By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
When it comes to eliminating feral swine in Texas, every advantage is taken, and rapid fire is the name of the game, said Jay Fred Volk of Cheyenne.
Volk, who works as a realtor, recounted a trip to Texas a couple of years ago where he participated in nighttime hog hunts – using infrared and night-vision equipment as well as shooting fleeing feral swine from a helicopter.
“Hunting at night, you’re stalking through the trees,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “You’ve got your tripod, your AR-15 with a night scope on it and your hand-held infrared to find where they (the feral swine) are.
“The thing about hogs is, they’ve got terrible eyesight, and their ears aren’t all that great either,” he added. “But they have a great sense of smell. So, you get to within about 150 yards or so, take aim and you go to town.”
House Bill 104 now being considered by the Wyoming Legislature would make it legal for Cowboy State coyote hunters to use that same night vision equipment on public land. Night vision hunting for coyotes and other varmints is allowed only on private land, with a landowner’s permission.
Volk said he favors the bill, which he thinks would make for better coyote control in Wyoming. He would also like to see aerial gunning for predators and invasive species, which was banned here about 30 years ago – return to the Cowboy State.
Death From Above
When Volk cut a swath through Texas’ feral swine population, it was in the service of science, he said.
About 300 fresh hog carcasses were needed to determine the effectiveness of tests to distinguish between the swine and bovine strains of brucellosis, he said. The research was done through the University of Wyoming.
When the bovine strain of brucellosis infects cattle, it causes cows to abort their fetuses. Cattle also can catch the swine strain, but it doesn’t harm them, Volk said. So, the UW researchers needed hundreds of feral swine carcasses to make sure their testing methods worked property.
While ground hunting with night vision was fun, taking to the air to rain hot lead down on hogs from helicopters was far more effective, Volk said.
“We used shotguns and AR-15s,” he said. “I also got to do some full-auto shooting with an M-16.
“I was hoping to get to use an M-60 machine gun as well, but that option wasn’t available on the flights I took.”
He and his father, John Volk, ended up killing 120 feral hogs or more during flights that lasted about 45 minutes and involved shooting from altitudes ranging from 12 feet to about 100 yards.
“The helicopter will hover over a grove of trees and drive the hog out into fields, where they run in lines,” Jay Fred said, adding there’s a trick to hitting running hogs from a moving helicopter. “You can aim a little behind them, and the forward motion of the helicopter carries your shots into them.”
The shooting sessions weren’t cheap, he added.
“Most of those flights cost $750-$1,000 and hour,” Jay Fred said.
Drastic Measures For Coyotes
While there’s nothing now before the Legislature that would make aerial gunning legal again in Wyoming, Jay Fred said there’s good reason to pass House Bill 104.
“These predators are rising,” he said. “I live on the north side of Cheyenne, and I had a coyote chase my Corgi across my yard and right up to my back porch, and there was nothing I could do about it.”