Jul
21

Hog Hunting

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I have a buddy who is an avid hunter but has been fighting a good fight over the last couple of years with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It would really be a special deal to get this guy out on a hog hunt.  The problem is he gets really tired real quick so not able to do a lot of walking/stalking and has to be a close drive from cedar park.  Are you aware of any place within a 30-45 min drive from Cedar Park that I could take him hog hunting?  We will use my night vision and thermals and really would not need a guide unless the property owner would require it.

The vast majority of hog hunts on game ranches are semi-guided (the guide shows you where the stands, feeders, cleaning station, and gut dump are and then leaves you on your own).  Rarely do game ranches allow self-guided hunts.  Rarer still do they offer fully guided hunts.

Some ranches have more success with group stalks.  Others have more success with stand hunting.  I’ve had success with both, although stalking should be limited to daylight hours unless all parties have night vision equipment.

Some ranches are geared for night hunting, with motion-activated lights under their feeders.  Some just have stands and feeders.

Unfortunately, hog hunting is an exhausting endeavor.  For example, Burl Fulenwider and I hunted at a ranchette just outside of Austin (unfortunately that property is no longer an option as the owners moved into their house and the wife wanted all hunting activities to cease).  We arrived at 7:45 PM on Friday and hunted a makeshift stand until 3:30 AM on Saturday (and only saw five deer).  I got home at 4:00 AM and I’m still feeling the effects of staying up that late four days later.  We also just had four hunters hunt on a ranch near Rocksprings (186 miles away).  Two hogs were killed and one was missed.  All shots were during daylight hours.  They didn’t see anything at night, which is typically when you see hogs, as they’re predominantly nocturnal.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any reasonable ranches within a 30 – 45 minute drive of Cedar Park.  Most hog hunting ranches are further east, south, west, or north.  Our previous hunt was near Crockett, 170 miles away.  The hunt before that was near Gonzales, 82 miles away.

Where I can get hog hunting lights like yours, either red or green?

I paid $123 for my Texasboars.com three red light unit (see the picture below) about 15 years ago.  It doesn’t have a motion detector feature.  I just clip the alligator clips on a 12-volt battery.  It also works on a 6-volt battery, but not well – the one time that I used a 6-volt battery I couldn’t see my crosshairs in my scope.  Since I bought my light they have continued to improve them and their prices have skyrocketed.  Their top of the line light, which illuminates 5200+ square yards, now sells for $349 – see https://texasboars.com/shop/recon-rv718-feederlight-c-65.html.  Their second best light, which illuminates 2000+ square yards, sells for $235 – see https://texasboars.com/shop/recon-rv709-feederlight-c-66.html.  Their least expensive light, which illuminates 1375 square yards, sells for $86 – see https://texasboars.com/shop/prohunter-feederlight-c-67.html.

This picture was taken from 17 yards away.

I paid $40 for my green Moultrie light (see the picture below).  It screws into the bottom of my 5-gallon Moultrie feeder.  I got it at Tractor Supply online (at https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/moultrie-feeder-hog-light?cm_mmc=SEM-_-Google-_-DynamicAdGroups-_-AllSiteTSCExtAd&gclid=Cj0KCQjwhIP6BRCMARIsALu9Lfmh3J5Qf4xQYroB2X3MxHPV-2AJcac9z0BdMn_W5P6xDzt-71wis6AaAvRYEALw_wcB) in the early summer of 2020.  Academy also sells them.  They operate on four C cell batteries.  I read that their motion detector is iffy, but it works on mine.  Mine died after six months but Moultrie sent me a new one.  I also bought a solar panel for it and have sent it back twice.  I don’t recommend it.

This picture was taken from 15 yards away (the picture was enlarged).

I’m really impressed with All Seasons Feeders feeder mechanisms, so I’ll bet their lights are great too.  This one is solar-powered, and sells for around $149 – see https://www.allseasonsfeeders.com/collections/huniting-accessories/products/asf-boar-light-xt.  Here is it’s little brother, which sells for $69 – see https://www.allseasonsfeeders.com/collections/huniting-accessories/products/lil-squealer.

I and several other FCS guys own and love KillLight250 flashlights made by Elusive Wildlife Technologies.  Here are a few of their hog lights:

Sniper Hog Lights is another brand that people swear by.  Their Exterminator III sells for $390 – see https://sniperhoglights.com/exterminator-iii-feeder-light/.

