By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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Back in Ellis County, Scholz heads down a sloppy trail to check a trap. Thick mud cakes his boots. About 100 yards ahead a coyote dashes across the path and disappears into the cornfield. When Scholz reaches the trap he sees that it is empty. He looks around in the mud and notices a series of tell-tale hoof-prints in and around the cage. But nothing has disturbed the trip-wire. "These hogs are smarter than dogs," Scholz says. "They're not easy to catch."
Scholz must check his traps on a regular basis, because hogs can easily die inside of them, especially in the summer. Pigs do not have sweat glands; they pant through their mouths like dogs and can die of heat exhaustion within a few hours.
For Scholz, a dead pig means no money. His livelihood depends on his ability to deliver live hogs to slaughter. His go to a slaughterhouse in Fort Worth called Frontier Meats, which sells the meat all over the world. Some even ends up in restaurants in Europe.
As the day wears on Scholz continues checking his traps and restocking them with soured corn. Water from deep puddles splashes across the windshield of his pickup, and mud spatters its side mirrors as he goes to inspect his final four traps. "It's kind of like the lottery," he says of his job. "Maybe you'll get that 380-pound pig." Scholz's personal best catch was a 376-pound barrow hog. He once caught 21 hogs in one 5-by-8-foot trap. "The hogs were literally standing on top of one another," he says.
Today, though, he only manages to bag a pair of three week-old hogs. They will fetch a mere $5 at the slaughterhouse. It may seem cruel to think of killing baby animals, but Scholz says he's doing everyone a service. "The problem is that we're dealing with damage control," he says. "It's not that you like it, but you can't afford to let them go out there and then a year later they've got babies of their own. The farmers would be really upset with me if I let them go, because it costs them so much money every year."
By definition, Scholz is a hog hunter, but he doesn't chase after hogs for sport, and he doesn't like to see them suffer. The way he sees it, hog hunting is a job, and in a way, it's also a public service. Every hog he traps is one less hog tearing up someone's lawn or rooting up some farmer's field of corn.
The only bad thing about his job, he says, is the smell. Actually, it only bothers his wife. "It smells like money to me," he says with a laugh.