While I enjoy the occasional hunting excursion, I don’t consider myself much of a hunter. I like my guns and gear more for personal protection, but I thankfully have never had to use them for such purposes. So, most of my shooting is done on the square range for fun or in training, meaning I’m putting holes in paper or ringing steel. That is tremendous fun, but it seems a bit of a waste when it comes to using my AR or some of the cool gadgets we get to test. That’s where a major public nuisance becomes a friend—feral hogs.
You see, this invasive species has destroyed more native territory than kudzu and spreads about as rapidly. As a result, many jurisdictions where feral hogs are present have few of the traditional hunting restrictions when it comes to controlling (or at least attempting to control) the pig population. Options for the novice hunter—or even just the modern sporting rifle (MSR) owner looking for a more productive use of their firearms—abound.
In many states, there is no caliber restriction on hog hunting, meaning your run-of-the-mill 5.56 NATO-chambered AR is perfectly legal to use in pursuit of these porcine terrors. I’ve taken hogs with ARs in that chambering, but I would recommend using a larger caliber like 7.62x39 mm or .308 Win. because some feral pigs can be quite large and require a bit more oomph to bring down. MSRs in these calibers are readily available, so that won’t ruin your fun.
One of the aspects of whitetail hunting that has infinitesimally little appeal to me is the need to wake up at the crack of dawn. Fortunately, hog hunting has no such requirement. For one thing, hogs are active pretty much all day, but in many states, you can hunt them at night (which also happens to be when they are generally most active). This opens the door to using a ton of cool gear like night-vision scopes and goggles, IR lasers and/or thermal optics. Many outfitters are set up specifically to cater to this amazingly fun activity—they provide the expensive (and when it comes to quality NVDs or thermal, expensive is an understatement) gear, so you don’t need to drop the price of a decent automobile on a thermal scope to enjoy its benefits on a night hunt.
If you already have an NVD or a thermal scope, this is one of the few ways to get some real value out of your investment, apart from the peace of mind they offer for defensive purposes. Most indoor ranges won’t let you turn the lights off, and most outdoor ranges open to the public close before dark, so your options to make use of NVDs or experience the real benefits of a thermal optic are quite limited. Hog hunting at night is both challenging and fun, and will let you justify some of the cost of your high-speed gear.
Another fun option is shooting feral hogs from a helicopter. Several outfitters offer this option, and if you’re not afraid of heights or boarding tiny rotary-wing aircraft (you won’t be on a Blackhawk), this is a truly exhilarating way to help control these large pests—and one that all but requires the use of an MSR.
As you can see, there are almost limitless ways to help reduce the number of dangerous, destructive feral hogs. Think of it as perhaps the most-practical use of your MSR and its associated gear outside of home defense, and one that will help you hone your marksmanship and tactical skills for more serious pursuits. It’s fun, you’ll be doing a public service and you’ll be able to use your favorite rifle or carbine on something other than paper. What’s not to like?