As you may know, we’ve been helping farmers out with nuisance hogs lately. Early this week we continued this mission and had one of the best nights of hog hunting we’ve had to date. It has been amazing to see the damage these creatures are doing to crop fields in our local area.
Also, SCDNR should be commended because they worked quickly with farmers and us to gain depredation permits to help control the crop destruction by these hogs. We always try to abide by the laws and regulations and hunt ethically. So kudos to SCDNR for assisting with this problem and working efficiently.
The First Hog
Gavin and I arrived to the farm around 9pm and upon arrival there was nothing on the corn pile. I state this because recently hogs had been coming in as the sun went down, but that only seemed to be for the few weeks following the arrival of little ones (piglets). Now they are going back to their night routines.
We hadn’t been in the field long when we started seeing deer. Thus far in our experiences at this farm the deer tend to stay away from areas hogs are in and they hadn’t been eating the corn too much. However, on this night the deer went to the corn pile. They ate for a while and some left, but one deer remained longer than the others. As the deer was eating I saw hogs approaching in the woods from the left. I wondered what would happen in this scenario. I figured the hogs would startle the deer and scare it off. However, it was exactly the opposite. I couldn’t believe it when the deer blew and the hogs ran off into the woods! Unfortunately, I did not catch this on video.
Time passed and the deer finally left the corn pile. Gavin and I were whispering to each other about how we couldn’t believe that a deer just ruined our hog hunt. We were already planning for the next time if we had a deer come out we would flash lights at it or something to make it move. We were kicking ourselves out there in the field while the deer walked towards us. In this scenario, we had a perfect wind. It was hitting us in our faces so the deer/hogs couldn’t smell us at all. Surprisingly the deer got closer and closer to us and at it’s closest was about 20 yards away. I got some extremely close video of this deer. Eventually the deer passed us and we started the hog watch again.
We were sitting there watching some raccoons when I noticed more heat coming through the woods. I told Gavin to get ready. Sure enough the hogs came out and got on the pile. They weren’t on the corn too long before something startled them and again we were frustrated. Though, this time they came back relatively quickly.
When a group of hogs are on the corn pile and very close together it’s hard to discern what is what. That is, you could be shooting at a hog’s head, rear quarters, vital area, non-vital area, etc. and not really know because everything blends together. This is why it’s good to spread corn out in a long line or across a wide area. On this hunt the majority of the corn had already been eaten so there wasn’t much left to spread the hogs out. So it all came down to time and patience. It was a waiting game.
Eventually the biggest hog in the group separated itself and I told Gavin to hold on because it was fixing to happen. I put the cross-hairs on the hog and started squeezing off very slowly in hopes of ensuring a smooth trigger pull. A few seconds later the big hog was on the ground and the remaining hogs had retreated into the woods. I hoped to get off more than one shot, but by the time I was able to get back on any hogs in the scope there wasn’t a good shot to be had so I held off. This hunt was a true test of patience.
The Second and Third Hog
We made a trip to the processor to drop the hog off and then headed to another field. Here again nuisance hogs were devastating a local farmer’s crop field. We sat and sat and sat. We knew the hogs were causing big problems, but yet nothing had shown for nearly 2 hours. Then we saw a bobcat stroll along the edge of the field. It was neat to see the bobcat’s movements.
Gavin and I were both starting to yawn and the clock was getting close to 1am. We were somewhat frustrated that nothing had shown up when we knew they were somewhere very close by. Gavin said “Ok buddy, we’re going to give it another 10 minutes and then we’re leaving”. He had resorted to reading random FaceBook posts to pass time and I was scanning in the monocular.
As I’d been scanning the field earlier in the evening I had seen heat signatures from electrical units, random lights, birds in trees, and just other objects that were giving off heat. I made mental notes of these so that I didn’t get excited every time I saw them. On a side note, for some reason it’s easy to get a little disoriented when looking through night vision. I don’t mean like get lost, but rather it’s harder to gauge distance and you can get a little turned around. I say this because as I scanned I saw some heat signatures near where I’d previously seen other signatures. It was late and we were tired and I thought to myself that I remember seeing heat signatures on this side of the field, but not really that many.
Then I saw one of them move.
It was one of the most interesting sights I’ve seen while hunting. I watched 12 hogs come across the top of a hill in a line. It was almost like a scene from a Braveheart movie and they were coming at a pretty good clip. I told Gavin to get in the gun. He put his phone and way and got in the gun. I said “Look to the right” and he spun the gun directly in front of us and I saw where he was looking and said “No you’re other right… to the right! To the right!” I grew frustrated with him quickly because I was seeing what was happening and he couldn’t find them. Finally, he turned to where the hogs were and I believe he said, “Oh my God!”.
