The following story appears in the May issue of California Sportsman:
By Brittany Boddington
I’ve always been a rifle girl.
I tried crossbows when they got popular and I like them, but I still prefer my rifle. I tried bowhunting and I had some success, but missed my gun the whole time.
The new kid on the block in the hunting world is the semiautomatic sporting rifle. Some traditionalists reject the idea, but with the boom in the industry, it is impossible to ignore this new market.
I was invited to try one of these guns on a feral hog hunt in Texas and I jumped at the opportunity. I had only shot one at the range once and not well, so I was excited to get a chance to try again. We decided to film the hunt and use my Legendary Arms Works .300 Win Mag as well as an AR-15 and do a compare and contrast. Axelson Tactical set me up with one in .223 for the challenge.
We arrived at Executive Outdoor Adventures (940-366-1565;executiveoutdooradventures.com) and were greeted by owner Andy Anderson. We had opted to do a ground hunt in order to use both guns, though the outfit predominantly does helicopter hunts. We had a lovely little cabin and I took the cooking responsibilities.
I had flown into Austin because that is where my cameraman happened to live and we made it a road trip to get to the company’s location in Bowie, which is northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth. We stopped along the way and loaded up on groceries, as I had prepared a menu for the four days in camp. I knew what we needed and the shopping went pretty quick.
Once we got settled I made us some dinner while we chatted about the plans for the week.
The next morning we checked the guns. My LAW rifle was dead on, so we moved on to the Axelson. I brought a scope with me so we only mounted it the night before and there was some work to be done to get it on target. It wasn’t too long before we had that one zeroed in as well. I have to admit that shooting on the semiautomatic setting is a blast.
WITH BOTH GUNS READY we headed out to hunt. We had the unfortunate luck to be hunting during the week of a full moon, which is not ideal for pursuing pigs since they happily move all night when they have enough light and then sleep all day, which made them impossible to find.
We decided to head out on foot from the cabin. We walked up and down the hills of the property and checked all the valleys and riverbeds but didn’t find any pigs. There was obvious pig damage all over the place. Anderson explained that the pigs were just destroying the land and reproducing so fast that the helicopter was really the only way he had found to keep the numbers in check.
Our walk was nice but unfruitful, so we headed in for lunch and I made sandwiches for everyone. We went straight back out after lunch and tried a different route. It was extremely stressful walking through the thick bush because we knew there were pigs around that could shoot out at any moment, so we kept the guns ready.
We were walking through a very shady area of thick brush when Anderson stopped short and pointed to his ear. He had heard something moving in the brush. I tried my best to see through the thick brush in the direction of the noise but couldn’t make out anything. August, my camera operator, spotted the hog first and described it as flesh-colored and huge.
Suddenly the spot I was trying to see moved and I realized the hog was way closer than I had initially thought. It took off and Anderson instructed me to be ready and focus on the next opening that it would cross through. I had been carrying the AR, flicked the lever from safe to fire and held on the open ground. Sure enough, the pig shot out. I hesitated; I usually don’t shoot at running animals and my instinct was to wait until it stopped. It stopped and I fired but pulled the light trigger hard and shot just under the pig. The hog was gone in a puff of dust, never to be seen again. My first attempt was a massive fail.
AS THE WEEK WENT on, the wind picked up and our chances looked worse and worse. We still walked every morning and evening. We tried sitting and waiting, we even tried baiting for them but had no luck. The pigs would only arrive after the camera had run out of light, which meant I couldn’t shoot.
One afternoon we returned to the cabin from a long, hot walk and started to get settled. I glanced out over the balcony and saw some movement. We rushed out onto the balcony and sure enough, there were pigs moving in the valley below. Anderson and I looked at each other and immediately decided to go for it. We grabbed our gear and our guns and took off at a dead run. August, my cameraman, chased behind us as we ran out of the cabin, down the hill and around the field.
We had plenty of light, the conditions were perfect but there was not much time until the light would go. We came around a brushy corner and carefully peeked out to see if the pigs were still there. To our surprise there were four pigs feeding, blissfully unaware of our presence.
We had no time to waste and no cover to work with, so we made a quick dash to close some distance and got to around 260 yards. I grabbed my trusty .300 and dropped to my bottom and got in position. As with all hunts I asked for a quick confirmation that the camera had the pigs and then asked Anderson if he had a certain one picked out. He said he didn’t care and to just take the one in the best position for shooting. With that out of the way I fired immediately on a big dark boar standing broadside. It dropped in its tracks and we made a quick approach. I swapped guns for the AR, and when we got close I put one more in the swine’s head to finish the job.
Just like that our luck had changed and I got a chance to use both guns in rapid succession. We never got another chance at a feral hog on that trip, but at least I got enough to do my show and my comparison. My final verdict is that both guns have a place in the hunting industry, but for very different situations. For close-quarter pig combat – as I titled our walks through the brush – I prefer the AR, but for long-distance shooting there is no doubt in my mind that my traditional rifle is the way to go. I plan to try this again as soon as possible; it’s a lot of fun! CS
Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, go to brittanyboddington.com or facebook.com/brittanyboddington.