Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Up, up and away in my beautiful feral hog hunting balloon

There are things that, when you live in Massachusetts, you just do not have to worry about.

Sure, we have to do a skin check for deer ticks everytime we go out for a walk in any place that has scrub brush, ferns, or anything that you can brush up againsts your ankle. Because who wants Lyme Disease. (Answer: no one!)

In the winter we have to worry about blizzards and blackice and other treacherous weather situations.

But we don't have to spend all that much time looking over our shoulders for wildlife.

Oh, there's an occasional suburban black bear or moose on the loose. The other day, when out for a walk, I spotted a wild turkey in a tree (something that my sister and brother-in-law in Brookline have to content with regularly). We have too many aggressive squirrels, too many pigeons, and too many seagulls. And if you live in the city of Boston, in a downtown area built on landfill, there are occasional rat sightings or hearings (e.g., rustling in garbage bags). But the biggest wild life problem we have to contend with is the growing annual infestation of Canada geese, who leave their nasty poop everywhere they waddle through. Which is pretty much everywhere there's a square foot of greenery with water nearby.

But we don't have crocodiles, rattlers, grizzlies, javelinas, or feral hogs rampaging around.

Deep in the heart of Texas, this is decidedly not the case.

They're on the receiving end of a population explosion of feral hogs. They've got about 2 million of them and, even though Texas is a mighty big ol' state, that's still a lot of feral hogs. And they do a ton of damage to crops. (An estimated $50M each year. That's only $25 a snout, but still...)

So the solons up in Austin managed to tear themselves away from matters of prime importance like gerrymandering and anti-trans laws, and have just passed a measure that makes it legal to hunt for feral hogs - and coyotes - from hot air balloons.

And you thought hot air balloons were all about a nice meandering slow-mo sail in the basket of a multi-colored balloon. Not when someone's hanging out of it with an automatic rifle, firing away, baby.
The state already allows the shooting of feral hogs from helicopters, but that is expensive and has not been very successful because the aircraft often scare the animals away. Hot air balloons are quieter and offer a more stable shooting platform. (Source: AP, via WaPo)
While I have no desire to hunt myself, I'm not anti-hunting. And it does sound like Texas farmers have a beef (pork?) with feral hogs, and are certainly entitled to do something about them. Still, this sounds kind of silly. And way too frily. Don't real hunters want to sit around in blinds, cold, wet, uncomfortable and smelly? Or get out there in their orange vests and hats doing some critter-stalking, with the extra added thrill that someone might (despite the neon orange gear) mistake them for a critter and blast away?

While silly and frilly, hot air balloon hunting also sounds - a bit conversely - a bit dangerous. As my friend Valerie - who pointed this story my way - asked, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Couldn't an ill wind jerk that stable platform around? And couldn't someone's gun go off and shoot a hole in the hot air balloon? I'm pretty sure that these aren't like birthday party balloons, and that one little hole doesn't make them deflate. But a whole bunch of bullet holes? I'm wondering.

I'm also wondering whether the hot air balloon approach will be any more effective than the helicopter assaults were. I.e., not very.

I suspect that they're more likely aimed at the tourism business, appealing to those who want a touristy sort of hunting experience that doesn't involve cold, wet, and smelly.

Me? I'd like to keep hot air ballooning a more tranquil pursuit.

So, Texas Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to the hot air balloonin' feral hog hunters. Ya'll got that?

And a Pink Slip shout out to Valerie, topic hunter par excellence.

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