Gavin counted the hogs and said, “Man look there are 12 hogs in that pack!”. The hogs were milling around and coming towards us, but they were also arching towards a side of the field that we couldn’t shoot towards. I talked to Gavin and told him that if we were patient we could potentially have a very close encounter. We discussed it, but ultimately, we decided to go ahead and start shooting because we couldn’t predict where the hogs were going to go and we didn’t want to completely miss out on a chance to shoot them in the case that they continued heading the wrong direction. I told Gavin to go ahead and let her fly.
From watching the group, we could easily tell that the biggest hog was on the far left and he just happened to be the closest one to us. Gavin waited on the hog to move to just the right angle and then he buckled that rascal to his knees. As soon as he shot the remaining hogs took off to the left. The video will illustrate this better than I can here with words, but it was a sight to be seen. Gavin continued peppering the hogs as they ran. From watching the video, we believe he hit more than 2, but there was one hog that reversed course and started coming back towards the top of the hill. In the end, Gavin dropped it as well. It was an impressive shooting display from my point of view so props to Gavin “The Chesterfield County Hawg Whisperer” Jackson for getting it done.
By the end of the night we’d shot 3 hogs and had a ton of fun! We’d like to again give shout outs to SCDNR for working with us to get the depredation permit, Reel Determined Outdoors for handling all our artillery & gear needs, Anderson Rifles for making a great gun, and Pulsar for making top-notch thermal equipment that makes all this possible.
If you have hog problems, let us know and we can assist! Contact us on the site, Twitter, or Facebook.
When we started down the path of hunting hogs we soon needed to find a hog processor. As hogs haven’t been really prevalent in our area of the state in the past there aren’t hog processors readily available as there are deer processors. After some research, word-of-mouth connections, and a few successful hunts we’ve found a hog processor in Chesterfield County that is top notch!
After getting several hogs on the ground we found Declan Rollins of Big Oak Processing.
Declan is the man! His processing facility is located in Ruby, SC and he does a great job. All you have to do is drop the game off (you can also weigh it there if needed) and he’ll call you to get your order details and then he’ll call you again when the meat is ready. Declan delivers the meat in vacuum sealed packages and he is very reasonably priced.
So if you’re in need of a skilled processor who can handle hogs, give Declan a call at 843.622.7693.
Kelleytown Baptist Church in Hartsville, SC is hosting a free event that you should know about. The Sportsman's Banquet and Take-a-Kid Fishing Tournament will be held Friday, June 2nd & 3rd. See the below flyer for more information.
Download the Event Flyer Download Detailed Schedule flyer.
As you may be aware we’ve been helping local South Carolina farmers with hog problems in recent weeks. We continue hunting hogs in hopes of reducing the crop and land devastation they cause which can literally put a financial hurting on farmers and business owners… but more on that in a future blog!
We learn more and more about hog hunting with each week, each hunt, and each track of land we pick up. Hogs are some tough animals and they’ll eat just about anything. As we learn we’ve also been adjusting and updating our strategy. One of the updates we’ve made has been to the firearm of choice.
From 223, to 300 Blackout, to 308
One thing it didn’t take us long to figure out was that our night-vision setup for coyotes was too small for some of the larger hogs we were chasing. The setup was an AR-15 shooting a 223. Yes, you can take a hog with a 223, but at the distances we found ourselves shooting from and with some larger hogs we were encountering the decision to upgrade wasn’t a hard one.
The first move was to change out the upper on the AR-15 in order to shoot the 300 Blackout. We, again, reached out to the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to get exactly what we needed. The team at RDO had the new upper overnighted and in our hands by week’s end. Talk about turn-around time! We were excited to move up in bullet size and went back to the range to ensure we had it zero’d in. It only took 2 shots to confirm. The Pulsar thermal scope proved its accuracy quickly and easily.
At the end of that week we had some hogs coming in on a pattern and we setup on them. Sure enough they came out right when expected and at a pretty close distance the 300 blackout put a hurting on one of them. However, we ended up trailing the hog for 2 hours when the blood trail just ended. Now I know you may be reading this and saying “Ya’ll just can’t shoot!”. I’m not going to argue with anyone… a 300 blackout can definitely get the job done on a hog and we even got one with it, but we were tired of shooting hogs and having to trail them forever.
Perhaps I could have made a better shot and not been in that scenario, but the repeated long nights of trailing hogs forever was getting frustrating. In the midst of frustration, being soaked in sweat, having mosquitoes wearing me out, and walking in woods trailing the hog for 2 hours I told Gavin that I’d had enough and that I was to upgrade (yet again) so that we wouldn’t end up that situation anymore. In that moment, it was a done deal.
The next day we contacted Reel Determined Outdoors again to confirm that they would work with us on a gun exchange. Upon confirmation, the new Anderson Arms 308 "Hunter" was ordered. Of course, we stayed with the Anderson Arms RF-85 setup too! In a matter of days, the new gun arrived and we were on our way.
In just holding the AM-10 308 one can instantly tell its heavier than the AR-15 platform. We found that the heavier weight makes it easier to steady the gun when shooting. The AM-10 was also a few inches longer than the AR-15. We figured that out because it wouldn’t fit in the same pelican case as the AR!
