I sat is a West Texas box blind, ten feet in the air and 120 yards from a feeder, on a cold, clear night, the front window of the blind open and me trying not to fall asleep. While I love night hog hunting, I’d been up since Five AM, it was 11 at night now, and I was drifting into that dozy state where I told myself I was just resting my eyes…
And then I heard that tell-tale grunt from the darkened mesquite. Hog!
I sat up, and carefully eased my shotgun out of the window, a Mossberg 500 Tactical Tri-Rail, a 12 gauge pump with a 20-inch barrel. Holding eight rounds, the Tri-Rail fore-end has three Picatinny rails attached for maximum tactical flexibility. The shotgun was topped with a Leupold VR-X 1.25-4X Hog Scope, and I’d attached a Nite Hunter green light to one of the front-end rails.
I listened hard, holding my breath, and heard more grunting directly in front of me and (I was guessing) a good 100 yards away. I pointed the Tri-Rail’s barrel toward the horizon and gently pushed in the button to illuminate my Nite Hunter light, then slowly brought down the Nite Hunter’s green beam of light.
The boar looked pretty good sized, had a cream-colored coat, and his nose was in the dirt, rooting.
I took a deep breath, let it out and lined up the scope’s center reticle on his shoulder area and then down a bit, knowing a hog’s lungs and heart are fairly low and forward. I squeezed the trigger. Through my scope, all I saw was a blast of light and smoke, a thick cloud that reflected the green night hunting light right back into my face. It took maybe 30 seconds for the smoke to clear, though it felt like an hour, my heart beating in my ears. I swung my light back over the area where the hog had stood.
Zero. No pig. What in the hell?
The thought of a miss always hurts. But this was worse because I knew that a whiffed shot was all my fault. No way I could blame my hunting rig.
Back home a couple of weeks earlier, I had taken the Tri-Rail to my shooting range and sighted it in, first at about 30 meters and then at 100 meters. The Leupold VX-R scope was a perfect fit for the shotgun, sturdy and compact, that pulled in good light and presented very clear images. Within a few shots, I had the shotgun hitting where I pointed.
I was using Winchester’s Razor Boar XT hog slugs, 2 ¾-inch shells firing a one-ounce, segmenting, hollow-point slug. Once I got the scope zeroed in, I placed three Razor Boar slugs in a group with all three shots touching at 100 meters. I was more impressed.
When I was in my early 20’s, I used slug guns to deer hunt in my home state of Wisconsin. My hunting buddies and I did the “paper plate” sight in, and once we got three or four “pumpkin ball” (Foster-style) shotgun slugs into a paper plate at 75 yards, we were happy and we were ready.
Since then, I’d done mostly rifle hunting for deer-sized game. Shotguns were for waterfowl and turkeys; they certainly weren’t accurate enough for bigger game.
But a lot has changed in the world of shotguns and shotgun slugs. When the Tri-Rail rig started laying in those slugs nearly on top of each other, I knew I had a real hunting gem. The proven pump feeding system worked flawlessly. And the rails would let me put on all manner of accessories to fit the hunting I was doing and conditions.
Now, it is a pump shotgun and the Razor Boar XT slugs pack a pretty good punch. So there’s definitely recoil. Not as bad as, say, the kick to your shoulder when you fire off a 3.5-inch goose hunting load. But very solid. Hold on firmly or it may jump up and slap your cheek, hard.
Back at my western Texas hunting stand, I was thinking about climbing down and looking for blood, when I caught sight of a jerking movement right at ground level: a hog’s foot kicking at the air.
I hadn’t missed at all. The Tri-Rail placed the shot right where I had aimed, and the one-ounce slug had hit him like a freight train, flattening 230-pounds of very solid boar right where he stood. In fact, his nose was essentially in the same place it had been when I shot. The rest of him had flipped right over where he stood, feet facing me.
That was the first hog I’d taken with a shotgun, and he was a real trophy to me, my first cream-colored hog with thick, curly hair like I’d never seen on a hog.
The Mossberg Tri-Rail is now my go-to rig when slug hunting is on the calendar. Hogs, deer, bear, I know they are all dead at 150 yards, as long as I do my part. And if I am night hunting, I can quickly attach a Nite Hunter battery-powered light to a rail, and I am ready to spot and drop hogs at that same distance or better.
McCombie’s Slug Gun Hog Rig:
Mossberg 500 Tactical Tri-Rail pump shotgun, 12 gauge with a 20-inch barrel.
Leupold VX-R Hog scope, 1.25-4x20mm. http://www.leupold.com/
Winchester Razor Boar XT slugs, 2 ¾-inch shells, one-ounce, segmenting, hollow point slugs, 1,450fps. http://www.winchester.com/
Nite-Hunter NHV Rifle Mounted System Red/Green Combo (includes both Green and Red modules), 300 lumens, plus hardware to attach to scopes or rail, and battery charger.