Panel backs nighttime hunting of wild hogs

After a few failed attempts in previous years, the recent explosion in the population of wild hogs led a Louisiana House committee to back legislation that would allow nighttime hunting.

Organized hunters oppose House Bill 353, fearing that it would put stress on deer, but the plea of farmers persuaded the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment to allow property owners to hunt feral pigs on their own land at night, all year round.

The present law allows nighttime hunting of nutria and beaver from March through August.

HB353 would amend that law to allow the taking of feral hogs on private property by the landowner during daylight and nighttime hours.

“We have denied these people the ability to protect their property,” said state Rep. Richie Burford, R-Stonewall, and HB353 sponsor.

The same measure passed through the House in 2012, but was not scheduled for a hearing in the state Senate. Last year it failed to get out of House committee.

Meanwhile, the population of wild hogs has grown from 500,000 to 700,000 animals roaming the state. Farmers have become more and more anxious about the damage the pigs are causing.

Blake McCartney said during the past week he planted corn on about 50 acres of his Red River Parish farm. He finished up around 8 p.m. and went to bed early. By dawn the next morning, wild hogs had destroyed about 10 percent of the crop, he said.

“The deer just graze a little bit on the tops but they don’t do anywhere near the damage,” said McCartney, who runs a 1,500-acre farm with his brother, Brandon McCartney.

State Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, said he was concerned about the deer, which also are nocturnal.

State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, and an avid hunter, added it would be difficult to enforce hunting deer at night. “Now when I hear a gunshot at night, it’s more suspect. … It would be a nightmare for enforcement.”

“We’re concerned about the stress on the deer population,” said Rebecca Triche, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Baton Rouge advocacy group whose members include hunters and outdoorsmen.

Besides, hunting has been called not the most efficient way to deal with the issue. With a population of as many as 700,000 pigs — and given the size and frequency of the litters — hunters would have to wipe out 60 percent to 70 percent of that number each year to stabilize the population, she said.

“We have to be more coordinated,” Triche said.

The committee voted 11-3 to report HB353 favorably to the full House for consideration.

Voting for nighttime hunting of feral hogs (11): State Reps James Armes, D-Leesville; Robert Billiot, D-Westwego; Bubba Chaney, R-Rayville; Patrick Connick, R-Marrero; Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; Raymond Garofalo Jr., R-Chalmette; Truck Gisclair, D-Larose; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings; Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; Chris Leopold, R-Belle Chasse; and Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley.

Voting against HB153 (3): State Reps Lambert, Schexnayder and Stuart J. Bishop. R-Lafayette.