To give you an example of the difference in power from the AR-15 to the AM-10 models we can reflect on the sighting in of all these models. With the 223 and 300 Blackout when we shot the hot-hands or ice packs we had to then go down and look for the hole where we hit the target. With the 308 on the first shot the bag of ice exploded, the flat wood holding the target fell off the stake, and the stake had a huge hole in it. After that first trigger pull we knew we were dealing with a much more powerful weapon.
Back to Hunting…
On the next two hog hunts we didn’t see anything. Temperatures have recently been warming up and it seems the hogs are still in the area, but their pattern is changing. They are coming in at various times throughout the night (per what the game cam is showing us). We stayed out late one evening in the drizzling rain waiting on them and never saw anything. On a different occasion, we woke up at 4am - all trying to cross paths with a specific set of hogs, but no luck yet. It has been frustrating recently, but we’re staying after it!
When Coyotes Crash the Hog Hunt
That leads us to this past weekend. One area we hog hunt also has a bad coyote problem. We frequently see and/or hear coyotes when hog hunting this location. We are intently focused on getting some hog meat in the freezer, but whenever a coyote comes on the scene the hunt instantly turns into a coyote hunt! This often happens during deer season as well.
It was Saturday night, hog bait was out, hogs had been frequenting the area, and over 40 lbs of corn had been eaten the night before. It was a good scenario and it we hoped it was just a matter of time. The waiting game had begun.
Early in the hunt some deer worked the edge of the field to the right. They were in no hurry and it was neat to see them there. Their presence signaled a quiet entry and setup. If the deer weren’t spooked neither would be the hogs.
I was scanning the field when I picked up some heat at the back-left corner of the field. I could tell from the length of the tail, size of the animal, and the way it trotted that it was a coyote. The area has some hills in it and the coyote was showing in and out of the hills. I probably watched the first coyote for 10 minutes before the 2nd one showed up. The first coyote was pawing at the dirt… it was neat to watch. The 2nd coyote was seemingly smaller in size, but it wasn’t interested in whatever the initial coyote was messing around with. In a way, I was hoping they would leave the field and I could focus on getting a hog, but when I saw them heading into the clear area of the field I knew I had to handle business.
The two coyotes then turned and started coming towards my direction. It was intense to have them closing that much space and being up close and personal with me. Since they were coming my way I just let them continue to see how close they would get. Then the lead coyote started bending toward my left and was in some brush. I looked back to the right and the larger coyote was following suit. I was getting ready to drop the hammer. All I needed was for the coyote to pause. Well in an odd occurrence of events one of the deer that were working up the edge of the field just started blowing like they do. I guess they smelled me or something they didn’t like, but whatever it was I was glad because at the sound of the blow the coyote paused and turned his head quickly toward the sound. That pause was all I needed and I pulled the trigger.
The coyote instantly dropped and to my surprise the lead coyote then turned and ran back across me heading to the far corner of the field. I started yelling and barking at the coyote to make it stop. However, the coyote wasn’t stopping so I squeezed off a second shot on a prayer hoping I could connect, but was unable to.
For now, I can say that a 308 is nothing but lights out for a coyote! I’m sure it will handle business on a hog too, but that’s for a future blog entry so stay tuned...
Here’s the video of the hunt…
We were recently approached for assistance by a South Carolina farmer with hog problems. He’d heard we had a night vision setup and that we could potentially help him with hog control. It took us a while to get a hog on the ground and this blog is the lead up to accomplishing the goal.
Hunting Coyotes Leads to Hunting Hogs
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog here then you’ll know that we recently upgraded to a night vision setup to better hunt coyotes. One of the locations where we hunt coyotes is near a farm and recently the farmer told us that hogs were really giving him problems. They were rooting up his land so much that he’s also hired a guy to trap the hogs. Nobody on our team is a hog expert but we wanted to do our best to help and we were up for learning!
The trapper was regularly catching hogs in the pen and we figured we’d put out a game camera to get a feel for what was going on. In 3 days we had 600 pictures and there was a large pack of hogs that were coming in all throughout the night starting shortly after sundown. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but we guessed 10-15. We got a pattern for when they were coming and we threw out a little corn and planned a date to try out first hog hunt.
The First Hunt
Gavin and I were excited to try and get a hog. Neither of us had shot a hog before because we don’t have them around our hunting leases. It would be a first for us and that helped make it a good challenge. I guess I should also add here that our first hog hunt also occurred during the same time frame where we were having issues sighting in the thermal scope!
On our way to the farm we talked about waiting until the whole group got there so we could have better chances for multiple hogs and we could pick out the biggest one. They were coming out in groups, per the recon from the game camera. We had a plan and were ready to rock.