What bullet types should I use for a .300 Blackout AAC for hog hunting?

It’s important to know when using a .300 Blackout to hunt medium-sized game such as hogs and deer, that it is a short-range caliber.  Supersonic ammo is limited to 200 yards and subsonic ammo is limited to 150 yards?, preferably a lot less.

The .300 Blackout was designed to provide a bullet that was a more viable medium-sized option for the AR platform than a .223, which was originally designed for varmints.  It was also designed to shoot suppressed and when it comes to suppressors, slower is better.  A subsonic round lacks the supersonic crack.  A suppressor only stops the blast at the muzzle – it does nothing for the supersonic crack.  A subsonic round through a suppressor is nice and quiet – although not movie-quiet.  A supersonic round through a suppressor defeats the purpose of the suppressor.

So, if you’re going to use a suppressor then use subsonic rounds, which is what they were designed for.  And if you’re going to shoot subsonic rounds then you need to do headshots on hogs (behind the eye to the ear – some guys shoot them in the ear) because the bullet is moving too slow to expand.  By doing so you’ll either kill them instantly and they’ll take a “dirt nap” or you’ll miss and they’ll run away.  Tracking a wounded hog at night is not easy and potentially dangerous.  A headshot eliminates the need to track.

With headshots, especially on big hogs with thick skulls, penetration is key.  If you shoot a hog with a bullet that is designed for the vitals (e.g., a hollow point or expanding soft point) it may flatten on the skull and not penetrate or adequately penetrate.  The solution is a solid, non-expanding bullet, such as a full metal jacket (FMJ).  This is where subsonic rounds with solid bullets really shine.

A 190+ grain solid core bullet in a .300 Blackout (such as a Sellier & Bellot Subsonic FMJ 200 grain) is moving a lot slower (1060 Feet Per Second – FPS) than a 125 grain or 110 grain expanding bullet (which travel at around 2200 FPS).  It is, without a doubt, the best bullet for head shooting hogs.  But you never should use a FMJ when shooting hogs or deer in the vitals, as they don’t expand and that won’t ensure humane kills.  Some ammo makers make supersonic hollow points for the .300 blackout but those bullets are designed to be shot into the vitals, not the head.  Some people say they don’t adequately expand to ensure a one-shot kill.  I’ve yet to have a chance to try one, but when I do I’ll revise this section.

If you’re not using a suppressor then an expanding fast bullet is the way to go, such as the copper Barnes VOR-TX Tipped Triple-Shock X Hollow Point 110 grain.  Barnes is a premium ammo maker and the VOR-TX Tipped Triple-Shock X Hollow Point comes at a premium price ($40 for 20 rounds, if you can find it).  With that bullet and similar ones, you should shoot hogs and deer in the vitals where the bullet’s expanding qualities can be maximized.  As it penetrates it’s also going to expand.  As it expands it leaves a wake of destruction which increases your chances of a one-hit kill.  This is a humane round that will put a hog or deer down without issue if you shoot it in the vitals.  Just don’t shoot a hog in the head with one.

I want to buy a rifle and scope for hog hunting.  I’d prefer for it to kick less than a .243.  My budget is $1500.

I do not recommend anything below a .243 with a 100-grain bullet for hogs.  The .243 is the minimum caliber that most manufacturers/sellers recommend for deer-sized game.  It’s offered in 80 and 100 grain loads, with the latter being preferred for deer-sized game.  The problem with .224 bullets, such as the .223/5.56, is they were designed for varmints (just look at the boxes of their typical 55-grain ammo and they’ll tell you what they were designed for).  Over the years the ammo makers developed heavier bullets for those calibers (typically 62-grain and up) to make them usable for up to deer-sized game.  But if a 300 lb.+ hog comes to your bait I would want to be holding something with more power.  You can kill hogs with .22’s but you have to hit them in the ear or just behind it, which is not easy to do in the dark (which is usually when hogs are out and about).  Nor is it easy to hit that spot with their frequently moving heads.

