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Tennessee Boar Hunting

Adventurous Hunting

By Paul Fitzgerald

Paul Fitzgerald's Tennessee Boar HuntI went to one knee and leaned forward behind the fallen tree, to get a firm rest for the S&W Model 629. I was using iron sights, and wanted to be sure of my first shot. I steadied myself as much as I could, took careful aim, and fired at the Russian boar just 17 steps away. The shot was good; the animal was broadside facing left; I found out later that the .44 cal 265 grain Hornady Interlock bullet entered the left shoulder, went through the chest, and exited the right shoulder.

But I didn’t find that out until LATER! At the shot, the boar let out a blood-curdling squeal, went down, then back up immediately and charged right at me! I was behind the fallen tree, and stood up when the boar charged. At about 12 feet the animal swerved to my right, and I snapped off a hurried shot double-action that went high. The boar jumped the log at 8 feet from me, and I fired again when the animal was in flight over the log. This one entered just behind the right ear and exited below the left eye. The boar piled up when it hit the ground from the jump and expired about 20 seconds later.
This was the most exciting and adventurous hunt I have ever experienced. My brother Dan was laughing with excitement from a “safe” distance of about 20 yards behind me, and our guide Steve, who was just a few feet behind told me, “Bud, I’m glad you dropped that critter, ‘cause I was gettin’ ready to climb a tree!” And that is typical of the exciting hunting at Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge in Monterey, Tennessee.

I had wanted to hunt wild boar for a long time, first getting literature mailed to me in 1986, then again in 1994, but never quite closed the arrangements, as my brothers and/or hunting friends could never work out their schedules with mine. So I didn’t go, because I didn’t want to go alone; who would be there to explain to my wife my horrible departure if things didn’t work out! Seriously, I thought this was something that was best shared with a close hunting partner, because the memories and stories would last forever; and I’m convinced of that now.

After the hunting season in Missouri had ended in late 1999, I got to think about it again, and I called my brother Dan in Alabama. I told him we weren’t getting any younger, and we should do this while we were still fit enough to run and climb trees, if necessary. Well, Dan could still climb trees; I wasn’t so sure about myself!

Anyway, he was up for it, so I proceeded to inquire (again) for information from several places in Tennessee. There are several places in close proximity of each other in the Cumberland Mountain area, which is approximately 115 miles east of Nashville. I decided that Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge was the place to go, after several phone calls and reviewing the literature.

Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge is owned/operated by Jerry and Judy Pistole, and two nicer people you’re not likely to find. Jerry was very cordial on the phone, and helpful in telling me about the animals, techniques for hunting them, etc. Judy did the cooking and joined in for interesting conversation at meal times, and the meals were superb! We actually were a little concerned about stuffing ourselves, then hiking around the woods, possibly climbing a tree or having to move fast. Oh well, that was just a risk we were willing to take!

Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge is a relatively new lodge, built just 5 years ago. The lodge has a large central room with vaulted ceiling, fireplace, and animal mounts on all the walls. The whole lodge is done in rustic rough-cut pine. Two hallways off the main room have 3 bedrooms each, which had several bunk beds in each. While each hall had one large bathroom, there were multiple private stalls and showers in each. Everything was high quality and clean as a tack through out.

The lodge sits on several hundred acres, and there is an area in the center of the property surrounded by 8.1 miles of 8-ft. fencing. This is done for several reasons; The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency requires imported Russian boars to be contained in a fenced area; and also, the animals represent a significant investment, and Jerry doesn’t want them to wander off, or have to deal with poachers.

Initially, I was somewhat concerned about hunting in a fenced area; would this be like fishing in a barrel? My concern was unfounded. Jerry keeps plenty of boars on the area at all times, and when they are released, they’re on the property until they’re harvested. Further, after you enter the area, and start walking through the woods, you quickly lose sight of the fence; when you encounter your first “pack” of wild boar that are free roaming in the area, the fence is the last thing on your mind!

Dan and I agreed to meet on a Thursday evening for supper at a Cracker Barrel in Crossville, just off I40, at about 5:30PM. The trip was about 450 miles for me coming from St. Louis and about 250 miles for Dan coming from northern Alabama. After supper, we drove about 12 miles north on Hwy 127 out of Crossville to the lodge and checked in.

