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        The Novice Guide to Hog Hunting with Traps and Thermal

        The Novice Guide to Hog Hunting with Traps and Thermal

        The ancient Chinese warrior-poet Sun Tzu once said if one knows both his enemy and himself, in a hundred battles, he will never be defeated. For the hunters of the American south, this enemy is the feral hog.

        The Spanish first brought Eurasian wild boar to their New World colonies in the 16th century, with initial expeditions releasing them into the wild for their successors to hunt. This attempt to create a self-sustaining food source resulted in an explosion of hogs across every Spanish colony in the Americas and now the hogs are our problem.

        The modern feral hog is the result of an unnatural union between the aforementioned wild boar and the domestic pig. Their vast numbers come from their year-long mating season and the fact they reach sexual maturity at only three months. Sows can produce litters of up to seven pigs, with two litters per year.

        The coat of a feral pig depends on its age. An animal six months or younger is very small, about the size of a Jack Russel terrier or a young lamb. At this stage, it is categorized as a piglet or a “squeaker.” The broad black-and-tan horizontal stripes serve as camouflage against their natural predators but serve no defense against thermal vision.

        Unlike night vision, thermal optics detect objects based on thermal radiation instead of the amplification of light. Consider that the military’s PVS-14 night vision goggles have a maximum range of about 100-200 yards while Sightmark’s Wraith Mini Thermal has a maximum range of about 1,400 yards without needing to rely on an IR illuminator.

        A detection range that far is perfect for shooting from a concealed blind. Many commercial hog hunting ranches have feeders set up near blinds, which are good for efficient hunting, but if you find yourself on any land which allows you to bring your own bait, consider making your own bait.

        Hogs have poor eyesight, but they have a phenomenal sense of smell. Knowing this, whatever bait you use should be able to carry an aroma. Some whole shelled corn mixed with strong-smelling sugary liquids like soda and a packet of yeast are a great, cheap option for attracting entire sounders.

        If and when the hogs finally arrive, they will be led by the matriarch. This is usually the largest and oldest sow in the group who is in charge of caring for the piglets and leading the hogs to food sources. Now, just like people who debate between Whataburger and In-N-Out, there are two camps with differing viewpoints on the fate of the matriarch.

        Some people say the matriarch should be sought out and shot, since the sounder would scatter without proper leadership. Others, on the other hand, say the matriarch should never be shot precisely because the sounder will scatter without proper leadership.

        Now, where’s the logic there? Way back in the era of musket warfare, soldiers were told not to shoot at enemy officers since an army without a leader would dissolve into a disorderly mob of deserters scattering in all directions that would wreak havoc through indiscriminate looting. The same thing can happen if you shoot a matriarch. If the hogs scatter, there’s a chance some of them will form their own smaller sounders and wreak havoc everywhere. However, at the same time, shooting the matriarch will cause momentary confusion and may even make some younger pigs freeze in panic, making them easier to shoot.

        On the other hand, shooting any other pig but the matriarch will make the sounder beat a nice, neat, linear retreat with everyone following the matriarch to safety. The sounder will remain a single entity, with individuals leaving the sounder only in adulthood.

        Their ability to form social groups isn’t the only marker of the feral hog’s intelligence. Many say the feral hog is even smarter than the dog. In labs, pigs have demonstrated their ability to solve simple problems that human 2 year olds wouldn’t be able to solve. In the wild, feral pigs have frequently been seen hiding among herds of cattle as a form of camouflage.

        In the 1920s, British hunters in India would frequently chase down wild boar on horseback, and the hogs quickly realized that if they hid among cattle, the British would never charge them. In the same way, American hogs mingle among cattle knowing that they won’t be shot as long as the large, valuable beasts are in their way.

        Since hog hunters face such a cunning foe, the act of pig hunting is a challenging activity that requires both careful planning and strategy. To effectively hunt feral hogs, several key points should be considered, including the use of thermal technology, long-range shooting tactics, and the importance of relocating traps.