As you would like something that kicks a little less than a .243, going with a lesser caliber is not the answer.  A semi-auto will kick less than a bolt action, pump, or lever action (I guarantee you that a .300 Blackout in an AR kicks less than a bolt action .243).  Browning (BAR), Remington (Model 7500), and Benelli (R1) make semi-automatic rifles but none of them are as accurate or customizable as AR’s.  Typical AR’s are offered in calibers that are good choices for hogs.  These include (in my order of preference):

  1. .300 Blackout AAC (commonly called .300 Blackout) – it’s .308 caliber and the .223 is the parent cartridge (you can use these shells in AR .223 magazines).  It was designed to shoot suppressed with subsonic rounds.  It’s not a long-range cartridge, but hog hunting is not a long-range sport.  I bought one a couple of months ago and can’t wait to try it out on a piggie.  It hardly kicks at all and I don’t have a suppressor on mine (yet).  With a suppressor on it, the recoil will be minimal.
  2. 6.5mm Creedmoor (commonly called 6.5 Creedmoor) – was actually developed in 2007 but is just becoming popular now.  It has a reputation for long-range accuracy.  It is a great caliber for hogs.  When I go to Academy I almost always see it on their shelves.  I see more discussions on it than any other caliber in the FB groups that I’m a member of.  There are many who think that it’s the cat’s meow.  It’s #2 on my list as it probably will kick more than the .300 Blackout and it’s not designed for suppressors.
  3. .308 Winchester (very similar but not identical to the military 7.62x51mm NATO) – a fantastic caliber that can put down anything on this continent.  It has had two offspring – 7mm-08 and .243 and has very similar ballistics to the .30-06.  The one knock on it is AR’s that are chambered for it are not cheap (they’re called AR-10’s).  It’s #3 on my list due to the cost of the rifles.
  4. 6.5mm Grendel (AKA 6.5 Grendel) and 6.8mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge (AKA 6.8 SPC, 6.8 SPC II, and 6.8×43mm – has the .30 Remington as its parent cartridge) are both great calibers for hogs but ammo for them is very hard to find right now and expensive.  A gun is no good if you can’t find ammo for it.

Remington makes an AR (the R-25) with typical deer calibers (.243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Winchester) but it’s very expensive ($1700 for just the rifle) and hard to find.

As to AR’s, there are several that have good reputations, including Colt, Bushmaster, SIG, Daniel Defense, Anderson, Springfield Armory, Ruger, DPMS, and many more.  But after a lot of research, I settled on two – the Diamondback DB15 and the CORE CORE15.  I watched a lot of YouTube reviews and read a lot of reviews and it was hard to find any that said anything that was less than flattering.  Best of all they have the best warranties in the industry.

I settled on the Diamondback DB15 in .300 Blackout as they were cheaper than the CORE and I only had 1K to spend (which is what I sold my O/U Classic Doubles shotgun for).  I got it new on Gunbroker for $655 (plus $25 shipping and a $20 FFL receiving fee).  I added a SIG Romeo 5 Red Dot ($132), two Magpul rail sections ($31 total), a Surefire flashlight (M300 is $269; mine was given to me by my son), a Magpul angled foregrip ($45; mine was given to me by my son), an EZshoot 2 Point Sling and Quick Release Sling Mount ($24), Tool Parts 1pcs Quick Detach Clamp-on Single Point Sling Swivel Attachment Buffer Tube Adapter – CN (a better place to attached your sling) ($15), and three 30-round  Magpul P-mags ($36).  So, I spent $941 on the above and my remaining $59 on ammo.

It has the following features:

  • Pistol Length Gas Impingement System
  • 4140 Chrome-Moly Free Float Barrel
  • 1:8 Twist
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • 15″ Diamondback Aluminum Key Mod Handguard
  • Shot-Peened, MPI Mil Spec 8620 Bolt Carrier
  • A3 Flattop Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum, T-Marked Upper
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum Lower
  • Collapsible Stock
  • A2 Pistol Grip
  • Anodized Black Finish
  • Weight 6.65 Pounds
  • Length 32.5″-36.25″

As to scopes, given your budget, you won’t be able to afford a Day/Night scope if you get everything that I listed above (although you won’t need the Red Dot and can do without the flashlight and three extra magazines for a hog hunting rifle).  But if you can swing it I’d get an ATN X-sight 4K Pro 3-14X for $650 (you can get a refurbished one with a full factory warranty – the same as a new one – at Walmart for $100 less).  A friend of mine bought one and let me look through it at night – it’s amazing!

