We Own The Night
Just when I thought there was nothing new to experience on the hunting fields, I recently had my "eyes opened." I had an opportunity to go hog hunting in Texas with the Tactical Hog Control (THC) pro's using state of the art night-vision equipment. Jed Derher and Clark Osborne are the owners of THC. They started out by getting some basic night-vision equipment for themselves in order to try and get a little more advantage controlling the hogs on their ranches. It worked, and the word got out. They were getting bombarded with requests from friends and "friends of friends" to take them hunting. They soon realized that they had discovered a new hunting niche and started up THC, offering guided night hunts for hogs with their equipment.
This turned out to be the most fun I ever had on a hunt. It's not by any definition "fair chase", nor is it intended to be. It's strictly "animal damage control." Landowners can't eradicate the wild hog population fast enough in the United States. In Texas alone, there are an estimated 3,000,000 plus wild hogs. They work daily tearing up the land eating flora and fauna. One sow can have up to three litters of 10 to 12 piglets in just over a year. It's rumored the females are born pregnant!
SWAT Gear On The Hunt
Tactical Hog Control uses a combination of state of the art night vision goggles, night vision scopes, thermal weapons sights (TWS), and hand-held Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR). The goggles are Gen-III Aviator's Night Vision Imaging System (ANVIS-9's). These are the same goggles currently being used by many of our military aviators. The rifles are fitted with either Gen-III, 6x Raptor Night Vision Weapon Sights, or the TWS scopes. They currently have an AR battery consisting of a suppressed AR-15 chambered in .223, an AR-15 in .243 WSSM, and three AR-10's chambered in .308 for their hunters to use. Texas hunters are fortunate in that night hunting for hogs and predators is legal, as is the use of legal suppressors. Check your state laws carefully before trying this at home.
Jed and Clark also have custom vehicles set up to go with the arsenal of rifles, helmets, and hand-held FLIR. They have tricked out a four-seater Polaris Ranger and a Land Rover Ranger Special Operations Vehicle (RSOV). If you look close, the RSOV is covered with thick, irregularly shaped plastic sheets. This makes it harder to detect by enemy forces. Now, civilians aren't really supposed to have these, much less have one that is street legal. I didn't ask Clark how he ended up with one.
I arrived at the ranch about 5 p.m., Jed showed me the rifles, the helmets and goggles, and the hand-held FLIR. I decided to use the suppressed .223 AR-15 shooting 60 grain Nosler Partitions, topped with the Gen-III, 6x Raptor Night Vision Sight. We headed out behind Jed's "Man Cave/Shed" to the range to let me get familiar with the equipment and make sure everything was sighted in OK. It takes a few rounds to get used to the extra weight the night vision adds, but you adapt quickly. Jed also let me send a few rounds downrange with the .243 WSSM AR-15. I couldn't wait for the sun to go down.
We loaded up the Ranger at sundown and headed out to the ranch we were going to hunt that evening. Currently, THC has access to over 50,000 acres and that number is growing rapidly.
Jed, Clark, and I were going to be hunting. We also had Tony Perales filming the hunt for us with a night vision adapter on his camera. Tony was a cameraman for 18 years for NBC and FOX and now has his own production company.
After going through the gate, we pulled our goggles down over our eyes and started looking for hogs. I had played with some Gen I and Gen II night vision before, but I was not prepared for the Gen III's. It was like high noon in Tombstone! We drove up on top of a levee and headed into the ranch. While we scanned with our goggles, Clark was also scanning with the hand-held FLIR for heat signatures.
We spotted a group of "black dots" about 500 yards out in a cotton field. Clark confirmed that they were "hot." As we got a little closer we could see that it was indeed a group of hogs. We got out of the Ranger, grabbed our rifles, and started a 400-yard stalk on the hogs. We moved downwind from them and stalked to within about 50 yards. I felt almost naked out there. I had to keep reminding myself that I had night vision goggles on and the hogs didn't! I had the dubious honor of taking the first shot, giving me the chance to miss in front of everybody, and on film at that. I put the crosshairs on the largest hog and squeezed the trigger. The 60-grain Partition went right behind its ear, and my night-shooting prowess was proven. When it was all over, the three of us had five hogs on the ground ranging from 90 to 200 pounds.
We headed back up to the levee. After cruising for a while, Clark said he had something "hot" way out there on the FLIR. As we got closer we could see through our goggles that it was a big solitary boar quartering towards the levee. We pulled to within 75 yards from the point where we thought the boar would intersect the levee and parked. We got out of the Ranger with our rifles and dropped over the other side of the levee and stalked to where the boar should pop up. He closed the distance, crossed some standing water about 100 yards out, and was headed right for our position. We moved to the top of the levee and prepared to shoot when he appeared. We waited, and waited, and waited. Clark finally motioned for us to come over to the other side. The boar had stopped and decided to start rooting half way up the levee. I could just see the top of his back. About a minute later he raised his head and I aimed right behind his ear. When the bullet hit, he reared up on his hind legs with his front legs up above his head like he was giving someone a high-five! I have never seen a hog do that before. Fortunately, Tony got it on video. This bruiser turned out to be my largest hog ever — 275 pounds.
We ended up with seven hogs between the three of us in a matter of hours. This is without a doubt the most intense and exciting hunt I have ever experienced. With the night vision and the tricked out ARs, it's a rush. I plan on doing many more hog control missions.