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Helicopters, Hunting, Hot-Air Balloons, & Hogs

There’s nothing quite like Texas Hog Hunting! It’s some of the most exciting hunting you can do anywhere. If you prefer hunting from a blind or stand, you can hog hunt. Prefer baiting your quarry to show up at the feeder? Texas hog hunting is for you! Hate the idea of hunting over bait but love spot and stalk hunting? Well, Texas hog hunting is for you, too! Too hot in Texas? Not at night! So while spotlighting deer is illegal, spotlighting hogs is certainly a legal option.

“Definitely one of the appeals of hog hunting is the loose regulations —no closed season, for instance,” said Gordon Cooper, an attorney at Walker & Byington in Houston and an Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield. “The State of Texas doesn’t regulate hog hunting as closely as it does deer hunting because hogs aren’t classified as game animals. Pigs are pests, vermin, nuisance animals, and they’re incredibly destructive.”

How destructive? To the tune of $52 million a year in agricultural damages alone.

About 2 million feral hogs call Texas home. According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, “They can be found in approximately 230 of our 254 counties and are causing an increasing amount of damage in suburban/urban areas because of vehicle collisions and landscape damage.”

Texas hog hunting presents ample opportunities, but you need the right gear and knowledge to be successful—and to stay legal.

It’s open season on hog-hunting year-round, but hogs seem to like the Texas heat even less than you do. Luckily for hunters, the State allows them to stalk feral swine after dark (unless you’re helicopter hog hunting, but more on that below). As temperatures cool, the hogs come out. Of course, you’ll need lights, night vision, or thermal optics to see and engage your targets, but unlike most game animals, these exciting tools are perfectly legal to use on hogs! A lot of the high-tech gear mentioned here is very pricy, but there are affordable illumination beams that you can mount directly on the tube of your riflescope. Or simply install some landscaping lights at a feeder; hogs don’t seem to mind them—that is, until the shooting starts.

Do you want a more Medieval challenge? Try hunting pigs with archery gear, or even a spear specially made for sticking hogs. Others prefer to chase pigs with dogs, and dispatch their prey with stout knives.

And helicopters aren’t the only means of aerial assault upon hog populations. Just a few days ago, the Texas Legislature passed a law that clears the way for hog hunting from hot air balloons. As of this writing, the bill was awaiting the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Cooper, quoting the bill’s language, explained that the measure amends the Parks and Wildlife Code to “authorize a qualified landowner or landowner’s agent to contract to participate as a hunter or observer in using a hot air balloon to take depredating feral hogs.” The same law applies to coyotes, Cooper said. He added that the aerial hunting is allowed with a permit to manage wildlife from aircraft.

“Helicopter hog hunting has been very popular in Texas, but it’s also very expensive,” Cooper said. “Hot air balloons, on the other hand, don’t require the same costly fuel and maintenance as a chopper.

“But the big appeal seems to be that balloons are more stealthy than helicopters. Obviously they don’t pound the air like a set of helicopter rotors.”

The noise can scatter a “sounder” (group) of hogs before an onboard hunter can get a shot, which isn’t very cost effective, considering the expenses. But, adding balloons to the arsenal shows just how serious state officials are about controlling hog populations.

“Texas hog hunting is wide open with few restrictions. It’s more or less hunt when you want, with whatever legal weapon you want, in whatever style you want,” attorney Cooper said. “But that’s not to say you can’t run afoul of the law and Texas game wardens—arguably the most powerful law enforcement officers in the state. To stay on the good side of the game wardens and wildlife laws, you still need to be in the know and within the rules.

“And the rules can be surprisingly complex—ironically, in part, because hog hunting is so wide open.”

Cooper added there are a multitude of legal pitfalls that can trap Texas hunters, even when hunting nuisance piggies. For example:

— While it’s common knowledge that you can legally hunt with sound suppressors in Texas, did you know you should take your National Firearm Act (NFA) paperwork with you?

— Even if you encounter a group of feral hogs on a secluded back road, shooting on or across a public road is unlawful.

— If you’re lawfully hunting at night, you better be sure of your target before you take a shot. Mistakenly shooting a deer, or a landowner’s livestock, can land you in legal trouble.

“Perhaps one of the most common legal snafus is hunting on the wrong property,” Cooper said. “Even when you have everything else right, this one is easy to mess up, and the trouble that this error can net you is no small thing. Odds are, you know someone who has made this unfortunate mistake.”

Imagine that a friend has a helicopter or is in rotary-wing flight school. Your buddies get together and decide those YouTube videos of helicopter hog hunting look too enticing to ignore any longer. Hogs are pests, the State of Texas wants to cut feral hog numbers drastically, so your cadre decides to buzz some fields in the next county to eradicate some swine.

You’ve just flown into a legal pitfall you didn’t see coming: With next to no public-hunting lands in Texas, your helicopter escapade will almost certainly take you and your crew over private property, Cooper said.

“Of course, you called Farmer Brown to get permission for your aerial adventure, but did you know that’s not good enough?” Cooper said.

Had you been a Member of Texas Law Shield with Hunter Shield protection, you could have called an Independent Program Attorney well-versed in the state’s wildlife laws and learned that your aerial hunting outing requires the following:

  • An appropriately licensed pilot;
  • The aircraft needs a current Airworthiness certificate from the FAA; and
  • Completed Land Owner Agreements on file with the State and some other critical details covered.
  • And, speaking of licenses, while the restrictions on hog hunting times and methods are liberal, you still need a state-issued hunting license.

Also, have you heard that it’s now legal to hunt hogs from hot-air balloons? Yes, it’s true. The 85th Texas Legislature just passed this new law allowing the state to regulate the use of hot-air balloons in the taking of wild pigs. Isn’t that something you might want to know about?

But note, the hunting license issue is one of those “complex rules” Cooper mentioned earlier.

“The Texas Wildlife Code, Section 42.002 says no resident may hunt any bird or animal, including hogs, without obtaining a license,” Cooper said. “But there is another issue. According to the code, same section, in the ‘C’ subsection, A resident landowner or the landowner’s agent or lessee may take feral hogs causing depredation on the resident landowner’s land without having acquired a hunting license.’

“There’s a difference between the two. If you’re hunting, planning to take a trophy and meat, you need the license. But if you shoot hogs or another animal to prevent damage on your land, you don’t need the license and neither does a person you designate your ‘agent.’ But in this case, you must leave the carcass to the buzzards, fire ants and other sundry creatures.”

Even with all that, a Hunter Shield attorney such as Cooper would have advised you NOT to helicopter hunt after dark. “Hunter Shield Members can find out why,” the attorney commented.

Wouldn’t it be convenient to have a Texas attorney on speed dial who knows the state game laws—who will help you cover your assets while hog, deer, dove, or turkey hunting? Or for that matter, while lawfully hunting or fishing for anything in our great state?

Well, now you can, and you don’t need a Jerry Jones–sized bank account to make it possible. Texas Law Shield has provided affordable firearms legal defense services for years. Now, with the Hunter Shield add-on, outdoorsmen can have protection at home and on the hunt for as little as $13.90 a month. (And you can learn more about our program by attending special Sportsman Law Seminars we’ve just set up. Click here and here to get more information on those seminars in Spring on July 6 and in Mansfield on July 11.)



Given the huge liabilities that can crop up in Texas hunting feral hogs, for the cost of a box of hunting ammo, why wouldn’t you want to be a Texas Law Shield Member with Hunter Shield protection?

Not a member with us? Join more than 235,000 gun owners and sign up for a Texas Law Shield membership with Hunter Shield today.

Don’t get caught without it.





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