The first official East Texas hunt for the SHWAT™ Team was an exciting success! We were well equipped with a wide variety of some of the best gear available and had good land to hunt on. Everyone we met – the lease manager, the folks at Wulf Outdoor Sports, the LaCrosse Boot rep, the waitress at the local restaurant, the Game Warden, even the State Trooper who pulled me over – all were excited to have us there, doing what SHWAT™ does! And I enjoyed meeting them all. Then there are all the people and their respective companies that made the gear side of the hunt a success.
So, how did the gear do? Great! The only real letdown was that we didn’t see any hogs in daylight so we didn’t get a chance to use the Contour Cameras from Daniel Defense. We’ll have no shortage of opportunities to put those to use, so keep an eye out for some cool footage.
Starting after sunrise, Jonathan, Brian and I head out. I choose a custom built Accurate Armory AR-15 configured for daylight, setup with a Daniel Defense 16 inch barrel with 1:7 twist and a BattleComp 2.0 on the end. With a Daniel Defense Lite Rail 14.0 Rifle Extended rail mounted, I have plenty of options for trying out almost any accessory. Also installed are a 45 degree Battle Arms Development Ambidextrous Safety Selector (or B.A.D. A.S.S. for short), KNS Precision Gen 2 Nonrotating Trigger/Hammer Pins and a Falcon Industries Ergo Grip. For this morning, I have an Eotech EXPS 3.0 with G23.FTS 3x magnifier mounted to the gun. Up front, I have a Magpul AFG to give me a comfortable grip for my support hand. Also mounted at six o’clock on the rail was an Insight MX6 Laser Tactical Illuminator with tape switch. All this is attached to me by a VTAC LaRue Padded Sling. I’m also carrying a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 with Crimson Trace Laser Grips in case the unexpected happens with the rifle at close range, and as a “finisher” as Dr. John J Woods puts it. With all this ready to go, I load up with DRT Ammo’s 79 grain Terminal Shock .223 Rem FMHP.
Over all, this is a great kit! The fit and finish on the Accurate Armory guns is among the best I’ve seen. While it doesn’t affect functionality, the upper and lower receivers match precisely, so there is no looseness at all. The benefit is a feel of quality and it eliminates any rattling. The milspec trigger is also the best I’ve personally used. I’m not saying it is smooth as silk and breaks like glass. It is a milspec trigger, not one of Bill Wilson’s top of the line triggers. But considering it’s DNA, it is smooth enough and the pull weight is such that getting a good shot is not difficult. The Eotech with 1 MOA dot and 65 MOA ring in front of the flip-to-side-magnifier is great, giving me the ability to quickly engage hogs from point blank out to 200 yards, the longest shot I would have encountered. It only occupies 2 ¾ in of rail space. With the dangerous nature of wild hogs, I like the 65 MOA circle that can be placed on a fast moving or charging pig at close range. It queues my eye into the dot faster. The small, but clearly visible 1 MOA dot is great for longer shots where precision is needed and is not affected by the magnifier. The VTAC two point sling is comfortable and provides the flexibility to easily adapt to different shooting positions. In my case it is also nice to have the QD attachments so I can quickly remove the sling for pictures or move it to another gun when needed. The Insight MX6 provides white light and visible laser. The light is dead weight during the day, but it stays mounted since the integrated laser is zeroed and the added ounces are minimal for such a device.
All this gear and no hogs out to be shot! At least Brian McCombie had killed a hog the night before so it was SHWAT™ Team: 1, Hogs: 1. So we are forced to eat some of the best venison we’ve ever tasted courtesy of David, who was our host on the lease. Now it’s time to gear up for the night .
We plan our individual locations and get moving. This night I take the Nitehog TUSKIR384 mounted on a Smith & Wesson M&P 15T with 16 inch 1:8 barrel, set up with a Timney trigger and Hogue pistol grip. I load with DRT Ammo’s 55 grain .223.
It’s the middle of April so the temperature is perfect, but there is no moon. Out here in deep east Texas, the towns are small and the trees are tall and dense, so it is very dark. Even with my eyes adjusted for the night, the unevenness of the light sandy colored roads is not easily made out. That is, until I shoulder my rifle with the thermal sight on it. Now this is a game changer. I can now see animals better in the dark than I can in the daylight. A mouse down the road a ways? Yep, I see it. An armadillo trying to escape down the side of the road? It won’t escape my bullet tonight. Mark Craighead would love this! There is rabbit back in the trees a bit. I enjoy just watching him for a while. He’s completely unaware that I’m present, in spite of the soft crunching of my boots when I slowly shift my feet. No hogs here. Suddenly, I hear a shot. Then several rapid shots! The plan was for the team to safely converge on the location of any shots fired. I know Jonathan, and I know that if he was shooting like that, then at least one hog was trying to sour his day one way or another. I move quickly, meeting Brian McCombie along the way. Together we move toward Jonathan’s location. Upon finding Jonathan, we also find a dead hog! Now it’s SHWAT™ Team: 2, Hogs: 1.
