Last week, 30-50 feral hogs barreled into our collective consciousness. The top-tier meme started with a Jason Isbell tweet, which he posted in response to the tragic mass shootings from the weekend prior: “If you’re on here arguing the definition of ‘assault weapon’ today you are part of the problem.” Hogs came into play when Twitter user @WillieMcNabb earnestly replied, “Legit question for rural Americans – How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?” From that moment, the phrase “feral hogs” was inescapable, buoyed by mockery and sheer amusement at the words. The hogs hit hard and we are feeling their impact to this day.
Now, feral hog man Willie McNabb is speaking out with his first official statement since the meme’s inception. In addition to information about feral hog encounters and Arkansas’ hog population, McNabb’s message talks about Jason Isbell and Pearl Jam. “And finally, regarding Jason Isbell, I love music and always have. My favorite band is Pearl Jam,” he writes. “They have always challenged my beliefs and opened me up to different perspectives, different ideologies, and a broader worldview.”
“I find the same type of inspiration from Jason’s music. That’s why I asked him the question: because he grew up in the South and might be able to understand my perspective. At the heart of my question is a legitimate problem, and I firmly believe we don’t learn anything living in a vacuum. We must push ourselves as a people and a society to be more tolerant of our fellow humans, even the ones we disagree with.”
Read the full statement below.
I grew up in rural North Carolina, 20 minutes from a small town called Murphy. Like most kids in the South, I spent a lot of my time playing basketball, fishing, and hunting. My earliest memories are of hunting squirrel, grouse, dove, quail, and deer. I learned how to handle a shotgun and a rifle by the time I was 10 years old. I realize that may seem strange in today’s world, but it was a way of life for me and many like me who grew up in the rural South. We ate what we harvested and didn’t hunt just to kill.
After graduating from college, I moved to Arkansas for job opportunities. After several years of living in town in El Dorado, I moved back to the country. I had a larger home, more land, and few neighbors—peaceful country living.
For the first couple of years of living there—and having had no encounters with hogs to that point—I would let my children play outside. One spring day, when the oldest was no more than 5, the kids were playing in our yard. My wife yelled out to me that there were “pigs” in the yard. The first thing I did was go to my safe and get my hunting rifle, a .270 Remington with a three-shell clip plus one in the chamber. I ran out onto my back porch, and there were hogs everywhere—all of them running wild over my two-acre yard. As my wife frantically tried to protect our kids, I picked the safest targets and started shooting. I killed three quickly. This all happened within three to five minutes. My kids were shaken but safe. My wife and I were shocked, to say the least. I collected the dead hogs and took them to a co-worker for processing.
I immediately began asking friends and neighbors if this was unusual. They told me it was common in some areas. During heavy rains, the water can rise in the low-lying areas and push the herds to higher ground. Some people I spoke to said they used ARs and AKs because the hogs ruined their farmland and their yards. I have never owned a military-style assault rifle, but after the experience I went through, it didn’t seem completely unreasonable.
The hogs came back three times over the next decade. Those times were not like the first—I would go out and shoot one, and the rest would run off. My family was never hurt.
So, no, I do not have packs of murderous feral hogs in my yard every day. But I know people who have farms and timberland that this is an issue for. There are numerous reports by news outlets and governmental agencies documenting this.
After the reaction to my tweet this week, my initial thought was to stay out of this debate. I am a law-abiding citizen, and this brought much unwanted attention to my family. I received numerous interview requests and declined all of them. However, after continuing to read and engage with people on my Twitter feed regarding this issue, I realized that a large portion of our country found this entire issue implausible. That’s why I’m making this statement. I also intend to reach out to and work with groups such as the Arkansas Feral Hog Eradication Task Force and other organizations to help educate the public and come up with viable solutions.
I don’t know the answer to the gun debate. I’m not the avid outdoorsman I was when I was younger, but I do believe in my right to protect my home and my family. I’m for common-sense gun laws, including background checks, closing gun-show loopholes, and mental health requirements. I’m willing to look at anything that will help this carnage stop.
And finally, regarding Jason Isbell, I love music and always have. My favorite band is Pearl Jam. They have always challenged my beliefs and opened me up to different perspectives, different ideologies, and a broader worldview. I find the same type of inspiration from Jason’s music. That’s why I asked him the question: because he grew up in the South and might be able to understand my perspective. At the heart of my question is a legitimate problem, and I firmly believe we don’t learn anything living in a vacuum. We must push ourselves as a people and a society to be more tolerant of our fellow humans, even the ones we disagree with.