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Night-Ops Strategies for After-Dark Feral Hog Hunting

As hog populations continue to swell across the South, alternative means for hunting them have become essential.

Night-Ops Strategies for After-Dark Feral Hog Hunting

Night-vision and thermal optics are invaluable tools for today’s nighttime hog hunters. (Photo courtesy of Pulsar Night Vision)

Feral hog hunting has long been popular in the southern United States, and hunters employ a variety of tactics to successfully target these snouted marauders, including the use of feeders, spotting and stalking and running hounds. With hog numbers exploding, though, advanced measures—trapping, helicopters and nighttime hunting—are increasingly vital for keeping the hog population from completely overtaking habitat that other game and domestic animals need. Feral swine inflict costly, sometimes irreparable damage on the ground they inhabit—so much so, it seems we’re facing a losing battle in controlling them.

For people who've only hunted big game during daylight hours, nighttime hunting might seem like a forbidden fruit. However, many states allow it for predators like coyotes and, of course, feral hogs. While of harvesting several hogs out of a sounder in broad daylight would be ideal, that’s rarely doable due to their nocturnal nature, especially in areas where hunting pressure is intense.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Todd Mack of Ultimate Night Vision is an expert nighttime hog hunter and offers counsel on finding hogs to hunt.

"If you're just starting out on a property you know holds pigs, survey the fencing around the perimeter," Mack says.


"Look for barbed wire that has been knocked down repeatedly, and also identify any trails going through or underneath the fencing. You'll quickly learn where pigs are entering and exiting the property."


After finding entry and exit points, Mack uses bait to see how much activity a property gets. "I usually install a pig pipe," he says.

"This is simply a capped length of PVC filled with corn and staked to the ground. I drill several holes into pipe so pigs can roll it around to dispense the corn. I return a week later to assess, and I'll often place trail cameras around the outlying areas to see if pigs are frequenting other locations besides the feed pipes. I can monitor more ground that way."

"I also look near power poles that were installed within the past decade," Mack continues. "Pigs rub against them to get the creosote on their coats to repel bugs. The bottom 4 feet of a pole will be rubbed down. I also find a lot of pigs near cattle."

Night-Ops-Hogs
Some telephone and power poles offer pigs the opportunity to rub creosote onto themselves to keep the bugs off. Any scouting trips should include a look here. (Shutterstock image)

THE APPROACH

Hunting pigs at night is beneficial because darkness inhibits their eyesight and they are largely nocturnal. That certainly doesn't make it easy, though. Success or failure still hinges on your approach.




"Strategies differ based on property size," Mack says. "If you have a small property, I suggest hunting with a feeder. Unlike on sprawling ranches, you'll probably only get one crack at pigs on a small property during the night. If you have another food source on the opposite side of the property, you might get lucky and get another chance at them after a few hours.

"By contrast I might bait only one location on larger properties," Mack continues. "If I know hogs are on the property, I like to drive around using night vision and then scan with thermal optics to find pigs. I get the highest numbers using that approach."

Mack notes that you can generally drive within 200 to 300 yards of hogs without spooking them, but it all depends on wind direction.


"You've got to pay special attention to the wind and play it to your favor," he says. "If you're driving through the property or spotting and stalking, don't overlook the wind because if it's not in your favor they'll know you're there."

SPECIALIZED EQUIPMENT

To hunt hogs safely and successfully at night, you'll need at least one piece of equipment that you don't use for daytime hunting.

The first and arguably best is some sort of night-vision device, which produces a virtually blank white canvas on which living creatures appear dark. Night vision helps you identify what species you’re viewing based on its shape, which helps ensure you don't shoot a deer or someone’s prized Angus bull. Night vision devices can be expensive, costing several thousands dollars. However, there are cheaper alternatives.

Night-Ops-Hogs
Night-vision tools can help either locate or center feral hogs in your crosshairs. (Photo courtesy of Pulsar Night Vision)

Likewise, once you've identified your target, it is critical to be able to make an ethical shot while knowing what lies behind and beyond. There isn't a better medium to help you do this than with a quality thermal scope. Thermal scopes let you find your target in darkness and level your crosshairs on the target animal.

Thermal scopes are not cheap however, some models exceed $6,000. However, workable models start at around $1,100 and can double as a daytime scope.

In addition to night-vision devices, long-distance spotlights can help illuminate targets. Another proven product is a feeder light, which attaches to the bottom of a feeder. Some are motion activated while others are remote controlled.

Feeder lights are great additions as very few hogs are spooked by their activation. However, some models can be temperamental and prone to failure when exposed to the weather for extended periods.

GUNS, LOADS AND SHOT PLACEMENT

Operating a firearm in the dark is very different from operating one in the daylight. "If you're new to hunting hogs at night, shoot a rifle that you already own and are comfortable with," Mack says. "If it's a bolt-action rifle you use for deer, so be it. This will help you grow accustomed to handling a rifle at night, and it's especially a good choice if you're hunting with a group for the obvious safety reasons. Bottom line: Be comfortable with the equipment you use."

