the area.”
Bryan Sullivan of Grand Bay is a true hog hunter. Sullivan takes hogs regularly in the Delta each year, filling his own and several of his friend’s freezers as well.
Sullivan has been chasing Delta porkers religiously for more than 10 years.
“I hunt the area below Interstate 65 near 12 Mile Island. I look for any areas near the river with some higher ground. Most of the Delta is low and wet, but there are areas that are surprisingly high. You can find these areas by looking at aerial photography or by running the river in a boat.
“Be on the lookout for pine trees along the skyline,” he continued. “Wherever there are pine trees in the swamp, there’s usually some high ground.”
Hogs are pretty common in the lower Delta and some of the places Sullivan suggested to get started are easily accessed by boat.
“There’s some good hog hunting that you can get to in a decent size boat. Alligator Bayou, Bayou Black and the north side of Gravine Island all hold a fair amount of hogs,” Sullivan advised.