There is a learning curve for hunting hogs with digital night vision such as the Sightmark Photon XT.
While it is not rocket science, a few extra buttons, dials, and steps must to be mastered in order to have a successful hunt.
Unlike a normal scope, the Photon uses batteries.
The cap which holds the batteries in place is a tight fit, which is good.
Much like a digital camera, the Photon has adjustments for different ranges and lighting conditions.
For example, both IR illumination and brightness settings may require adjustment as the range of your target changes. Prior to making a shot, it may take a few moments to make these adjustments.
At about 8pm one night last week, four hogs entered the pasture 350 yards away at the point of a tree line. When hogs are that far out of range, you can observe their movements and then plot your approach strategy. Are they foraging in one spot? If they are moving, will they quickly cross the pasture? Or will they stop intermittently to dig for food?
On this night, the four hogs were moving slowly as they foraged. It would be a 250 yard stalk to intersect their projected position for a reasonable shot. Most of the stalk would be in moon shadows along a tree line for cover. Fifteen minutes later, the hogs were still 100 yards away, across a fence line.
The Photon's focus, brightness settings, and battery level indicator were rechecked. Even with no IR illumination, the hogs were visible in the cross hairs. Since hogs seem to notice an IR illuminator's red glow, it is better to shoot with all IR illuminators off when possible.
When previously using scope mounted-long range flashlights, most night shots were in the 125-150 yard range so that the visible light reaching the hogs would be dimmer and less likely to spook the hogs. However with digital night vision, there is no visible light to cause the hogs to scatter (other than possibly the red glow of the IR illuminators).
Since on this night no IR illuminator would be needed, how close could I get to the hogs without being spotted? Moving into the night's strong wind would mask the sound of footsteps crunching dried grass. Hugging the fence line would partially block the hogs' view. With a closer shot, there would be a better chance of a clean hit. One of the less massive hogs was selected as the target.
Creeping closer and closer along the fence line, binoculars were used every few yards to recheck the hogs' movements and positions. The selected hog was now about 75 yards away, but some of the other hogs had moved as close as 40 yards. Each hog seemed to be facing a different direction as they searched for food. Any one of them could sound the alarm which would result in a long disappointed walk back. This would have to be close enough.
The fence posts providing cover were topped with barbed wire. A single brace shooting stick was held next to a fence post, with the fore end of the rifle cradled in the shooting stick's V. The IR illuminators were off. The focus and the brightness were double checked. The hog was broadside, moving slowly as it pawed the ground. The green cross hairs were placed on the hog's right shoulder area.
As soon as the trigger was pulled, the digital scope's screen went dark! The cap to the battery compartment had not been fully secured. Rookie mistake! The recoil caused the battery cap to detach, which in turn caused the Photon to lose power. I looked up and could see only darkness. After fumbling to re-attach the battery cap, a scan with the Photon showed nothing on the ground where the hog had been standing.
How could I have missed such a close shot? The brace of the rifle had been reasonably stable. Had the scope been jarred? Or horror of horrors, had I flinched?
I had heard no THUMP of impact. On longer range shots of 150 yards or so, a THUMP means a hit and no THUMP normally means a miss. But at closer ranges like this shot, the sound of the muzzle blast seemed to resonate long enough to possibly mask the returning sound waves of an impact THUMP. Not hearing a THUMP at this shorter range did not necessarily mean a clean miss. Or so I hoped.
It is no easy task to do a night time search of a pasture littered with large black ant piles. I first scanned the route followed by the hogs where they had come out of the tree line. As each large black ant pile was examined through the Photon, my hopes would go up, then down.
At night, sometimes our eyes and brains play tricks on our souls. When night hunting hogs, a small calf out of range looks like a large hog. So you stalk a calf. Or when getting ready to make a 120 yard night shot on a partially obscured burrowing hog, the upper back of the hog starts looking too much like a small calf. So you pass on the shot.
Feeling discouraged, I next began scanning the route the hogs would have taken while running away from the sound of the shot. One malformed looking ant pile about 130 yards away seemed promising, but not definitive.
I walked back to get the four wheeler and a Q-beam light to more closely search the area of the shot on the other side of the fence. Finding that promising ant pile was a bit of a challenge. But sure enough, the misshapen ant pile was in fact the hog. She was about 150 pounds, maybe more.
Despite having been hit broadside near the shoulder, and with a fist sized internal wound, this hog had been able to run 60 yards before falling. She was quite a strong and determined animal.
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Last edited by LowKey
on 14 Jan 2018 12, edited 6 times in total.