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.
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: