6/11/2012 7:19 AM
Night vision. It may be the holy grail of tactical hog hunting. Ask anyone who has used it extensively though, and they'll tell you there's more to it than meets the eye. Tactical Night Vision Company (TNVC) and Wild River Ranch (WRR) recently teamed up to offer a civilian tactical night vision class culminating in a full on tactical hog hunt. Put this one on your bucket list.
Located west of Victoria, Texas, Wild River Ranch is owned by Dr. Chris Lucci, an avid hog hunter, expert guide and part of the brain trust behind the SPC II chamber of the 6.8 round. Running ahead of schedule, I decided to stop just west of the ranch in historic Goliad to grab a bite to eat at The Hanging Tree restaurant. Fitting the occasion for my trip, I'm served a giant burger they call the 50/50: Half ground rib eye and half ground bacon. A few stories from owner Allen Najvr of being treed by hogs, and I'm back on the road.
As I approach the gate of WRR, the giant red setting sun appropriately slips below the horizon. The class trainers arrive, and I get to witness first hand the planning and professionalism of this team. Victor Di Cosola at TNVC brings the best to the table. These guys are the real deal, combat proven, hand picked to meet the objectives of the class.
The class roster had filled quickly. Requirements to attend this beginner’s night vision (NV) class included some advanced shooting skills, and attendees had the option of getting up to speed in that department on a couple of preceding days. Class participants learned the basics of running NV gear with both rifles and pistols
For many readers, NV gear could mean a lot of things. After all, it’s been around a while: the Germans in World War II got the ball rolling in the infrared (IR) night vision game. In contrast, TNVC brought some serious current mil-spec gear along. In addition to the M24 Thermal, PVS-21, PVS-22, PVS-14 and other related gear, they invited Laser Devices, Inc. and FLIR whose reps added depth and more gear to the experience
Once restricted to military and law enforcement use, NV gear is now readily available at a broad variety of price points. According to TNVC, Texas is leading the pack in terms of civilian purchases of NV gear. Sales are driven by a couple of factors: disaster preparedness (Texas gets both hurricanes and tornados) and, of course, hog hunting.
Once the class participants were smiling their way back to their respective homes, it was time to touch the pinnacle of tactical hog hunting. A little warm up on the Wild River Ranch range (yes, with wild hog silhouettes), some great food, and it’s time to gear up.
I’m running a WRR built 6.8 SPC, SBR with a Gen 3, hand-selected Pinnacle ITT tubed 4x scope from TNVC. A Wilson Combat titanium Whisperer suppressor quiets things down. Guided by Dr. Chris Lucci, hunters using this kit have taken plenty of hogs here. Tonight will be no different.
Well, maybe a little different. Anyone can find a guide outfitted with NV gear to take them on a hog hunt. It just takes a little time and money, and you can budget for both. This hunt, however, will be with four Special Forces types (the class trainers), and one civilian, me.
We load onto an elevated open truck bed and roll. The sun is setting, the dark is coming, and these guys are ready to shoot some hogs. Dr. Lucci goes into guide mode. He knows the land, he knows the hogs, he knows his gear. He’s running both thermal and IR simultaneously. His handle is “High Tech Rancher,” but he’s been hunting and guiding for longer than one of our Special Forces operators on the hunt has been alive.
This may be rightly called “Tactical Hog Hunting,” but it’s still hunting. It’s us versus a smart, alert set of swine tonight. Like virtually all hunting, weather plays a part. We have a high pressure system that has parked right on top of us. It’s quiet, it’s still, so working the wind to our favor isn’t going to happen.
We ride the truck. We walk. We ride the truck. We walk. Then, one of the coolest things I’ve seen while hunting happened. It’s hard to describe. One of the Special Forces guys running a PVS-14 NV monocular spots something in the thick brush next to the road we’re on. Without a word, just a hand signal, all these combat veterans are in a stack formation, ready to take down hogs. But the hogs are already on their way deep into cover, so we move on.
Not much later, we come around a bend in the road, and there they are! A group of twenty or thirty hogs is feeding happily, 75 yards or so from our position. No itchy trigger fingers here. Imagine looking though an NV device, and seeing IR lasers picking out hogs! Not everyone is running a laser, and I pick out one on the left side of the group using the my 4x NV scope. We drop three wild hogs, a couple of us shooting the same pig. There’s something to be said for designating your targets with lasers in this game. We load up the hogs and head back to the ranch house. It’s two o’clock in the morning, but good victories deserve good feasting, so there’s more food, some hog autopsies to see how the bullets performed, and a bit of packing for the trip home.
The idea that civilians can get in on this is really cool, and that’s an understatement. The availability of practical training for using NV gear adds a whole new dimension to safety and competency. If you love tactical hog hunting, you simply have to put this experience on your bucket list.
On the web:
Wild River Ranch: www.wildriverranch.net
Laser Devices, Inc.: www.laserdevices.com
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