By Brent T. Wheat
Unless you’re prepared to have several cherished opinions quickly punctured, don’t ask Rod Pinkston about feral hog control. Your assumptions are at risk because the man who literally wrote the book on hog control is straightforward, sometimes painfully so.
He’s earned that right. Pinkston is a world-class shooter who spent 24 years in the military including a stint leading solders to a record-setting four gold medals in 2008 with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Olympic Shooting Team. Now he’s turned his military skills and drive to dealing with America’s most out-of-control environmental and agricultural problem, feral hogs.
Pinkston is the president of Jager Pro (from the German word for “hunter”), a company he formed in 2006. It was the first full-time hog control company in the country and is still recognized as one of the most successful. The company utilizes proven military tactics and concepts, along with plenty of field experience and legendary shooting skills, to defeat a very challenging adversary. Pinkston, you see, prefers to hire U.S. military veterans.
While still in the military, Pinkston had spent several years working to remove nuisance hogs from the Fort Benning property where he was stationed. He was somewhat successful, but quickly realized he had only scratched the surface of the problem. “I’ve been killing pigs since 2004 with a thermal scope. I thought we could shoot our way out of this problem and I was naive,” he says candidly.
Having seen the carnage unleashed on the environment and major losses suffered by farmers due to hogs, Pinkston looks at the porkers the same way an exterminator does cockroaches. “Wild (non-native, feral) pigs are just 150-pound pests,” he notes with obvious disdain.
He also holds a certain contempt for those who think pig populations can be kept in check by aggressive hunting. “It just doesn’t work,” Pinkston says from experience. “If hunting was the solution, we wouldn’t have a problem. Hunters screw up our control operations all the time because their intent is different than ours. I’m a hunter but it (hog control) requires a totally different approach.”
Pinkston noted that hunters focus on trophies, fair chase and a desire not to waste an animal’s life or meat; they typically shoot a single hog or maybe several if the animals are causing problems. However, because pigs are essentially reproduction machines, culling the entire population is crucial to keep the damage in check.
This means the real answer is simply a matter of piling up pig bodies in the most efficient manner possible.
Rod Pinkston and Jager Pro’s Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination (MINE) system has proven itself effective in the comprehensive elimination of destructive and invasive feral swine. Photo provided.
For that, Pinkston and company have developed an integrated pest management system that doesn’t focus solely on shooting. Instead, the system comprises a collection of methods that eliminate 100% of the hog population — something many people believe is impossible but has been done countless times by Jager Pro.
The basic Jager Pro concept is centered on the Pinkston-developed MINE™ (Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination) trapping system. Once a trap is sprung on the sounder (group) of hogs, any escaping animals are quickly dispatched using thermal vision-equipped rifles. Any remain animals, such a solitary boars or the occasional pig that wasn’t running with the main group, are also stalked and removed.
During reconnaissance, each Jager Pro vehicle is equipped with a FLIR handheld monocular with a 100mm objective lens for scanning the surrounding countryside. Once a sounder or solitary pig is selected for culling, the Jager Pro group uses FLIR ThermoSight thermal weapon sights atop Daniels Defense .308 rifles to quickly dispatch the pests.
“Thermal is so much more efficient than a spotlight or even night vision,” Pinkston says. “You can see a mile away that something is moving and then when they are within several hundred yards we can identify our target and determine if they’re deer or hogs. You obviously don’t want to waste time stalking deer,” he notes. “It’s also a lot safer. Thermal is very good for clearing downrange and its’ a whole lot more versatile than night vision.”
Pinkston told of a recent experience that highlighted that versatility. He was scanning a well-used food plot with his thermal monocular while trying to cull a solitary boar that had avoided the Jager Pro traps. The boar stepped into vegetation that was about three feet high and started to feed.
As a test, Pinkston switched to a night vision scope and quickly realized he couldn’t even see the huge animal hidden among the plants. Grabbing his FLIR-equipped rifle, he quickly put a fatal bullet through the hog. “You never would have seen that pig using any type of night vision device,” Pinkston says definitively.
With confirmed populations in at least 35 states, feral pigs are a growing threat to the agricultural industry, the environment and even health due to a variety of diseases the animals are capable of carrying and transmitting to humans. As misguided people continue to spread the animals across the country where they are unneeded and unwanted, there is a greater call than ever to eradicate this pest.
Fortunately, Rod Pinkston and his team of experts stand ready to fight this new battle, and thermal imaging technology lies at the core of their comprehensive strategy.