High on the Hogs: This niche market offers many merchandising opportunities

Check out the key categories filling the wish list of every serious hog hunter.

High on the Hogs: This niche market offers many merchandising opportunities

Populations of wild pigs in every shape, size and color are quickly on the rise across the country. While the pork presents problems for agriculture, natural resource management and much more, it’s creating year-round opportunities for hunting enthusiasts and for the retailers who cater to them.

Wild pigs are opportunistic omnivores. They’re hardy, effectively have no predators other than man, reproduce quickly and wreak havoc on any habitat they occupy. Officials with the Mississippi State University Extension Service say a permanent solution that gets rid of wild hogs anywhere once and for all is unlikely ever to be found. While strategic trapping is the method most likely to affect steady population control, there will always be a place for hunting where hogs are a concern.

Hog hunting is a specialized pursuit. While some pieces of gear can be carried over from duck season, deer season and other game goals large and small, a fair amount of it will probably be used nowhere but in pursuit of pigs. Since wild pigs are an invasive species and can be hunted throughout the year, and because their range continues to see rapid growth with no end in sight, it’s reasonable to expect the market for gear specialized to their pursuit to enjoy steady, rapid growth as well. 

Key categories filling the wish list of every serious hog hunter include:

• Specialized headlamps

• Thermal monoculars

• Thermal or night-vision riflescopes

• Dark-colored clothing

• Quality footwear

• Shooting sticks

• Enhanced hearing protection

• Automatic rifles

• Suppressors

• Illuminators for tracking

Let’s explore each of those one at a time.

Oh Say, Can You See?

Wild pigs are most active at night. When they’re to be hunted over bait, through spot-and-stalk methods or some combination of the two, most of the work is going to be done after dark. We’ll get to what hunters want for seeing game in a moment. To see everything else, including where they’re putting their feet, how they’re using their hands, what’s coming up in the trail and more, they’ll want a hands-free headlamp — but not just any bright light will do. Regular white or full-spectrum light will blow out every pig in the neighborhood, but high-intensity red and green lights don’t seem to bother them. Hog hunters will want to use a headlamp in red or green for seeing all the little everyday things that go along with any hunt.

A bright white light will be necessary for blood trailing. For everything leading up to that eventuality, red or green is the way they’ll want to go. Make sure to stock quality headlamps that are capable of all three, as well as ample spare batteries to boot.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Hunters who will be working in groups will benefit greatly from enhanced hearing protection. Earmuffs designed to dampen the sharp report of a rifle but amplify and enhance vocal instructions between team members are a great addition to any hunting group.

You’re Getting Warmer

As hunters are scanning fields or approaching a bait site, they’ll be taking extra care not to spook any pigs that are there or that are coming or going from the place the hunter expects them to be. This is where a thermal monocular is ideal. A thermal monocular will provide a one-eyed view of the surroundings much more effectively than a light of any color. This is a hand-held device used to scan the area for game, much as binoculars in daylight would be.

Red, White and Glow

Serious hog hunters, in states where nighttime hunting is legal, will make a quality night-vision or thermal scope for their rifle their top investment. There’s no doubt this is any hunter’s single largest step, both in expense and in technology. Its performance is akin to that delivered by the current top-shelf fish-finding technology for bass anglers: Once someone has seen what the technology can do, they’ll feel like they’re wasting time and opportunities every day afterward that they’re doing without. A thermal scope, especially, is technology that changes the game.

Remind your customers of the necessity to adhere to identification ranges when they’re using thermal and night-vision optics. Using a firearm in the dark adds several measures of responsibility and accountability to each ethical hunter’s kit. Thermal and night-vision gear works differently from standard riflescopes. The reliability of the images they create is distance-dependent. As always, every hunter is responsible for identifying their target and what is beyond. Wild pigs often invade land used by domestic livestock, and it’s important to be absolutely certain which a hunter sees before they pull the trigger.

Doing It in the Dark

Clothing colors and camouflage aren’t critical per se, so long as the clothing your customers wear is dark. White and other light colors can appear almost luminescent in the light of a harvest moon. It can be bright enough to impact hunter success. That said, tough, durable clothing built to withstand tangles with briars and the occasional bit of barbed wire is a bonus. 

Following in the Footsteps

Good quality footwear is a must. Since hunters are walking in the dark, they’re much more likely to encounter wet or awkward footing than they would while covering the same ground by day. Sturdy, waterproof boots that offer good ankle support and excellent traction will prove their worth for your customers.

Steady as You Go

Shots on game typically occur after hunters have walked long distances across uneven terrain, tense with anticipation and vibrating with adrenaline. The ability to fire one well-aimed shot, then quickly choose other targets and send accurate follow-up rounds, is strongly dependent upon having a good rest from which to fire. The ability to do this well comes from lots of practice at the range, and it involves each hunter’s tripod, bipod or monopod of choice. 

The art of shooting a rifle from a standing position is one that has to be intentionally learned. Having and using a good set of shooting sticks is as elemental to that as the rifle and ammunition. Good shooting sticks are those that can be easily carried in the extended, ready-to-use position. They should be somewhat resilient to bends and strains, considering they’re sure to encounter both when being carried and used in the dark. They should be sturdy and light weight. Most of all, telescoping versions should absolutely lock into place so they don’t collapse in the heat of the moment. 

This Is My Rifle

Hog hunting done right leads quickly to target-rich environments. As hog populations continue to expand, this only becomes more pronounced. A bolt-action rifle ideal for deer or elk hunting will work. To truly take best advantage of situations a hunter’s hard work will produce, a semi-automatic model is best. Hog hunting is where the modern sporting rifle best shines. Consider a selection of the following for inclusion in your firearm department:

Platform: AR-10

Calibers: .308, 6.5 Creedmore, .338 Federal

Platform: AR-15

Calibers: 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 6mm ARC, .300 AAC Blackout, .300 HAM’R

Suppression Is Golden

A suppressor makes for a great addition to any hog-hunting rifle. The use of a suppressor will make the shooting experience more enjoyable by reducing recoil and report. Depending upon the situation, a suppressor can lead to more successful follow-up shots where multiple hogs are present. 

Illumination in the Flatwoods

Once a hog is shot and the hunter takes up the trail, they’ll want something to mark each bit of sign along the way. Remember, they’re doing this in the dark. Every drop of blood will have to be found with care and a flashlight, so they’ll want to keep it found once they find it. Illuminated nocks on arrows are ideal for bowhunters, and reflective tacks or tape, the same kind used for marking a path from a trail to a deer stand are handy for anyone. Stocking these low-price-point items will help demonstrate how serious you are about helping your customers succeed. They may not cost much, but having them on hand will show patrons you’ve considered their needs with care.


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