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Feral hogs provide formidable prey for Oklahoma hunters

Feral hogs have become troublesome to landowners and enjoyable prey for hunters. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry in June announced several rule changes affecting tracking and transporting of feral hogs that will go into effect Nov. 1.
By Bryce Arens Published: July 22, 2012

/articleid/3694424/1/pictures/1779232">Photo - Johnny Heskett, of McAlester, smokes a cigarette during a hunting trip near Indianola, Okla., Friday, July 6, 2012.  Photo by Garett Fisbeck, The Oklahoman
Johnny Heskett, of McAlester, smokes a cigarette during a hunting trip near Indianola, Okla., Friday, July 6, 2012. Photo by Garett Fisbeck, The Oklahoman

“Pretty much looks like a redneck's house,” he says with a grin as he packs a sack of corn, a jug of diesel and a bottle of syrup into the back of the four-wheeler.

The two are trying out a new trapping technique, and the ingredients are the bait. Heskett starts the motor. Kinsey, a Remington on his lap, drops into the passenger seat. The hunters drive down a hill onto the banks of the South Canadian River.

As they drive, they look to the dirt for clues of where to head next. Many sets of tracks they find are too old or lead nowhere.

About a mile down the bank, Heskett stops at a grove of trees to set up his first of five snares. He ties one end of the metal snare to a tree, leaving the looped end hanging a couple feet from the ground, high enough to catch a 150-pound hog. He pours a few cups of corn, a couple shots of diesel and a little syrup into a zipper-top bag, creating a treat only a hog could love.

“Hogs will eat anything,” Heskett says as he pours some syrup on the bag. “It's not Jack, but they like the taste.”

If all goes according to plan, a hog looking for a late night snack will grab on to the bag, pulling the snare around its snout, where it will be waiting when the hunters return the next morning. They set up four more traps in trees along the river before retiring for the night on a bed of red Oklahoma dirt.

Adrenaline rush

Heskett has been hunting hogs for 15 years. He caught his first one using coyote bait and has been hooked ever since. Both hunters say hog hunting provides an adrenaline rush that is different from hunting any other animal.

“When you run up on that hog you don't know if it's going to be a 50-pound hog or a 300-pounder,” Kinsey says.

This hunt is the first time they have used snares. Heskett usually hunts with a pack of his own bay dogs, but this weekend is too hot to bring them.

Heskett trains more than 20 dogs at his home in McAlester. The dogs are trained to circle a hog and bark, signaling to Heskett to release a bulldog that will run in and grab the hog. Heskett then ties the hog's legs with rope or sticks it with a knife.

“The dogs do 90 percent of the work,” he says. “You just have to make sure you keep your dogs in good shape and kill the pig, then get your dogs home safe at the end of the hunt.”

They easily could kill seven hogs in one hunt, Heskett says.

If they catch a live hog, they will sell it to a sporting facility for guided hunts. If they kill a hog, they will clean it out for its meat or just leave it.

“A dead hog is better than a live hog,” he says.

Continued pursuit

The next day, the hunters wake at 6 a.m.

Kinsey grabs his gun, Heskett grabs a cigarette, and they head down the bank, hoping a snare has grabbed a hog. The first trap has no hog. Neither does the second. Checking all five snares, they find nothing. This hunt comes up empty, their new trapping technique in need of refining.

“Sometimes you come home with five and sometimes you don't get any,” Heskett says as he picks up the last of the snares. Next weekend they will load up the four-wheeler again and use the ground as their guide, in pursuit of feral hogs.


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