A bill that would expand opportunities for taking feral hogs, coyotes and armadillos at night has passed first reading in the House and will be called for second reading when the House returns Tuesday, April 17.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Phillip Lowe (R-Florence), sets a special season in addition to current opportunities to take the three species at night with special equipment. It sets the last day of February through July 1 as a period for using an expanded array of weapons and equipment in addition to current law, which allows the animals to be killed at night year-round with restrictions on weapons and equipment.

Specifically, the bill would allow the use of any legal firearm or archery equipment and the use of bait, electronic calls, artificial light, infrared, thermal or laser-sighting devices, night-vision devices or any device aiding the identification or targeting of species. It would require centerfire rifles to be fired from an elevated position at least 10 feet from the ground when hunting at night.

Current law allows coyotes and armadillos to be hunted at night year-round on private lands but restricts weapons to rifle no larger than .22 caliber rimfire, shotguns with BBs or smaller shot, and sidearms of any caliber with iron sights and barrels nine inches or shorter. It also prohibits the use of scopes, laser sites, lights or light-enhancing devices, including night vision or thermal imaging.        Hogs can be taken year-round on private lands at night only with a sidearm with iron sights and 9-inch or shorter barrels. No enhancements such as laser sights, scopes or night vision equipment may be used.

Hogs, coyotes and armadillos could continue to be taken at night under current law year-round, but Lowe’s bill would allow much greater opportunities to decrease populations of these non-native species that destroy crops, wildlife and livestock.

“We’re declaring war on hogs and coyotes,” Lowe, said during a House subcommittee meeting.

The House committee, which reported the bill favorably, also increase penalties for importation of any of the three species into the state, requiring forfeiture of firearms, vehicles and equipment if found guilty.

The bill is expected to face some opposition in the Senate because of fears the wide-open policy it sets on firearms and the use of night vision and other light-enhancing tactics could create problemes with night hunting for deer.