Though trapping is the most efficient means of removing pigs from an area, dog hunting is the most effective means of removing trap-shy or “educated” pigs that have altered their activity patterns based on previous experience with traps.
The tradition of hunting pigs with dogs can be traced back to early America when settlers and farmers commonly free-ranged their livestock. In order to distinguish ownership of their livestock, individuals or families would apply a unique mark — usually a series of splits or notches — to the ear or ears of individual animals. Free-ranging pigs usually were rounded up and “marked” twice per year, and the use of dogs to locate, bay, and catch these pigs made the task much easier.
Today, pig hunting with dogs has evolved into a highly popular form of sport hunting. Although this method of hunting is sometimes controversial, it serves as a valuable tool when trying to remove pigs in areas where intense shooting and trapping pressure have driven pigs to become more nocturnal in their activity patterns. Dogs can be used to trail these skittish pigs to their bedding areas. In addition, dog hunting pressure often will drive pigs from an area for extended time periods. Although this is only a temporary solution, it does buy some time for planting crops and building exclusion fences.
Pig-hunting dogs are usually grouped into one of three categories: open trailing dogs, silent dogs, and catch dogs. Open trailing dogs bark while tracking or chasing pigs, whereas silent dogs do not, hence their names. Silent dogs often are more popular among hunters because they catch more pigs and races seem to be shorter, thus covering less ground and decreasing the chances of getting onto property where dogs are not welcome. Once the open trailing dogs or silent dogs have a pig at bay, the catch dog is released to move in and hold the pig — usually by the ear — until the hunters can arrive and dispatch the animal.
However, landowners should exercise caution when employing the services of dog hunters. Be aware that some hunters catch and tie pigs and relocate them to other areas, thus creating future hunting opportunities. Therefore, be sure to ask potential hunters for references and come to an agreement that any and all pigs captured will be dispatched on site.