Monster Georgia Boar!
By Ed Turner
Al and I pulled out of his driveway at 9:17 AM and 5 degrees F. on our way to our third hog hunting adventure. We enjoyed a very relaxing and speedy drive clear through Atlanta, where the temperature was still only 30 degrees, at around 1:30 in the afternoon.
We met Al's son, Ricardo, for lunch and all pigged out (pun intended) at the Golden Corral, for what would turn out to be a lunch/dinner combo for Al and I. We managed to remain awake for the next two hours or so. Once we got within 25 miles, we were so excited that we all but counted down every mile. The directions were excellent and soon we turned off the dirt road leading to the camp and we turned and grinned at each other when we had to slow to let deer pass in front of us on our way to the cabin.
The other hunters and guide were gone and Al found a note on the deck saying,
"Make yourselves at home, back at around seven." We quickly unloaded
and chose our bunks in our private room. The next thing I remember, Al was
looking for me as I sat in on the back deck with a drink, held in gloved hand,
watching a doe feed some 200 yards away. Yup, this looked darn good!
We did not feel the need for dinner and our host and Guide, Virgil and his other hunters, Dan and Mark, showed up at maybe 7:30. By that time, Al had pointed out the outstanding deer mounts above the seating in the den and we'd oooed and aaaed enough for 10 hunters. We enjoyed our drinks as introductions were made.
Apparently, Dan (father) had seen some hogs that very afternoon. He took a shot at one at about 150 yards and the entire herd bolted and ran straight towards him. He picked out a likely target, shot 'til he had no more ammo, and soon both he and Virgil had the small hog under control. Suffice to say that Dan was good-natured about the experience and more than happy to hear the rest of us say how much we looked forward to a wonderful pork dinner, planned for the next evening.
We finally made it to bed that evening with visions of big boars crowding our thoughts. Early the next morning Virgil asked if we might follow them to our designated hunting areas to avoid crowding one vehicle and we were fine with that. Al and I were off to our stands by flashlight, clutching hand drawn directions, and were finally in place well before sunrise for our initial sit. It was a 14 degree January morning in South Georgia.
I always love sitting in the woods as the sun begins to brighten the new day and that cold morning was no different. I had made my way as quietly as possible to the stand, imagining I had already missed it in the dark. Once I found the stand, I put on my two additional layers, fired up my hand warmers and climbed the ladder to my seat. The foot warmers already in place and my extra clothes carried in my pack proved to be just the ticket for a very comfortable sit. The highlight was seeing, after dawn broke, a doe at about 80 yards and wondering why she was not moving about. Then I realized that she was bedded! I had snuck in, climbed up into my stand and was able to keep from spooking that doe bedded nearby.
We sat, enjoying the sun's warmth that finally came some two hours later and only when I was wondering when she would finally get up did she do so. She headed into the thickets, feeding. As if on cue, she left just in time for me to climb down and go pick- up Al. My first sit had not provided any hogs, but had shown game was likely abundant in the area.
A big breakfast was enjoyed by all and we used part of the downtime at noon to enjoy a little rest in preparation for the afternoon's stand. We left around two PM and the day had warmed into the 40's and was bright with light winds. I decided to walk slowly to another stand location and on the way, I thought I heard a hog rooting, but it turned out to be an armadillo instead. I snuck up to within five feet of it before it scurried off with their peculiar gait.
My afternoon stand was in a thick area where I strained to see anything more than 60 yards away. I was located where hardwoods transitioned into the typical Georgia pines and my hopes stayed high until sunset and beyond. Al and I met and headed back to camp for the evening and a big pork dinner. Both of us remained hog-less thus far.
The next morning found the ground wet from some night rain and heavy clouds still around, as Al and I headed back to our areas. Walking was very quiet and I chose the first location I'd sat the previous day, as it offered a longer view. Maybe two hours or so into my sit, with no game spotted, I decided to move further into the woods and still hunt along the trail network.
Shortly after setting out on foot, a light rain began and made my walking even quieter. I kicked out a lone deer after turning onto another trail and perhaps 15 minutes later, as my watch was telling me it was just about time to head back out, I saw a stand in the distance.
I walked to the stand and noticed two things of great interest. One was that a large hog had just been there, rooting about 15 yards in front of the stand. The second being that it was apparent no one had sat there for some time, because of the leaves and branches lying across the seat of the ladder-type stand.
Bingo, I'd found my afternoon spot, but now had to walk much faster to get back and meet Al by our appointed time. We drove back to the cabin encouraged by the sign we had seen that morning. Al found that the corn spread by the feeder the previous night in his area had been eaten and was anxious to get back out and see if they might stop by a little earlier that afternoon.
By lunchtime, it was raining hard, but by mid-afternoon the skies brightened and the rain finally let up a bit. Al and I were traveling down the now gumbo-like dirt roads on our way to our afternoon's stands when the rain stopped.
I climbed into my ladder stand at about 3 PM, after clearing the debris away. We had decided to meet about 6:15 PM at the truck, so that gave me right at 3 hours to sit. I sat back, relaxed, and listened to the sounds of the nearby swamp, knowing our best chance for seeing something would likely be right at dark.
At around five, the slight breeze died and the woods became very quiet. I heard a single hog grunt at perhaps 5:45 and noted it was still very light. We had miscalculated our departure times! I continued to sit and check my watch, deciding Al would feel the same way. I wasn't going to leave until it was too dark to shoot.
At 6:15 PM I could still plainly see my crosshairs. Just a few minutes later, I heard something making noise to my right and I focused my attention in that direction. More noise and then some movement; I couldn't keep myself from a sharp intake of breath. It was a hog, and a huge one. He was walking slowly towards me from about the 2 o'clock position. I figured he might head over to where he had rooted around before.
