Hog hunting: Golf course turning to hand-picked hunters to help with feral hogs

Holiday Hills Golf Course owner Kirk Horton is selecting hunters to patrol the course overnight to eliminate feral hog damage, seen here at the seventh green’s edge.

MINERAL WELLS — Feral hogs have again invaded Holiday Hills Golf Course, prompting the Mineral Wells City Council to open a 30-day window for armed hunters to run the invasive animals from the fairways and greens.

“Something needs to be done,” Course Manager Rick Hardin said on Wednesday. “They are really getting after the golf course.”

Hardin said the hogs have been rooting on the course for several weeks, and traps have not discouraged them from returning. As happened three or so years ago, the course is turning to hand-picked hunters for armed assistance.

“Gunfire seemed to help [last time],” Hardin said. “Mostly because it’s loud, and they head for the hills.”

Mineral Wells City Manager Randy Criswell said the city council met in emergency session, under a health clause allowing short notice of public meetings, called by Mayor Regan Johnson at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The unanimous resolution singles out the 18-hole course, at 4801 E. U.S. 180, as hunting grounds for 30 days. It is a limited exception to the ban on firearm discharges inside the city limits and runs through Oct. 21.

“Everyone knows the feral hog situation is pretty bad around here,” Criswell said. “They can pretty easily root a spot that’s deep enough that you can step off and hurt yourself.”

No hunting license has been required to kill feral hogs in Texas since September 2019, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

But don’t grab your rifle and head for Holiday Hills.

Course owner Kirk Horton said he is hand-picking his shooters.

“I’m doing quite a bit of work making sure we don’t have more than one hunter out here at one time,” he said, adding, “There’s no people on the course while we have hunters.”

Horton’s hunters, using rifles equipped with thermal, heat-spotting scopes, have yet to see a target, he said.

On Wednesday, Sean Bass of Lipan had just finished a round and was turning in his golf cart. He’d seen the damage.

“I saw a bunch, on probably eight of nine holes,” Bass said. “It’s something else.”

Horton said the hogs — he suspects it’s mainly one boar coming alone — first began tearing up the ground near a lake downhill from the clubhouse. But the damage has since progressed to roughs, and now it’s along the edges of the greens.

Roughly half of the seventh-hole green was rimmed with overturned sod, creating a disjointed half-moon around the recently aerated, bent-grass green. Some of the damage extended onto the green itself.

“This damage was probably done by one hog in about 10 minutes,” Horton said.

Repairing damage on or at the greens’ edges is very labor intensive, and 30-plus year groundskeeper Polo Velazquez is spending hours on his hands and knees, flipping the overturned sod back to roots-down.

“We have to completely turn it over,” Horton said.

The work must be done within two or three days of the damage or the sod will not survive, Horton said.

“And we’ll have to transplant grass back in,” he said, adding the clever animals seem to have learned to steer clear of bait corn because they are wise to the traps he placed when hog damage returned a few weeks ago.

Swine are considered the fourth-smartest animal, behind chimps, dolphins and elephants.

“They come about two nights and then they lay off a night,” he said. “I’m trying to rotate in another shooter every night now.”

Criswell added he city council resolution is for the golf course only. And he’s hopeful it will discourage the rooting animals.

“Nobody’s going to kill all the feral hogs in the state of Texas,” he said. “From what I understand, if you can run them off through hunting or trapping, then they stay gone for a while.”

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