The damage being inflicted on Texas farmers and ranchers by wild hogs will be in the national spotlight beginning this week thanks to "American Hoggers," a nine-episode, half-hour series featuring professional hunters Jerry Campbell and his family from Brown County.
The program will debut at 9 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday on A&E.
Campbell, 64, concedes that the uniqueness of his family - not to mention his own reputation as a character - probably helped him stand out among a group of 135 hunters interviewed for the program, and later the three families identified as finalists. But he said his experience and expertise were crucial to the selection, and that extends to his entire family.
"I'm extremely knowledgeable on predator control in Central Texas," Campbell said last week. "I think it's due to my expertise in this field that I was selected."
Campbell said he accompanied his father on a boar hunt when he was 3 years old, and he was hooked.
"Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a professional hunter," Campbell said. "I wasn't interested in school work or athletics. The other boys would tell you they wanted to be a professional ball player, but I could tell you what was the best breed of hound to use for big game.
"Since I was 12, I've hunted mountain lion, jaguar, bear, bobcat and Russian boar in various parts of Texas, New Mexico and old Mexico," Campbell said. "I'm almost 65, and I have no plans to quit."
Each episode of American Hoggers, according to a preview of the series provided by A&E, "follows legendary hog hunter Jerry Campbell; his levelheaded son, Robert, 28; and firecracker daughter, Krystal, 23; as they respond to those threatened by feral hogs. Located in the heart of Texas, the family dedicates itself to the front lines - riding horseback, driving a custom-rigged Jeep, using highly trained dogs with GPS tracking systems and employing good old-fashioned know-how to help those endangered by these destructive beasts. Clad in chaps and cowboy boots, the family sets out in each episode to square off against these extremely intelligent animals that are terrorizing helpless landowners."
The family hunts with pistols, and Krystal has been given the nickname "Pistol."
The show caught the attention of the Texas Farm Bureau, which posted a report last week by Mike Barnett on its Texas Agriculture Talks website.
Feral hogs, Barnett writes, "are destructive and mean, overrunning the countryside, encroaching into cities and causing millions of dollars in losses annually to farmers and ranchers in the Lone Star State. Texans who are affected - the numbers grow every year - pretty much agree control is needed. So why not prime time? Maybe it will spark both realization and action..."
A&E puts the losses at $50 million a year in Texas, where half of the U.S. wild boar population lives and continues to reproduce geometrically.
"When a call comes in, Jerry hops in his custom off-road Jeep, Krystal saddles the horses and Robert rounds up the hog-hunting dogs for jobs that cover every corner of central Texas," the A&E promotion states. "They may be called in to help a farmer save his crops, a scrap yard owner who is being harassed by an aggressive boar or an airport official who is crippled by hogs on the runway; no matter how dangerous the situation, the Campbells are prepared for anything."
Campbell said he harvested the No. 2 world record hog, and at one time had the top two records - one of them taken in the countryside between May and Blanket.
He worked for eight years as a wildlife manager on a 100-section ranch near Refugio, as a brand inspector working with the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, and as a federal government hunter.
Campbell said the Texas Rangers worked some cases with the cattle raisers group while he was affiliated with that association, but a report on the Internet that he had been a Texas Ranger is "totally wrong."
"It was a clerical error somehow," Campbell said. "I have never said that I was a Texas Ranger."
Jerry Campbell is the brother of Jimmie Campbell and Shirley Day.
Campbell said the production company has spent many weeks in Brownwood during the filming, and that alone has been a boost to the local economy.
American Hoggers is produced by Thom Beers' Original Productions, a Fremantle Media Company for A&E. Original Productions executive producers are Thom Beers and Philip D. Segal. Jeff Conroy serves as co-executive producer, and Brandon Killion serves as series producer. A&E executive producers are David McKillop, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Lily Neumeyer.