We arrived to the farm around 9 and got setup. We’d been there about 35 minutes when we started to see some heat signatures coming through the woods. At first it was one big hog, walking solo and I was whispering to Gavin “Shoot that big rascal!” but Gavin held off. I was all excited and Gavin was actually doing what we’d discussed on the way over there… and I was glad he did. Just a few minutes later the woods lit up. It was a sight to see. 12 hogs all came from the same direction and headed out to the corn. Having never seen a hog before I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how quickly they moved around. I figured they’d be slow, sluggish, and hold still for long periods of time, but that was not the case. They can move pretty quickly. Once the whole group got out there Gavin picked one out and shot. The whole group scattered and he shot again. We went down and walked and looked for blood… nothing anywhere to be found. We’d missed. Another trip to the shooting range was to come.
More Trips to the Farm
After missing the hog we were again frustrated. We re-sighted the gun in and waited until the next weekend. All the while we’re putting out corn and the farmer is filling us in on when the hogs are back. On the next weekend that we could line things up we headed back. This time as we approached the field we saw the hogs entering the field from a different location. It was about to be the quickest hunt ever. Just when we started looking in the scope we heard coyotes howling very close to us. We stood there trying to figure out what to do. As we watched the hogs in the monocular the coyotes continued to howl and to our amazement the hogs turned around and exited the field. Looking back on it we think the hogs left to protect their young ones. They had 3 little hogs with them and leaving was probably the best bet for them with the coyotes howling like crazy on the edge of the field. After this happened we stayed there for a while and waited. We felt sure the hogs would return. They didn’t. So, we broke out the coyote call and stared calling coyotes. That’s the night I shot 2 coyotes on video as seen in this video.
Shooting the coyotes proved that the scope was indeed zero’d in and we had more confidence. The next weekend came around and we returned yet again. This time the hogs were there when we arrived! We got into position and it was Gavin’s turn on the gun again. He put the dot on the hog and let the hammer drop. We both could see in the monocular and scope that when he shot the hog he was aiming at jumped up in the air. We knew he’d hit it! We went down and found blood. We trailed blood for 2 hours through some very thick briars and ultimately the blood trail stopped and we never found the hog. Frustrating again, but we were inching closer.
Going From 223 to 300 Black Out
We reviewed the footage and it was evident that Gavin made a good shot. With this we discussed and researched and decided to make some changes. We worked with the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to change out the upper on the Anderson Rifles AR=15 from a 223 to a 300 black out. This is a unique capability of the AR that gives hunters flexibility. In this scenario, it allowed us to shoot a bigger bullet, one that most hog hunters use.
The next weekend we went back and stayed out there for 3 hours and never saw a hog, but did hear a bunch of coyotes and I missed a coyote! This time we knew the scope was dialed in, I’d just made a bad shot.
Interested in our setup?
We shoot an Anderson Arms AR-15 with RF-85 technology. (You never have to oil the gun). On top of the gun we have a Pulsar Thermal Scope + video recorder. Any Anderson gun and any Pulsar Thermal Scope will be great setup for you too!
We upgraded! Since the blog entry we've upgraded to the Anderson Arms AM-10 308 ( a bigger bullet). You can read about the new setup here.
The Hunt We Finally Got It Done
You may be reading and wondering “How many weekends is it going to take for things to line up for these guys?” … and that’s exactly what we were wondering too. Our luck would be changing soon though.
The farmer reached out to us about mid-week and said “The hogs are back big time”. He’d seen more and more evidence of the hogs rooting and they had wiped out all the corn that we had out. (Side note: trying to keep a pack of hogs fed with corn gets expensive quickly!) So we planned our hunt.
Again this time the hogs were out in the field as soon as we got to the field. Gavin and I quietly got into position. The whole time we could hear the hogs grunting and snorting down near the pen. From the look of the monocular it seemed like one hog was actually trapped in the pen, but we’d later see that it wasn’t.
It was Gavin’s “redemption hog” turn on the gun. I’ve got him trained not to be shooting anything until I’ve got video rolling too 😉 Anyways, we were in position, gun was sighted in very nicely, video was rolling and I gave Gavin the greenlight. We were whispering to each other about which one he was going to shoot. I was watching in the monocular while Gavin was in the scope. Gavin asked me if I was ready and I said yes… then there was a long pause. Gavin giggled… he said “I didn’t take the safety off!” Yes it sounds crazy, but we were so worked up and ready to get it done that our hearts were beating and we were both breathing heavy! Then he said “Aight, I’m shooting the big one” and moments later the first shot rang out. As they ran off Gavin continued to unload on the big boy, which we’d also discussed on the way to the farm. At the shot there was no sign of hitting the hog. It did not jump, flinch, or move awkwardly. With the 223 we tried for head shots, but with the 300 black out we put it on the shoulder. Gavin and I talked as we tried to calm down. He said he felt he made a good shot.
