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The porkchopping experience

Ever wonder what it’s like to hunt feral hogs with a machine gun from a helicopter? Well, here you go.

Feral hogs have terrorized Houston neighborhoods for years, tearing up grass and causing property damage in search of food. But did you know there’s a way you can fight back against those pesky pigs?

It involves a helicopter and machine guns.

Because Texas classifies feral hogs as unprotected, exotic, non-game animals, they can be hunted by anyone using any method at any time of year. Private businesses take advantage, charging customers thousands for the opportunity to hunt hogs from the sky.

“We get quite a bit of clientele from places like New York, California (and) Chicago, where the firearm laws are extremely restrictive,” said Chris Britt, co-founder of Helibacon in Bryan. “They come to Texas and the idea that you can shoot a machine gun in a helicopter is just mind-blowing to them. They think of it as the Wild West.”

While hunting hogs via helicopter may sound outlandish, it’s actually one of the most effective ways to eliminate the animals, if done correctly.

Once in the air, the sound of a helicopter will start to get a group of hogs, or a sounder, running. The pilot pushes the sounder to an area where they can work and the gunners can start firing.

“It’s very safe and very controlled,” Britt said. “But it sounds so outlandish and exciting that it’s a really big draw. People enjoy the experience.”

Booking a helicopter hog hunting trip is usually straightforward.

Normal packages cost between $2,000 and $8,000, depending on party size, and usually include weapons, ammo, and at least a few hours of flight time. Helibacon outfits customer with semi-automatic AR-15s, with the option of upgrading to fully automatic machine guns at extra cost.

Some bookings even include meals and lodging. In San Angelo, Helicopter Pig Hunting and Divided Find Lodge & Ranch offer corporate events that make an entire weekend retreat out of the experience.


When done right, shooting from helicopters is one of the best ways to eliminate large groups of feral hogs at once, according to Michael J. Bodenchuk, state director of Texas Wildlife Services (TWS).

By regularly culling the population of hogs in an area, Britt said they can reduce their numbers by a noticeable amount, resulting in less crop damage and fewer overall problems on ranch lands.

Bodenchuk has doubts about how much the commercial trips are actually helping. “Anybody who kills a pig is a friend of mine, but they may not be getting rid of them.”

For one, private businesses have a financial incentive to not eliminate the hogs entirely.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife page on feral hogs is a bit more sanguine, saying that while “aerial gunning” (as they call it) is “a highly effective means of quickly reducing wild pig populations”, it’s really only effective in “areas with sparse tree canopy and high wild pig densities”. It may also become less effective over time, as “there is also some debate as to whether or not this method alters behavior in wild pig populations causing them to increase home ranges and learn to avoid aircraft, making them more difficult to find via helicopter”. You pay your money, you take your chances, I guess. Porkchopping, which is what those wags at the Lege called it when they first legalized this practice, has been with us for more than a decade now, so the proprietors of these businesses haven’t made themselves obsolete yet. I suspect it will be viable for the foreseeable future. Go ahead and make those corporate retreat plans now, while the weather is good.

(This is another one that I drafted awhile ago but hadn’t gotten around to publishing yet. You’re welcome.)

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