The hunt started Friday morning after a super breakfast prepared by Judy. We had scrambled eggs, bacon, boar sausage, biscuits/gravy, and coffee/juice. The weather was cool (March 17) and a fire was crackling in the fireplace. We weren’t sure we wanted to leave the comfort of the lodge, but it was time to get serious.

Our guides for the morning were Wayne and Steve, and they took us by pickup on a gravel road about 1/2 mile from the lodge. When we pulled up to the gate and fenced area, we had no idea what was ahead for us.

Jerry had told us that usually the boars run in packs of from 15-30 animals. A word about the animals: there are 3 sizes (and corresponding prices). The “small or regular” boars run 170 up to 249 pounds, and a guided hunt with 3 night’s lodging/2 days of hunting with meals runs $630. The next size animal runs from 250-350 pounds, and this is priced at $930. The last class (known as monster class) is boars that are 500 pounds and up. The prices for these start at $1600 and go up. All classes/prices include guide service; the guides will take you into the area, put you within range, field dress and get your animal back to the lodge. Dan and I were hunting the smaller class boar.

We were also concerned about positively identifying the right class of animal, and that works like this: small class has no ear tag; medium class has a colored tag in the ear about the size of a dollar; and if you can’t identify the “monsters” when you see them, you shouldn’t be walking around with a loaded gun! Seriously, the guides assist in positive ID.

Since sending in our deposit in January, we debated which firearms to use for this hunt. Jerry offered the following recommendations: center fire rifle in .30 cal or larger with 180 grain minimum bullet weight; pistol in .44 mag with bullets of 270-300 grains; muzzleloader in 50 cal minimum; and 12 ga. slug (archery hunts also permitted).

The reason for the heavy armament is because Russian boars have a thick (1.5 to 6 inches) layer of dense fat under a tough hide surrounding the chest. This is referred to as “armor plate.” Boars are tenacious, and don’t die quickly, even when hit well. In most cases, well-placed shots to the chest area do not exit.

Dan decided to use a 12-ga.-slug gun, and I brought a 375 Win lever action and .44-mag revolver. The .375 was handloaded with 220 gr. Hornady’s near max load, which is quite a bit more potent than factory loads. For the .44 mag, I had tried 3 different loads with the following bullets: Speer 270 gr., Hornady 300 gr., and a 265-gr. Hornady Interlock, which is really a rifle bullet. I decided that the 265 Hornady would most likely give the best penetration, so that is what I took on the hunt. (45-70’s are also a good choice for boar hunts).

OK, so we entered the fenced area, closed the gate behind us, and proceeded through the woods down a logging trail. The first boar we encountered was running through the woods alone. Wayne explained that while most boars run in packs, there were a few that were so ill tempered they didn’t run with the other boars. Dan immediately said he wanted one of the “solo” bad boys, so we spent the next several hours stalking through the woods trying to get close enough for a shot at one of the lone boars. Boars have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and sense of smell. If not provoked or cornered, their natural tendency is to avoid humans. If irritated, however, they are just as likely to charge as run away.

During the several hours we stalked Dan’s solo animal, we encountered several packs of boars, one group of approximately 30, and another of 12-15. All sizes of boars were in these groups, and we moved around them cautiously. We used the sightings to size up the animals and learn how to spot the ear tag.

The literature we received from Jerry said that scopes were not recommended, “you should take your boar from 3 feet to 30 yards,” and so we complied; no scopes. I suppose one could use a scoped .30-06 and fire from 50-60 yards, but this would not be as exciting. Further, there is the very real danger that your bullet MIGHT exit and strike a second boar. If that happens, guess what, you just bought another boar!

It was getting close to lunch time, and thus far we had not got as close as we wanted, caution aside. We decided we wanted to be within 20 yards to assure a good shot at a single animal. During this time, I kept the .44 holstered and was actually planning on using the lever gun. But as brothers do, Dan started giving me his opinion on HOW I should hunt MY boar. He thought I should use the revolver, move in close to the pack and single one out. He said I would be sorry later if I didn’t do it this way, and he would be there backing me up with the 12 ga. if I got into trouble. Sounded good to me, kinda.......So that is what we did. In retrospect, as I remember Dan standing back (holding my lever gun) and laughing as I turned white playing cowboy with a charging boar, was it a good idea? YOU BET, it couldn’t have been any better.