Minutes later we went down to the area where the hogs were. No blood. What! He made a good shoot, the gun was sighted in, we’d upgraded to a bigger bullet… why did it not work out! We were already making plans to go back, yet again, to the shooting range. We decided to walk over in the direction where the hogs ran. There was no blood anywhere to be found. We scanned in the thermal looking for heat signatures in the field and didn’t see anything. The only thing we saw were a few wet spots that looked like slobber or something in the dirt, but it definitely wasn’t blood. We were growing frustrated as you can imagine.
This farm is in an area with lots of hills. As you can see in the video the hogs were just behind a small hill when we shot. As we talked and walked the edge of the field you could just tell there was a vibe of frustration, an energy of we-didn’t-get-it-done-yet-again going on. Then Gavin said “What is that?” And I said “What?” He pulled out the thermal scope and said “That’s the freaking hog right there!” and I looked and man it was huge laying right there on the edge of the field. What happened was the hog did not bleed at all and ran about 60 yards around a corner and laid down on the edge of the woods just behind a hill of dirt. This is why we could not see it in the thermal. Instantly we got all excited and the vibe changed from one of dejection and frustration to one of celebration and excitement! We’d finally accomplished the goal and got a hog on the ground. And yes the 300 blackout really put it on the hog. We high-fived and drug the hog out to take some pics. When we grabbed the hog to drag it and take pics we had to re-grip the legs because it was so big. I’ve drug a lot of deer in my life and this thing was heavier than any deer I’ve ever drug. I’m guessing it went around 220 lbs. It was a healthy female hog and yes it stunk!
After multiple attempts at getting a hog we finally succeeded and it felt good to get in the end zone for once! We finally had proof to the farmer that we could help him out. We’ve finally got things dialed in and set up and guess what… the farmer has already let us know that the hogs are back again so we will be heading back out sooner than later.
Do you have problems with hogs or know a farmer who does?
We are now ready to help! Just reach out to us here on the website via the Contact Us form or contact Gavin Jackson at 843.517.9920.
This past weekend we had a great time in the woods even though we didn’t come away with a turkey. The area we hunt in has been logged and “clear-cut” by timber companies since last season. This caused a lot of changes in how animals (both deer and turkey) move and where they roost, strut, gobble etc. We have been adapting our game plans just as the game has adapted its patterns.
On opening weekend we were out and on the move. We definitely heard turkeys gobbling, but they were a little bit further away from where we were. In the weekends since we’ve been closing ground on them and getting closer to the right spot. This past Saturday we had a few different locations lined up and our first setup was right on the money.
We entered the woods where we anticipated the gobbler being based off what he’d taught us on earlier hunts. As we walked in he was gobbling from the roost and it was still dark out. We continued in and he kept gobbling We set up on the top of a ridge in some oaks near a creek. We had 2 decoys (a jake and a hen) out just 20 yards in front of us. We could tell he was close. He was hammering back at nearly all our calls. With each gobble, he was getting closer and our hearts started beating a little faster.
The sun wasn’t even up really good before this bird was on the ground and he was closing distance fast. On one of his last gobbles Jason said “He’s close, be still”. However, we couldn’t see him. From his gobbles, it was clear that he was out in front of us and to our right a little bit. He was working up the ridge coming up the hill that we were sitting on. I was sitting on a tree on the left and Jason was on a tree right beside of me to my right. We had a pop-up blind in an arc in front of us. It was fixing to be on!
I had the camera pointed in the direction the turkey seemingly came from. All of a sudden I saw his white head coming through the woods. He was a big turkey! Oh, man it was awesome. As the turkey came up the hill he was behind several trees. What I didn’t realize was that Jason had a clear and direct shot at the turkey and could have shot him several times. However, he was waiting on the turkey to come out into the clearing so we could get good video. After all the turkey was closing ground quickly and was only 3 steps from being out in the clearing.
When the turkey got up on the hill pretty good he was hesitating and spinning behind some trees. I caught him on camera as he went from the right to the left behind the tree. It was a textbook hunt. I felt as soon as he saw the jake decoy he would come up and spur it and we would have some epic footage! However, if you’ve turkey hunted before then you already know the story, it doesn’t always work out as you envision.
The turkey was headed to the lane for prime-time video and a kill shot. Then suddenly, he freaked out and started running and making the “putting” sound. Something about the setup spooked him. We weren’t making any noise, nobody was moving, something just set him off. Perhaps it was when he saw the decoys or maybe he saw unusual objects on the ground near him. Whatever it was he got out of there in no time flat!
It was unsuccessful as far as getting a turkey on the ground, but it was successful in the sense that we were exactly where we were supposed to be and had an awesome bird come in with 20 yards of us. It was a story we’ll be telling for years to come.
The 2nd Turkey
Jason and I sure did walk a lot that morning as we tried to get to different turkeys from different angles. I easily hit my daily “step count” and was sore the next day from walking around and up and down so many hills. We went to several different locations looking for birds and hunted most of the day. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon when we got on another turkey. We were, as they say, “Running and Gunning”.
