By Kat Ainsworth
In the Lone Star state, the state mammal (small version) is the nine-banded armadillo, the state bird is the northern mockingbird and the state religion is feral hog hunting. All right, that last part isn’t exactly true, but it should be. In Texas, hogs dole out approximately $52 million of agricultural damage annually, contaminate waterways, and cause countless car wrecks.
In fact on Christmas night, off-duty Border Patrol agent Antonio Cordova was driving an SUV down FM481 in South Texas when he plowed into a feral hog. Cordova and two others were killed in the crash. So hogs cause big trouble, and they’re darn near everywhere. There are an estimated six million of them in the US, and more than half of them reside in Texas.
Hunting four-legged bacon is among my favorite pastimes and Texas is the best place to get it done, bar none. Who wouldn’t love chasing down a sounder of big, hairy omnivores with sharp tusks and bad attitudes?
Because it’s Texas, hogs can be hunted using night vision, suppressors, aerial gunning…just about anything short of a bazooka. There’s no permit needed, no bag limit and they can be hunted year-round. It’s Texas, baby, and we do what we damn well please.
In this case doing what we pleased meant chasing down pigs in a truck and shooting them using a variety of firearms. My hunter earlier this month was the first-ever hunt done with Remington 870 DM; the information embargo on the brand new DM didn’t even lift until after I arrived in Texas for the hunt with gun in hand (well, in Pelican case). A chance to hone my shotgunning skills while doing 30 MPH burnouts through a wheat field? Game on!
Before we get to the wild chasing and mayhem, a little background on the latest from Big Green. The 870 DM Magpul is a magazine-fed 12-gauge – “DM” stands for “Detachable Magazine” – with an 18.5-inch tactical Remington choke barrel, Magpul SGA stock and fore-end, and XS Sights ghost ring sights.
The afore-mentioned magazine holds six rounds and a three-round version is also in the works. It also has an XS Sights tactical Picatinny rail atop the receiver which I tried out by mounting the new Trijicon MRO to the gun. In the end I opted to hunt with just the factory-installed XS Sights.
My hog-hunting destination of choice was Spike Box Land and Cattle in Benjamin, Texas. Spike Box sits amidst 90,000 acres and does everything from working cattle to growing wheat. It’s also free range, meaning there are no guarantees. When you hunt Spike Box’s land you hunt hard and persistently if you want to bag whatever critter you’re after.
Of course, it’s Texas, so hogs are one of the things you’re most likely to see. Where they’ll appear, at what distance, and for how long is another issue altogether. After all, hogs might be ugly and smell like they bathe in garbage but they’re intelligent. Plus they have an incredible sense of smell and are capable of scenting odors as far away as seven miles above ground and 25 feet below ground (think buried food).
During my week at Spike Box I was after a variety of animals with multiple guns, several of which were new. Attempts to prioritize deer, ducks, coyotes, and a lone badger left hog hunting as a nighttime-only event, That was fine with me and worked really well in the long run. By the time I got around to dropping a hog with the 870 DM I’d already shot two Whitetail does, numerous ducks, and several hogs with those other guns. It was a wildly successful week. Granted, I didn’t sleep much, but that’s why God made coffee.
The evening hunt started out predictably. We’d been hunting since dawn, occasionally returning to the bunkhouse to re-fuel with the important things in life (coffee and Coke). I was hunting with Tyler Pounds, the hunting manager for Spike Box. Tyler’s been working cattle and hunting on the land for most of his life and is not only deeply familiar with animal movement but seems to know every mound of dirt on the property well enough to navigate it blindfolded (we briefly considered adding that element to the hunt but discarded it as possibly going too far). We headed out at full dark, tired and filthy but ready to stretch the DM’s shotshell legs.
Once we hit the wheat fields, it happened fast. A sounder of pigs was making their way to the tree line and heard the truck coming, immediately picking up their pace although not yet running. Tyler spotted them and gave me the usual warning of “you ready?” before spinning the steering wheel to angle the truck alongside the sounder. And just like that, it was on.
Something you might not know about hogs: they can run. Fast. They tend to be sedate and lazy, shambling around looking for food, but they’re motivated to survive. That includes running at speeds of up to 30 MPH at a hard gallop they can maintain for a mile. As a result, chasing them in a truck means not only matching but surpassing those speeds. If that doesn’t sound fast, try leaning out the truck window for a clean shot while you fly over the bumps and furrows of a field.
The sounder took a hard left, and so did we. I already had the DM out the window, watching and waiting for an ethical shot because, moving vehicle or not, I want to be confident my shot will drop whatever I’m shooting at. The shotgun was loaded with Remington AccuTip 385 grain 3” Sabot Slugs – when you looked inside the shotshells the lime-green sabots were clearly visible.
My best choice for a target was a medium-sized sow running at a 45-degree angle from my window. With the distance fluctuating between 25 and 30 yards as she wove within the sounder she wasn’t my closest option, but the angle was perfect. I wedged my knees against the truck door, used the truck’s frame to brace my right side, and shouldered the shotgun. No thermal, no night vision, not even a light mounted on the DM. No matter.
I squeezed the trigger and was immediately rewarded with the high-pitched squeal and instant collapse of a hog down. One down didn’t mean it was over, though; I turned my sights on the stragglers who had yet to make it into the tree line and kept shooting.
The first hog downed by a DM was a steel-gray sow weighing about 150 pounds. No surprise she dropped in her tracks considering the wound cavity created by that sabot was wide and traveled a neat, angled path through her vitals. There’s no doubt the DM did its job. In fact, during the hunt the gun proved itself accurate out to 100 yards and probably could have stretched further but the drop rate on a heavy slug made me opt not to force it.
Overall, the DM performed well despite being clogged with red Texas dust and dirt. I’ve shot it with four different magazines and a wide array of 12-gauge ammo without any issues (I’ve also run it in three different states in both tactical and hunting scenarios). It’s a fun shotgun and an awesome hunting option. Say what you want – and undoubtedly you will – but Remington did a good job with the 870 DM. Several Whitetails and hogs, countless paper and steel targets, and a couple sacks of potatoes I may or may not have decimated in mid-air speak for themselves. And hey, I have a freezer full of meat, so I have zero complaints.
Insert disclaimer here: Because Spike Box is private property, I was legally able to hunt hogs from a truck. But it isn’t only during Texas hog hunts on private land where shooting from a moving vehicle takes place. For example, there are three-gun competitions involving shooters firing at targets from moving vehicles.
Secondary disclaimer: Yes, you still need to observe the golden rules of gun safety while hunting from a truck. The fact that it’s hunting on steroids doesn’t change the reality of the weapon in your hands. Be safe, always.