Ossabaw Still The Place For Public Pigs

DNR's hog removal program has not changed the quality of the hunt.

Despite a pro-active movement by DNR to cut back hog numbers on Ossabaw Island, the latest pair of hog-only hunts prove the hunting there is still fantastic.

"The weather was good, and the animals were moving. We had a great time," said Jay Rogers, of Senoia, who goes by "Rogers001," on the GON web forum.

Since 2005, DNR has had a full-time employee whose job is to kill hogs on Ossabaw Island. When news of this full-time hog killer first hit headlines eight years ago, some hunters were concerned that the glory days of world-class hog hunting on Ossabaw were going to be a thing of the past. Some hunters wondered, "Would the new hire kill most of the hogs?" After spending several years and earning enough WMA priority points to finally earn a trip to Ossabaw, hunters still wanted a better-than-average chance to bring home some pork.

"Our goal was not to eliminate hogs but to remove their effect on nesting sea turtles and reduce their effect on the overall ecosystem," said David Mixon, region supervisor with WRD Game Management in Brunswick.

Eight years after the initiation of a full-time hog employee, Ossabaw still appears to be the top public place in the state to go hog hunting. On the Jan. 17-19 hog-only hunt, 56 hunters shot 62 hogs; on the Feb. 21-23 hunt, 41 hunters killed 60 hogs. With 122 hogs killed on these two hunts alone, and a combined 126 percent hunter-success rate, it’s fair to say that glory days for hog hunters are still around.

"A total of 474 hogs were killed during the 2013-2014 (deer/hog) hunting season, which is a significant increase from the previous year," said David. "Most of the 2013-14 hunts were near or above a 100 percent success rate on hogs killed."

There is not a good population estimate for number of hogs on Ossabaw, but David did say sows are capable of having three litters a year for a total of about 20 piglets a year.

"There are still plenty of hogs on Ossabaw," said David. "They usually respond very well to a wet spring and summer, and it appears that is the pattern we are in right now. Fresh water is often the limiting factor on Ossabaw Island, and we certainly have had it in abundance for awhile now. They have the ability to produce at incredible rates given the appropriate environment."

David provided GON with the latest yearly hog-killing report he had, which ran from a period of May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013.

"(During this time), we showed an increase in hogs harvested over our previous 5-year average," said David. "A total of 1,744 hogs were taken, of which 183 were harvested by hunters. Shooting and trapping by DNR staff accounted for the rest of the harvest."

Several hunters on the GON web forum said they had good luck during the February hog-only hunt.

"I had a good time on the Ossabaw pig hunt," said Tyson Lee, of Acworth, who goes by ‘tlee22’ on the GON web forum. "I only hunted Thursday and Friday but managed to get five pigs. As far as the other hunters at camp, it was a mixed bag. Some did really good, and some did not have any luck. There are pigs in every unit of that island, but you have to work with the wind, walk a lot and also know where their bedding areas are since most of those pigs feed early in the morning or really late in the afternoon. Catching them before they go in or out of the thick stuff is the key."

Tyson said he only started hunting Ossabaw in 2009 but knows folks who have hunted the island for 15 and 20 years, long before DNR started trying to decrease the hog numbers.

"A lot of people say the biggest difference from 2005 to now is how healthy the animals are getting because there is less competition for food, which is putting more protein in their diet," said Tyson "You may not see as many as pigs as you did in 2005, but the ones you are seeing are bigger with more fat on them."

And as far as how the overall pig-removal project is going, it does seem to be meeting its goal.

"Overall, the progress for this project has been very good. The number of sea turtle nests depredated by hogs has been reduced to a very small percentage, which is our main goal," said David.

It takes several priority points to get drawn for some of the deer and hog quota hunts on Ossabaw. You’ll need to start applying this summer. Go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com and set up your online account.

To view more photos of Ossabaw hogs, go to forum.gon.com.

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