Choosing a scope for wild boar hunting

By David Gustafsson

Wild boar offers fantastic hunting opportunities. It’s a special feeling to be standing waiting under cover and hear the dogs approaching in the distance, or to be sitting in the darkness in a comfortably heated hunting stand, listening with excitement and anticipation, until suddenly you hear a crack out there in the dark . 

Then it’s all down to you, your rifle, the ammunition and your scope. Something not everyone knows is that the scope is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to the actual shooting. It’s better to buy a cheaper weapon and spend your money on a really good scope. You get what you pay for, so don’t be stingy. Good quality will pay off in the long run. 

So what kind of scope should you choose in the optics jungle? 

For driven hunts and hunting with dogs I use a red dot scope from Aimpoint for obvious reasons. The scope is essentially small and flexible, and offers a good complement to the open sight that is otherwise usually found on weapons. I personally feel that the Aimpoint offers higher quality at a fair price when you take into account what you get for your money. 

Aimpoint is used by various militaries around the world, including both the Swedish and American militaries, and should therefore withstand a little rough and tough. 

I’ve mounted my Aimpoint on a Blaser R8 prof that I use when I hunt with dogs or am standing in smaller stand locations.

In addition, I have a 1-5 driven hunt scope from Khales Helia. This is mounted on my double rifle drilling and used only for driven hunts of big game as it offers a good field of vision up close but at the same time gives me the chance to zoom a little at times, providing good visibility at slightly longer distances. It’s an adequate scope for most of the situations that arise during driven hunts and/or hide hunting.

Another scope I use is a Zeiss V8 1.8-14x50. It’s perhaps an expensive scope but it’s a world-class scope. Having a scope with a greater magnification can be crucial when shooting at slightly longer distances. Being able to zoom in on a deer or boar on an open meadow can be crucial for the shot itself. I use it mostly in roe buck hunting on Öland where the distances are often greater, but where the smaller magnification of 1.8 also lends itself as a scope for e.g. driven hunts. 

For the rifle I use at night, I have a Zeiss V6 2.5-15x56. It’s a cheaper scope, but in my eyes its lenses are almost as sharp as on my other Zeiss scope. It’s a fantastic scope on which I mounted a thermal scope. As is well known, scopes with larger lenses can absorb more light, so there’s what’s known as a better light gathering ability. A larger aperture usually offers a lighter field of view in poorer lighting conditions. For example, scopes with a 56-aperture became very popular when wild boar hunting was in vogue in the early 2000s. Lenses with 50 mm or 56 mm are preferable when hunting at dawn or dusk where good light gathering ability can be crucial.

Thermal scopes now allowed

Since last summer it’s been allowed to use thermal scopes and digital aids when hunting wild boar. 

There is a wealth of scopes of this type, so here are some tips. 

I have used several different scopes of this type over the years. In 2010 I bought my first night scope and since then I have been able to own and evaluate several different scopes and binoculars.

As far as riflescopes are concerned, I think everyone should have a digital scope on a solid mount. Spending the money on a bracket is important as too many people spend time on the shooting range zeroing in their rifle before suddenly discovering that the scope is not right. It’s a phenomenon that I myself have experienced when I used to use expensive mounting which was of completely the wrong kind.

My first scope was a Pulsar N770, a black and white digital screen with external battery pack and recording capability. This was mounted on an Apel pivot mount on a Sauer 202. I never really worked the bracket out and often had to zero in my rifle until a gunsmith made a more solid base for the scope. It was expensive but very stable. With this scope, I could easily identify animals in the distance and began to hunt effectively in the field during the night. In addition, I was able to eliminate the need for tricky feeder station lighting. Generally speaking, it is of course much nicer to sit with lighted bait than to sit in the dark and repeatedly peek through a night vision scope while waiting for boars, but it’s cumbersome to have to keep the batteries charged for the feeder station lights.

Distance gauging of scopes

What I was missing was some form of distance gauging, something that is often part of the newer scopes, so I bought a new riflescope from Pulsar, this time a 970LRF. I did however discover that I had problems in fog, even though this performed better than its predecessor. The distance gauge was good, but I didn’t use it very often, so I went over to a thermal imaging scope. 

Choosing a digital night vision scope is perfect for those of you who hunt using bait, and also for those who hunt in smaller fields and along ridges or embankments. Scopes of this kind are available from SEK 4000 up to the equivalent of an annual salary for ordinary people. This means that the price will determine your area of use. For people who are thinking of hunting nine times out of ten using bait or in smaller fields, a scope that’s under SEK 10,000 would be an excellent choice. For people who, like me, mostly hunt in fields, a more expensive night vision scope or even a thermal scope will earn you a lot of boars. These have become commonplace on the market today and are now available at various price points, from around SEK 20,000 up to, once again, the equivalent of an annual salary. 

