A tribe of feral hogs has been a problem for farmers and ranchers in recent years, due to their increased population and lack of predators available to decrease the number of animals. In an effort to reduce the hog population on my family’s ranch, I have been hunting them at night with infrared lights and night vision cameras. While this is a new way to hunt these animals as compared to more traditional methods such as bowhunting during the day or hunting from feeders over bait, it has provided good results so far. Hunting hogs at night using only spotlights and blinds can be done without too much trouble if you follow a few guidelines.
STEP 1: CHOOSE THE PROPER EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR HUNT
The first step is to choose the best equipment for your hunt. Hogs are primarily nocturnal animals that will typically bed down during the day and begin moving again around sunset, making it possible to spot them during darkness hours if you have a good area set up with several camera traps. IR floodlights focused on feeding areas where crops have been dropped off can also work when placed over a bait pile left from a grain feeder when the local hog population has been pushed into the area by hunting pressure.
Hogs, like most animals that are hunted at night, have reflective eyes that will show up in an IR floodlight when they look towards it. For this reason, you should use a spotlight with adjustable focus so you can spot them in low light situations even if they aren’t looking directly at the light source. Other equipment needed includes a video camera , tripod or ground blind to set up your lights and cameras at strategic locations over bait piles or over active feeding areas where the hogs frequent, and a way to securely fasten each piece of equipment to keep opportunistic thieves from stealing them during the hunt. Video surveillance is also an option if you’d rather watch several screens from inside your house rather than hunt from a blind or try to stalk the animals in low light conditions with nothing but a rifle and flashlight.
However you decide to set up for your hog hunt, make sure you check your equipment at least once per day so that if any hogs show up, they will be recorded on video tape by the security camera. This way, even if they don’t step into view of one of your spotlight beams, you can review the scene later and know exactly when they were there and what direction they went in after leaving. Most hunters I know who have hunted hogs at night also wear some type of camouflage clothing while hunting so they can get closer to their prey without scaring them off before getting within optimum shooting range
While having several options available for equipment, the most important factor in a successful hog hunt is using a feeder with an IR light to mimic a “hot spot” where feral hogs will regularly show up. The number one question I get from people who want to try hunting at night is: What type of spotlight should I use? Personally, I like having 2-3 floodlight sources available when trying to hunt the nocturnal variety of pigs. Having two opposite beams that cover both sides of their preferred travel routes can help ensure that any hog that comes into your field of view will be spotlighted and likely visible on camera before it gets within distance for a shot.
STEP 2: DON’T JUDGE YOUR HUNT BY WHAT YOU SEE IN DAYLIGHT
People often ask me how well the night vision equipment works, and if it is easy to see the hogs when they are in range for a possible shot. The short answer is yes, it works just fine if you know what you’re doing. However, many people who decide to give hunting at night with spotlights and video surveillance a try expect that every hog that crosses into their field of view will be easily visible by looking through an IR floodlight beam. Not so!
When I go out at night, my spotlight beams work like normal light sources do during daylight hours, illuminating objects within their cones so I can clearly see them without too much trouble even if they aren’t directly illuminated by the beam itself. However, most feral hogs don’t have spots that reflect light, and their coloration is the same as the trees and dirt they are walking on. As a result, you need to practice “shooting” your spotlights at objects in front of you while looking through your night vision equipment to see what type of range they offer.
Most IR floodlights for hog hunting will illuminate a 50-yard circle or a little more, depending on how high above ground level the lights are set up. However, that doesn’t mean that any animal illuminated by those beams will be easily visible silhouetted against those illumination circles. It all depends on several factors: what direction the pig’s head is facing relative to where you’re standing; how much direct light from the IR beam falls upon the hog; how black your hog is in color; and what kind of background they are walking towards or away from when you shine the light.
The darker the pig is, the easier it will be to see. The lighter their coat, the more difficult it will be to make out their features at night unless they turn to face directly into one of the beams. Also, any vegetation between you and them can reduce or eliminate contrast by blocking direct illumination from hitting them while creating shadows where it doesn’t hit either. However, if you set up over an area that pigs pass through regularly during daylight hours when hunting with non-IR equipment, odds are good that they’ll still show up on video tape passing through that same area at night.
People who look through IR spotlights for the first time are always amazed at how much easier pigs show up with that equipment than they do using any other method. It is generally only when they turn away from illumination or move behind vegetation that their features blend into the background, making them more difficult to see. Since hogs spend most of their active hours feeding during dark periods, they can be out and about on almost any evening if you know where to go looking for them!
HUNTING HOGS AT NIGHT CAN BE EXCITING AND REWARDING…IF YOU PLAN IT RIGHT
Getting started in hunting feral hogs at night isn’t very complicated, but it does require some preparation before making your first attempt. It is a good idea to scout ahead of time and pinpoint locations where hogs are likely to show up at all during their normal feeding times. If you find a trail or regularly used dirt road through the woods, it will be worth your while to set up over one end of that trail so you can monitor several hundred yards of it for any hog activity without having to constantly move around too much.
You’ll want as much passive illumination from the moon as possible, since most hunters who try spotlighting feral hogs on bright nights with a full moon have trouble seeing more than a few feet in front of them even if they have the best IR floodlights available. But a half-moon will give enough light to work by and won’t make it too difficult to see and shoot pigs as they come into view.
Seeing through your night vision equipment can be a challenge, not knowing exactly how much illumination the hogs will show up with until you look at them through your viewers after shining your spotlights on them. You’ll need to experiment ahead of time by setting up over known objects such as tree stumps or fence posts that are 50 yards out from where you set up and shine both lights simultaneously at those location whenever possible. That will give you an idea if the amount of reflected light available from those spots is good enough for easy viewing when the hog walks towards one of the beams or away from it before settling down to feed.
HOG HUNTING AT NIGHT CAN BE VERY REWARDING FOR BOTH THE ROOKIE AND THE VET.
You can set up in a stand with your back to the woods over any location you find hogs at night within range of your weapons, simply shining one or both lights on them before shooting as they walk towards either lighted beam. But it is even more exciting when you hunt hogs from an elevated platform that has no obstructions between yourself and where they pass through. This allows you to spot pigs coming at you from almost any direction without having to turn around constantly to see if one is approaching directly behind you.
Aerial hog hunting using infrared spotlight technology allows hunters experienced in using this equipment special advantages that aren’t possible while hunting hog on foot. They can spot pigs coming in from any direction while shining both lights on them, or concentrate one light beam on a centrally located feeder to create an “illuminated island” of light that gives the hunter many more angles at which he can shoot hogs than would be available if he were hunting with just one person carrying only one spotlight.
HOG HUNTING AT NIGHT CAN BE EXTREMELY EXCITING AS YOU’D IMAGINE WITHOUT GETTING YOUNG PEOPLE INTO TROUBLE.
With the majority of hunters using CO2 spotlights, you’ll need to carry yours along even though they are usually not needed since most feral hog activity takes place during darkness long after the sun goes down. But when you encounter a group of hogs that decide to bed down in a clump rather than scatter when you shine your light(s) on them, a CO2 spotlight can be helpful for making instant decisions about which ones to shoot while they are laying still.
As with any other time you hunt feral hogs the smart way at night, it is important to keep an eye out for land owners or hunters who might see your lights and mistake what you’re doing for poaching. Your spotlights should only be on when hunting from 100 yards out from where there isn’t likely to be anyone watching you, and off once you get within 75 or so yards of where the hogs might see or hear your normal flashlights if used while approaching cautiously.