        As previously mentioned, one of the advantages of thermal imaging technology is its ability to detect heat signatures emitted by animals. Unlike traditional lights, thermal imaging produces no visible light that could alert hogs to a hunter's presence. This makes it an excellent tool for nocturnal hunting as hogs won't detect any change in brightness. Additionally, using suppressors or flash hiders on your firearm can further conceal your position by minimizing muzzle flash.

        Those who take animal management seriously believe that trapping is more efficient than hunting. After all, it’s more effective to trap an entire sounder than shoot just a few pigs. Pig traps are easy to find online. The act of trapping the pigs themselves is relatively straightforward: simply lay feed inside the trap over the course of several days so your local sounder associates it with food, then on a random day, when you have as many pigs inside as you want, spring the trap. The animals can then be eliminated at your leisure.

        However, it's crucial to remember that pigs are intelligent creatures that can quickly learn from their experiences. If traps are consistently placed in the same location, the hogs will eventually associate that spot with danger and avoid it. To increase the effectiveness of trapping, it is necessary to frequently relocate the traps. By doing so, you ensure that the hogs do not become familiar with the trap's location, increasing the chances of capturing the entire sounder and achieving the objective of eliminating them.

        Hog hunting requires a combination of skill, knowledge, and effective strategies. Using thermal imaging technology can provide a significant advantage by allowing hunters to remain undetected by hogs during nocturnal hunts. Employing long-range shooting tactics, such as shooting objects beyond a sounder, can lure the hogs closer to the hunter's position. Finally, when using traps, it is important to relocate them regularly to prevent the hogs from learning and avoiding the traps. By implementing these techniques, hunters can increase their chances of a successful and productive hog hunting experience.

        A Mountain Lion Hunt Retold

        A Mountain Lion Hunt Retold

        Back when men were truly men, before the American people were softened by the comforts of Doordash and online shopping, there was a lot of money to be made in the yet untamed North American wilderness. Adventurers like C. J. Lincke would embark on months-long expeditions into the virgin forests in search of fun and profit.

        In the winter of 1920, Lincke and his associate Charles Johnston had gone into the Canadian Rockies to exploit the region’s mineral wealth through copper mining. Their mining cabin, an isolated structure 80 thousand feet above sea level, was well supplied since the two expected to leave only during the spring thaw, when the going would be easier. To break up the monotony of their work, they would hunt and lay traps in the woods near their camp, occasionally bagging fur-bearing animals like martens which would sell for no small amount of cash back in civilization. A single black marten would be worth $65 or $950 in today’s money.

        One day, the two discovered many of their traps had been broken into by some… creature. From trap to trap, the snow had been disturbed and the traps had been set off, but the lynxes and martins that were supposed to be there were conspicuously missing as well, along with their valuable furs. At first, Lincke and Johnston believed they had fallen victim to a wolverine. After all, the ravenous creatures were also known to scavenge from time to time. The pair figured it wasn’t such a big loss, and they could just reset the traps for the next day.

        Unfortunately, mother nature had different plans. That night, the earth shook, and a cascade of snow and earth from the mountaintops rushed into the valley below, turning it into a white sea with only the treetops of the tall evergreens reaching out from the vast white desert.

        This was no small emergency, and the two men decided to pick their way through and journey to another log cabin deep in the woods, following a wide gulch to the area where they knew the snow was shallower. As they trekked through the dense forest, Lincke picked up a set of tracks running parallel with their own. Mountain lion tracks.

        Now, your average yellow-bellied city slicker would most likely turn tail and head back to the snow-logged cabin and just wait in misery for the spring thaw rather than risk going toe-to-toe with a mountain lion, but Lincke and Johnston were made of sterner stuff. Armed only with an axe, they continued the trek. It would be another four miles to reach the other cabin, where Lincke had left his rifle.

        As night fell, Lincke produced a device called a “bug light,” essentially a candle in a tomato can with a bucket handle. There were holes cut into it to let the light shine out, and it made a good makeshift lantern.

