Helicopter Hog Hunting in Texas Made Safer with Industry Leading Aerial Safety Course
Texas is home to a serious feral hog problem; nearly 3.4 million at the last count ranking as the largest feral hog population in the nation. Feral hogs wreak havoc and cause extensive damage to property, livestock, crops and pastures across the state. The Texas Agri-Life Extension Service estimates that statewide annual economic damage caused by feral hogs is near $400 million and expected to worsen in the years ahead.
In an effort to help control this ever increasing population of feral hogs, the State of Texas allows certain helicopter operators to provide aerial hunting of feral hogs under permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Current laws allow for private landowners to contract for a helicopter service to perform this aerial hunting service, but the landowner, or any other hunter they may designate, is not allowed to shoot the hogs from the aircraft.
“There are about 170 permits that have been issued to companies in Texas who are authorized to provide aerial hog eradication” states Mike Morgan, President of Houston-based Vertex Helicopters “Unfortunately, many landowners find that the rates for hiring a helicopter are too costly, so they try to hunt the hogs on their own from the ground, which is slow and cumbersome, and honestly doesn’t even make a dent in the population.”
The State of Texas is voting on a bill that will allow for a change in the laws regarding the hunting of feral hogs from a helicopter which will authorize the land owner, or the land owner’s “agent” (ie, private hunters) to actually hunt from the helicopter. This will essentially allow the landowner to “sell the hunter seat”, making it much more affordable to pay for the helicopter services.
“We fully support this Bill, but we see a number of potential problems arising when it passes. Our helicopters are flown by highly trained pilots, and the gunners are trained specifically to perform aerial hunting from a helicopter. This isn’t something that the average hunter is trained to do.” states Morgan. “Hunting from a helicopter requires strict coordination with the pilot, and also requires many different skill sets that are vastly different than normal hunting techniques. We're not exactly shooting from a pickup truck. Shooting from a helicopter isn’t as easy as people think.”
Vertex has developed an Aerial Hunter Safety Course that is specific to hunters who would be hiring a helicopter service to hunt hogs. "This isn’t your normal ‘Hunting Class’, either." continues Morgan, "This is an intensive safety course that will prepare the hunter to be able to know everything that they need to know about shooting from a helicopter, what do to in case of an emergency, and even helps them to understand the liability implications of worst case scenarios.”
"What happens if they accidentally shoot a rotor blade? What happens if they drop a magazine and it goes through the tail rotor? Things like this can destroy a helicopter. If it happens, who is liable? Our course gives the hunter detailed guidance on everything from the type of helicopter to contract, the best choice of weapon, how to shoot effectively, how to communicate with the pilot, and state laws governing hunting from a helicopter. The most important part of our training course is the hands-on actual firing from the helicopter at ground targets while the helicopter is moving.”
“We look forward to seeing this bill pass, but we feel strongly that there need to be very strict safety parameters put in place. Many of these aircraft cost in excess of $300,000, so if a hunter isn’t operating safely, or accidentally causes damage to a helicopter or injures someone then it’s all over the news with negative publicity. Our goal is to help prevent these problems and to make helicopter hunting a safe venture.”
Vertex Helicopters offers their Aerial Hunting Safety Course at least one weekend per month at a cost of $350 per attendee. The course is an all-day course with 4 hours of classroom instruction in the morning and hands-on training in the helicopter on an active range during the afternoon. Each class is limited to 12 people to keep the instruction more concentrated, resulting in more interaction and additional time for hands-on training. Depending on the location, VERTEX Helicopters will travel with one of the aircraft to perform the classes for larger groups at remote locations when scheduling allows.
VERTEX Helicopters is a full service helicopter company located at 8888 W. Monroe Rd at Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas. They can be reached at (281) 616-5095 or you can visit their website at http://www.vertexhelicopters.com
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