It was much warmer by this time of the day and we were getting tired. We pulled up to a spot and started calling. A few seconds later a turkey hammered very close to us. Jason and I jumped up and were heading to sit down very quickly as if a bomb had just gone off. It was pretty funny. We sat down on a tree on the edge of the cutover and Jason started calling. The turkey hammered repeatedly and was getting closer. We hoped it was just a matter of time and that our persistence would be pay off!
One distraction we had at this point was that a huge fox-squirrel perched on a tree right beside us and was hissing repeatedly at us. He stayed there for about 15 to 20 minutes doing this. It was aggravating.
It didn’t take long before we saw the turkey come down the hill out of some small pines. He was not as big as the turkey from the morning hunt, but he was not bad at all. He was gobbling and puffing up and twirling as he came. We were, again, getting ready for prime-time footage.
The turkey was heading down the hill when he stopped behind some cedar trees. He had paused previously so at first it wasn’t a big deal. However, he stayed in this one spot and would not move. We called to him, he gobbled back. He puffed up and spun around and showed off, but would not come closer. They say that in the turkey world the female is supposed to go to the male and that at a certain point the male Tom will draw the line and not move any closer. If that is the case that is exactly what this Tom was doing. He simply would not advance. We sat there for 45 minutes watching this bird do the same thing over and over. It was both a beautiful sight and a frustrating experience at the same time.
We did everything we could think of to get him to come closer, but in the end, he would not come forward any more than he already had. Eventually he turned around and went back into the woods and continued to gobble at us and then we quietly slipped out of the woods and headed back in.
Focusing On the Positives
In situations like this you just have to find the positives… and for us there are several. We are very blessed to be able to simply get out and hunt. Everyone doesn’t have that privilege. Beyond that we are fortunate to have a few spots with turkeys on it and we are learning more about their general area and patterns with each hunt. It’s just a matter of time I believe! Ultimately though, getting a bird on the ground is not all it’s about. Being able to get out there with friends and see these sights up close in a great experience. We won’t soon forget any of these memories and hopefully they are just a chapter in the story of when we get the big Tom on the ground! Until then we’ll stay after it.
We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way:
The 2017 Predator Challenge was another successful event. We had hunters from SC, NC, & VA competing this year with a total of 86 teams and 281 hunters. We had been preparing to both host and participate in the competition all year and looked forward to its arrival. Out of all the years we’ve hosted the event it seemed like this year saw the most activity and movement from coyotes. Everyone we talked to seemed to have enjoyed the event regardless of how many coyotes they ended up getting on the ground.
As many of you know and as we mentioned yesterday at the check-in we don’t charge a fee for the competition and we don’t make money from it. We are regular hunters just like you who hope to protect our deer, turkey, duck, and others species for future hunters. (Hunting coyotes also helps protect local farmer’s livestock).
We would not be able to host the competition without the generous donations from our sponsors. They donate their products and services for free for the winners. They don’t have to do this! We ask that you patronize the sponsors by buying your goods, products, and services from them. Be sure to be vocal about our appreciation for their sponsorships. Without the sponsors we would not have a competition.
Competition Volunteers Thanks
Hosting a competition is not an easy task. There are tons of details to consider, emails to be sent, sponsors to connect with, hunters to explain (and re-explain) rules to, etc. You get what I’m saying… a competition doesn’t just host itself. With that said I’d like to also thank Gavin Jackson and Adam Smith. Gavin and Adam are the main guys behind making the competition possible. They stalk and wrangle sponsors, handle the Facebook promotions, constantly talk with hunters, promote the competition to everyone, build the check-in setup, handle the weighing of coyotes, and handle all the details that you don’t see on the surface. If you all see, know, or communicate with these guys be sure to thank them.
Did Changing the Date Result in Better Numbers?
Based on feedback from last year’s competition participants we moved the competition from January to March. This was done for the sake of listening to our participant’s feedback. This change allowed for the use of night vision for hunting coyotes as SCDNR has implemented a night-hunting program where hunters can register their lands for night hunting and use infrared and/or thermal optics to hunt coyotes.
Moving the competition to March ran the risk of much warmer weather, but we lucked out this year as it was cool the entire weekend. We were interested to see how moving the competition would affect the numbers at the check-in. Of course, there are more variables than just the time of year, but we really can’t control the weather. We anticipated a good turnout at the check-in as we received messages during the competition of people seeing a lot of coyotes while they were hunting. It seemed they were moving well this past weekend. It would turn out that we had a total of 57 coyotes checked-in, which is more than all previous years combined. Whether it was changing the competition from January to March or just a lucky streak of movement we don’t know, but we were pleased with the outcome.
This years winners were:
First Place – Jim Shepherd, Concord, NC - 12 Coyotes
Second Place – Carolina Coyote Slayers, Denver, NC - 8 Coyotes
Third Place + Big Dawg (42.8 lbs) – Wind Walkers Kryptonite, Lucknow SC – 7 Coyotes
Sportsman's Warehouse Gun Give-Away Winner - Ben McAlister, Monroe NC
Thanks, Surveys, & Video
Thanks to everyone who hunted in the competition. We appreciate your support and hope you enjoyed the event. We’ll be sending out emails asking for feedback very soon. We’ll see you next year at the check-in.
