Beyond the Dead Turkey Thanksgiving Tradition – New Gear, Old Friends, Dead Hogs

Wild Hog Hunt Raptar Lite

Tactical hog hunting is about a lot more than hunting, a lot more than eradication of an invasive destructive species. It’s about more than thermal and night vision gear, black rifles and Kryptek camo. Sometimes tactical hog hunting is high speed up close. Maybe you are positioned in front of the feral pigs’ cover to take a charge or maybe you take a very calculated shot at range. Regardless, in one key aspect, this kind of hunting is no different than the prior generation’s hunts: it’s about camaraderie forged by the challenge at hand. And so, on a cold post Thanksgiving night, armed with nothing traditional, my good friend Jared and I stepped out of the Jeep into the moonless cold West Texas night.

Jared was born a city boy in El Paso. Practically the only guns he ever saw were in school. Today he’s successful both in the Dallas/Fort Worth corporate scene and as an entrepreneur. Between those milestones, he married the proverbial farmer’s daughter, and shortly thereafter invited me to bring my AR-15 to the farm to hunt hogs.

I wasn’t enthusiastic. I’d been deer hunting…

While in graduate school another buddy dragged me to a family farm five times in one deer season. He was an accomplished hunter – a missionary’s kid who grew up in Africa. In retrospect, I guess that didn’t make him a good white tail hunter in Central Texas. We never saw a deer, but did succeed in absorbing a full measure of frozen misery, sitting like statues from three in the morning until well beyond the full light of day. “I’m a shooter, not a hunter,” I concluded. Truth is, I was a product of the 4-H Shooting Sports program, not really what many of our readers would consider a real shooter.

Thor Tavor Tactical Hog HuntBut it’s hard to find a better friend than Jared, so he easily prevailed on me to go after the wild hogs. And in our ignorance, we stacked up the pigs that first trip and were both hooked. We went back again and again, upgrading our capabilities as we could. We even took a pig with the theoretically useless 5.7 round from an FN PS90. But that’s another story. Sometime after that the idea of SHWAT™ – Special Hog Weapons and Tactics™ was born.

As of this Thanksgiving, it had been a while since Jared and I last hunted together. A lot has changed in my hog hunting since my brother and I launched SHWAT™. It was past time for Jared to see where those first hunts had lead us. “You won’t need a gun, you won’t need ammo,” I told him on the phone. “We will hunt at night.” You could hear the grins across the area codes as we planned.

I armed Jared with my IWI Tavor. I cannot express how pleased I am with that rifle. A sixteen inch barrel in bullpup design that is quick to run, easy to use, and ridiculously reliable. Despite being run in a carbine class, and never cleaned, never lubed beyond a quick wipe down after unboxing, it just runs. I’m not saying you should run a gun that way, even with the Rand CLP we use and sell, but I wanted to see how far the Tavor would go and report it back to you. It’s still going, so check back later on that.

I mounted an ATN Thor to the Tavor. Someone should make up rap with that and post to our Facebook page… The Thor 336-3x is a weapon mountable thermal device with up to 3x digital magnification. It sees only temperature, so warm bodied hogs tearing up wheat crops on a cold night stand out nicely. You can spot hogs with the thermal unit long before you see them on a moonless night under traditional night vision. You can set the Thor to display hotter temperatures as white or black contrasting against cooler temps. You can also set it to display temperature ranges in a multi-colored display, but as of yet, I haven’t found a use for that function.

Tactical Hog Hunt SuccessThe Thor is mercifully more compact and lighter than the thermal unit I killed hogs with a couple of years ago. Hand held, it has other serendipitous uses. I used the Thor to assess my house’s insulation needs. Given the $6199 investment to get one of these devices, it’s pretty cool to find other practical applications, but either way a thermal device might be the difference between a great night out hunting, and coming up empty handed.

Jared had never used thermal before, but in testament to his abilities and the nature of red crosshairs on white hot pig, he successfully ruined the night for a few pigs. It doesn’t matter how many videos of such things you’ve seen on YouTube, until you use such a device to spot and kill wild hogs, it’s hard to appreciate the value of the tool.

