By Will Brantley
writes Brow Tines and Backstrap
June 9, 2014
We’re slipping across a sprawling Georgia peanut field, four of us, walking single file. Jager Pro’s Chris Monhof is up front, watching the pigs through a thermal vision monocular. His partner Clint Housel is in the rear, ensuring the outdoor writers in the middle don’t step out of line and screw up the whole thing. I have to take Monhof at his word that the pigs are there, since I can’t see squat. It’s a moonless night in late February, and a special kind of dark.
A pig squeals up ahead, and it’s the first aspect of this hunt I can relate to. I’ve killed some swine in my day. A couple dozen, actually. Most with my bow, a couple with rifles, and even one with a spear. But this ≠ the $4,500 thermal vision scopes, the witching hour setting, and the military-style tactics orchestrated by two retired soldiers ≠ is all new to me.
When we’re 75 yards out, Monhof hands me the monocular to look at the pigs. It’s a surreal view reminiscent of a video game screen; glowing white pig shapes are scattered across the next rolling hillside, rooting for peanuts in the dark. There are big sows and half-grown shoats; a couple hefty boars are feeding along the perimeter of the sounder. With a stout wind in our face, they’re oblivious to us. We’d be oblivious to them without the monocular, too.
We line up shoulder-to-shoulder and rest AR-10s on trigger sticks. The scopes are activated via pressure on the eye cup. Shooting these rigs goes against about every engrained lesson granddaddy taught you about high-powered rifles.
If your eye leaves the eyepiece of the scope, the scope shuts off and the target view is lost. You can’t see the other three guys lined up next to you firing .308 rounds into the darkness (but you can dang sure hear them). Monhof’s instructions are short, rigid and clear.
ìEveryone pick out a target,î he says softly. We’re wearing electronic shooting muffs, so I can plainly hear him. ìWe fire on zero.î
The count-down from three begins and when Monhof hits zero, things turn lively. I see at least three hogs drop after the initial volley, but no one’s celebrating yet. The hogs have a lot of open ground to cross before making it to cover, and we all have 10-round magazines.
Following the heat signature of a running pig through a thermal-vision scope is new to me, and it takes a couple shots to get the hang of it. But I like it. In seconds, my bolt is locked open, my magazine spent. The surviving pigs are gone, but through our scopes, we count seven of them that weren’t quite fast enough.
Several hours and a greasy spoon breakfast pass before we find another group of hogs. The second stalk of the night doesn’t go quite as well, but we still knock down three grown hogs, and end the evening will more than a ton of pork on the trailer. Monhof tells me this is about an average outing. Want to try it? Here’s what you need to know.
* Late Winter Books Fast: The months of January, February and March book up fast for Jager Pro, but the success rate on night shoots is often as good later in the spring and during the fall. Book your hunt here.
* Use Enough Gun: Yes, a .223 will kill a pig. But to consistently anchor running boars, you need a bigger gun. ìWe’ve shot them with the .223, but too many make it out of the field,î Monhof says. ìThe .308 is far and away better.î Jager Pro supplies guns and ammunition for the hunt.
* This is Hog Control: Jager Pro has hog control contracts with numerous farmers in the South Georgia area. These animals cause millions of dollars in crop damage every year. Trapping is the preferred method to eradicate them, but some hogs are simply too smart to trap. They still have to eat, and they still love peanuts. That’s where the shooting operations come into play.
* Listen Up: I’ve been hunting and shooting guns since I was old enough to walk. But this experience took me completely out of my element. The Jager Pro guys have it down to a science. Listen to them, do what they say, and you’ll have a great time.
* Don’t Be Trigger Shy: When the shot is called, the action happens fast. Ten rounds go faster than you think, but you won’t kill pigs if you don’t shoot. Focus on one animal, track it in your scope, and keep shooting until it goes down. An AR-10 has mild recoil, and you can easily see your bullet’s impact through the thermal scope. If you’re behind the pig, increase your lead a bit and shoot again.
* Bring a Big Cooler: The success rate on a two-night hunt with these guys is well over 90 percent. If you want to bring home some wild pork, you’ll have plenty of opportunity.