Whitetails may still be America’s number one game animal, however, feral hogs are a close second. The feral hog population is exploding in many states and game departments and residents consider them a scourge on the population and eco system. This is good news for hunters, providing low cost opportunities, liberal harvest quotas—if any at all with the current population estimates topping about 5 million—for hunters and excellent table fare.
I am anything but a latecomer to this party. I killed my first feral hog back in the early ’90s in central California. Back in those days, the vineyard owners and managers would actually pay hunters to come hunt. Unfortunately, as word got out and popularity increased, they quickly figured out their folly and flipped the script, but rates were still cheap and we waged war on the local hog populations.
During that time, friends called me a combo hunter. I preferred bowhunting and spent most of my time afield with a stick and string. However, I was not opposed to using anything to kill a hog. Often times, I would run an arrow through the first, drop the bow and start slinging lead as the herd would flee. Other times, distance made good sport and long-range shots put shooting skills to a finely honed edge.
Through all of this, I had the opportunity to shoot hogs with a variety of different guns and calibers. My favorite was the Weatherby .257 magnum. I raised an eyebrow at the first suggestion, but quickly learned it was a hog killin’ caliber like no other.
In my younger days, and as a broke student, I preferred low-dollar military surplus rifles such as old Mausers, SKS and Mosin Nagants. 6.5×55, 7.62×39, 7.62×54 and those rechambered for .30-06 all did a fine job—if employing the correct ammo. I recall being in a buddy’s camp with a couple of new hunters. They brought along an SKS and a Mosin as I recall, and they were using military AP rounds. While I have referred to hogs as mini Sherman tanks a time or two, this was a poor choice.
The rounds flew fine and drilled perfect little holes through the hogs, which did little more than make angry hogs. All hogs are worthy adversaries and even with the right ammo and a perfect shot, they can run and fight. A broken shoulder may slow them down, but I would not bet my health on it. I have watched hogs with a serious limp, right up until they saw the hunter and charge full speed with a special hate in their eyes. The only sure way to stop one in its tracks is a spine shot, but that is a low percentage target in most cases.
You can hunt hogs just about any way and at any time. Most states allow year-round opportunities; you can hunt hogs during the day, night, over bait, from a vehicle—moving or flying. As long as the hogs are dying, the game department is happy—however, laws do vary so be sure to check local game laws if you want to keep your gear in-hand and out of jail. Hogs are frequently shot on the move and normally at closer ranges, which provides a challenge of its own. Iron sights work well, nevertheless, we are an optic-driven society, so let’s look at our choices.
Feral hogs do not generally wander open fields during the daylight hours. It certainly is not unheard of to see a wandering undulating black spot. However, you’ll more likely find them in areas of thick undergrowth and cover. Similar to whitetails in hardwoods, most shots will be well under 100 yards, so your best choices for hog scopes will favor the lower end of the magnification scale.
Leupold is a long-time favorite optic for all types of shooting and hunting; hogs are no exception thanks to its purpose-designed VZ-R Hog. The VX-R HOG features legendary Leupold quality, push-button illumination system, and a specially designed FireDot PigPlex reticle. The illuminated reticle calibrates to frame a mature hog and provides the perfect amount of lead on running boars. The Motion Sensor Technology (MST) automatically turns the illumination system to “standby” mode after five minutes of inactivity, and then reactivates whenever the rifle moves. You get a bright, crisp aiming point with maximum light transmission, as well as a low-profile mount and forgiving eyebox for a comfortable cheek weld and faster target acquisition. With the VX-R HOG, you’re rigged for pig.
EOTech is well-known for its holosights and are great for fast target acquisition on motivated targets. EOTech sights also feature 3X magnification, which closes the perceived distance. For example, EOTech’s Holographic Hybrid Sight II EXPS3-2 with G33.STS Magnifier provides the best of both worlds. By that, I mean the holographic sight gets you on target fast by offering a large viewing window for eyes-open shooting while the magnifier increases the target by three times allowing you precise shot placement. This kit is ideal for predator hunting, whitetail deer and, of course, hogs. When your hunt requires longer distance shots, make sure you have an HHS kit on the rail. If a night hunt is in your future, take a look at the night vision compatible EXPS3 sights.
Aimpoint’s Comp M4 and Micro series of sights are great for fast action in daylight conditions thanks to the 1X magnification. These sights line up quick and offer the maximum field of view. However, when the light wanes, you’ll be challenged without a full moon—especially on a good Russian boar that is jet black.
TruGlo’s Tru-Brite Xtreme 4X32 Compact Tactical Rifle Scope includes Dual Color reticle illumination—red and green—that you can alternately use in black like a traditional scope without illumination. However, hogs like to come out at night and similar to deer, your best opportunity to catch them in the open is at sunrise and sunset. During these periods of limited light, a low illumination allows all the visibility you could want and a great contrast between the reticle and your bacon on the hoof.
Trijicon has served our fighting men and women over in the sandbox and more than proven its worth. I was one of the original testers at the introduction of the Accupoint and instantly became an early adopter. Options vary and may take some getting used to, but once you learn the Bindon Aiming Concept (both eyes open), you’ll never go back to your old way of aiming. The post and triangle reticle is great for quick target acquisition and an easily indexed aim point when the action is fast and furious. Optionally, Trijicon offers the Accupoint with a traditional duplex reticle.
The Accupoint features fiber optic illumination that is adjustable. This provides you the ability to control the brightness of the reticle. Available with adjustable magnification, the Accupoint comes with 1-4×24, 2.5-10×56, 3-9×40 or 5-20×50. Depending on your terrain, you can opt for point blank to traditional hog distances or something with a bit more reach when you want to let the air out of a hog cruising the next ridge.
While feral hogs move about during the day, they prefer the night. The weather is cooler and predators are less likely. During the day you can jump one with a dog or stake out a local watering hole with mud on the surrounding trees stretching from the ground to a about 30 inches which is a sure sign of pig activity. Alternately, you can plan for night ops and live out a true dream, but you may need some special equipment to pull this off.
Thermal sights offer the ultimate pig popping experience, but the cost to buy a unit far to prohibitive for anyone who has ever used the work budget. Fortunately, outfitters have shelled out the big money so you can live out a dream at an affordable price.
A step down from thermal is night vision, which are affordable—even if the term affordable is used somewhat loosely. Whether using thermal or night vision, your ultimate setup would also include a suppressor. With that setup, you will be the ultimate predator. Don’t get me wrong, with the first pull of the trigger the jig will be up. Hogs aren’t bright, but they are not cows either. Your advantage is that they will not know where the shots are coming from. Confusion will ensue and the quick trigger finger is most likely to win the day.
I would recommend against a laser though, at least against a red laser. Hogs seem to spook at the first sign of a little red dot. Green on the other hand goes unnoticed. The same seems to be true of deer, hence the popularity of green headlamps. Speaking of which, if night vision does not fit your budget, an elevated perch over bait or a watering hole and a green light mounted to your gun is deadly on hogs.
Are you an experienced hog hunter? Share your top optic pick in the comment section.