There are a few fruitful ways you can hunt bears using dogs. Having a very much prepared pack of well-trained hunting dogs is certainly necessary. A large portion of local people who hunt here utilize Tree Plotts, Walkers, Black and Tans, and Red Bones and cross breeds between these sorts of pooches.
Preparing for the bear season, regardless of the possibility that you have a later opening date, is not under any condition. It is a basic stride in enhancing the chances that your season will be a decent one. While you still have sufficient time for planning and executing a decent technique, there's no opportunity to squander. Let us take a look at some hunting strategies that can assist in your bear hunting.
Study the Area
Try as much as possible to study your hunting territory. You can cross reference the particular territories with wildlife maps of the local division. This will assist you in determining the possible units you can hunt. There is a custom map showing an outline of hunting units in every state.
Scout for Bear Sign
The key is to scout for is a sign of the bear in the territory. Incorporated into this are zones where there are various rubs and possibly what are usually referred to as territory markings or line scratches. Taking a closer look and properly monitoring the signs gives you the assurance that the bears have a particular mission around that areas. Likewise, essentially searching for colossal tracks is a decent thing to do.
Follow the Food Source
Locate the bears by following the food sources. Bears are often capable of eating several food varieties including large calorie sources for gaining summer fat. Grizzly bears live in the higher country. You can find these on rock faces amid the summer months. They have the ability to peel rocks. They often do this when looking for insects and protein rich moths.
Black bears are cunning and often make use of a variety of food sources. They hunt game, forage for insects and plants, and also target human trash. Brown bears inhabit low elevations. They hunt forage or moose until salmon arrives. With these food sources, you should have an idea of where you can find your bear.
Hunt with a Companion
You can come with a buddy in your truck. Most of these trucks usually contain space for one or two more people, in case you will like a companion to come along during the hunt. One of the hunters can keep on tracking the most part tracks the bear race while the others attempt to take off the bear before it crosses another street in the region. It is not strange for people to have their own particular brilliant "mystery code" to transfer to their mates where the bear is going in order to deflect some other people in the range from turning on their bear.
Use hounds or hunting Dogs coupled with excellent driving skills
One technique which numerous hunters favor requires a decent, well-trained hunting dog and truck which is fixed with a platform in which the dog is able to ride upon. The strike pooch rides on the outside of the truck on a platform and the hunter drives here and there the hunting territory until the hunting dog begins yelping showing that it has scented the bear or hunt. The hunter can then discharge the dog and its pack to take the trail.
It requires seeing and listening to which way the pack is going and attempting to drive to the territory that the bear may cross and block it. This frequently requires a considerable amount of quick paced driving here and there across the hunting territory, or until the hunting dogs have been able to tree the bear.
Driving your truck on backwoods, rugged country roads requires magnificent driver abilities. As you keep on driving, try as much as possible to pay special attention to other dogs or vehicles on the road. You may have to drive fast and carefully, but not roughly. In case you admire a ton of excitement, this is a good bear hunting strategy for you.
In the event that you don't have a decent hunting dog, you can likewise drive all over the hunting area hoping to see where a bear has descended or moved up a bank. A talented hunter can differentiate between new sign and a track which is old. However, the mutts will alarm you to a new track.
Furthermore, time and travel length often vary on a decent bear race. The bear will attempt to make tracks in an opposite direction from the canines and will attempt to look for a decent cover territory. The bear will attempt to put however much distance between itself and the hunting dogs as could be expected. Yet, in the event that they're excessively hot on his trail, he may attempt to move up a tree or go down against a fallen log. The bear may also rock bluff challenging the dogs to a fight.
Equip your dogs with radar tracking collars
Many canines are outfitted with radar tracking collars and can be followed to see which way they are going in the event that they go far away from the hearing range. A few collars even come with a "tree switch" which fills the hunter in as to whether they are simply running or they are treed.
Another technique is driving a few decent trail mutts into a range where a bear has been located, goes to sleep or feeds and turning them towards a new track. This requires getting out and strolling in the forested areas in bumpy landscape and requires direct physical condition and stamina on the part of the hunter.
A large portion of the hunter often makes use of no less than 4 or 5 pooches to a pack. However, the chase is started with about two or three great lead mutts. A good hunting dog will promptly fill you in as to whether it's a crisp track and whatever is left of the pack can be turned free on the bear. The blood pumping, adrenalin hurrying race is then on and it's a matter of attempting to stay aware of the pack of hunting dogs until they either stop or tree the bear.
The bigger, more established bears tend to stroll along and battle the canines on the ground, though a more youthful, littler bear will climb a tree to get away from the mutts. Pursuing a pack of canines in lush rocky territory unquestionably requires wearing exceptionally agreeable boots. This is additionally an extremely effective approach to hunting the bears.
