Photos by Thomas Carlson
Hunting at night is kind of like ice climbing. They are both gear-intensive activities that require a good assemblage for a successful and safe outing. There's always a sense of accomplishment waiting to be had at the end, but there is often a certain level of misery that must be endured and overcome along the way.
I hunted the dark woods near Perry, Georgia, last October for feral hogs that rooted under the cover of night. I was with the founders of the Georgia Predator Hunting Association (GPHA, georgiapredatorhunting.com) who are sought after by area farmers to evict this invasive species from their lands and to help save valuable crops.
Choosing the right rifle, optic, load and equipment is important either day or night, but for night it's imperative. Based on my experience, the .300 Blackout is a good start. This year, Daniel Defense (DD) is introducing a new Blackout rifle in their Ambush line. What the .300 Blackout offers is a lethal pill ranging from 110-grain supersonic projectiles to 220-grain subsonic bullets. Both of these type of loads suppress exceedingly well and are deadly at the close ranges we'd encounter hogs at night. Supersonic loads tend to expand faster, but the trade-off is that subsonic loads make less noise and reduces the risk of disturbing nearby hogs. Suppressing gun shots at 2 a.m. - on someone else's property - is also good form to ensure that neighbors continue to sleep soundly.
When hunting after dark, effective range can be limited by how far you can see, even when using third-generation night vision devices. Pairing the rifle and glass with a good laser unit is beneficial.
You must see in order to hit. I used a set of PVS-15C night vision goggles (NVGs) from Insight Technology mounted to a Team Wendy Exfil Carbon helmet for stability and long-term comfort on my head. NVGs and thermals offer are necessary for spotting and engaging wild hogs at night.
When wearing NVGs, you're limited to two sighting options. You can attempt to gain an acceptable sight picture behind your day optic, or purchase an infrared (IR) aiming laser and illuminator. I always choose the latter, and on this hunt I sourced the EOTech ATPIAL-C (Commercial), which is a Class 1, eye-safe laser device that is designed for mounting on the top rail of a carbine's forend. This ATPIAL-C allowed me to aim my rifle in complete darkness and surgically strike each pig with efficiency.
For day use, I mounted EOTech's new Vudu 1-6X precision riflescope in a one-piece Warne tactical mount. The Vudu offers what EOTech calls its Speed Ring reticle (SR-1), which I've found to be one of the most useful designs in a low-power, variable optic. This reticle has a small military-based center crosshair that is clearly visible at 6X but looks more like a small cross at 1X. Surrounding the center crosshair is a large circle that's similar to the one found in EOTech's holographic sights. At 6X zoom, the circle isn't visible. At 1X, it surrounds the center of the reticle, which makes it very fast for the eye to pick up.
Base of Operations
As mentioned, the foundation for my ensemble was the Ambush 300 rifle. The Ambush is Daniel Defense's hunting series, which has received a facelift since the Ambush rifle debuted several years ago. The latest - and most attractive, in my opinion - is dressed in Kryptek's Highlander pattern.
The Ambush 300 Kryptek Highlander is a 16-inch-barreled carbine designed specifically for hunting medium to large game. At 6½ pounds, this rifle proved handy as it was short enough for maneuvering through Georgia's dense woods and when called on to quickly bail out of utility task vehicles (UTVs) with minimal bumps and knocks.
The rifle's new Kryptek camouflage pattern was permanently transferred to the Ambush 300's aluminum receivers and forend by way of a hydro-dipped (water transfer) process. Given current manufacturing methods, I find that there is little chance of the pattern ever wearing off. It is a supremely durable coating.
Gone is the old Ambush's traditional-looking forend grip accessory. It has been replaced by Daniel Defense's new MFR 15.0 rail featuring M-Lok attachement points. Everyone loves to grip a skinny rail these days and the MFR delivers while maintaining a free-float design and substantial weight savings over its quad-rail brethren. A byproduct of the M-Lok slots is enhanced cooling, ergonomics and modularity without skimping on the robustness DD's forends have become known for. It appears M-Lok has won the modular attachment war and the MFR will take full advantage of what's available through the aftermarket.
You'll note that the base of the forend extends beyond the top rail and sides. When unsuppressed, this lower jaw offers an edge to dig into fence posts and tree branches for making field expedient rests. Otherwise, this feature serves as a shield for your support hand and keeps your fingers safe from the heat radiated by the barrel, muzzle device or suppressor.
The rifle also uses DD's own polymer buttstock and pistol grip. Though not new, each wear a comfortable, soft-touch rubber overmold on surfaces that contact the face and firing hand.
Ambush rifles are complete with one of our favorite aftermarket triggers: Geissele's Super Semi-Automatic (SSA). The SSA is a 4½-pound, nonadjustable, two-stage trigger that facilitates precise and predictable trigger control. The first stage pull on my rifle measured 2½ pounds, while the second stage lets the hammer go after only 2 pounds more. Rapid follow-up shots are easily attained due to reset. Where this trigger distinguishes itself is how it seems to tell the shooter where its wall is and when exactly the next shot is going to break.
For this hunt, I brought along DD's new 3D-printed Wave 7.62 suppressor - G&A's 2017 Suppressor of the Year. I've found it to be hearing safe when shooting subsonic loads. The Wave actually balanced out the Ambush, which I didn't expect when adding 20 ounces to the end of my rifle. But it did.
I carried the Ambush 300 from 6 p.m. until about 5 a.m., with only a short dinner break as we traveled between properties. Several of the stalks for feral hogs were long, but when it came time to engage during three different opportunities, my arms weren't tired. I instinctively tucked the Ambush's buttstock beneath my arm pit and tracked each sprinting hog with the ATPIAL-C and demonstrated that confidence in my shots was true. Using .300 BLK in this rifle also proved to be the perfect combo. Two of the three beasts rolled to the effects of the .30-caliber projectile as they tried to escape. A third was dropped where it stood with one laser-aimed round.
The whole combination - rifle, caliber, ammunition, laser, scope and human - worked harmoniously to alleviate the damage that these hogs create. I can't wait to hunt like this again.