        After a mile of hiking in the darkness, Lincke noticed what he called “a faint echo of (their) footsteps” coming from their rear. As he shone the bug light to the path behind them, he caught sight of what he described as two orbs of “green fire” staring at them from the shadows.

        Running was out of the question. In snow that deep, with walking already as hard as it was, going any faster was a near impossibility. If the lion pounced, the two had agreed that whoever was attacked first would curl up into a ball and use his rucksack to bear the brunt of the lion’s assault while the second man would grab an axe and counterattack.

        Thankfully the lion retreated into the shadows, most likely because it knew its potential prey was looking directly at it. Lincke and Johnston moved on, picking up the pace as much as the thick snow allowed them to. Lincke described the rest of the trip as a lethal game of hide and seek, with the soft crunch of the cat’s paws following them all the way.

        Occasionally, it would appear behind them or on their flanks, considering an attack only to be driven off by the slowly dimming light of their bug light.

        By nothing short of a miracle, they reached the safety of their cabin. As luck would have it, this building was just as snowed in as their last cabin, and the two had to shovel snow in the dark to even find the door. After they had made their way inside and settled down a bit, Johnston decided to make some tea using melted snow from outside.

        As he opened the door, he found a pair of hungry green eyes staring down at him from the edge of the snow pile in the doorway. Johnston slammed the door shut on the creature just before it pounced. Both men heard the loud thud against the door’s solid wooden panel.

        Lincke grabbed his rifle, a faithful lever-action, and trained it at the door. It was here they would make their stand. He signaled for Johnston to open the door, and as he did so, nothing came in but the cold winter air.

        Relieved, Johnston closed the door again. Both men trusted they would be well defended by their wooden cabin. Snow had covered all the windows and was level with the roof, and the only viable entryway was guarded by Lincke and his rifle.

        The rest of the night was uneventful. By morning, when the pair came out to stretch their legs, they noticed the big cat had encircled the cabin multiple times trying to find a way in, even walking over the roof in frustration.

        Something needed to be done.

        After stuffing their packs with three days’ worth of provisions and blankets and arming themselves with the axe and the rifle, the pair of adventurers followed the beast’s tracks back into the woods.

        As an expert tracker, Lincke saw the tracks more than a set of footprints leading to an animal. Rather, he could read them as a story in the snow. From its tracks, he traced the mountain lion’s path to beyond a 20-foot deadfall, from which it had leapt down. A scattering of feathers and two sets of prints pointed to a scuffle between the mountain lion and a grouse, which had escaped. Further down the trail, a different set of tracks crossed those of the mountain lion – a hare chased by a lynx – but after those tracks met, only the hare’s tracks bounded off into the wilderness, while the lynx’s paw prints disappeared completely.

        After two hours of tracking, they spotted a flash of tawny behind a large tree. Before Lincke could take proper aim, the big cat was gone. After circling around the tree, they could find no sign of the animal, but its tracks gave them a good idea of where it was.

        The two men decided to split up and spread out, hoping to flush the mountain lion out of the woods into the open gulch. Johnston, only armed with an axe, must have been scared out of his mind, but luckily the mountain lion knew it was being stalked, and its sense of self-preservation made it retreat.

        As the two men passed through the forest and into an open glade, they saw the mountain lion several hundred yards out, much too far for an accurate shot with a lever-action. It was trying to run in the snow, which was belly deep for the cat in some places. Occasionally it would turn and hiss at the two men before continuing its retreat.

        The depth of the snow made the going rough for everyone. It was more of a slog than a chase, and the mountain lion would sometimes disappear into the deep snow as if it were water, only to reappear again somewhere else like a tan-colored whale breaking the surface.

        Somewhere during the chase, the lion decided to make a detour and headed back towards the cabin. Eager to not have the animal break into their camp, the men picked up the pace and found the creature in a thick growth of hemlock leaping from a deadfall to a large log, pausing just long enough for Lincke to take a shot.

