Special Report: The night stalkers

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Former Army specialists are using the latest high tech gear to hunt down and kill feral pigs that are attacking farms and destroying crops.  In Tennessee, the hunt takes place on land and in air.

Rod Pinkston loaded bullets into a magazine, preparing for the night's hunt.

"We're using the same equipment that we used in Iraq and Afghanistan," Pinkston said.

Pinkston, an ex-Army marksmen, uses thermal scopes to hunt down an enemy that only comes out at night.  Pinkston helped develop these instruments that show body heat in pitch black.

"When we retired we switched from a two-legged enemy to a four-legged enemy," Pinkston said.  "That's all we did."

Their enemy is now feral hogs, a plague to Mid-South farmers.

Byron Brown, a farmer, said the hogs were eating his crops.

"Once you plant them, they root it up," Brown said.  "We have to replant.  It's never ending."

Pinkston runs Jager Pro, which means professional hunter.  Clients pay him hundreds of dollars to attack the hogs, which is a chance to exercise what Pinkston calls their tactical gene.

"They've always wanted to be a soldier ... and we give them that opportunity," Pinkston said.

Pinkston takes the clients to fields destroyed by hogs and exterminates as many as possible.  On this hunt, they slowly creep up on a pack of nine.

Targeting through the thermal scopes, they open fire on the enemy.

"If you had a termite problem in your house, do you care that the pest control company kills the pregnant termites and the baby termites?  No, you want the termites out of your house, because that is your biggest investment," Pinkston said.  "The farmer feels the same way."

The hunters killed five hogs on this hunt.  They pick up the bodies and will take them to meat processors to be destroyed.

"This makes 343 hogs that we've killed this year in 41 nights," Pinkston said.  "That's right around an eight hot average, so we are a little bit under our quota."

In addition to destroying crops, feral hogs can spread disease to household pets, even people.  Hunters are encouraged to wear surgical gloves and other protective gear when handling a hog.

There are thousands of hogs damaging farms across the Mid-South.  Video from the US Department of Agriculture shows herds of feral pigs rooting up crops and trying to tear into bags of seed.

Wildlife experts said the number of wild hogs is multiplying in Arkansas and Mississippi, and in Tennessee they estimate there are pigs in every county.

This fall, the USDA plans to begin hunting pigs by helicopter.  In the past, around eight hours in the air can take out as many as 400 hogs.  The operation costs about $1,000 an hour.

Farmers do not pay for Pinkston's hunts, they only allow him to use their fields.  His clients, mostly doctors, lawyers and business owners, have him booked six nights a week through June.

For regulations on hunting wild hogs in Arkansas, click here:  http://www.agfc.com/hunting/feral_hogs.aspx

For regulations on hunting wild hogs in Mississippi, click here:  http://home.mdwfp.com/WMA/Default.aspx

For regulations on hunting wild hogs in Tennessee, click here:  http://www.tennessee.gov/twra/feralhog.html

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