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Shooting Hogs from a Helicopter: The Million-Dollar Pig

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January 29, 2013
Shooting Hogs from a Helicopter: The Million-Dollar Pig - 12

If you find yourself in a fair fight, then your tactics suck—so states one of the pillars of gunfighter wisdom. By that standard, my tactics on this pig hunt were pretty solid. In addition to the usual compliment of guns and ammo, I had some impressive tools at my disposal—a Robinson R22 helicopter and a modified military surplus Land Rover Defender bristling with thermal imagers, suppressed ARs, and assorted night-vision equipment. According to my calculations it was about $1,000,000 worth of equipment to tip the odds in my favor while I attempted to eradicate feral hogs from the Texas countryside.

Shooting pigs from a helicopter is a specialized, and expensive, method of hunting. And thanks to Texas’ so-called Pork Chopper Bill, it’s a sport that anyone—not just licensed eradicators—can try. Just keeping an R22 in the air costs about $500 per hour and the consequences if the shooter does something wrong—like putting a round through the blades during a banking turn or letting brass empties fly out of the canopy and into the tail rotor—can cause Really Bad Things to happen.

This is why I was grateful for the classroom time with Mike Morgan, a helicopter pilot and flight instructor turned hunting guide, who owns Vertex Tactical Aviation ­(helicopter​­hunting​safety.com), in Houston, Texas. The four-hour class is a mandatory prerequisite for taking to the air and covers both safety and shooting techniques.

How to Hit

There’s nothing magical about the skills required to hit targets from the air, but they are counterintuitive—which becomes clear during the practice run Morgan has each shooter do before the actual hunt. Normally, a shooter’s instincts will cause him to lead a moving target or to hold on it if it is standing still. From a copter, both will result in a miss.

Even though the pigs will be moving at a dead run trying to get away, the shooter needs to aim behind and below—in other words lagging, not leading, the target—to hit. Since the helicopter is faster than the pig and closing the gap, you can picture the hog as an incoming, and not outgoing, target on a sporting clays course. It’s all about the target’s relative motion with respect to the shooter, and has nothing to do with its actual speed on the ground.

And, likewise, when you’re banking around a group of confused pigs in a field and your impulse is to shoot behind them since you’re moving so fast while they’re still, you have to counter that urge and hold right on them to hit. Because the pigs are at the center of the pivot the helicopter is making, the shooter and target are still with respect to each other and there’s no need for lead.

Costly Pork
I wish I could report that I shot a pile of pigs like my friend Adam did. He was the first of our group to take to the air, and he put down 18 hogs in a matter of minutes. But even with the unfair advantage the helicopter affords, this was still a hunt, and Morgan and I were unable to locate any pigs in the swampy thickets on the 20,000 acres we were flying over during our two hours—one each day—though I did send one coyote to predator heaven.

As darkness fell, we switched tactics and met up with the guys from Tactical Hog Control ­(tactical​hog​control.com), who run a gloriously over-the-top night hunting operation.
Their Land Rover Defender was as comfortable as it was lethal. A powerful thermal imager, salvaged from a tank and mounted on a joystick-controlled gimbal on the Defender’s hood, scanned for the heat signature of hogs feeding in the fields, while our helmet-mounted night-vision goggles allowed us to make a stealthy approach.

We finally located a lone hog in the open and I crept up on him with a suppressed .308. The pig never knew we were there and presented an easy target. No doubt the landowner was grateful to have another hog, which, in total, cause an estimated $52 million of agricultural damage per year in Texas, eliminated.

One million dollars in gear for one pig? That’s some expensive pork, and I’m glad I wasn’t footing the bill for the equipment. But the thrill of taking to the air during the day and owning the night after dark is a rush I’d recommend to any hunter.

Comments (12)

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from wisc14 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

wow...please do not call this hunting. it is a disgrace seeing outdoor life posting this and calling it hunting. i won't read anything by this john snow again.

bring back jim zumbo!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

"Try matching that success with traditional hunting methods." I would be willing to bet there have been more hogs killed with traditional methods overall. I would also guess overtime the hogs would get used to the sound of the heicopter. I would think if you were in a blind with that kind of firepower when the hogs came out the results would be the same. To me it's more about the wounding, suffering and not using what you harvest.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Helo-hunting IS effective, provided there are hogs in the areas you fly over. Did you not see in the article where it said another member of the hunting party " put down 18 hogs in a matter of minutes"? Try matching that success with traditional hunting methods.

