By LINDSEY SHELTON? | The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A quick tap on the roof of the electric hunting cart and the pop of two rifle shots and Jody Greene and Jeff Goeggle have taken down their first hog of the night.
It's one of hundreds they will kill this year; they bagged 420 last year.
Goeggle's tap on the roof of the cart signals he has spotted a hog, and he and Greene both shoot to ensure one of them hits the animal. It's a routine they'll repeat during approximately 200 hunts in 2014.
You might call them hog wild, but they are just two of many local hunters who are part of a national trend of recreational hog hunting that's popularity has soared in recent years.
Goeggle and Greene, who run Double G Hog Control in Monterey with Greene's wife, Tracy, have hunted hogs together for nearly three years for farmers and landowners who have problems with wild hogs rooting up their property.
While they are happy to be of service to those whose land or crops are overrun by hogs, Goeggle and Greene enjoy hog hunting and don't charge for their services. The hunters generally stop at gas stations or other places after hunts and give away the hogs.
The network of farmers and friends they've created provides them with 150,000 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana to hunt anytime they want.
“It's fun to do, and it's challenging,” Greene said. “It's something I can do with my family and friends, and it's pretty exciting out there at night.”
Greene and Goeggle hunt during the day and also at night using night-vision goggles and thermal scopes.
“The thermals pick up heat, and there's no way they can hide from them,” Greene said.
Goeggle and Greene have developed a system involving teamwork to effectively hunt hogs at night.
Goeggle rides on the back of a Polaris hunting cart scanning the horizon through his thermal scope before moving his eyes to the farmland, looking for signs of rooting or a bright white spot, indicating heat from an animal.
When he spots something, Goeggle taps on the roof of the cart and gives Greene, who's wearing the night-vision goggles, directions to the animal.
Sometimes it's an armadillo, a deer, maybe even a bear. But if it is a hog or a group of hogs, called a sounder, Goeggle and Greene determine who takes the first shot, and then a second shot from the other hunter follows to ensure a kill.
Goeggle and Greene don't want to give away all their secrets, but they say it takes perseverance and perfected techniques to hunt hogs.
Hogs are highly intelligent and thrive in a variety of climates and conditions, which Greene and Goeggle say means they can be run off one spot only to pop up in another.
The surge in popularity of wild hog hunting locally follows a national trend of hunting hogs recreationally.
Some would argue the increased popularity of hog hunting came as a response to farmland and other property becoming overrun with wild hogs.
Others, like Mississippi State extension associate Bill Hamrick, say the translocation and release of wild hogs for hunting is largely responsible for the pervasiveness of wild hogs, which number in the millions around the country.
“There have always been some pockets of them around, but it seems like in the past 10 years, it's really gotten worse,” Hamrick said.
Wild hogsare considered nuisance animals in Mississippi and Louisiana and have looser regulations than traditional game.
Landowners and leaseholders, and any hunter with the landowner or leaseholder's written permission, may hunt nuisance animals year-round at any time of day or night with no caliber restrictions on the lands they own or lease in Mississippi.
In Louisiana, wild hogs can be hunted year-round during the day. Nighttime wild hog hunting is allowed March 1-Aug. 31.
Those loose regulations, compared to regulations on other game, are one of the main appeals to local
hunters who like to hunt all year and practice their shot between deer, turkey, duck and other game seasons.
Hogs are not Tres Atkins' go-to game animal, but he does hunt them to stay sharp in between seasons.
“There's no season on them, and there's no set limit, and it's something for me to do in between deer and turkey season,” he said.
Hunter Billy Fitt was hunting coyotes when he came up on a group of hogs on a hunting trip years ago on Glasscock Island.
“I've been hunting them basically my whole life, but I got real serious about it probably three years ago,” he said.
Fitt mainly hunts hogs using traps, occasionally with dogs.
“You have to be relentless,” he said. “It's not like deer hunting. It takes a lot of time, and they go nocturnal if you pressure them. They're unpredictable, too. They can be in one spot one day and then two miles from it the next day.
“But it's a lot of fun when you get one.”
Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/