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These pigs are used for baying, which is how hunters train their dogs to bring the pigs down. (Wyatt McSpadden)

A Plague of Pigs in Texas

Now numbering in the millions, these shockingly destructive and invasive wild hogs wreak havoc across the southern United States

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Several states, including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina, have outlawed bayings in response to protests from animal rights groups. Louisiana bars them except for Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials in Winnfield, the nation’s largest. That five-day event began in 1995 and draws about 10,000 people annually. (The 2010 event was canceled because of disputes among the organizers.)

But bayings continue to take place on a smaller scale elsewhere, as do bloodier hog-catch trials in which dogs attack penned-in wild hogs and wrestle them to the ground. The legality of both events is in dispute, but local authorities tend not to prosecute. “The law in Texas is that it’s illegal for a person to cause one animal to fight another previously wild animal that has been captured,” says Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs and staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national group based in northern California. “But the legal definition of words like ‘captured’ and ‘fight’ has never been established. A local prosecutor would have to argue these things, and so far nobody has.”

Brian “Pig Man” Quaca (Tom Quaca’s son) paces the floor of his hunting lodge, waving his arms and free-associating about hogs he has known. There’s the one that rammed his pickup truck; the bluish hog with record-length tusks that he bagged in New Zealand; and the “big ‘un” he blew clean off its feet with a rifle only to see the beast get up and run away. “They’re just so smart, that’s why I love them,” he says. “You can fool deer 50 percent of the time, but hogs’ll win 90 percent of the time.”

Quaca, 38, began rifle hunting when he was 4 years old but switched to bowhunting at age 11. He likes the silence after the shot. “It’s just more primitive to use a bow, way more exciting,” he says. As a teen, he eagerly helped neighbors clear out unwanted hogs. Now he guides hunts at Triple Q Outfitters, a fenced-in section of the property his wife’s family owns. A customer dubbed him Pig Man, and it stuck. His reputation grew with the launch last year of “Pig Man, the Series,” a Sportsman Channel TV program for which he travels the globe hunting wild hogs and other exotic animals.

About an hour before sunset, Quaca takes me to a blind near a feeding station in the woods. Just as he’s getting his high-powered bow ready, a buck walks into the clearing and begins eating corn; two more are close behind. “The deer will come early to get as much food as they can before the pigs,” he says. “It’s getting close to prime time now.”

A slight breeze eases through the blind. “That’s gonna let those pigs smell us now. They probably won’t come near.” He rubs an odor-neutralizing cream into his skin and hands me the tube. The feeding station is at least 50 yards away, and it’s hard to believe our scents can carry that far, let alone that there’s a nose sharp enough to smell them. But as it gets darker, there are still no hogs.

“It sounds like a hog might be over around those trees,” Pig Man whispers, pointing to our left. “It sounded like he popped his teeth once or twice. I can promise you there’s pigs close by, even if they don’t show themselves. Those deer will stay however long they can and never notice us. But the pigs are smart.”

The darkness grows, and Quaca starts packing to leave. “They won again,” he says with a sigh. I tell him I still can’t believe such a mild breeze carried our scents all the way to the feed. “That’s why I like pigs so much,” Quaca replies. “If the slightest thing is wrong—any tiny little thing—they’ll get you every time. The sumbitches will get you every time.”

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