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Management of Wild Pigs

Wild pig populations can be managed by lethal or nonlethal methods. Nonlethal methods include installing fencing to exclude pigs, using guard animals to protect livestock, and vaccinating animals to prevent disease spread. Although in some situations nonlethal methods are appropriate and effective, in many cases they are not a good option, either because they do not work well or are too expensive. Therefore, lethal methods are often the most practical and widely used. They include trapping, shooting, and hunting with dogs.
Is helo-hunting effective? The author got one?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

schmakenzie: The nuisance declarations you listed are for dealing with specific animals, and I agree, a individual animal of any species can become a nuisance pretty easily. But when I was referring to nuisance declarations, I meant when a state declares an entire population of animals a nuisance, which is what has happened in some southern states with feral hogs. That would be like Florida saying, "All alligators are a nuisance. Kill them on sight" And that, of course, is most certainly not happening.
And finally, since I would hope that we can at least agree that hogs DO need controlling, do you have any bright ideas as to how they could do it as effectively as helo-hunting does, without the negative aspects?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

huntfishtrap,
You said "out of control" and "everything", I said "ruined" in my second sentence, which was said by me, not you. The point is wild hogs are being butchered by helicopter riding hunters, because the hogs are decimating the environment and other wildlife, my point is Texas has the highest deer harvest in the nation and sports a deer herd of over 3,000,000. Those 3 million deer are doing fine and eating, so which one is it? It can not be both ways. When it comes to nuisance animals, I will be a little more detailed. The word nuisance can imply and mean different things to different people.

Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Nuisance Animals
Nuisance wildlife is wildlife that...
 causes (or is about to cause) property damage,
 presents a threat to public safety, or
 causes an annoyance within, under or upon a building.

The taking of nuisance alligators; deer; bears; bats, bobcats, most migratory birds, their nests or eggs; turkeys; bobwhite quail; or state-listed or federally listed species of special concern, threatened or endangered species is prohibited or may require additional permits.
Nuisance Alligators
Alligators are considered a nuisance when they are more than four feet in length, and are determined to be a threat to the welfare of the public, or the public's pets, livestock, or property. Only a licensed nuisance alligator trapper may capture or remove an alligator. More information about living with alligators is available on this website.
If you need to report a nuisance alligator, call toll-free, 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
You can find more information about Nuisance Alligators online.
Nuisance Bear
If a bear is seen around your neighborhood, it is important to immediately discourage repeat visits. What you can do is determine if there are any attractants in your neighborhood that will cause the bear to return. If you have unsecured garbage, pet food, barbecue grills, or other food items available in your yard, you should secure those items as soon as possible. A nuisance bear is one that looks for handouts, hangs around because it thinks food is available, or becomes aggressive, etc. More information about living with bears is available on this website. If you have a nuisance bear in your neighborhood or on your property, please contact your local FWC regional office or call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Nuisance Deer
White-tailed deer will occasionally cause damage to cultivated crops. For small gardens, this situation often can be improved by installing an inexpensive electric fence. When it is not possible to install an electric fence or deterrent fence, and under special restrictions, deer causing damage to crops can be harassed (scared) with a gun and light at night, when authorized. Find out more information on the Gun and Light at Night Permit.
In cases where a Gun and Light at Night Permit is not eliminating the depredation or is not feasible, and in situations where deer are causing extreme damage to a crop, contact your local FWC regional office to request a Depredating Deer permit for temporary relief.

Looks like Florida has a more than a handful. My point here is any animal could be declared a nuisance. What's next people in helicopter's throwing spears at out of control snake populations in the everglades? Why not? They are a nuisance.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

schmakenzie: If you'll notice, I said they "CAN" destroy woodland, cropland, etc, and in some parts of the south, they have. And nowhere did I say that the "environment is ruined", but feel free to misquote me at your convenience, since it doesn't seem to bother you.
The Texas Division of Parks and Wildlife estimate that there are currently in excess of 1.5 million hogs in Texas, and the population is only going up in most areas. Yes, the deer population is doing fine...for now, but what about in 20 or 30 years, when there will be more hogs than deer in many places, if current population trends continue? I'm sure I don't need to explain to you when happens when two similar animals compete for the same habitat, the larger and more aggressive animal usually wins, and feral hogs are often larger and almost always more aggressive than deer.
I also disagree that "most animals are declared a nuisance at one point or another". Really??? I can only think of a handful that have officially been declared a nuisance by the government over a wide-spread area, as feral hogs have been in a number of states, and most were for good reason.
Ultimately, I don't care for some aspects of helo-hunting either, as I stated, but until someone comes up with a "cleaner" form of control that is still effective, it's about our only good option.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

