After more than a decade of asking hunters to set their sights on the invasive wild hog population, recently passed legislation takes aim at the destructive animals with a different approach.
"These hogs are very destructive. They do not discriminate on what they eat or what they destroy," said Ben Layton, big game biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "This invasive species devastates crops and roots through surfaces to the point it damages water quality with runoff."
Tennessee introduced a wild hog hunting season in 1999. However, TWRA officials now say turning the hogs into big game backfired.
"Well basically it caused people to bring hogs into an area where there aren't any so they can hunt them," said Dan Hicks, regional spokesman for TWRA. "It's very appealing to hunters in the state to create these new hunting habitats."
"We know people were introducing the hogs because they would suddenly show up more than three or four counties away from the closest population," said Layton. "That's why we are giving landowners more latitude to protect their own property instead of using a hunting season."
New regulations aim to take the sport out of hunting wild hogs by eliminating the hunting season. Wild hogs are no longer classified as big game. Instead, they are now deemed nuisance animals. That means landowners can kill the animals on their own property year round without a hunting license or permit.
"We've got to take the romance out of hunting hogs," said Hicks. "This will hopefully remove the temptation to introduce hogs into new areas."
"If you are a landowner and you have a hog doing damage to your property, as of right now you can just go out your back door and shoot them during daylight hours," said Layton. "You can also trap them using certain types of traps without getting any permit or exemption through TWRA."
Trapping has some limitations in that it cannot be performed during other big game seasons such as deer season. However, landowners can apply for exemptions that allow for trapping during deer season. Exemptions can also be applied for to allow landowners to shoot hogs at night.
Even with increased freedom to kill hogs, the task of slowing the invasive species remains daunting.
"Wild hogs reproduce very fast. If you have 100 hogs on your property this year, you would have to kill 70 of them just to keep the number at 100 next year," said Layton. "There is no magic bullet or magic wand to get rid of these animals. It's going to take a lot of effort."
See the full list of new wild hog regulations at TWRA's website.