There is still plenty of night left. We formulate a new plan. This time, Jonathan and I stick together and Brian splits off. As we pass an opening in the trees we had previously named, the “Shooting Gallery”, Jonathan raises a hand signaling me to stop. It’s so dark, I don’t notice we are walking past an opening in the trees we named the Shooting Gallery. He points out where we are. It’s a long (about 175 yards or so) narrow clear cut area, with the lowest spot being at the half way point. A feeder is on the left at the far end. This is also the spot McCombie had been at just before Jonathan shot his pig.
I raise my rifle with the thermal sight to scan the Gallery. Our timing is perfect! A good sized hog is stepping out of the trees from the left at about 125 yards. I get ready for the shot. It’s perfect. She stops to eat the corn we put out earlier in the day, offering me a wide open profile. Jonathan urges me to wait. It only takes seconds. Another hog. Then more. Now we are looking at 12 – 15 hogs. The two biggest ones are next to each other, both broadside to us and closer than the rest. About 10 of them move up the hill away from us. No sense in letting our two get further from us.
We agree the time is now. Jonathan is on my right, so he takes aim at the hog on the right and I settle in on the left hog. Jonathan says, “shoot on 1” and starts the count. “5-4-3-2.” BANG! Simultaneous shots, just as Fred Mastison talks about in his article on Multi Hog Tactical Engagements. I never lose my sight picture. My hog is down! But it’s getting back up. “No you don’t!” I’m thinking. Immediately I make a follow up shot. Hit again! But she is still bugging out. She’s not moving too quickly, but cover is close. One more shot sent downrange, but she is already moving into the brush and the shot misses. I still see some fast moving, small hogs escaping over the rise at 150+ yards. It’s safe to shoot, so I take one more shot. As far as I can tell, it’s a miss and there are no more pigs visible in my thermal sight.
Time to track down my pig. We move down the Shooting Gallery, carefully scanning for signs of an angry, wounded hog. Still using the Nitehog thermal sight, I find a hot spot in the brush where I saw her disappear. It has to be her. I stay focused on her, while Jonathan follows close behind, scanning for his possibly wounded hog. About 20 yards into the brush and trees, we find her down but still alive. My first shot connected, but high enough to miss the vitals. My second shot was under the spine 2/3 of the way back. No exit wounds. Theoretically, neither of these should be mortal wounds, but she is down for good and clearly on her way out.
Our DRT Ammo rep says that the bullet must have created enough of a shock wave to wreak havoc on the vitals and caused massive bleeding. Based on what I saw in the gel tests we did, I have no doubt he is right. A shot behind the ear using DRT .45 from Jonathan’s old Colt 1911 Gold Cup, turns out the lights and it’s time for pictures. It is now SHWAT™ Team: 3, Hogs: 1.
With that, we regroup with Brian and decide it’s time to get back to the hotel for a nap before, we change our gear out for daytime again.
The day is spent waiting out the rain since none of us want to slog around in the wet. With the daylight long gone, at 11:00 PM the rain stops and we head out in our brand new LaCross Venom Scent APG HD Realtree Snake Boots (that’s a mouth full) courtesy of the LaCross rep that happened to be at Wulf Outdoor Sports at the same time we were. What an improvement those were over my regular boots for the mud!
Today we are joined by Honorary SHWAT™ Team member, Jared Hilton. If it weren’t for Jared, Jonathan and I wouldn’t be hog hunting and SHWAT™ wouldn’t exist. But that’s a whole different story. I’m using my Accurate Armory rifle again with the same setup as my daytime profile, but now in front of my Eotech, I’ve added the a prototype Laser Devices Inc. SPIR (Special Purpose Infrared LED Illuminator) and Gen 3 PVS-24 NV that Jonathan used last night with an ACOG. With no moon, that SPIR made the shot possible, working nicely with the EOTech and 3x Magnifier.
We find our quarry in the same place as last night. Using the count down again, Jonathan and I fire on the same hog at the same time. I miss and I know it. I wasn’t steady and my point of aim was slightly left when it was time to fire. I should have waited. This time, I lose my sight picture due to muzzle flash. When the PVS-24 recovers, the hogs are just standing there wondering what the noise is. They are about to find out. Jonathan is using the TUSKIR thermal sight and is able to make a follow up shot right away. The hogs scatter and we don’t see any more the rest of the night.
Once again, the critters are all in hiding during daylight hours. However, we find that Jonathan not only killed the hog we shot at last night, but he shot it straight through the eye! SHWAT™ Team: 4, Hogs: 2.
We’ll chalk this hunt up as a success. True to our name, we used Special Hog Weapons And Tactics™ to reduce the hog population on that piece of land. I’ve learned a few things about hunting at night using NV and thermal equipment. We not only had some of the best and most expensive tools of the trade, we also used some of the more affordable tools too. As you would expect, the more expensive, super high tech ones offered additional capabilities. They also had limitations and even drawbacks. We’ll we get back you on the details of how all the gear worked. I’ve also decided I need to spend some quality time with Fred Mastison at the range. Oh, and next time we are headed to East Texas, I’ll give that State Trooper a call about getting rid of some of the hogs bothering his grandmother. . .
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