But if that breaks the bank I’d get a Vortex Crossfire II Hog Hunter 3-12X56 with a 30mm tube, and V-brite illuminated reticle.  Amazon has them for $300.

For either of these options, you’ll need a cantilever style mount made for an AR-15 such as the Burris Optics P.E.P.R. Scope Mount, Includes Both Smooth and Picatinny Ring Tops, 30mm ($90 on Amazon).  The cool thing about using the Picatinny ring tops is it allows you to put a Red Dot on the Picatinny ring top (on top of the scope).  This will give you precision shots with the scope at standing still hogs and shots at running hogs with the Red Dot.  Don’t spend more money on the quick-detach version of the mount – you won’t need it (it’s for guys who put a rifle scope on their AR one day and a Red Dot on it the next).

Instead of the Surefire Weapons Light (which is used primarily for home defense), I’d get an Odepro KL52Plus Zoomable Hunting Flashlight.  It includes red, green, white, and IR850 infrared (invisible to the eye – must be used with night vision) lenses and adjustable focus.  It’s shockproof and has a rechargeable battery.  It’s water-resistant and has a Smart Remote on/off pressure switch with a button that makes no noise.  It shines out to 417 yards.  It includes two weapons mounts.  Best of all they’re $113.  Use the green light for hogs.

In summary, I recommend the following for a hog hunting rifle:

$700 – Diamondback DB-15 in .300 Blackout AAC

$650 – ATN X-sight 4K Pro 3-14X

$90 – Burris Optics P.E.P.R. Scope Mount, Includes Both Smooth and Picatinny Ring Tops, 30mm

$113 – Odepro KL52Plus Zoomable Hunting Flashlight with Red Green White and IR850 Light LED Lamps Remote Pressure Switch Hunting Kit

$16 – Magpul rail section (to hold the foregrip)

$45 – Magpul angled foregrip

$15 – Tool Parts 1pcs Quick Detach Clamp-on Single Point Sling Swivel Attachment Buffer Tube Adapter – CN

$24 – EZshoot 2 Point Sling and Quick Release Sling Mount

$1653

If you swap the Vortex Crossfire II for the ATN you’d be at $1291, which would give you plenty of money left over for ammo and be below $1500.

For other options see:

What’s the best weapon light to get for hunting at night?

Several years ago there weren’t many choices for weapons-mountable lights that were made for hunting.  Elusive Wildlife came out with their Kill Light XLR 250 and several FCS members, including me, thought that it would never be beaten.  With 340 lumens, it could see up to 250 yards away (depending on the moonlight/starlight), was tough/shockproof and waterproof, and included a scope/barrel mount, remote switch, and rechargeable battery.  You could get it with a green, red, or white lens.  It now includes a blue lens option, more weapon mounts, and three adjustments (hi, medium, and low) for $150 (you can get an “essentials” version without the pressure switch and with only one mount for $120).  There is now an adjustable lens XLR 250 HD for $200 and 500-yard ($230) and 750-yard ($270) versions.  But it has two shortcomings – the beam cannot be focused and if you want to switch from a green lens to a different colored one you have to buy and install another lens.  As there are now options that address those shortcomings, it is no longer my first choice.

The best light right now is the Odepro KL52Plus Zoomable Hunting Flashlight.  It includes red, green, white, and IR850 infrared (invisible to the eye – must be used with night vision) lenses and adjustable focus.  It’s shockproof and has a rechargeable battery.  It’s water-resistant and has a Smart Remote Switch with a button that makes no noise.  It shines out to 417 yards.  It includes two weapons mounts.  Best of all they’re $113 ($7 cheaper than my former favorite – the Elusive Wildlife Kill Light XLR 250), which as the name implies will shine out to 250 yards!  Use the green light for hogs.  You can get the Nitecore P30 1000 Lumens 676 Yards light for $32 more than the Odepro.  The Orion M30C also shines to 700 yards but you have to choose between green or red lenses (and I haven’t been able to find anyone who sells spare lenses), it’s $25 more than the Nitecore P30, and weighs two ounces more.

I have absolutely no clue about night vision scopes, so what do you think?  I know I don’t have $500 to invest in on.  Is it worth it to buy one of the less expensive night vision scopes or is it just a waste of money?

I don’t have much experience with them either but know that you’ll see a lot better with a generation 3 than you will with a 2 or especially a 1.  But that means big bucks.