        The crack of the lever-action rifle rang through the forest, but only grazed the cat’s throat. The lion leapt up into the trees, taking cover amidst the thick evergreen needles. The two men circled the trees, drawing nearer to try and corner the lion.

        A flash of tan fur 25 feet up gave away the cat’s position. Just as it was about to pounce on Johnston, Lincke fired and struck the lion under the head. It hit the snowy forest floor like a ton of bricks. When their heart rates slowed down and the excitement wore off, the two men realized they were no more than a hundred yards from the cabin. They doffed their hats for the lion, giving the great cat the respect it deserved and thanking it for allowing them to kill it so close to their cabin so they could skin it in comfort.

        When they opened it up, they discovered the lost furs from their traps, as well as the remains of a lynx. Along the cougar’s front legs and belly, there were several lacerations made from lynx claws. The animal had apparently put up quite a fight before it went down.

        The lion measured eight feet six inches from nose to tail, and Lincke turned the great cat into a bedroom rug.

        Nowadays, the number of adventurers and hunters who would take risks like Lincke and Johnston is dwindling, but for those who would, they wouldn’t have to fear being stalked in the dark thanks to technological innovations like the Wraith Thermal, Sightmark’s powerful new thermal riflescope.

        Capable of defeating all manner of camouflage, the Wraith Thermal is accurate and deadly efficient, just like the great predators that stalk the shadows of what wilderness remains.

        Thermal Legality by State

        Thermal Legality by State

        Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. 


        Sightmark has done its due diligence and has reached out to the Fish and Wildlife representatives from all 50 states to determine the legality of thermal optics for hunting within their jurisdictions so that anyone who is unsure about using our new, powerful Wraith Thermal digital thermal riflescope on a night hunt can rest easy knowing that it can be used without legal repercussions.

        The laws on thermal optics vary by state. Before trying your hand at night hunting with your new thermal device, it would be good to check with your local Game Warden before you reserve a date on the calendar for a hunting trip. 


        Alabama – LEGAL; thanks to new legislation in 2021, Alabama residents will be able to purchase a $15 license ($51 for non-residents) to hunt hogs and coyotes at night. Night vision and thermal are encouraged. 

        Alaska – ILLEGAL; Using a pit, fire, laser sight (excluding rangefinders), electronically-enhanced night vision, any forward looking infrared device, any device that has been airborne, controlled remotely, or communicates wirelessly, and used to spot or locate game with the use of a camera or video device, any camera or other sensory device that can send messages through wireless communication is considered illegal. 

        Arizona – ILLEGAL, Electronic night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering devices, thermal imaging devices or laser sights projecting a visible light; except for devices such as laser range finders projecting a non-visible light, scopes with self-illuminating reticles, and fiber optic sights with self-illuminating sights or pins that do not project a visible light onto an animal. 

        Arkansas – LEGAL, but only for feral hogs. They can also be used to hunt raccoons if used in conjunction with a hunting dog. 

        California – ILLEGAL, California law considers all night vision or thermal imaging devices for firearms illegal. 

        Colorado – ILLEGAL; It is unlawful for a person to utilize electronic night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering optics, or thermal imaging devices as an aid in hunting or taking wildlife outside legal hunting hours according to commission rules. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. 

        Connecticut – LEGAL but only from Jan.2 to Jan. 21st for raccoons and possums as well as from Oct. 21st to Dec. 30th 

        Delaware – LEGAL if the device doesn’t cast infrared, it cannot be used in conjunction with a light at night. You can’t use any artificial light when hunting. No predator hunting in the evening because of the use of a light. 

        Florida – LEGAL, generally, subject to local area. No light emission for hogs and coyotes, raccoons, and possums.  

        Georgia – LEGAL; no restrictions 

        Hawaii – ILLEGAL, there is no night hunting in Hawaii. 

        Idaho – LEGAL as long as there is no emitted light. 

        Illinois – LEGAL for the following animals: red fox, gray fox, bobcat, raccoons, opossums, coyote, and striped skunk during the specified season. Night hunting legality may vary depending on whichever region of Illinois you are hunting in. 