Mack says, "I've used everything from .308 to .223 to .300 Blackout and others. At the end of the day, hogs can soak up bullets big time. Hogs are tougher than bricks. Various calibers from heavy to light perform admirably on bruiser boars, but shot placement is more important than caliber selection. There isn’t a magic bullet in the AR platform," Mack says. "I've used three different types of rifles to shoot hogs. The first was a .22-250 with a diminutive 50-grain ballistic-tipped bullet."

Night-Ops-Hogs
Feral hogs are mother nature’s front-end loaders. They cause countless dollars of damage annually. (Photo by Darron McDougal)

Mack continues, "The second was a .243 Winchester with a 90-grain soft-point bullet. The third was a .30-06 Springfield pushing a 150-grain ballistic-tipped bullet. Of these, the .30-06 proved best on body shots, where the .22-250 was deadly on impact with a head shot. If you're going for headshots, accuracy is the key, so a lighter-recoiling rifle has merits. If you're going for body shots, I suggest a heavier bullet, the 90-grain .243 bullet being the minimum, although many hog assassins would vouch for the .223."

"Regarding the .223 I say again, use what you're comfortable and most accurate with," says Mack.

Mack concluded with this on shot placement, "Typically, your initial shot on calm pigs is relatively easy and straightforward compared to when they're running. It’s pretty simple to roll the first one with a shot behind the ear, but when they run, I usually like to aim there or slightly forward in order to get a killing hit on a broadside running hog."

Night-Ops-Hogs
The author harvested this feral hog under the cloak of darkness using stealthy nighttime tactics. (Photo by Darron McDougal)

SWINE SLAYER

The foundation of this tricked-out pig rifle is Rock River Arms’ CAR A4 chambered in .350 Legend, the fastest factory straight-walled cartridge in production. It delivers a 150-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,300 feet per second and 1,800 foot-pounds of energy, produces minimal muzzle rise and generates 20 percent less recoil than a .243 and 10-percent less recoil than a .30-30 with just 8.52 pounds of recoil. Our CAR A4 ($1,100; rockriverarms.com) came with a 16-inch chrome-moly barrel (1:16 twist) that delivers tight groups at 100 yards. A 13-inch RRA lightweight free-floating handguard is standard and is M-LOK compatible, making secure attachment of accessories like bipods and lights quick and easy. An over-molded A2 pistol grip offers a great grab.

The two-stage trigger features a smooth take-up, allowing the shooter to settle into the shot, and breaks crisply, delivering punch-free performance with a short reset for quick follow-up shots. A large trigger guard offers unencumbered trigger access, even while wearing gloves on cool evening hunts. A six-position operator CAR stock adjusts length of pull to accommodate almost any hunter while offering a nice cheek weld.

Night-Ops-Hogs
The ultimate nighttime hog-hunting rig: Rock River Arms CAR A4 and TruGlo 1–8x24 Omnia scope.

To hush the rifle, we threaded on a SilencerCo Omega 36M modular centerfire rifle suppressor that’s compatible with a wide range of calibers, from .22 Hornet up to .338 Lapua Magnum ($1,187; silencerco.com). The SilencerCo can features a fully welded core and a titanium outer tube with locking ring. Depending on the configuration, it ranges in length from 5.1 to 7.6 inches and adds between 9.2 and 16.5 ounces to the overall weight of a rifle.

We chose the new TruGlo 1–8x24 Omnia scope (30mm tube) for our optic due to its low-power capability ($447.99; truglo.com). At 1x, the scope offers a wide field of view for acquiring near-field targets (i.e. hogs at feeders) and allows the shooter to quickly zero on running pigs. A large, detachable quick-zoom lever makes dialing power up or down a cinch. The illuminated All-Purpose Tactical Reticle (APTR) offers an uncluttered view for easy aiming at night, while ½-MOA capped turrets provide precision sighting. The scope’s variable illumination feature lets hunters dial down the reticle brightness for nighttime targeting without degrading night vision.

We added a TruGlo Weapon Spotlight Kit featuring green/red/white CREE LED bulbs ($109.99; truglo.com). The light produces 200 lumens in white, 150 lumens in green and 75 lumens in red. The unit is rechargeable, taking 5 hours to charge, though a back-up battery is included. Runtime is 5 hours with the green beam.

The Weapon Spotlight projects an effective beam of light to 100 yards without spooking the target animal. A mountable pressure switch is included. — Dr. Todd A. Kuhn

INTO THE NIGHT

Night-Ops-Hogs
Stealth Cam Digital Night Vision Monocular

Here's a night-vision monocular that's priced right and offers great performance.

Hunting hogs at night is difficult if you can’t see the hogs. Stealth Cam makes a nicely priced night-vision monocular that will help you acquire your target in the dark. The Stealth Cam Digital Night Vision Monocular illuminates targets out to 400 feet using its built-in 1 watt infrared illuminator with a 9X digital zoom (with a 7-degree Field of View) and 3x20mm objective. It also records video (720p) and takes photos with 8 MP of resolution, and is built from ABS with rubber over-molding for a great grip. The unit is compact to fit in a fanny pack (5.8” x 2” x 9” inches) and weighing 0.6 pounds. The X-NVMSD operates on four (4) AA batteries. ($199.99; stealthcam.com) — Dr. Todd A. Kuhn

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