Still hunting, often referred to as spot and stalk hunting is another technique you can use for hunting bears in South Carolina. However, this usually proves to be quite difficult as a result of the range habits of the bears. The region is thickly lush, rugged and may have areas which have been clear cut in earlier years. Since hunting bear with bait is not allowed, the hunter is often required to get out into a region where bears are probably going to be found and begin glancing around for signs of fresh bear tracks.
Take a precise shot
Once you are sure of the target, place the shot directly behind the bear’s front shoulder. This location makes it possible for your bullet to penetrate through the skin, into the delicate organs. It is with this you can quickly kill the bear. You can hunt using a rifle, handgun, bow, or shotgun. Rifle scopes may not be required. You can take your shots from 40 – 50 yards.
Knowing more about bears, habits, the hunting territory, what they eat, and lots more is an essential to an effective bear hunt. Pre-scouting a region to search for the bear sign is additionally essential. Perfect natural surroundings comprise of old woods with hardwoods containing an assortment of bushes and trees. Bears require broad, tough territories with thick bushes, for example, rhododendron, mountain shrub, and rock outcroppings. Bears also like swampy areas having lots of space to widely travel.
Bears are omnivorous. Their eating routine essentially comprises of insects, hard and delicate mast, animal waste, as well as succulent plants. The quantity and types of food bears eat usually differ from season to season. It is often determined by the availability of food and seasonal activities. It is not bizarre to see bears move to territories of lower elevations in search of food when the quantity of food or crops available in the region of higher elevation is not adequate enough.
My family really loves the outdoors. With several young children around we always have our deerstands filled and we really enjoy deer hunting season. Probably just like you we suffer from the “deer-pression” that comes about once the season ends. Well, this year I decided to figure out a way for our family to continue being active in the outdoors in the off season!
The first idea that came to mind was to build a deer antler catcher! The timing was perfect to start trying to catch horns as the bucks in our area usually start shedding their antlers in January to early February. There is no exact date when this happens, but if you pay attention to your game cameras you may notice bucks starting to drop horns. This is a good sign that deer are starting to lose their antlers.
Generally speaking, in South Carolina antlers will be dropping from mid-December (though that is early) to early April (though that is late). One thing we do know is that after the rut, a buck’s testosterone levels begin to decrease and when they drop to a certain level, antlers will shed. Since testosterone levels to vary from area to area and winter to winter, antlers can shed at various times.
There are a few different ways people go about shed hunting. Some people train dogs to track the smell of antlers, some just go for walks in the woods, and some construct antler traps/catchers. In our case we are opting for the third way, the antler catcher.
You can imagine that my kids were excited for our first family project to be underway! I have 3 sons (Caiden, Bryson, and Kingston), one daughter (Adrianna), and we even got my wife Brandy involved too! With this many young outdoorsmen and women around I have to frequently come up with ideas that they will all enjoy, which is sometimes harder than you think!
Building the Antler Catcher
As a family went out Sunday Jan 8th, 2017, the day after the first 2017 snow, and built our first antler catcher! As you would imagine there are many different styles of antler catchers and there is no official or standard way to build these traps. In our case we are opting for building one using “chicken wire.
Also important is the location of your antler trap. Since hunting season had just ended we have a good understanding of the general trails that deer in our area use to travel. We went out to an active trail near a feeding area and found two trees that were a few feet apart. This was the perfect location for our antler trap.
Once you find the perfect spot you take the chicken wire and wrap it around the trees so that there is wire on both sides of the trees. Pull the wire as tight as possible and staple it to the trees, cut your extra wire off. Take zip ties and run it around the trees and through the wire so that when you tighten the zip tie down it pulls the wire even tighter!
Important: You want to make sure that the wire is tight so that if the bucks aren't ready to drop their horns the tightness will allow them to easily pull their antlers out of the wire and not get hung up!
Then take the fresh corn and pour between the wires so that the deer must stick their heads down close to the wire to get the corn. Havin the wire so close to the corn allows the horns to catch the wire! The idea is that one antler will hit the chicken wire and if the horns are ready to drop the resistance from the wire will help give the antler(s) the final nudge to release and drop. This is like a child pulling their baby teeth out when a tooth is just about to fall. If the horns are ready to come off the resistance in the chicken wire will help them pull off and you should have antlers piled up at the site or close by around it.
This project was a great project for our family. It helps teach the kids and it gives them something to look forward to in the outdoors during the off-season. We hope to collect a lot of sheds this year. We will use the bigger antlers for rattling next season and take the small ones and add them to our collection. We will also have some creative projects for the kids. We will make knife handles, house decorations, and hopefully one day have enough to make a lamp or Christmas tree!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our project and I hope you can take this and use it with your family also! I will post another blog at the end of shed season and give the results! Happy Shed Hunting!