As for me, I wanted to try my Accurate Armory 8.5″ barreled AR pistol on hogs. It is super handy, super easy to carry, lightweight – what’s not to like? With roughly half the length of a standard barrel, I knew I’d be giving up something in terms of velocity. Would it matter when my DRT Ammo .223 impacted a hog? It presented just another opportunity to push the envelope…

Some of you might be familiar with the Sig Tac Pistol Stabilizing Brace. I’ve spoken with its inventor who created the brace after a veteran buddy was kicked off a range for shooting an AR pistol with his one remaining arm. I’m working on a feature story for that, but for now, just note that while it makes my pistol look like an NFA restricted Short Barreled Rifle (SBR), it’s not NFA, and can be purchased and used by virtually anyone.

Targeting and navigation for me would be under night vision instead of thermal. Night vision (NV) devices simply amplify available light and display the image in green. To see in the dark, I run a helmet mounted top of the line PVS-14 monocular from Ident Marking. Before we head out, Jared looks into the cloudless night at the stars through the seemingly flawless tube and declars, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Wilcox RAPTAR LiteTo target hogs, I used the new Wilcox RAPTAR Lite from Potomac River Group. This unique unit combines an infrared (IR) laser, an IR illuminator (think flashlight for night vision), a visible red laser and a Surefire white light. This would be my first run with the RAPTAR Lite. Given the combination of IR and visible functions, I theorized that this would be a great unit for hog hunting, and it was. Another real benefit of the RAPTAR is the ability to zero the visible red laser, and the IR is zeroed simultaneously.

After numerous holidays and hunting trips to area, Jared knows the terrain well. I drive, he scans through the Thor, but we know where we’re headed. Ironically, it’s just down the road from the grave yard. We park the jeep and bail out, walking a short distance to enter the killing field. This is a large wheat field, just under a hundred acres. No doubt a hog delicacy, the green winter crop is only a few inches tall. Jared spots them and we begin our approach, working the wind and terrain. Communicating our tactics is easy. We’ve had practice and think in sync. We get in close, too close.

The hogs didn’t completely spook, but they are aware that something is out of the ordinary and move north. We tail them for a bit, but then switch to another group of 20 or so, with bigger pigs. We close distance to around 65 yards. We could get closer, but since we got burned by the first group, we settle in to take the shots. I’ve set my RAPTAR Lite to give me a pulsing IR dot (yep, it’s programmable, too!). I put it on a pig as we fire simultaneously. Somewhat to my surprise, the big sow drops hard on its hind legs and commences squealing. I scan to pick up another target, then back to the big sow. She’s gone!

Tavor Hog HuntJared has a hog down, and I spot mine running. I pull the trigger a few more times and succeed in stopping the sow on a fence line. That was one tough mother hog. On the run, I flip the PVS-14 out of the way and switch to the RAPTAR Lite’s white light and red laser. The display on the back of the RAPTAR unit makes it possible to confirm the mode I need while moving. I shoot again for good measure as we approached. Why not? Shooting is fun! She was more than 200 pounds!

In another field, we repeat the drill. More confident this time, we position ourselves less than 50 yards from the group of 20 plus pigs. They are right up against a thick stand of trees, so we know follow up shots will be limited at best. Once again, firing in sync we drop two pigs.

We must have walked a 10K that night. Between the adrenalin filled stalks and shooting, we did what the best of friends always do. We talked about families, kids, and living out destinies. We talked about the successes we’ve had hunting together, and the traditions now tied to it. We talked of plans to come, gear to try, trips to take. No, this isn’t your father’s deer camp. It’s tactical hog hunting, but still the best of times for the best of friends. I wish you could have joined us. I hope you get to do the same with the finest people you know this year and next. It made for a Thanksgiving to remember, and a Christmas hunt to plan. Beyond eradication, beyond the special weapons and tactics, this is what tactical hog hunting is all about.

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