Get the right nocturnal hog hunting equipment…
and get the drop on a porker after the sun goes down. The dark hours are prime time to take out some wild hogs.
For a gregarious, gorge-eating animal, a wild pig can be absurdly hard to kill during daylight hours.
With a sense of smell superior to deer and a skittish sense of fear betraying their nasty demeanor, wild pigs are supreme survivalists.
That’s evidenced by extreme population explosions in the right habitats across the Carolinas. Daytime hunting can be successful when hunting pressure is low, food sources specific and patient hunters play the wind perfectly.
Hog-hunting experts agree that nocturnal hours are prime-time for pigs. And generally, when darkness falls, the pigs do what pigs do best. They eat.
Jim Boone owns Red Bluff Hunting Lodge in Allendale County, S.C. In the 20 years he’s operated his deer- and turkey-hunting operation, hunting pigs has morphed from removal as a nuisance animal to a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day operation.
Data proves success rates
“During the past 10 years, we’ve developed techniques for hunting pigs day and night,” Boone said. “I’ve tracked the data by effort and success rates. And it’s a no-brainer. Pigs are much more active and successfully hunted at night.”
Boone has parlayed his Clemson degree in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture into a successful management tool for his hunting operation. He tracks every species on every hunt. This hard computer data supports his hunting philosophy for each species.
“Bottom line is, if someone is serious about hunting hogs, nighttime is THE time to go,” he said.
Boone has gone all-in for night hunting. He has purchased equipment from basic to advanced technology. He did this to match the skill, interest and physical ability of clients.
“Much of our property borders the Savannah River. And we have a tremendous population of pigs because of ideal habitat,” he said. “I’ve tracked our harvest for 20 years. We’ve taken thousands of hogs. But our harvest per square mile rate is the same now as when we started 20 years ago. These animals reproduce at an amazing rate, because we’re killing them at a high rate.”
Terry Hiers at Blackwater Hunting Lodge near Ulmer, S.C., is expanding his hunting operation to include hog hunting at night as well.
Night hunting does not guarantee success
“We started with just daytime hog hunts. But with the high hog population and increased interest of hunters, we’ve expanded,” said Hiers (803-671-4868).
Hiers believes pigs are significantly more active at night. And the larger trophy animals, he said, are especially nocturnal. He structures hunting opportunities around hunters bringing their own equipment. He tailors a plan for the hunt based on the hunter’s goals and equipment.
“Even with a high pig population, hunting at night doesn’t guarantee success,” he said. “A structured plan is essential. Playing the wind right, hunting food sources, and keeping hunting pressure reasonable by rotating stands are essential.”
Boone agrees. And he said many hunters undervalue hogs as a worthy adversary.
“Wild hogs are incredibly adaptive and have a much-stronger sense of smell than a deer,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing for a hog hunter to know in terms of hunting tactics.”
Hiers and Boone said hogs need a reason to return to a specific spot. And potential attractors may include natural food, agricultural crop fields or, in most cases, bait such as corn — a hog’s weak link to survival. Also scouting and hunting travel routes can be effective. An elevated stand or ground blind will work. And even stalking with the wind in your face with the right equipment can lead to success.
Food source must be consistent to continue attracting hogs
“Most commercial operations use corn. And the corn supply at a given stand must never run out,” Boone said. “I keep feeders going year-round on my hog-hunting stands.”
Hunters kill hogs with a variety of weapons. And most weapons for whitetails work well on hogs.
Boone said different levels of night-hog hunting equipment are available. And, as is the case with most hunting accessories, you get what you pay for.
Boone (803-300-1179) employs three different levels of equipment based on the needs for a specific hunt. Based on the goals and capabilities of the hunter, his equipment options include low- to high-end technology.
“At the low end of the technology and cost scale is a conventional scope with a lighted reticle,” he said. “For this equipment, I use a motion-sensing light at the food source to enhance the view of the hog being targeted. The scope and light should be about $1,000 or less and do a good job. The lighted reticle is essential. An unlighted reticle gives only dark crosshairs on a dark target at night. Even when lit up, that makes precise targeting difficult at best. Proper shot placement is critical for a quick kill.”
An available option Boone doesn’t employ is a green or red light attached to the scope as the sole light source. He said if hunters opt for this accessory, a lighted reticle is still essential for proper shot placement.
Night vision, thermal-imaging
Regular “night vision” equipment is the next level of technology. It employs ambient light and/or the assistance of short-wave infrared light to boost the productivity of the device.
“It’s strictly based on having light available to see the target,” he said. “The advanced equipment is thermal imaging. Thermal imaging uses the heat signature from an animal to produce a picture. And this technology detects even small differences in heat. So it creates a well-defined image.”
Boone said thermal-imaging technology has doubled the capabilities for the same cost in recent years. So they work twice as good for the same cost.
“It’s a good time to get into nocturnal hog hunting based on equipment and technology advances in recent years,” he said. “Someone with plenty of hogs would be wise to consider the more advanced technology.
“With sound research, you do get what you pay for. And top-end thermal equipment can have sharp images with 10-power or greater magnification for example, making longer shots a viable option. It’s more expensive. But the images are magnificent.”
Boone learns about and purchases his night-vision equipment at www.nightvisionguys.com. The site offers a wide range of equipment. And it provides detailed information on the products and how they work.
“Knowledge is power in this sport. I strongly recommend hunters learn the differences in a product’s capability before purchasing to ensure it meets their individual needs,” he said.
Try before you buy
When hunting hogs at night, Boone provides hunters a “hands-on” opportunity to the different equipment he uses and explains the capabilities of each.
“If they’re interested in getting their own equipment, most hunters leave understanding the options available,” he said.
Tailor your nocturnal hog hunting to the basic hunting and strategy principles noted by Hiers and Boone for excellent success. Obtain the hunting equipment that favors your hunting land profile and harvest goals, and your nocturnal hog hunting will likely be successful and enjoyable.
As a final safety note, hunters still must identify their target before taking a shot when hunting hogs at night. That’s true even with advanced equipment.
Night hog-hunting regs differ between states
Hunters can pursue feral hogs at night in the Carolinas year-round on private lands with only a few restrictions. Each state requires a hunting license. But no closed season or harvest limit exists on private land in either. Hunters can use bait, electronic calls, and night-vision equipment on private lands. Permissible weapons include any legal firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow.
Charles Ruth, big game program coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources said nocturnal hog hunting in South Carolina must be on property registered with the SCDNR on which a person has a lawful right to hunt. Hunters can register private property for nocturnal hog hunting on the SCDNR website, www.dnr.sc.gov/nighthunt. The property must be registered annually.
Hog hunting is not allowed on Wildlife Management Areas in South Carolina.
Jason Allen, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said hunting hogs at night in North Carolina is legal on private lands where hunters have legal access to hunt.
“The property does not have to be registered,” Allen said. “Also, hunting feral swine at night on public game lands is by special permit only. Permits must be applied for and are issued through a draw process.”
For details on draw hunts in North Carolina visit www.ncwildlife.org/Licensing/Permit-Hunting-Opportunities. Read the coyote and feral hog hunt information under “Hunt Opportunities” for complete details of fees, dates and specific hunting regulations.
Allen said hunters can read more information on hunting feral hogs at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Mammals/Feral-Swine#49391755-overview.
Regulations differ between the states. So hunters need to read and understand nocturnal hog hunting regulations in the state being hunted.