huntfishtrap,

If the hogs in Texas are "out of control" and destroy "everything" then how does Texas lead the nation in deer harvest? If the environment is ruined, how does over 3,000,000 deer survive? I call b.s. Declaring an animal a nuisance is absurd. Have you read the news? Rabbits in Colorado, carp in the rivers, hogs in Texas, deer in state parks everywhere, wolf isues, coyote issues, etc.. My point is, most animals are declared a nuisance at one point or another. Extreme means to an end is not acceptable in my opinion. A gut shot hog out of a helipcoter with laughing and thumbs up is a horrible way for an animal to die and its a horrible way for hunters to be portrayed. Didn't like seeing the Outdoor Life label on the video either. Solutions? (1) I have a feeling not every place in Texas is over ran. Mimic the other portions. (2) Hunt them. BTW, I practice preventative measures so we don't have mice, however if we did have some I would make sure there is no suffering. There is no gray area with me. The only time I would condone wounding or killing an animal with no respect is if that animal is casuing bodily harm to an individual, in that situation by all means and believe me I mean by all means.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

I understand that helicopter hog eradication can be distasteful to some people, but I've never heard anyone suggest any legitimate alternatives. If you'll notice, I don't call it "hunting", because it's not, and as such the usual ethical limits (not shooting at running animals, etc.) do not apply. You don't practice "ethical" mouse control in your house do you?oi
The fact is, wild hogs in Texas, and many other places in the South, are OUT OF CONTROL, and the only ways to kill a lot of them in a hurry are helo-hunting, and poisoning, which I think a lot of people would object to as well. They can reproduce faster than other normal hunting strategies can kill them. And they don't just do damage to "monoculture", they can destroy EVERYTHING - woodland, cropland, and of course many kinds of wildlife.
With all that being said, I agree that they way that video was done was a bit...obnoxious, and I too would like to know what is done with the dead hogs, are they utilized for something, or just left to rot?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

The top ten reasons why this author just lost respect.
(10) Really? (9) Can there be any left? Or is this a canned hunt plus a helicopter. (8) The author brags in the title about a million dollar pig, as they say in Texas all hat and no cattle. (7) Did you eat the hogs? (6) You are so cool shooting from a helicopter, although we would have the same feelings if you were in your truck or an atv. (5) Did the author go get the coyote or just let it lay? (4) Why is the guy shooting in the video giving a thumbs up and laughing? Did he accomplish something? (3) The animals in this video are not respected. (2) Don’t take running shots on wildlife. (1) For me killing is the worst part of hunting. I love and respect the animals I pursue. If I am going to harvest an animal, either I or someone I know will benefit from the animal. Does this represent hunting? Sure the hogs are a problem for monoculture and other wildlife species, but be respectful.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

OMG You've got to be kidding me. Maybe Ole Jim was sorta right after all. 58 seconds of video footage, an excess of 30 shots fired, and just a few pigs go down. I now see why we have to have the "modern sporting rifle" and high capacity magazine available to us. I understand the intent of the video and I feel very ashamed to call myself a hunter. I was taught to make one shot at a time and make every shot count. I try to teach that to the kids I help mentor.
General questions: How many pigs are killed outright? How many were gut shot and escaped only to die a slow and painful death. (even out of control species deserve more respect than that). What is the kill ratio to shots fired?
Things to think about:
1. Chance the background to the Mekong Delta and we have a US troop assisting the M60 gunner clearing a hot LZ from an incoming chopper.

2. Change the background again and we have security video from a mall or a movie theatre or a school of a person shooting as many targets as possible in a short amount of time.

As a hunting community we owe it to everyone else out there to display tasteful and respectful photos of our accomplishments. I feel that this video just adds fuel to a smoldering fire ready to burst out of control, AND is using a weapon that just feeds right into the hands of the people wanting to control them.

Don't get me wrong. I am a very strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and feel that we if we lose one more will come. Lets all do our part to portrait ourselves as responsible hunters and shooters.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

They need to just put a bounty on feral hogs down there, say 5 or 10 dollars a head, and I bet the numbers would start to drop.

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Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from marksman wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

OMG You've got to be kidding me. Maybe Ole Jim was sorta right after all. 58 seconds of video footage, an excess of 30 shots fired, and just a few pigs go down. I now see why we have to have the "modern sporting rifle" and high capacity magazine available to us. I understand the intent of the video and I feel very ashamed to call myself a hunter. I was taught to make one shot at a time and make every shot count. I try to teach that to the kids I help mentor.
General questions: How many pigs are killed outright? How many were gut shot and escaped only to die a slow and painful death. (even out of control species deserve more respect than that). What is the kill ratio to shots fired?
Things to think about:
1. Chance the background to the Mekong Delta and we have a US troop assisting the M60 gunner clearing a hot LZ from an incoming chopper.

