How to Use Thermal Cameras for Hog Hunting
You’ve more than likely heard about the impact that wild hogs or feral hogs are having in our country. Feral hogs are the descendants of escaped domestic pigs from long ago. They are non-native to the United States, and like many other non-native, invasive species, they tend to have outsized impacts. As such, eliminating them and solving the problem is a lot harder than you’d think. One way to locate them (for wildlife control/hunting purposes) is using thermal cameras to spot them at night when they are very active. Here’s a little background on the issue and how you could use thermal cameras for hog hunting as well.
Damage from Wild Hogs
Feral hogs are a major nuisance animal where they occur, particularly in the Southeast U.S. According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), feral hogs exist in at least 31 states with a nationwide population estimated at about 6 million animals. Considering each sow can reach reproductive status at less than a year of age, they can breed year-round (more than one litter each year), and each litter is typically large, it’s no wonder why they are such an issue.
Wild hogs are primarily an issue for agricultural lands. They root through the soil, turning the dirt over, consuming newly planted seeds (especially corn, soybeans, peanuts, etc.), trampling young and vulnerable crops, wallowing in pastures, and eating mature crops. Of course, this same behavior is disruptive to homeowners’ lawns, landscaping, and golf courses, as well as sensitive natural areas where they can destroy rare plants or seedlings. They also have a detrimental impact on water quality, as their rooting and wallowing can cause more sediment to run off into nearby streams, causing sedimentation and nutrient issues. Surprisingly, while they mostly eat plant materials, they are even known to eat some animals (including small mammals like whitetail fawns). Just one sow with a litter of pigs can do a surprising amount of damage in one night too, destroying acres of fields. Wild hogs are estimated to cause up to $1.5 billion of damage each year in the U.S., which is a staggering number. That makes feral hog control a big priority for many states.
Controlling Feral Hogs
Unfortunately, for the reasons discussed above, wild hogs are very hard to get rid of once they’re established. You can exclude them from sensitive areas by installing fencing, but it needs to be a robust fence system and it doesn’t solve the ultimate problem either. The only other option then is lethal removal. While hunting does work on a small scale temporarily, it’s hard to remove enough pigs using that method for true population control. Again, a single sow can repopulate a given area within a year because of their high productivity. Another complicating factor is that wild hogs are very adaptable and can learn quickly. Any failed hunting attempts will make those pigs much harder to kill in the future.
On a larger scale, baiting and live trapping is a very effective combination because you can trap dozens of pigs at one time, and not leave any to learn from the experience. But before you can do either of those approaches, you need to know where the wild hogs are spending their time. That’s where thermal cameras for hog hunting are essential.
Monitoring Hogs at Night
Feral hogs can do a lot of damage at night when they feed, so being able to monitor their movements in darkness is a huge benefit. Trail cameras can be useful for that, to some extent, but even wireless cameras don’t provide real-time information to the extent that a thermal camera can. You can use thermal cameras for hog hunting to keep track of their locations and determine the best places to trap or hunt them. Thermal cameras can detect heat signatures, rather than relying on any light source, which is very advantageous for different conditions. For example, you can “see” through cover (such as brush or grass) and different weather conditions (including fog, rain, or snow). You can also detect animals at much further distances than when using infrared cameras. Our thermal cameras can spot the heat from an animal at distances out to ¼ mile! By parking at a key vantage point overlooking a field, for example, you could monitor it for any evidence of wild hogs from the comfort of your own truck cab.
The NightRide Scout collection of thermal cameras is a great option for wildlife control and monitoring, especially feral hog hunting. With remote-controlled 360-degree panning and tilting of the camera when mounted to the rooftop, you can track their movements easily. The camera has a magnetic mount, which you can easily install on the vehicle roof or hood. The camera runs by using your vehicle’s 12 V charger, and you can watch the live video feed on your phone via an app.
There are several ways of hunting feral hogs, each with different advantages. If you’re still interested, here are the primary methods available to you.
- One of the more exotic hunting methods you’ve likely seen is hunting hogs from a helicopter. You might assume that only sharpshooters that are paid to remove the animals can pursue this type of hunt, but you’d be wrong. In states like Texas, certain outfitters are permitted to bring hunters out and shoot feral hogs from a flying helicopter. It’s a pretty wild adventure, but it comes at a premium. Expect to spend a few thousand dollars if this is the way you want to go about it.
- While traditional tree stand or blind hunting can work for a while, it can have diminishing returns over time. Recall that feral pigs often travel together in large numbers and can quickly learn to avoid danger. When one member of the sounder (i.e., group) is shot, the other pigs tend to learn quickly and start to avoid those areas or similar situations, which makes future hunting more difficult.
- An effective and exciting method is by using thermal cameras for hog hunting at night. Provided you have enough land and permission to hunt, this is an addicting hunting method. Since our thermal cameras can see heat signatures out several hundred yards away, you can easily spot a sounder of pigs from your vehicle and pursue the pigs from there. If you’re trapping the hogs, you can monitor where they spend their time to decide where you want to install a trap. From there, you would bait the trap for a while to ensure enough pigs are coming into the trap to make it worthwhile. If you have a good vantage point, you could monitor your trap from your vehicle using the thermal cameras for hog hunting, and then deploy it once all the pigs enter. If you will be shooting at night, you will also need a rifle equipped with a thermal rifle scope, and likely some night vision goggles if you’ll be stalking closer to the pigs.
One thing to keep in mind when hunting hogs at night is that it can be difficult. Sure, it’s exciting and adventurous, but there are some logistical challenges. For example, being able to stealthily sneak around in the dark is tough. If you keep crunching on branches or stumbling on rocks, you will spook the sounder before you can get within shooting range. This is where night vision goggles will help you.
No matter which method you choose, it’s important to remember that feral hogs are an invasive species. They are destructive to farmers and ranchers, as well as our native species and habitats. As such, we need to control them in any way we can. And using thermal cameras for hog hunting can be an effective way.