Photo by John E. Phillips.
In Alabama, a hunter can end up with the bragging rights for downing a hog with a weight of 600 pounds or better in three ways. The easiest way: Simply shoot any sizable boar hog and then have one of your buddies “guesstimate” its weight. As long as no one ever puts the porker on the scales, it’s likely to grow even bigger as the tales of your triumph are passed around.
Another method: Trap a live hog, keep it in a pen to fatten, release it, and hunt it down and shoot it. As long as such a feral pig isn’t relocated from the site of its capture, this is legal.
Or you can shoot a sizable wild hog and record the event by means of creative camera techniques: Just stand several feet (or yards) behind the hog while the person taking the picture moves up close to the animal; the hog fills the entire frame of the picture — and so appears larger than the hunter standing behind it. (A more-technological version of this stunt would employ the wonders of modern digital programs like Photoshop.)
The worst thing that ever can happen to a gigantic trophy-sized hog is for it to be weighed on an accurate set of scales, because the hog’s supposed weight drastically shrinks.
All of the above is meant to highlight the point that the rash of giant wild hogs harvested around the southeast in recent years should be taken with a grain of salt.
“Any feral hog that weighs more than 600 pounds and is harvested in an enclosure is suspect to have been fed on something other than wild forage,” pointed out Keith Guyse, assistant chief of the Wildlife Section for Alabama’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries and Wildlife.
The average feral hog in Alabama weighs from 50 to 175 pounds. So in 2007, when Pigzilla, the giant Alabama hog that reportedly weighed 1,051 pounds, jumped into the national spotlight, a lot of skeptical eyebrows were raised among Alabama hog hunters.
As it turned out, that skepticism was well founded. When you look deeper into the story, you learn that 11-year-old Jamison Stone shot the hog in a 150-acre low-fence enclosure at Lost Creek Plantation near Anniston. He reportedly shot this monster hog using a Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver with a holographic scope with a ported barrel firing a 350-grain Hornaday cartridge.
The first warning sign, however, was that this area of the Cotton State has been never known for producing large numbers of any size hogs.
After a flurry of publicity, scrutiny came next. Later it was revealed that the hunter and his father had been hoodwinked, along with the local and national media. The would-be-hunters were charged $15,000 to shoot a trophy wild hog that turned out to be “Fred,” a domestically raised hog purchased for $250. In fact, Fred had only recently been moved to the Lost Creek Plantation.
Jamison’s father, Mike Stone, arranged the hunt for his son with Keith O’Neal and Charles Williams, owners of Southeastern Trophy Hunters. They in turn brokered the hunt with Eddy Borden, the owner of Lost Creek Plantation. Mike Stone was assured his son would harvest a wild hog. The boy got his pig, but Fred was more like a pet at the farm of Rhonda and Phil Blissitt, on which it had been raised.
As soon as photos of giant porker with the youngster posing behind it began to circulate, suspicions were aroused. The hog looked even larger than its 1,051 pounds because of the camera angle used. From that point on, the tale of Pigzilla began to unravel.
Keith Guyse explained that people who put a domestic hog inside a pen, shoot it, and call that action “hunting” haven’t broken any laws. If the animal is moved and then released into the wild, however, the law’s been broken.
Pigzilla gave hog hunting in Alabama a huge amount of bad publicity nationwide. The entire Pigzilla incident was an embarrassment to legitimate hog hunters in the Cotton State.
REAL WILD HOGS IN BAMA
Alabama has a long history of hunting wild pigs. But these porkers are the feral variety, not the Russian wild boars you often hear touted for their ferocity. Our wild hogs are descendents of domestic stock that escaped into the wild during the last five centuries.
The Cotton State’s hogs date back to Hernán de Soto, an early Spanish explorer who trekked though present-day Alabama in the 1500s. His band of discovers brought hogs along as a food source and settlers who followed did the same.
In those days, no one had heard of fence laws, and hogs roamed at will. In the fall, the critter would be rounded up for either a “hog killing” or a sale. With the implementation of fence laws in the early 1900s, landowners tried to round up all the hogs but the effort turned out to be about as easy as herding cats. The hogs took to the thick briars and wetlands, and adapted easily to those sanctuaries. Their highly developed sense of smell made them difficult to slip up on, which added to the difficulty of capturing them.
Thus, a number of the pigs went wild, creating the feral hog population that continues today in Alabama. Now that the critters have become established in the Bama woodlands and swamps there is little likelihood that they will ever disappear. While that is great for hunters, it is not good for wildlife habitat.
Widespread throughout Alabama, the wild hog herd has grown in recent years. They have a much higher reproductive than mortality rate, with the average wild sow producing 12 to 18 piglets per year, and an 8-month-old sow able to reproduce.