Outfitted with special nighttime lights Luke Clayton takes his bow out for his first taste of hunting pork in the dark of night.
A crescent moon created just enough light for Mark Balette and I to see the silhouette of the woods adjacent his 20 acre lake. Thanks to a lack of rainfall this summer, the little lake was about three feet below normal elevation and the moist soil supported a lush growth of vegetation. Wild hogs have an affinity for feeding on tubers along the lakes edge but they usually won’t venture out of the yaupon thickets where they spend the daylight hours until the sun sets.
I’ve hunted hogs just about every conceivable way but this night’s hunt stalking hogs using specialized lights on my bow was to be a first for me.
As Mark and I drove across the dam of his lake, he pointed out to alligators swimming casually close to the bank. “One of our hunters harvested an 11 footer last year from the upper end of this lake.” says Mark as I keep ca lose watch on the reptile swimming a few yards out from shore.
“Where will we be stalking hogs tonight?” I asked.
“The upper end of the lake”, he replied. This evening was going to be interesting. I’m accustomed to contending with water moccasins and copperheads but the thought of an alligator lying in that knee high vegetation along the shore did cause me to have second thoughts as to just how much I wanted to stock my freezer with fresh pork from the wild! Mark and I have hunted together for years and I’m sure that he knew that once he got me into this hunt, the adrenaline rush would take over and I would forget all about becoming gator bait!
During the summer months, wild hogs can become nocturnal. If available, they will will often visit feeders during the last few minutes of daylight but they forage throughout the night. Hunting them with a bow at night requires specialized equipment. It’s obviously necessary to see the hog in order to shoot it and, one has to be able to see the sight pins in order to aim. Vital Gear makes the Black Light that attaches to the bow and emits just enough light to make the sight pins visible, solving the sighting part of this equation.
Several years ago, Kelly Garmon invented the Hawg Lite and recently introduced ‘The Marauder” which screw into bow via the threads for the stabilizer. The light is extremely bright, generating 80 lumens for several hours. And off-on switch is attached to the bow via Velcro. Once the bow is drawn, the button is pushed and a very intense light in white, green or red, illuminates the target.
My buddy and I began our hunt near a corn feeder situated about 50 yards from the water’s edge. There was no corn on the ground, the porkers had obviously hit the feeder just at dark and we hoped they had made their way down to the lake to top off their meal with some fresh salad. I highly suggest wearing a pair of high top boots on these night hunts. My snakes boots gave me a bit of confidence. As we eased along the weed infested muck, I did my best to concentrate on smoked pork rather than alligator jaws.
Mark Balette with B & C Outfitters in Groveton, at full draw with his ‘night hunting’ hog rig. Photo by Luke Clayton
The night was still, sultry and hot. Sound carried very well and up ahead about 50 yards, Mark and I both heard the unmistakable sound of feeding porkers. We recognized the sucking sound as they pulled their feet out of the mire and then, heard that contented low grunt of feeding pigs.
I’d much rather stalk hunt with a light wind in my face. Heat thermals do funny things to one’s scent when there is no wind and before we could get within bow range, this group of what sounded like 3 or 4 pigs moved on down the shoreline. They probably got our scent. Mark directed us back into the woods where we walked parallel to the water’s edge for a hundred yards, then headed back to the lake in hopes of getting ahead of the hogs.
Our plan worked perfectly. Thanks to the faint light of the moon, we could see the weeds moving and again, heard the guttural grunts of the contented feeding porkers. A slight change of our position put us just in front of a stand of tall weeds. The dark form of the lead hog soon appeared from the heavy cover. I guessed him to be about 15 yards, a slam dunk bow shot in most situations! He (or she) the hog could have just as easily been a sow, was just right for the BBQ, weighing about 125 pounds.
Since this was my first bow hunt using these specialized night lights, Mark instructed me to shoot. I came to full draw and pressed the switch of the Marauder. The bright light lit the hog up and in stark contrast to the blackness of the night, he looked as big as a hippo!
Mistakes can often be great learning tools and on tonight’s hunt, I had made a big one. I’d forgotten to ‘sight in’ the beam from the light to the point where I was aiming. I could see the hog very well in the bright light but the sight pins and light beam were not aiming at the same point. Mark later told me he could see me moving the center of the light beam all around as I tried to sight the hog. I was using the white lens on the light and had plenty of time to shoot the hog before it finally spooked. In an interview later with Garmon, he told me he usually hunted hogs with the red lens which is even less intrusive to the porkers. Had I been prepared by properly aligning the light’s beam with the bow sights, I would have had more than enough time, using the white lens, to make a good shot on the hog.
Back at camp that evening, I took few seconds to adjust the light beam and took a few practice shots on a 3D hog target. Making accurate shots out to 25 yards was easy. This article (because of deadlines), is coming to you via laptop computer from camp. I’m now trained and read for my next encounter with porkers of the evening. I can already taste the pulled pork!
By Luke Clayton
Mark Balette offers hunts for hogs and exotics on his ranch near Groveton. For more information, call 936-544-0882 or visit www.easttexasexotics.com.