The key is simple: always know your target
As deer season prepares to ramp up and hunters begin to trek into the woods and marshes across the state, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries would like to remind everyone of the similarity between wild hog and black bear silhouettes.
“The whole crux of the matter is there is no one single thing that we can say to hunters like, ‘Look for this and it will tell you with 100-percent certainty what species you’re looking at,’ ” said Maria Davidson, large carnivore program manager with LDWF. “So you always default back to the need to spend enough time watching so that they are 100-percent certain of what they’re looking at.
“And if they are not 100-percent certain, they shouldn’t shoot.”
While feral hogs are considered outlaw quadrupeds and are legal to shoot year round, accidentally shooting a bear is a violation of federal and state law, and could result in fines up to $100,000, as well as loss of hunting privileges and/or jail time.
Fortunately, Davidson said most hunters who draw down on a bear realize their mistake before pulling the trigger.
“It’s quite common for me to hear from hunters themselves who say, ‘I was just ready to pull the trigger when something made me stop and look just a little bit longer, and when I did I realized what I was looking at was a bear and not a hog,’“ she said.
“So although I think the misidentification can happen often, luckily we haven’t seen too many bears killed because of it.”
Davidson said much of the identification problem comes from what hunters are expecting to see, and then making the assumption that what they are looking at is just another hog.
“Oftentimes what I hear is a hunter has gone to his stand, and he hears hogs behind him or all around him, and then he looks out there at a big black object,” Davidson said. “It’s easy for your mind to just automatically think what you’re seeing is a hog because that’s what you’re expecting to see.”
Although hogs have a “stiffer” gait and bears have more of a loping gallop, Davidson said misidentification is easier than you think.
“You can see a bear walking through the woods just like a hog, with his nose to the ground smelling where the next meal is going to come from,” she said. “Sometimes we’re talking about hunting over bait. Well, bears and hogs are going to come to the same types of bait piles. And they both occur in many of the same areas in Louisiana.”
One key difference if you’re hunting hogs at night, according to the LDWF website, is that a bear’s eyes will shine at night, while a wild hog’s will not.
Despite all the similarities, Davidson stressed that hunters who make an honest mistake and accidentally kill a bear would face strict legal consequences.
“If you shot a buck instead of a doe or a doe instead of a buck, you still have to know your target and the game you’re going after,” she said. “And shooting the wrong thing has never been a ‘get out of jail free card’ for any species.”
The most important thing to remember is the same thing hunters should practice every single time they pull the trigger: know what you’re shooting at.
“It always goes back to the same thing,” Davidson said. “It’s just another thing that brings hunters back to the basics, and the most basic thing is to know your target.”
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