After the pictures in the field were taken, Steve field dressed the animal and Wayne went for a 4x4 ATV to get the animal out. We hung the animal in a walk-in cooler, and then we had lunch. Judy had ham sandwiches with all the trimmings, soup, and chips waiting. Boy, I could get used to this style of hunting!

During lunch, Wayne asked Dan if he was still interested in chasing a solo boar, and Dan said that he was. Near the end of lunch, Wayne got up first and said somewhat seriously, “come on guys, we got some work to do if you want to get a lone boar.”
We enlisted the help of a 3rd guide, James, for the afternoon hunt, because Wayne said we would probably have to drive the woods with more people to find the solo boars. We got back to the woods about 2PM.

The portion of the woods we had hunted in the morning reminded me of primitive weapons hunts at Ft. Leonard Wood; fairly thick woods with moderate climbing up and down mountain. For the afternoon hunt, we went to an area farther back in the fenced property that was much more rugged and dense than the first area (referred to as the lower area).

The plan was for Dan, Steve, and I to go to a predetermined place, called the slate ridge because of an abundance of slate rocks everywhere, while Wayne and James took a long sweeping route around the woods. Then they were to walk slowly up a steep wooded drainage to us, hopefully driving a solo boar our way. There would be no standing broadside shot for Dan, probably, but I offered for him to use my 44 revolver anyway, while I “backed him up” with the 12 gauge, but he declined, can’t imagine why! We got in position and waited.

15-20 minutes later we heard sounds coming up the drainage in the distance that sounded like boars squealing, maybe. Steve said it was Wayne and James making the noise, trying to run a boar our way. About 3 minutes later, the action started. Four boar came running up the side of the drainage, their long black manes were standing up like razors; they do this when they are irritated, and I must say, it makes them look even more ominous, if that is possible.

Dan got in position to fire. He had a difficult situation, because the boars were going up the side of the steep hill like deer or elk; you have to see it to believe how well and quickly they can move over rugged terrain! Further, he and Steve would have to positively ID and fire at a fast moving target.

We were positioned about 2/3 up the hill from the bottom of the drainage, and the boar closed the distance quickly. From where Dan was standing, they passed single file in front of him at about 30 yards. He raised his shotgun and fired at the 3rd boar, at which point the first two continued up and over the ridge while the last two peeled off and went into a thick, gnarly mess of brush suitable only for snakes, beagles, and apparently wild boars!

We had heard a short squeal just after the shot, but nothing like what mine had done, so we weren’t sure if Dan had connected or not. What we DID know was we had one or two boars in a thick mess of brush, one possibly injured. They had raised manes when they went by, and now they were definitely agitated. I looked at Dan and said, “Get in there and root ‘em out!” and laughed; it was my turn to enjoy. But Dan and Steve didn’t share my humor.

Dan and Steve moved around the brushy area cautiously looking for a better vantage point to get another shot. The boar came out to the edge of the brush and was quartering away, up the hill. Dan fired again, but just as he shot, the boar turned straight away, so the shot entered above the ham, and we found out later, traveled the length of the boar and the slug lodged under the hide on the brisket. It missed the spine, but took out both lungs and the heart. The boar moved around in the brush some (while the 2nd boar went over the hill, apparently un-injured), then laid down in a low spot, breathing hard and grunting. We moved in cautiously to check it out better, and it expired a short time later.

The guides went to work, and a short time later we were back at the lodge hanging both boars for pictures. After pictures were made, the guides skinned the animals (for shoulder mounts) and hung them in the cooler. The following morning, they fully butchered and double wrapped the meat ready for the freezer. This was over the hunt fee; for an extra $40 they will skin and quarter, or for $80 they will skin and fully process and wrap the meat (sausage is extra). This seemed like a reasonable price, and we both took advantage of it. Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge also does taxidermy.

By the way, both boars were nearly 6 feet long, and stood close to 3 feet at the front shoulder. Mine weighed 245 pounds, and Dan’s weighed 220 pounds. We were both very pleased with our hunting experience at Cumberland Mountain Hunting Lodge, and will go back there on our next boar hunt.

We thought originally that this would probably be something we would do only once, but our older brother Dave is now interested in going on a Russian boar hunt, so we’ll probably go with him. We have one piece of advice for him: do it with a revolver and move in REAL CLOSE for the shot.....we’ll both be there for back-up!