2. Change the background again and we have security video from a mall or a movie theatre or a school of a person shooting as many targets as possible in a short amount of time.

As a hunting community we owe it to everyone else out there to display tasteful and respectful photos of our accomplishments. I feel that this video just adds fuel to a smoldering fire ready to burst out of control, AND is using a weapon that just feeds right into the hands of the people wanting to control them.

Don't get me wrong. I am a very strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and feel that we if we lose one more will come. Lets all do our part to portrait ourselves as responsible hunters and shooters.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

They need to just put a bounty on feral hogs down there, say 5 or 10 dollars a head, and I bet the numbers would start to drop.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

The top ten reasons why this author just lost respect.
(10) Really? (9) Can there be any left? Or is this a canned hunt plus a helicopter. (8) The author brags in the title about a million dollar pig, as they say in Texas all hat and no cattle. (7) Did you eat the hogs? (6) You are so cool shooting from a helicopter, although we would have the same feelings if you were in your truck or an atv. (5) Did the author go get the coyote or just let it lay? (4) Why is the guy shooting in the video giving a thumbs up and laughing? Did he accomplish something? (3) The animals in this video are not respected. (2) Don’t take running shots on wildlife. (1) For me killing is the worst part of hunting. I love and respect the animals I pursue. If I am going to harvest an animal, either I or someone I know will benefit from the animal. Does this represent hunting? Sure the hogs are a problem for monoculture and other wildlife species, but be respectful.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

I understand that helicopter hog eradication can be distasteful to some people, but I've never heard anyone suggest any legitimate alternatives. If you'll notice, I don't call it "hunting", because it's not, and as such the usual ethical limits (not shooting at running animals, etc.) do not apply. You don't practice "ethical" mouse control in your house do you?oi
The fact is, wild hogs in Texas, and many other places in the South, are OUT OF CONTROL, and the only ways to kill a lot of them in a hurry are helo-hunting, and poisoning, which I think a lot of people would object to as well. They can reproduce faster than other normal hunting strategies can kill them. And they don't just do damage to "monoculture", they can destroy EVERYTHING - woodland, cropland, and of course many kinds of wildlife.
With all that being said, I agree that they way that video was done was a bit...obnoxious, and I too would like to know what is done with the dead hogs, are they utilized for something, or just left to rot?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

huntfishtrap,

If the hogs in Texas are "out of control" and destroy "everything" then how does Texas lead the nation in deer harvest? If the environment is ruined, how does over 3,000,000 deer survive? I call b.s. Declaring an animal a nuisance is absurd. Have you read the news? Rabbits in Colorado, carp in the rivers, hogs in Texas, deer in state parks everywhere, wolf isues, coyote issues, etc.. My point is, most animals are declared a nuisance at one point or another. Extreme means to an end is not acceptable in my opinion. A gut shot hog out of a helipcoter with laughing and thumbs up is a horrible way for an animal to die and its a horrible way for hunters to be portrayed. Didn't like seeing the Outdoor Life label on the video either. Solutions? (1) I have a feeling not every place in Texas is over ran. Mimic the other portions. (2) Hunt them. BTW, I practice preventative measures so we don't have mice, however if we did have some I would make sure there is no suffering. There is no gray area with me. The only time I would condone wounding or killing an animal with no respect is if that animal is casuing bodily harm to an individual, in that situation by all means and believe me I mean by all means.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

wow...please do not call this hunting. it is a disgrace seeing outdoor life posting this and calling it hunting. i won't read anything by this john snow again.

bring back jim zumbo!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

schmakenzie: If you'll notice, I said they "CAN" destroy woodland, cropland, etc, and in some parts of the south, they have. And nowhere did I say that the "environment is ruined", but feel free to misquote me at your convenience, since it doesn't seem to bother you.
The Texas Division of Parks and Wildlife estimate that there are currently in excess of 1.5 million hogs in Texas, and the population is only going up in most areas. Yes, the deer population is doing fine...for now, but what about in 20 or 30 years, when there will be more hogs than deer in many places, if current population trends continue? I'm sure I don't need to explain to you when happens when two similar animals compete for the same habitat, the larger and more aggressive animal usually wins, and feral hogs are often larger and almost always more aggressive than deer.
I also disagree that "most animals are declared a nuisance at one point or another". Really??? I can only think of a handful that have officially been declared a nuisance by the government over a wide-spread area, as feral hogs have been in a number of states, and most were for good reason.
Ultimately, I don't care for some aspects of helo-hunting either, as I stated, but until someone comes up with a "cleaner" form of control that is still effective, it's about our only good option.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

