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Hog Wars: Rod Pinkston Says Hunting Doesn't Work
Rod Pinkston is straightforward, sometimes painfully straightforward, so don't ask him his opinion unless you're prepared to have some of your cherished opinions quickly punctured by the man who literally wrote the book on feral pig control. He’s also got some candid words for Indiana‘s lawmakers, hunters, landowners and farmers.
I spoke with Pinkston on the telephone while researching Indiana’s growing pig problem as he’s considered one of the most experienced experts in the business of feral hog eradication. After our 2-hour conversation, I came away totally changed in my viewpoints on control of Indiana’s so-far small herds of wild pigs.
Pinkston is the president of Jager Pro (from the German word for “hunter) a company he formed in 2006 in Columbus, Georgia. It was the first full-time hog control company in the country and is still recognized as one of the most successful. Pinkston is a world-class shooter who spent 24 years in the military, including a stint leading solders to Olympic Gold in 2008 with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Team. The Jager Pro team of retired military personnel has over 200 years of shooting experience and has applied military tactics to defeat this new adversary.
Before starting Jager Pro, Pinkston had spent several previously years working to remove nuisance hogs from Fort Benning where he was stationed with the Army’s Marksmanship Unit. He was successful, somewhat, but quickly realized he had only scratched the surface of the problem.
When Pinkston finally retired from the army, he decided his new mission would be controlling the hog populations then exploding across the southern U.S., Unfortunately, the issue is no longer a Dixie phenomenon as Indiana and other states across the U.S. are battling illegal pig stockings.
Having seen the carnage wreaked on the environment and the major losses suffered by farmers, Pinkston looks at the porkers the same way an exterminator does with cockroaches. “Wild (feral) pigs are just 150-pound pests,” he notes with obvious disdain.
He also has an ironclad belief that pig populations cannot be kept in check by aggressive hunting. “It just doesn't work,” Pinkston says from years of experience. “If hunting was the solution, we wouldn’t have a problem. Hunters screw up our control operations all the time because their intent is different than our intent. I'm a hunter but it (hog control) requires a totally different approach.”
“I've been killing pigs since 2004 with a thermal scope. I thought we could shoot our way out of this problem and I was naive,” he says candidly.
The snag is that hunters focus on trophies, fair chase and the deeply-held desire not to waste an animal's life or meat. They typically want to shoot a single hog or maybe several in the group if the population is causing problems. However, because feral pigs are essentially a reproductive and eating machine, culling the entire population is crucial to keep the animals from over-running the environment. “You can't control a species (by hunting) that has 20 offspring up to five times every two years,” he notes.
Moreover, exposing pigs to gunfire simply educates any surviving porkers. “When you’re talking about control methods, anytime you use something that doesn't work, you're just educated that animal to that method and that's what people aren't getting,” Pinkston says.
The correct answer is simply a matter of piling up bodies in the most efficient fashion possible.
That’s why Pinkston’s team focuses primarily on their propriety and effective trapping system, supplemented with military-style sniping of any pigs that don’t enter the traps. In virtually every case they eliminate 100% of the hogs, something that common wisdom suggests is impossible but Pinkston has done countless times.
When asked how to quickly and effectively solve Indiana’s feral pig problem, Pinkston is characteristically blunt: “If states north of Tennessee would just pass legislation that it's illegal to hunt pigs, you'll be amazed at how many states will never get pigs because that's why you got them in the first place. Somebody said 'Ya know what? I can only shoot a deer in October or November, so let’s bring some pigs to kill the other months.’ Those are selfish and short-sighted people.”
Indiana permits “hunting” of pigs on private land (as a non-game species) while prohibiting transport of feral hogs but the laws are difficult to enforce. That is why the persistent rumors of a small black-market hunting industry keep growing in our state.
It is more important than ever that Indiana farmers, hunters, landowners and conservationists come together and make it clear to anyone thinking about releasing or hunting hogs that doing so isn’t in the best interest of the environment, the agriculture industry and their friends and neighbors.
If you are one of those people, take Pinkston’s words to heart. Indiana simply doesn’t need hogs.
You can listen to the interview with Rod Pinkston on Episode #9 of the WildIndiana Podcast here.