Experience Life staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard was recently in Southwest Texas reporting on the proliferation of wild hogs in the state, their destructive environmental impact, and efforts to manage their numbers — primarily through organized, unlimited hog hunts. The hunts attract experienced hunters as well as novices with an interest in local food sourcing and the “ranch-to-table” experience. Maggie is sharing some of her reporting through the “Field Notes” series this week. Check out Part One, Part II, and Part III, and find Part IV below.
As the number of wild hogs — and the problems they cause — has increased, so has the number of organized hog-hunting trips. People from across the country head to Texas, which boasts the largest wild hog population in the United States and has no prohibitions on hunting the exotic game.
To learn more and experience this growing trend first-hand, I signed up to accompany a group of about 25 men who, for the second year, were going to hunt hogs in the area around Carrizo Springs in Southwest Texas. This hunt happened to be a charity event, benefitting two veterans’ organizations — the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund and the Green Beret Foundation — that provide assistance to families of fallen Reconnaissance Marines and Special Operations Forces.
Hog hunts and college scholarships don’t obviously go hand in hand. But according to Brent Phillips, the president of the Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund, the five-day hunting trip is a perfect opportunity for members of the military to bond with civilian participants.
“We didn’t ever want to do a black-tie dinner,” said Phillips, 24, who started the SWSF in 2010 after four friends from reconnaissance school were killed in action. “I wanted to do something, because no organization existed to raise money for families of recon Marines. But I never wanted it to be something solemn.” Because “physical fitness is a big part of our life in the Marines,” Phillips and his SWSF board members decided to focus on fun fitness events. Initial fundraising efforts involved “driving around begging CrossFit gyms to put on an event.”
The first year, in 2010, the organization raised $2,000 for a student. This year, in 2014, Phillips expects to raise between $60,000 and $70,000 — enough to support five students.
“We legitimately thought we’d have to write the scholarship checks ourselves,” recalls Phillips, who also owns CrossFit Sil War in Jacksonville, N.C. “We never thought it would evolve into this.”
While athletic events continue to be a cornerstone of the SWSF effort, the annual charity hog hunt has proven to be a major draw. Phillips attributes its popularity to the combination of novelty — most of the participants don’t regularly hunt hogs — and the opportunity to form deeper bonds than they would at a short 5K run-walk.
To this end, the trip included hands-on demonstrations unrelated to wild hogs. Topics included field trauma and basic field medical skills, improvised explosive devices, situational awareness/self-defense, and shooting lessons.
The annual hunt, Phillips said, has become a success because it’s about more than hunting: It’s about doing something fun and new for a good cause.