Shooting Pigs From Texas Skies: A Photographer’s Perspective

A photo essay from Pacific Standard’s recent feature story on helicopter hog-hunting in Texas.
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On assignment for Pacific Standard’s March/April 2017 issue, photographer Benjamin Rasmussen traveled to Houston, Texas, to fly with Helibacon, a helicopter hog-hunting outfitter tackling the country’s feral pig epidemic by allowing tourists with assault weapons to shoot pigs from the sky.

“I wanted to get a sense of the experience from the perspective of a hunter and, in a small way, of the hog,” Rasmussen says, describing his day with Helibacon owners Chase Roberts, John Dumont, and Chris Britt, as they they geared up and took to the sky. Here’s what he saw:

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Helibacon’s Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter is rolled out of its hanger for a morning flight. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Helibacon’s Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter is rolled out of its hanger for a morning flight. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Helibacon logo: a depiction of a mud-flap girl in camo print reclining against a Texas flag with the shadow of a boar behind her. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Helibacon logo: a depiction of a mud-flap girl in camo print reclining against a Texas flag with the shadow of a boar behind her. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

An AR-15 rifle in the front gunner’s seat. Helibacon’s basic package includes a semi-automatic AR-15 and unlimited ammo. Customers can also upgrade to a fully automatic version with 300 rounds. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

An AR-15 rifle in the front gunner’s seat. Helibacon’s basic package includes a semi-automatic AR-15 and unlimited ammo. Customers can also upgrade to a fully automatic version with 300 rounds. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter flies low over a river. The sound of the helicopter and the wind from its blades scare the hogs and send them running, which makes the animals easier to spot and hunt. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter flies low over a river. The sound of the helicopter and the wind from its blades scare the hogs and send them running, which makes the animals easier to spot and hunt. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Two gunners lean out of their seats while searching for hogs. Once a hog is sighted, the helicopter will pursue it, trying to chase it into the open. The gunners have to try and hit a small and fast-moving target while shooting from a vibrating helicopter that is also moving. “There is something terrifying about seeing a helicopter with two men hanging out the side with AR-15s flying over you,” Rasmussen says. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Two gunners lean out of their seats while searching for hogs. Once a hog is sighted, the helicopter will pursue it, trying to chase it into the open. The gunners have to try and hit a small and fast-moving target while shooting from a vibrating helicopter that is also moving. “There is something terrifying about seeing a helicopter with two men hanging out the side with AR-15s flying over you,” Rasmussen says. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Damage from feral hogs is visible in a field of a farmer who works with Helibacon. Helibacon arranges deals with farmers who let them take hunting trips on their land. Helibacon and their customers get access to land and hogs, and the farmers get expensive hog eradication for free. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Damage from feral hogs is visible in a field of a farmer who works with Helibacon. Helibacon arranges deals with farmers who let them take hunting trips on their land. Helibacon and their customers get access to land and hogs, and the farmers get expensive hog eradication for free. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

A feral hog runs from the helicopter. It was spotted with two others, and when they heard the helicopter each took off in a different direction. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

A feral hog runs from the helicopter. It was spotted with two others, and when they heard the helicopter each took off in a different direction. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

A gunner looks down the red dot sight of an AR-15 over field and river while searching for feral hogs. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

A gunner looks down the red dot sight of an AR-15 over field and river while searching for feral hogs. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Helibacon team debriefs after a flight. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

The Helibacon team debriefs after a flight. (Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Explore more stories from the March/April 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.

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