Hunting Hogs Using LED
With practiced ease, the shaggy white boar ducked under the barbed wire strand, then halted in its tracks at the edge of the grain field just as my guide had predicted it would. Standing stock-still in perfect broadside, it didn’t see me, or the .44 Magnum I had resting in the V of the gnarled oak a scant 30 yards away.
Laying a ghost to rest. This fine boar was dropped on the run at 65 yards,
using an S&W .44 Magnum, equipped with Trijicon optics.
This gift of a shot was payoff for two days of hard hunting up and down the steep, Manzanita-choked canyons of central California. After failing to walk up a pig within my limited hand-gunning range, we had opted for an ambush along a habitual evening travel route. Now, with the big boar squarely in the front iron sights, the hammer was cocked and the moment of truth had arrived. Drawing a deep calming breath, I concentrated on not flinching and slowly pulled the trigger. The magnum roared, the air hummed and the unscathed boar vanished at speed straight back up the scrub-choked canyon from which it had emerged. Huh?? No way! Score: Pig – 1; Handgun Hunter – zilch.
With the ghostly memory of that monstrous white pig and unthinkable miss haunting my dreams, it was with some trepidation I headed up to the mountains of Tejon Ranch a year later in an attempt to even the score. This time however, I held a clear advantage, as mounted atop my S&W .44 Magnum was a Trijicon LED-illuminated optic sight.
Finding another white pig on this trip seemed unlikely, for we arrived at Tejon amidst a winter storm severe enough to blanket the Southern California Tehachapi Mountains in white, and close Highway 5 for the night. Undeterred, our small hunting party churned its way up the snowy tracks to the cabin, pulled out winter gear and sighted in our handguns amidst snow flurries, thereby adding a little extra thunder to the storm.
Paula sighting in an S&W .44 Magnum, equipped with Trijicon’s LED optic.
Red Dot Optic
My S&W Model 629 in .44 Magnum sports a 8-3/8″ barrel, and with the LED optic mounted over the back of the cylinder, the gun felt both comfortable and well-balanced. It had just enough weight for stability, whether firing offhand or from shooting sticks. I chose Trijicon’s RMR sight with an LED 8.0 MOA Red Dot, which worked well in the myriad of lighting conditions that we encountered over the next two days; everything from sunny snow banks to dark pigs on shadowy hillsides.
Despite being dressed for the cold, the weather made our hunt especially challenging. The first morning, my guide, Cody Plank, and I spent several hours tracking a lone boar through thigh-deep snow. How that pig managed to keep ahead of us on those stubby legs baffled me, but he had more to lose, and apparently he knew it. We put in two more stalks that afternoon, passing on the first small group we encountered, as it held no large boars, and then getting defeated on the second try, as the rain and failing light allowed the big boy that we were stalking to vanish into a rocky ravine. We didn’t bag a hog that night, but we enjoyed a dramatic sunset as the last rays broke out from beneath the storm clouds and illuminated the hillsides in rich amber light for our slog back to the welcome warmth of the guide’s pickup truck.
Day two found us cruising the southern hills below the snow line. Heavy rains had turned the lush grass verdant green, and it was every pig’s, and pig hunters’, paradise. But those rains also meant plenty of mud, and we nosed the pickup into one crossing, only to find all four wheels quickly entombed in bottomless silt, with snowmelt water running in across the floorboards. Eventually, another guide came to our rescue with a towrope. However, Cody insisted that he never “called” for help because he had managed to text our plea for assistance!
With the guide’s truck hosed off and his reputation intact, we carried on, and later that afternoon saw a promising scatter of pigs dotting the steep slopes ahead. Through binoculars, we picked out two big boars on an upper slope, but since the road was too muddy for the truck, we set off on foot for the mile-long stalk. A couple hundred yards from our quarry, a narrow canyon on the downwind side allowed us to gain altitude out of the pigs’ view. From there, we skirted around the shoulder of the grassy hillside to come up within shooting distance. It was a sound plan and would have worked well, had a pair of coyotes not come around the same hillside from the opposite direction moments before us and spooked the pigs off. We arrived to where the pigs had been feeding just in time to glimpse them high-tailing it down the hillside, the coyotes frolicking behind. Alas, that’s all part of the game.
Overall, our group had done well over the two days, and slowly but surely the pig count hanging from the skinning shed was adding up. But as the second day drew to a close, Cody and I once again returned to the cabin empty-handed. He had yet to get me within shooting range of a big boar, and with less than one day of hunting time left, his pride was on the line.
Hunting party sighting-in during the storm.
Our 4×4 lost the battle against the silt in this crossing swollen with
heavy rains and snowmelt.
Last Day Hog
So the next morning while the others slept in, we headed out before dawn for the long drive down to the lowest slopes where no one in the group had ventured. We scouted hard, but as the sun rose and the morning wore on, we had yet to see a shootable pig. I had enjoyed all of the stalks thus far, so I didn’t really care if I went home without a trophy. Or, perhaps there was some relief in not having to explain why another “perfect” opportunity had ended without a pig to show for it. When suddenly off to our left a lone boar came trotting up from the flats into a shallow draw that crossed the road 75 yards ahead.
“Follow me and stay low!” whispered Cody, as he gently rolled the truck to a stop and grabbed his shooting sticks. He didn’t need to tell me twice. I was already out the door with gun in hand, and suddenly I really wanted that pig.
We crouch-sprinted 50 yards to put us within comfortable range of the draw before placing the sticks. Settling the magnum into the notch and cocking the hammer, I had a sudden vision of that .44 resting in a gnarled oak and gulped. But this was a different pig and a new day, and when he emerged from the draw and stopped quartering onto us, the LED Red Dot glowed reassuringly bright against his hairy black shoulder.
“Take him,” Cody instructed, and with the dot rock-steady on that shoulder, I squeezed the trigger. The pig squealed and spun 360 degrees before racing off back the way it had come. I couldn’t believe it! The shot had felt perfect, but the running pig told a different story. My anxiety doubled when Cody let out a sigh and said, “You’d better hit it again, ‘cause I don’t know how we’re going to follow that up.” In fact, that first shot had shattered the shoulder and tore through the top of the heart and lungs before lodging under the thick hide on the far side. That pig was dead — he just didn’t know it yet. Neither did we, so the pressure was on.
Swiveling the gun around on the sticks, I instinctively looked for the front iron sight and was struggling to keep it on the running pig when I suddenly remembered the powerful optic mounted right in front of my nose. Tipping the barrel much farther down than I had gauged it with the iron sight brought the LED dot onto the retreating boar, now running almost directly away from us. With the optic sight acquired, I easily placed the shot and dropped the boar in its tracks. “Nice shot!” proclaimed Cody, clearly every bit as relieved as I.
We paced off the distance to where the fine boar lay dead when Cody informed me with a grin, that the second shot had been a cool 65 yards. I thought of how much my aim had changed when switching from the iron sights to the LED optic. There was no doubt that I would have missed the second shot were it not for the friendly Red Dot. Back at the cabin, we were given a heroes’ welcome and a hearty breakfast. We retold the story, and the guides added my pig to the weekend’s take.
People usually come to Southern California for the sunshine, but all that snow came in handy when hanging the meat, and rendered those pigs particularly delicious on the grill. With luck, I’ll return to Tejon again one day, and who knows? With old ghosts laid to rest, and newfound confidence thanks to field-proven equipment, next time I might even look for a white pig in a snowstorm.
By Paula A.White
Paula’s Trijicon LED optic enabled her to take down this fine trophy.
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