        Indiana – LEGAL only if there is a continuously burning light among hunters visible from at least 500 feet away. 

        Iowa – LEGAL; thermal and night vision equipment is allowed if it does not emit visible light. 

        Kansas – LEGAL, night vision equipment permit required. Thermal imaging equipment may be used to hunt coyotes from Jan. 1 through March 31. 

        Kentucky – LEGAL for coyote hunting, but only with shotguns. Even though they may be hunted year-round, thermal and other artificial illumination can only be used from Dec. 1st – May 31st. 

        Louisiana – LEGAL for hogs and coyotes.  

        Maine – LEGAL but only for raccoons and coyotes. Raccoons may only be hunted at night when the hunter uses a dog and a firearm with a caliber greater than .22LR. Coyotes may be hunted at night from Dec. 16th to Aug 31st. Hunters must use a calling device. 

        Maryland – LEGAL, as long as the artificial illumination device does not emit visible light. Coyotes, foxes, opossums, or raccoons may be hunted on foot at nighttime during open season with the use of a dog and light. 

        Massachusetts – LEGAL, as long as there is no emitted visible light. Night hunting is from ½ hour after sunset to midnight. 

        Michigan – LEGAL, can be used during legal nighttime hours to hunt grey fox, red fox, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes.  

        Minnesota – LEGAL, only when hunting fox or coyotes at night during the legal hunting season. For coyotes, this is from January 1 – March 15. Fox season varies by year.  

        Mississippi – LEGAL when hunting coyotes, raccoons, foxes, opossums, beavers, and bobcats on private land. 

        Missouri – LEGAL only for coyote season Feb 1 – to March 31. Artificial light, night vision, IR and thermal. 

        Montana – LEGAL for coyotes and any animal not regulated by fish and wildlife. 

        Nebraska – LEGAL for furbearers and coyotes. 

        Nevada – ILLEGAL; no night hunting allowed in Nevada. 

        New Hampshire – LEGAL with no restrictions 

        New Jersey – LEGAL with no restrictions 

        New Mexico – ILLEGAL; there is no night hunting allowed in New Mexico. 

        New York – LEGAL during legal nighttime hours for the following animals: gray and red fox, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, skunk, mink, and opossums 

        North Carolina – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        North Dakota – LEGAL for coyotes and foxes. 

        Ohio – LEGAL, during legal hunting hours for fox, hogs, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, coyotes, weasels and skunks. 

        Oklahoma – LEGAL for coyotes and feral hogs. 

        Oregon – ILLEGAL, all night vision and thermal banned. 

        Pennsylvania – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        Rhode Island – LEGAL, but only raccoons are huntable at night. There is no rifle use in the state other than .229 and lower for small game only. 

        South Carolina – LEGAL for hunting hogs, coyotes, and armadillos on any registered property. 

        South Dakota – LEGAL, but only on private property. A landowner may have a maximum of two guests with thermal or night vision to hunt jackrabbits, coyotes, beaver, foxes, raccoons, opossums, badgers, skunks, and rodents, but only if they are armed with a shotgun or rifle with a caliber less than .225. 

        Tennessee – ILLEGAL, no night hunting allowed in Tennessee. 

        Texas – LEGAL, no restrictions. 

        Utah – ILLEGAL, trail cameras, night vision and thermal banned. 

        Vermont – LEGAL, since thermal vision does not emit IR light, it is legal. 

        Virginia – LEGAL, when hunting at legal nighttime hours for the following animals: bobcat, coyote, feral hog, fox, opossum, raccoon, and skunk. 

        Washington – LEGAL, only for coyotes outside of deer and elk season. 

        West Virginia – LEGAL, only for coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, and opossum. 

        Wisconsin – LEGAL, only for small game like coyotes, raccoons. 

        Wyoming – LEGAL for shooting predators on public land with written permission. 