Here’s an article titled Best Night Vision Scope – Top 10 Best Rated Night Vision Scopes Reviews.  Regarding digital scopes, it states, “Digital night vision technology converts ambient light into a digital image that is viewed on a screen. The image quality of most digital night vision scopes can be compared to Gen 2 traditional night vision technology.  Some digital night vision scopes can be used in daylight.  They may also have features that allow the shooter to record, zoom, and change reticles. These versatile devices also tend to be more affordable than Gen 2 or Gen 3 devices.”

#2 on their list is the Firefield NVRS 3X42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope.  It’s Gen 1, but they described it as “the perfect entry-level night vision optic for hog hunting, coyote hunting, or any other nighttime shooting endeavor.”  It’s designed for AR platforms.  However, as it’s Gen 1 you’ll see a lot of black grainy dots and it’s only good for about 75 yards.  I’d spend more and get the ATN X-sight 4K Pro 3-14X Smart Ultra HD Day & Night Vision rifle scope.  Regarding it, they stated, “We consider the X-Sight riflescope from ATN to be one of the best day/night optics on the market.”  A friend of mine bought one and let me look through it at night – it’s amazing!

Another article titled Best Night Vision Scope by Budget Category (We Review the Top Night Vision Scope Under $2000, $1000 & $500) rated the Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Riflescope as the best digital scope.

Where do you recommend that I go for a weekend semi-guided hog hunt?

The two places that I recommend (with some reservations) are:
They’re a large-scale operation.  They hunt hogs there 365 days a year on 300 acres.  The hogs don’t get shot out because they import them (buy them from trappers).  Some hunting is done in the evenings from stands until 9:30 PM (bring two sacks of corn), but most of the hunting is done via small group stalks (of no more than five hunters with everyone wearing blaze orange).  They have an air-conditioned bunkhouse and good meals in their lodge.  There are a lot of exotics that can be hunted, but of course, you’ll pay a lot for them.
Probably their best deal for two guys is their buy one get one free special ($399).  This includes lodging and all meals.  It does not include tips.  They strongly recommend a $50 tip per hunter.  It also does not include the cost of cleaning the hogs, which is basically $50 for a hog up to 50 lbs. and $1/lb. above that (so a 150 lb. pig is $150).  They do not allow you to clean your own pigs because the “TPWD recommends only experts clean them” (which is true, but is really an excuse for them to make more money).
FCS got a considerable discount by doing their “ministry hunts.”  I had to round up at least 12 hunters in order to do it and we could only hunt on Sundays – Tuesdays or Mondays – Wednesdays.  At first, it wasn’t hard to get that many hunters, but over time as their prices on cleaning hogs kept going up less of our guys were interested.  The last time that I tried to organize a hunt there he only got six commitments and that was a year after our best hunt there.
Pros – Lots of pigs.  On our best hunt, 15 hunters killed 25 pigs.  It’s not a guaranteed kill, but it’s about as close to it as you can get.  Decent bunkhouses and showers.  Good meals.
Cons – You don’t get to hunt at night for long.  If you bring slop there is a small chance that they’ll actually put you at the stand where they put your slop out.  My advice is to leave it in your truck and put it out when you drive to your stand.  If you shoot a really big pig you will have to take out a small business loan.  They do not allow calibers smaller than .243/6mm, nor do they allow buckshot and more than three shells in your chamber and magazine.  (They don’t want a guy with an AR to shoot 10 hogs and then discover that he can’t pay for them all.)
If they don’t want to go bow hunting then stop reading – it’s bow hunting only.
Our second FCS hog hunt was there.  Four hunters went.  One pig was killed and I missed a running shot at a medium-sized hog.  This hunt was more than 20 years ago, so he’s hesitant to give more details as they could have significantly changed.  He remembers a bunkhouse.  He thinks that the hunt costs $150 for the weekend, but he’s sure it’s significantly more now.  They had to cook their own meals.  The hunters saw a lot of hogs, but the hogs were very reluctant to come to the corn that they hunters had put out within their bow range.  The ranch and owner have a good reputation.  The only reason that we didn’t do another hunt there is because we have few bow hunters.  I started looking for ranches that also allowed guns.  From a participation standpoint, he’d rather have 15 gun hunters than four hunters at a bow-only ranch.
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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.