Hot air balloon hunting meets resistance in the Panhandle - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Hot air balloon hunting meets resistance in the Panhandle

Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA

A Texas bill that would allow folks to hunt feral hogs and coyotes out of hot air balloons isn't quite taking off in the Panhandle.

Texas is home to an estimated 2 million feral hogs, a species which damages crops and spreads disease, especially during the summer months.   

"If a young female is bred today, and there is no mortality to her or any of her offspring, in 33 months, statistically, she could yield a potential of 1,300 pigs," said Rickey L. Gilliland, District Supervisor for Texas Wildlife Services. "In order to control the feral hog population, you have to remove, lethally, 75 percent of the population every six months, based on the tremendous reproductive potential that they have naturally."

Texas House Bill 3535 could help those statistics. Supporters of the bill said hot air balloon hunts would be cheaper than using a helicopter. Local balloon pilot James Morgan said while that may be true, it could be dangerous for those inside the basket.

"We're in a small enclosed space. The bottom of our basket is plywood and I'm not sure shell casings rolling around on the floor is something I want to be dealing with while trying to land," said Morgan. "We have propane in the basket and every time you fire you have a flash. If you had a small propane leak that could be a problem."

Morgan said knowing the experience of your shooter could be a concern as well.

"Do they know how to handle their gun? Are they proficient with it? Do they know not to shoot at an angle, shoot only down?" said Morgan. "You can go through all that stuff, but when you're up in the air and I'm flying, I don't have time to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing."
 Supporters of the bill also say hot air balloons provide a more stable, quiet setting for a hog hunt. However, Gilliland said the noise can work in your favor.

"In the sense of a helicopter, the noise itself is how you use it to your advantage to kind of herd the pigs into a area that it's safe to do the shooting in," said Gilliland. 

Morgan echoed that statement, saying you can't steer a hot air balloon like a helicopter. 

"In the case of a helicopter, you can take off miles away and go and search for the hogs," said Morgan. "If you're going to hunt out of a hot air balloon, you have to know where they're at and then set up downwind and then try to fly over them, and you're only going as fast as the wind's going."

Both the Texas house and senate have approved the bill. It's now awaiting the signature of Governor Abbott.

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