        On the Nocturnal Habits of the Feral Pig

        On the Nocturnal Habits of the Feral Pig

        As every southern boy knows, the arrival of feral pigs is both a blessing and a curse. The same animals that destroy over $1.5 billion worth of property and agricultural damage in the US every year give armed citizens a legitimate reason to exercise their Second Amendment on creatures that truly deserve to die. They also make fine eating. 

        The omnivorous diet and size of the feral pig has placed it so high up on the food chain that the only challenges to it are very large predators and red-blooded Americans with guns. There was even an instance where a lone boar was able to fight off an entire pack of wolves by itself. The feral pig’s diet and its lack of natural predators are exactly what make it a problem to farmers and landowners in the rural south. 

        Feral pigs have been ravaging rural Southern states for centuries, and there are now about 6 million wild hogs in the United States and growing. By this logic, there should be roughly six pigs per every square mile of the US South. Of course, hunters aren’t finding feral hogs under every rock and behind every tree. This is because the invasive Eurasian wild boar has learned over the years that the humans they share their home with want to see them dead, and because we want them dead, the pigs were smart enough to live out the majority of their lives at night when we humans aren’t up and about. 

        While wild pigs who live in areas constantly hunted by humans tend to be active mostly at night, similar populations who live far away from busy towns and hunting ranches are bold enough to attack crops, fields, and livestock pens in broad daylight. 

        Since feral pigs eat every shrub, grub, and mushroom that won’t poison them, they tend to dig for eatables under the topsoil. A large sounder can destroy an entire field by digging through the surface with their powerful hooves, exposing the helpful microorganisms that give the soil its nutrition and ruining the soil in the process. This behavior also causes soil erosion, and if it’s done near a water source, rooting can contaminate streams through sedimentation, impacting fish and other aquatic wildlife downstream. 

        Like criminals and teenagers, all of a feral pig’s destruction is done under cover of darkness. Hogs might not have good eyesight, but a particularly alert hog will notice someone shining a flashlight on them or near them. It won’t be because it will notice the color of the light, it’s more to do with the light’s intensity. To a colorblind boar, a bright patch of grass is still a bright patch of grass. This unnatural glowing terrain has the potential to scare away wild pigs, but this is mitigated through green and red lights, since both characters have relatively low brightness. 

        Night vision and thermal, however, are nearly undetectable. A hunter with a good thermal unit can detect heat signatures over a thousand yards away. While a feral hog’s sense of smell has a detection range of 5 to 7 miles and is nothing to sneeze at (pun intended), a competent hunter will make sure he is situated downwind of his prey, and Sightmark’s new thermal scope is perfect for both stand hunting and stalking. 

        The Sightmark Wraith, known for being a quality night vision scope, has crossed over into the world of thermal. The new Wraith Thermal from Sightmark has a detection range of 1440 yards and is offered in a 1024x768 display resolution, capable of giving hunters sharp and clear pictures of feral hogs in complete darkness over long ranges. 

        With its five color palettes, the Wraith Mini Thermal has a camera type for every kind of eye. Aside from the traditional black/white hot palette, the new Wraith Thermal not only offers additional black/white hot thermal for traditionalists, but also has options for several other color palettes. 

        It can also be used to capture the sights and sounds of nature and the thrill of the hunt in glorious thermal with its built-in high-resolution audio/video recording software. With up to 3.5 hours of battery life on video mode and 4.4 hours on preview mode, the Wraith Mini Thermal can be used to capture every moment of a hunter’s adventure. 

        Highly customizable for each user, the Wraith Mini Thermal offers five different weapon profiles with ten different reticle choices. After pushing a few buttons, a Wraith Mini Thermal, zeroed for a Remington 700 with a BDC reticle, can be configured for a Zastava PAP and use a simple duplex reticle. This means hunters can drop hogs with a with different reticle at different zeroed distances with the touch of a button. 

        It should be noted, however, that before attempting to hold back the porcine invasion in your own state, hunters should do their own due diligence and check with their local hunting laws regarding the legality of hunting with night vision or thermal. States like California and Alaska are firmly against this practice, as well as several states in the west. 



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