Thermal scopes ‘see’ through fog

The advantage with a thermal scope is that fog is no longer an issue. You see what is on its way out onto the field from the forest, any close-lying reeds or a neighbour’s field. You can even see if there’s a sow with piglets in the grass or if the shot boar is lying somewhere nearby. 

It’s important not to be fooled by what you see in films. You can definitely see if there are branches or grass in the way of the shot, but you can’t see through dense bushes or trees. 

I usually say that a digital scope is a huge step up from using a regular scope and torch. To then subsequently go from a digital scope to a thermal scope is about as big a leap. You no longer get any “aha” experiences when you creep around like you used to with older digital scopes, which could sometimes make boars appear to be stones or other similar objects. Now you see exactly what is hiding in the dark. 

I can understand to some extent that some people may question or even be sceptical of this form of hunting, but these people also don’t understand the damage done to farmers’ fields and grain by wild boars. Damage caused by wild boars amounts to billions of Swedish krona and is a major problem in large parts of the country. The fact that we then use adequate equipment to even out the odds increases shooting and gives us the opportunity to shoot the right animals. Which animals are the right animals to shoot will follow in another article. 

Night and day scopes

Going back to scopes, there are several different models and designs. It’s not profitable to buy a cheap scope of the older kind with a green light, which is also sensitive to light. A night and day scope is preferable, i.e. a digital scope that also works during the day if you wish. If light was to reach the scope, from a car or a torch for example, you don’t want the scope to break. Because of this you should buy a black and white scope.

It is a great advantage if you have a scope with an external battery pack, which can easily be recharged between hunts and can withstand quite a few hours. My N970 has an extraordinarily long battery time. Over ten hours standing is no problem. On my thermal sight, which is a Pulsar Core FXQ50, I have to take out the smaller batteries and recharge them, and I usually only get about 3-4 hours of active use from them. This hasn’t actually ever really been an issue as it’s so easy to change the batteries when needed. I always have extra batteries in my pocket just in case.

Best quick release mount

It’s an advantage to be able to take the scope off between hunts, which means having a quick release mount. Here Blaser’s mount is the very best of all of the weapon types I’ve tried.  Previously, Erns Apel and also Weaver had good mounts but these sometimes need to be zeroed in from time to time. Even better is if you can have a gun only for night hunting with a fixed mount in that case. Having a rifle solely for night hunting is preferable for many reasons. Then you have a weapon that doesn’t change and is used in similar circumstances every time. The reason I think you should be able to remove the scope is because it is often large and bulky. When a wild boar is shot, they often escape to the undergrowth. If this happens it’s practical to be able to walk with an open scope or a low-magnifying scope to allow for quick shots. 

One problem that can arise with the most common scopes is that they are high, so even with a low mount, the sight will end up high which is a concern. You don’t need to spend a lot to get an adequate comb raiser. You can easily buy a roll of tape, fold a towel a few times and tape it in place so the cheek is higher up.

Short summary

Buy the rifle that suits you, but spend the majority of your money on a better scope. If you are a beginner, you can start with a cheap rifle for a thousand Swedish krona and spend most of your money on a good scope. You get a lot for five to ten thousand Swedish krona. Check out the second-hand market.

If you’re going to hunt at night there are lots of solutions. My tip is to invest in a night vision scope that works both day and night. Preferably get a gun for night hunting only that you keep for this purpose and just adjust the stock for the mount and scope. There are cheap options out there.

Spend your money on an adequate bracket, the mount should really be mounted by an expert. I never do these kinds of jobs myself, I want them done properly and I also want to get some kind of guarantee if something goes wrong or breaks – this is expensive equipment.

For those of you who have the time and money, and spend time in the fields hunting boars that do a lot of damage, try to look for a thermal scope, there are lots of them on the market today and they usually pay for themselves. Hand-held thermal binoculars are also a good addition to a mounted riflescope. Thermal optics offer incredible benefits, but the need for them may not be as great in bait hunting. There are advantages, but these are minimal. 

Opt for a versatile scope with very low magnification. If you just want to hunt with dogs or practice stand hunting, a red dot sight is definitely preferable, but even a 1-5 or 1-6 offers incredible possibilities. These can be used on everything from driven hunts to longer sessions hunting roe buck. 

A scope with a larger lens and larger magnification is gratifying for many hunting forms. Being able to enlarge the target is good at longer distances, for example in roe buck hunting. Having a larger aperture such as 50 or 56 mm also gives greater light gathering ability. In snow or moonlight, there is no difficulty in seeing animals, although it can be difficult to determine the sex or size. One tip is to use the scope in combination with a torch, which is very common.