The Trail, Pulsar’s new flagship thermal riflescope, was released this year at SHOT Show in Las Vegas and is starting to show up on shelves across the country. Weeks before its release, I was lucky enough to be a member of a privileged 4-person team afforded an opportunity to put the Trail to the test against Texas’s ever-growing feral hog population in the humble but bountiful Avalon, just south of the DFW metroplex. Two in our group were veteran hog hunters, while two of us had never hunted hogs in our lives.
Though I’ve had my fair share of bloody hands calling predators, chasing deer and snacking on rabbit across family land, I fell into the newbie category on this little adventure. In somewhat unfamiliar territory, we enlisted the help of a man named Brett Jepsen, hunter extraordinaire and owner of 3 Curl Outfitters. Brett has a well-deserved reputation for putting hogs down across the state.
Properly outfitted, our next step was to get familiar with the Trail before getting down to business. The Pulsar Trail XP50 I was given was a few ounces lighter than the older Pulsar Apex XD50A I’m used to and seemed considerably smaller. Combined, those differences made it feel altogether like a more refined unit. Mounting it to a DPMS AR-10 (in .308, for inquiring minds), I noticed the mount is significantly different from previous Apex models. The Trail featured a new type of QD mount designed to keep it low on the rail, which I set loosely before being tightening down.
One of the standout features of the Trail (and many Pulsar products) is the one-shot zero system. Most people don’t know how to use this feature and will skip right on past it accordingly, but I happened to be a fan and was able to zero with two shots at my patented go-to thermal target, an ice cube wrapped in foil and pinned to the paper target down range. My next two groups confirmed a 100-yard zero and provided some extra time to admire the 640×480 sensor and display, the highest quality available in the Trail family.
Fast-forward to Tuesday evening at the lodge in Avalon with my fellow hunters and the 3 Curl team. Replete with hundreds of rounds, a dozen or so rifles and prepared to do some damage, we took to the freshly-corned fields of North Texas in an effort to help along the hog apocalypse.
Brett’s team had gone ahead to some of the hot spots identified by trail cams and tracked a sounder to a nearby field. It took about 20 minutes of driving, alternatively measured as one breathless sentence from the most talkative of our group, before we killed the headlights and pulled into a ditch on the side of the road. We quietly poured onto the field and walked single-file from the truck with one of Brett’s scouts leading the way, thermal monocular in hand. In almost complete, cloud-covered darkness, we each followed the grayscale silhouette a foot or so in front of us until, one by one, our boots quit their crunching on the cracked red dirt.
Like a firing squad, most with shooting sticks, we lined up. I chose to adopt my tried and true Army kneeling stance, trusting in my muscle memory. I pulled the Trail’s eyecup up to my glasses, kissing my right eye night vision goodbye; I could see them as clear, if not more clearly than during the day – maybe 60 yards off. I counted about 20 cob rollers eating a hard-working famer’s livelihood right out of the ground, causing untold financial damage, unaware of their inevitable future on my kitchen table.
While waiting for the others to set up, I tweaked the brightness and contrast until I could see the individual hairs matting my dinner’s back. The tree line behind them was a crisp and well-defined point of no return – I knew once they made it there even my top-of-the-line Trail wasn’t going to help.
The guide tapped my shoulder and I gave the thumbs up. A whispered countdown ended with a hail of bullets heading hogward, immediately accompanied by the trademark pandemonium a sounder creates when at risk of transforming from pig to pork. I was able to crack off about five rounds confidently during the hustle, maybe half of which landed (and only one effectively, rolling a sow who still had the wherewithal to run off), then quickly cursed myself for refusing when handed a shooting stick; one of many lessons I learned from the veteran hog hunters that week. When the smoke cleared, three piles of soon-to-be sausage lay on the ground, between 150 and 200 pounds each – none of them mine. I stood up and we walked out to retrieve them. Despite my initial failure, blood rushed through my veins, still full of adrenaline. I was already thinking about the next field and the rush of this new, amazing experience: thermal hog hunting – I was hooked.
Author: Cole Justice