By Ben Smith:
You ever get yourself involved in something and before too long you think, “I have no idea what the heck I’m doing?” Not sure about you, but this tends to happen to me pretty frequently. Chalk it up to trying new things. If there’s something, especially in the outdoors, that I haven’t done before, I get pretty fired up when provided with an opportunity. And just when I think I’ve done just about all you can do in Mississippi, someone introduces me to something new, and really cool.
Throughout the years, I’ve killed my fair share of wild hogs. I used to hunt with my cousin in the Delta and he was absolutely overrun with them. On this particular piece of property, he had a few rules regarding what kind of buck you could shoot. He obviously wanted it to be mature, but there were a few more requirements, as well. The most important rule that he had for this property, though, didn’t have anything to do with deer. The most important rule was that you shoot every single wild hog that you saw. You’d possibly have been better off shooting a buck that didn’t meet standards rather than him finding out you saw a hog and didn’t kill it. They were that bad. I don’t know how many hogs we all killed off of that place, but I felt like we never put a dent in the population.
Even though I’ve killed hogs before, I never really went hunting with the intention of shooting them. Shooting hogs was mostly just a spontaneous action that occurred when offered the opportunity. We never hunted them at night, and we never trapped them. We just operated under the “see a hog, shoot a hog” mentality. I’ve watched videos of guys hunting them at night with thermal scopes and high tech equipment but had never been. I’m not anti-thermal hunting by any stretch, I’d just never really been offered the opportunity.
Before I go any further, there needs to be an understanding regarding the wild hog. They are a nuisance animal…period. Farmers spend quite a bit of money each year trying to eradicate these pests all over our state. In Texas, there are farms that even employ the use of helicopters to shoot wild hogs (something I’d like to try one day). Some farmers use large traps, baited with corn, to catch large numbers of hogs each year. When the hogs enter the trap, the door shuts keeping them confined until someone comes along and kills them all. This method is harder to do with agriculture fields, due to the food on the ground.
Then, there’s another method…shooting them at night with thermal scopes mounted on AR-15 rifles. This is where the “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing” comes into play. Now, I’ve got an AR (well, I did until that boating accident) and I’ve shot pigs, but I’ve never put the two together. When Chip Tatum emailed me with the opportunity to tag along with him, I couldn’t make time speed up quick enough. I met Chip and Van Hensarling at a farm in Lawrence County around 5:30 in the evening. After exchanging pleasantries, and a quick tutorial on how to use the thermal scope, we loaded up in Van’s side by side and rode around looking for hogs.
Using the thermal spotting scope took a little getting used to. You ever look into the sun then look away and all you see are those dots? This is what it was like at first. I’d look through the thermal then it would take a moment for my eyes to readjust to the dark. It didn’t take long before Chip spotted a couple of coyotes not too far off. Van stopped the side by side and Chip let ‘em have it. The second one got away but the night was off to a good start. Van’s side by side is electric, so we didn’t have any trouble slipping around without spooking the wildlife. I don’t know how many deer we saw during the time we were out there, but it was more than I’d seen in a very long time.
We headed toward a bigger field on the property just down the road. Along the way, Chip popped another coyote, but we had yet to see any hogs. We pulled into the big field and just like that, there they were. There were at least 16 of them, some weighing well over two hundred pounds. The wind was in our favor, and with very little moonlight we didn’t have much trouble getting into a comfortable shooting distance. We set up in a line, shoulder to shoulder about 4-5 feet apart, each with a tripod to shoot from. After confirming that I was ready, Chip gave the countdown…3, 2, 1.
For the next few seconds that little piece of property in Lawrence County became a warzone. Three different AR-15 rifles emptied while hogs scattered everywhere. When the shooting was done, my adrenaline level was off the charts. In that moment, I would have sold every piece of outdoor gear that I had in order to purchase a thermal scope and do this every single day. If asked, I would have quit my job, left my family, and robbed a bank to fuel this addiction. My hands were shaky afterward and my body tingled with excitement. I’ve never really experienced hardcore drugs before, but if this is the feeling you’d get it’s probably best that I steer clear.
The total body count was eight in those quick few seconds of carnage. We estimated the larger two hogs to be in the 250 pound range, while the smallest ones were probably around 30-40 pounds. After cleaning up our mess, we kept on pushing through the fields in search of more. We rode around for a while longer with no luck, although Chip did kill another coyote during that time. It didn’t bother me that we didn’t see any more hogs, I was completely satisfied. I’m not sure my body could have taken much more, anyway. It’s not used to those levels of adrenaline being pumped through it! I don’t know when I’ll have this opportunity again, but I’m grateful for the invitation from Chip. It was undoubtedly one of the most fun things that I’ve ever done in the outdoors. And if you ever get the chance to do this, by all means take it.