Rod Pinkston, a former U.S. Army Master Sergeant and war veteran, may well be one of the world's best and most intuitive wild hog hunters in the world.
Owner and operator of Jager Pro Hog Control Systems in Columbus, Georgia, Pinkston wasn't just born to be a hunter, he was trained by the U.S. military on tactical operations and a combat veteran who stalked enemy insurgents in Iraq utilizing the most advanced thermal imaging and night vision systems available.
With numerous combat missions and multiple military deployments behind him, Pinkston now targets wild hogs the same way he used thermal imaging to stalk enemy soldiers and wild dogs at night during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, he and a number of combat veterans who work for him are using their military training to wage war on feral hogs across the Southeast and as far away as Hawaii—and many places in-between.
Using a FLIR HS-324 handheld thermal monocular, the seasoned war vet-turned-hog war general can detect heat signatures of feral hogs on a moonless night at distances exceeding one-and-a-half miles. Then, using stealth approach techniques like U.S. military Special Forces, he and his team of night hunters can close the distance to a sounder of hogs with one goal in mind, "leaving no [live] hog behind."
Pinkston doesn't even like to call it hunting.
"Attempted eradication using sophisticated technology and the best firearms possible,” is the way he describes his company's primary mission,
In other words, Pinkston and company are doing what most consider an impossible mission — effectively eradicating feral hogs "one farm at a time.
"Over the last seven years we have made great progress in eliminating feral hog problems on farms by utilizing military techniques, high technology and proprietary equipment we have developed,” Pinkston said. “Our mission is very clear and we take that mission very seriously," he told Farm Press. "I was raised on a pig farm and learned at an early age how intelligent and adaptive these creatures can be. They have also learned to be very destructive in the wild when it comes to foraging for food."
Indeed. In Texas alone, where feral swine populations have grown to well over two million, making it the number one state for hog-related problems, officials have estimated feral hogs cause in excess of $52 million in damages to agriculture each year either directly or indirectly. In addition, Texas farmers and ranchers spend an estimated $7 million a year in efforts to control and manage wild hog populations. While those efforts are paying some dividends, wildlife specialists at Texas A&M report hunting and trapping of the creatures in Texas is far from turning the tide on increased growth of wild hog populations or the amount of damage they do each year.
Feral hogs an imminent threat
"Part of the problem is some people view wild hogs as a sport animal like deer or elk and as such believe they should be a protected wildlife species. But farmers correctly view the animal as a danger and a threat to their farming and ranching operations. Considering how prolific they are, feral hogs are going to continue growing in numbers and in the amount of damage they cause not just on the farm but in suburban neighborhoods, a trend we are now seeing," Pinkston added.
He said the idea to create Jager Pro came to him one night in Iraq when he was watching targets on thermal imaging equipment. After serving in combat operations, he returned to the states, but a second tour in Germany helped him to hone his shooting and hunting abilities. Stationed in Ansbach, he attained a German hunting license that required him to attend classes and demonstrate rifle and shotgun proficiency. Before long he had earned the title of a German master hunter, or Jagermeister, and set to work developing plans for his future company.
But before returning home he was selected to tryout for the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Olympic Shotgun Team. But the team was full of qualified shooters at the time, so Olympic coach Burl Branham named him non-commissioned officer in charge of the shooting team.
During his term as coach, Army SFC Todd Graves won an Olympic Bronze Medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and in 2001, SFC Shawn Dulohery won the 2001 World Skeet Championship in Cairo, Egypt.
Feral hog removal company
Over the next seven years, Pinkston began to study and develop more effective trapping techniques, resulting in the development of a company that specializes in removing feral hogs by the ton.
"I didn’t start out to be a hunting guide, I wanted to be a hog control operator,” Pinkston says. “But we had to figure out a way to generate income, since most farmers didn’t have the money for hog control at the time, so I started taking hunters out to farms where there was a problem.”
Serving farmers and hunters at the same time helped him get his start in the business. Today the role has changed from hunter to conservationist. Jager Pro shoots and traps hogs, depending on the time of year and the circumstances of the farm or ranch where they are working.
When on a hunt, Pinkston and crew employ the latest technology using thermal imaging and specialty fire power, but studying available hog traps presented a breakthrough in his operation.
"Convincing a wild hog to enter a trap is not an easy thing to do. They are highly intelligent creatures and learn from their mistakes quickly, so we had to look hard at what kind of trap to use," he said.
After extensive research and testing, Jager Pro developed a trap he says is superior for catching wild hogs. The trap includes a patented Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination (M.I.N.E.) gate that is extremely wide and easily camouflaged. The gate is tripped by remote control by an overnight operator who monitors the number of hogs that enter the trap. The trap offers an optional trip wire mechanism, but remote viewing the trap by motion-activated camera is the better method.
"There is little point in trapping a single hog or just a few animals. Sure, catching one hog is a temporary help, but the number you catch (trap) is not as important as the number that gets away, and this is our approach to eliminating a hog problem," he says.
Pinkston's company has developed a series of videos that demonstrate the trap system and also hunting methods that have proven successful over the years. He has shared his operational procedures with countless thousands as a high demand topic speaker at small and large wild hog events, including the International Wild Pig Conference.
"What we need in this country is a National working group to address wild hog management, control and eradication if we hope to be successful," he says.
But he fears that too many university officials and government agencies are working in different directions to be effective. He says current efforts, while good, are not enough and he believes better communication is necessary to "get every one on the same page."
In the meantime, he says Jager Pro will continue fighting the war on feral hogs one farm at a time, but he encourages landowners to visit his company website and review the methods he has developed to begin the process of wild hog eradication.
His rate of success and his sophisticated system attracted the attention of Georgia officials in recent months. For the first time, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is funding the removal of wild hogs to prevent water pollution in thePennahatchee Creek area wherehogs have caused high levels of fecal coliform. The contract calls for the control and eradication of 1,000 hogs in the area.
In true Jager Pro style, by monitoring his traps remotely, Pinkston can see how many hogs are coming in, determine the size of the sounder, and spring the trap when it looks like he has the whole group inside.
But his efforts do not stop with the traps. Pinkston and his team also conduct night hunts in the region—soldier style. These hunts are serious business and not recreational. Three- man teams use military and thermal imaging equipment and employ special forces tactics to lure an entire sounder into an ambush and take out the whole group in one attack.
Pinkston says this is what worked in Iraq, and it is working in Georgia.
Visit the Jager Pro site for more information.