As I have written about several times on “Welcome to the Ranch,” feral hogs are an invasive species that have found their way at times on Cross Creek Cattle Company. I say at times because they can do not stick to one specific area for long. Instead they travel as necessary for their food needs.
The one thing that wild hogs do that can be devastating to ranchers is to destroy pastures. With their snouts, the hogs break the ground up looking for food like roots, earthworms, etc. They also like to make wallows to lay in the coolness of the ground. In one night, a group of wild hogs, called sounders, can “disk” up an entire pasture. Obviously this is not good, especially when you are raising grass fed beef.
And when you are a rancher facing an exceptional drought scenario, wild hogs are not invited guests on your ranch. We cannot afford to lose any pastures to these feral animals. Therefore, we have been setting our hog traps in an attempt to manage the wild hog population on our ranch.
One recent Saturday morning, my dad called us early in the morning. He could hear snorting and squealing in the direction of the trap. Immediately all of my boys and husband jumped into the pick-up truck and raced to the trap. There was a sow and five younger hogs in the trap. Outside of the trap were a few small piglets.
My family easily killed the wild hogs in the trap. Meanwhile, our dog, Maggie, took off chasing one of the piglets. She got it by the ear and my father killed it. We cannot decide if Maggie is really brave or really stupid. I personally lean more to the latter.
Needless to say, we had a lot of cleaning and processing to do that day. Luckily my boys enjoy bringing home the bacon literally. So it was a joy for me to watch them work side-by-side with their dad. We used the bucket on our tractor to hang several pigs at one time in order to be as efficient as possible. It also allowed my husband to hang the hogs at a good height for him.
We now have about a year’s supply of pork for our family. My husband has smoked a ham as well as the whole piglet. We deboned the majority of the pork for both link and pan sausage. We have packaged the pork loins, some hams, and one shoulder.
Wild pork tastes great. It is darker and leaner than domesticated pork. It also has a stronger flavor than traditional pork. If you handle the meat properly, it will not taste “gamey.”
Cleaning the animal immediately after it dies is key. Preferably this can be done in the shade or the coolness of the morning or evening. Icing down the meat as quickly as possible helps the meat cool down.
Most people do not eat the boars. They claim that the meat is too tough and/or rank tasting. I have not tried it myself. My husband prefers processing the young hogs that weigh around 70 pounds, but he did decide to also process the sow, which was much larger. I read somewhere that boar meat is actually wonderful if prepared properly. Apparently restaurants that serve wild boar will only purchase the meat of a wild hog boar over 200 pounds.
I don’t know myself which group is correct; however, I am willing to try almost anything once. If you have not tried feral hog, go for it at your first opportunity. It really is tasty meat for a great price–free. To find out more about feral hogs, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife for information including how to build a hog trap. Who knows, you might go hog wild for pork, too.