schmakenzie: The nuisance declarations you listed are for dealing with specific animals, and I agree, a individual animal of any species can become a nuisance pretty easily. But when I was referring to nuisance declarations, I meant when a state declares an entire population of animals a nuisance, which is what has happened in some southern states with feral hogs. That would be like Florida saying, "All alligators are a nuisance. Kill them on sight" And that, of course, is most certainly not happening.
And finally, since I would hope that we can at least agree that hogs DO need controlling, do you have any bright ideas as to how they could do it as effectively as helo-hunting does, without the negative aspects?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Helo-hunting IS effective, provided there are hogs in the areas you fly over. Did you not see in the article where it said another member of the hunting party " put down 18 hogs in a matter of minutes"? Try matching that success with traditional hunting methods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

huntfishtrap,
You said "out of control" and "everything", I said "ruined" in my second sentence, which was said by me, not you. The point is wild hogs are being butchered by helicopter riding hunters, because the hogs are decimating the environment and other wildlife, my point is Texas has the highest deer harvest in the nation and sports a deer herd of over 3,000,000. Those 3 million deer are doing fine and eating, so which one is it? It can not be both ways. When it comes to nuisance animals, I will be a little more detailed. The word nuisance can imply and mean different things to different people.

Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Nuisance Animals
Nuisance wildlife is wildlife that...
 causes (or is about to cause) property damage,
 presents a threat to public safety, or
 causes an annoyance within, under or upon a building.

The taking of nuisance alligators; deer; bears; bats, bobcats, most migratory birds, their nests or eggs; turkeys; bobwhite quail; or state-listed or federally listed species of special concern, threatened or endangered species is prohibited or may require additional permits.
Nuisance Alligators
Alligators are considered a nuisance when they are more than four feet in length, and are determined to be a threat to the welfare of the public, or the public's pets, livestock, or property. Only a licensed nuisance alligator trapper may capture or remove an alligator. More information about living with alligators is available on this website.
If you need to report a nuisance alligator, call toll-free, 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
You can find more information about Nuisance Alligators online.
Nuisance Bear
If a bear is seen around your neighborhood, it is important to immediately discourage repeat visits. What you can do is determine if there are any attractants in your neighborhood that will cause the bear to return. If you have unsecured garbage, pet food, barbecue grills, or other food items available in your yard, you should secure those items as soon as possible. A nuisance bear is one that looks for handouts, hangs around because it thinks food is available, or becomes aggressive, etc. More information about living with bears is available on this website. If you have a nuisance bear in your neighborhood or on your property, please contact your local FWC regional office or call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Nuisance Deer
White-tailed deer will occasionally cause damage to cultivated crops. For small gardens, this situation often can be improved by installing an inexpensive electric fence. When it is not possible to install an electric fence or deterrent fence, and under special restrictions, deer causing damage to crops can be harassed (scared) with a gun and light at night, when authorized. Find out more information on the Gun and Light at Night Permit.
In cases where a Gun and Light at Night Permit is not eliminating the depredation or is not feasible, and in situations where deer are causing extreme damage to a crop, contact your local FWC regional office to request a Depredating Deer permit for temporary relief.

Looks like Florida has a more than a handful. My point here is any animal could be declared a nuisance. What's next people in helicopter's throwing spears at out of control snake populations in the everglades? Why not? They are a nuisance.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Management of Wild Pigs

Wild pig populations can be managed by lethal or nonlethal methods. Nonlethal methods include installing fencing to exclude pigs, using guard animals to protect livestock, and vaccinating animals to prevent disease spread. Although in some situations nonlethal methods are appropriate and effective, in many cases they are not a good option, either because they do not work well or are too expensive. Therefore, lethal methods are often the most practical and widely used. They include trapping, shooting, and hunting with dogs.
Is helo-hunting effective? The author got one?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

"Try matching that success with traditional hunting methods." I would be willing to bet there have been more hogs killed with traditional methods overall. I would also guess overtime the hogs would get used to the sound of the heicopter. I would think if you were in a blind with that kind of firepower when the hogs came out the results would be the same. To me it's more about the wounding, suffering and not using what you harvest.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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