HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - There are several ways to hunt. Traditionally, you can use traps, running dogs, or guns, but one Hattiesburg resident depends on modern technology to aid in killing feral hogs.
The hog population is growing out of control in the south, and their damage reaches into billions of dollars in Mississippi.
Experts say 50 percent of the population must be eliminated annually to deal with their rapid breeding. People like Joseph Tatum are just what the state needs to put a dent in hog numbers. He was more than happy to take me and two of my coworkers out for a night of wild hog hunting we won't soon forget.
"When you hunt on a farmer's ground he only tells you two things, 'If you bring a friend make sure he has a gun, and don't leave one of them alive,' "said Tatum.
We're on Van Hensarling's farm in the Prospect Community on a Friday night, and the friend who is making sure a hog doesn't leave his sight alive is Tatum.
"When the fish and game passed a regulation allowing 24/7 to hunt nuisance animals with any method, any gun, 24 hours a day. It became interesting," said Tatum.
Three years ago, Tatum says he and his friends started hunting pigs at night, mostly in the delta, and never stopped. He says most of his hunts start with a farmer's invitation.
"An average corn field with hogs in it loses about 50 bushels an acre. A 400 acre field would lose approximately 20,000 bushels and to a farmer that's $160,000," said Tatum.
Tatum spares a farmer great expense by sparing no expense on the equipment he uses to take down massive hogs.
"If you have a light and try to shine a pig, pigs eyes don't glow and so you got to use a thermal visual to pick them up. Thermal just gives off heat and they look like light bulbs out in the field," said Tatum.
He says his thermal tools are state of the art. Tatum explained his imager, mounted to the roof of his truck, is connected to a router, which allows his I-pad, inside the truck, to display and save the thermal image of whatever the camera sees, up to 1,000 yards and has a pan and tilt control.
"That allows you to drive through these big delta fields at 40 and 50 miles per hour, and look from side to side and look for pigs. You can cover just horrendous amounts of ground," said Tatum.
As if that wasn't enough, there's this thermal spotting scope. "It's the same thing as a thermal sight, except its light. And you leave your guns in the case until you see something to shoot at and then you get your gun out. At that point you've covered a lot more ground," said Tatum. Finally, there's his gun, a DMPS AR 10. What's thermal about this? The scope. Tatum was kind enough to give me a couple of test shots before the hunt. After that adrenaline rush, we're off to the fields in search for hogs. That's when we get our first glimpse of how powerful Tatum's equipment can be. The imager captured deer 300 to 500 yards away.
You got to mind your Ps and Q's when hunting especially at night, and the game warden reminded us of that with a friendly exchange, then it was back to the hunt. But there was no action for hours, nothing on the scope, no hogs even after using the call for about 30 minutes. Just when we thought our luck changed, it turns out we were looking at a really big raccoon or a really fat house cat, but Tatum wouldn't give up, he was determined to get some wild hogs just for us, and he did. Tatum made a trip to the Mississippi Delta and hunted down two hogs, on weighed in at 200 pounds. The other weighed more than 150 pounds.