By R. Alan Richardson
Some legends are born out of passion, others out of necessity. Legends conjure up images of old men with grizzled faces and leathery skin worn from battling the elements of wind, rain, and sun. Their crooked old smiles belie the wealth of knowledge hidden beneath. It’s like they know something you don’t. One look at their beat up old hands of steel give a clue as to the hard life they’ve sometimes lived. Mother Nature has honed them. They are long-in-the-tooth salty dogs with salt and pepper scattered through their hair if they still have any to brag about. But not every legend fits that vernacular. Oh, no. Some are well beneath the years usually granted to a local living outdoor legend. Such is the case with Morgan County’s youngest and newest member of our Hall-of-Fame group, Jesse Parker. The all-around outdoorsman said, “Let’s see. I’m 26 years old so I guess I’ve been hunting hogs for about 26 years.” He gets it honest. Father Steve Parker is a renowned turkey guide, hog and deer hunter who many would say is the best turkey hunter in the state and southeast. Obviously, the younger Parker’s love for taking hogs came from him. “We’ve always had dogs. I’ve been training dogs since I was young and now have about 26 dogs we use for hog hunting. They range from mixes of German shorthairs and bulldogs to leopard curs and cane corsas. They are specifically trained to hunt and kill wild pigs. We train them not to bark so we can sneak in on groups (called sounders) during our hunts when they are bedding.”
Parker says he killed about 200 in Morgan County this past year and around 365 total around Georgia and the southeastern U.S. in 2018. He’s hunted them all over the country. “I have a good name around the state with farmers and others needing to get rid of these nuisances. They cause tremendous damage to crops, but people know I’m going to be respectful of their property. I’ve never left a hog in the woods. I take great pride in the fact that I’ve never killed, caught, shot, or trapped an animal that wasn’t used. About 90 percent of these kills are given away for food. We like to smoke it on the grill and make sausage out of it, but people like it cooked in a lot of different ways. The roasters are the best. That’s a small wild pig between 70 and 120 pounds. It’s good stuff,” he commented.
So, why are these feral hogs such a problem? Research shows that as early as the 1500’s early Spanish settlers brought domesticated and wild hogs to America as an easy food source. Some were purposely released into the wild while others escaped into the environment. These animals are opportunistic and sturdy. Their numbers increased rapidly due to an early mating age, short gestation period, and large litters of piglets. The southeastern U.S. and Georgia are now seeing serious problems arising from this growing population. Some of these are about $1.5 billion in crop damage alone, damage to other livestock, forest damage, damage to native species of plants and animals, destruction of habitat, soil disturbance, and decreased water quality. Control of these pests is a must.
Today, wild pigs are controlled in a number of ways including sport hunting, hunting with dogs, night shooting, aerial shooting, baiting and shooting, and trapping.
Parker, an avid hunter of all wild game, spends most of the year hunting hogs with his dogs, but also guides for wild turkey and deer, manages wildlife areas, and fishes as well. The Pennington Seed maintenance supervisor noted, “I pretty much do it all when it comes to the outdoors hunting and fishing even though I don’t fish as much as I once did. I’d rather hunt hogs than breathe.”
He shared a couple of stories with us. “Hunting hogs can be dangerous for you and your dogs. I’ve had a few killed over the years, and had some close calls myself. These animals are dangerous and aggressive and are armed with razor sharp tusks, huge heads and neck muscles, and are fast. If you make one mistake it’s going to cost you. Last year I was hunting by myself when the younger dogs trapped a big boar in a 20 foot ditch. I thought they had him pinned and went in for the kill with my knife like I usually do. He got loose and charged me. I had nowhere to go. That boar cut my entire boot off of me before the older dogs came in to help kill it. It was a close call.
It’s not always the danger of the hogs either. In South Georgia the rattlesnakes are bad. In February I almost had a heart attack when I stepped on one with a head the size of a softball. When he struck my snake boot it felt like someone hit me with a 2 x 4.”
Parker is well-known for one particular giant “Hawgzilla” he was called in on to kill in Clayton County a few years ago. “I got a call from a friend of mine who lived in the area where this big red nasty boat was terrorizing an entire neighborhood. It was tearing up yards, fences, and even knocking over grills to get the food off of it. Trappers had been in there for about two weeks trying to catch him, but couldn’t. I told him I’d catch it. When I arrived there was a Fox 5 camera crew filming the whole thing. I asked my friend where he was and they pointed to a patch of brush and briars. The cops told me I couldn’t let my dogs off the leash, but I sent one in that weighed about 30 pounds. He came flying out of there like a piece of paper and this monster hog comes charging right at us. All I could do was side step and grab hold. That hog didn’t even know I was on top of him, but I started stabbing him and my partner let the big bulldogs come to the fight. We finally killed it after about 20 minutes. The TV station wouldn’t release the footage to me or show it on the air. They said it was too graphic. It’s my biggest to date weighing in at 563 pounds.” Can anybody say Tarzan?
There’s so much more to this story. Unfortunately, I don’t have room to expound. According to some local farmers, Morgan County certainly has areas of infestations of these animals. Bostwick and the Lake Oconee area have encountered the most problems.