He decided to make a left turn and walked the edge of the swamp off my right shoulder at maybe 45-50 yards. As he passed behind two good-sized trees, I made my move, standing, turning right and cocking the hammer on my Marlin .44 carbine. As he passed behind yet another tree, I raised the rifle and as he came out the right side, I placed the crosshairs square on his neck, just behind his right ear. The crosshairs settled and I pulled the trigger. He immediately went down, but was thrashing and chomping his jaws as the shot echoed through the woods.
I quickly fired again, with the crosshairs on his right shoulder, but he continued his wild thrashing and chomping. A third shot to his exposed belly seemed to have little effect, so my fourth shot was very slow and deliberate. I aimed mid-body as he thrashed, his right side on the ground and his belly now facing me, having turned a full 180 degrees. That seemed to do the trick and soon he was quiet. It had been over 20 minutes since sunset, so although there was still enough light to see, there was no time to spare.
I sat for maybe half a minute calming myself and then climbed down from my stand. I had already loaded three more 270 grain Speer Gold Dot soft points before descending and now I was ready to claim my big boar. I approached slowly. Just before prodding him with my gun barrel, I stopped and whistled. There was no reaction. Then I picked up a small stick and tossed it, hitting him in the ribs.
The chomping and thrashing immediately began again. I raised my rifle and shot him one more time in the neck at 10-15 feet. His thrashing continued for perhaps another 20 seconds or so, but after seeing that last SP plow through his big neck, I held fire, listening to those jaws snapping and very glad I had decided to toss that stick. His commotion finally ceased and I figured that he was completely spent. If not, he would be when we got back in 30 minutes or so to get him out.
I walked as fast as I dared in the dark back to my truck, knowing Al would surely wonder what had caused me to shoot a total of five times. It turns out Al had seen several hogs during his sit, but could not get a clear shot at any of them. I called Virgil saying we needed his help and his truck to haul out a hog out I'd shot.
Virgil arrived in about 15 minutes. I wasn't sure what to tell him about the size of the hog, except to say that the three of us might not be able to get him into the truck. He gave me a dubious look and we drove slowly down old logging roads to where my hog (hopefully) lay. We got Virgil's truck to within fifty yards of the hog and walked over, carrying some nylon ratchet straps to use for dragging him. Long story short, we broke two straps and it took us a good twenty minutes to drag him the 50 yards and then another ten minutes to get him onto the tailgate.
We stood marveling at the sheer size and we were all glad Virgil had a cooler with a couple of cold ones, now that the "hunt" part was complete. Virgil warned me that the meat of such a large boar would not be edible and the owner promised to show the next morning to help with the caping duties. It was almost 9:00 when we finally got back to camp.
We enjoyed a late celebration dinner and rolled into our bunks early enough to be out at daybreak one more time on our three day hunt. The morning passed quickly with no hogs sighted and we returned to camp to begin our skinning chore. It took longer to hang the old boar than it did to drag him to the truck and the camp owner, Blaine Burley, then showed us just how impressive it could be to watch a skilled skinner and caper!
The head and cape alone were well over 100 lbs and Al was kind enough to help me carry it to my truck. Virgil and Blaine agreed that only one other hog they had seen taken was bigger and it weighed over 500 pounds. There was no scale big enough to weigh my boar at the camp, so we settled for an educated guess of about 450 pounds.
It was what it was. I was pleased to have seen such an animal and to have been lucky enough to harvest him. We finished our chores at camp and headed for lunch.
That afternoon we were ready to head out to get Al a hog. I had stayed away from the spot of the previous night's harvest to allow the area, deep in the woods, to quiet. However, I could not stay away for the last evening's sit.
Just as the evening was beginning to melt into darkness, I heard a shot, then another. Al had taken a whack at something! I sat for perhaps five more minutes, thinking that other hogs might stream past after Al shot one of their buddies, but as the darkness began to fall in earnest, I got down and hiked to my truck to meet Al, should he have scored.
Well, score he did! A huge sow dropped in her tracks and was finished with a second 140 grain, .270 Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet from Al's Remington Model 7400 rifle. The loading of Al's nearly 300 pound sow took us a good bit of grunting and maneuvering before we were finally on our way back to camp to share more good news. We had one heck of a hunt!
Success aside, we had a great time hunting with Blaine Burley and Woods-N-Water, Inc. Our guide, Virgil, was as personable and experienced as one could hope to find. He has tons of experience hunting, guiding and running cameras for some of Woods-N-Water's T.V. shows and videos. He listened to our desires, referenced our hunting styles and let us choose from multiple stands. Al and I preferred to hunt alone and to do some still hunting along with the usual stand hunting. Woods-N-Water, Inc. also provides fall whitetail trophy hunting and spring turkey hunting.
A note on bullet performance. My Marlin Model 1894 in .44 Rem. Mag. eventually got the job done, but not in the manner I'd hoped. It occurred to me that had the second shot, directly to the right shoulder, been the first, I would never have recovered that boar.
The second 270-grain SP held together very well and had expanded from .429" to a bit over .750". It failed, however to penetrate deeply enough to be of any serious bother to the animal. It was recovered just under the hide and protective cartilage, but outside the shoulder bone, which it never reached. A 270-grain, .44 Mag. bullet has a sectional density (SD) of only .210, which proved inadequate to the task. Note that Al's much lighter and smaller diameter 140-grain .270 bullets (SD .261) did an excellent job on the nearly 300 pound sow, but the boar's tough protective shield is not present on sows.
If not for the first shot, 2-3" behind the right ear, which at least temporarily put the big hog down and allowed the subsequent shots, he surely would have disappeared into the swamp. The first bullet was mushroomed exactly as the second, at .750" and found up against the vertebra of the neck. It quite obviously had not broken the neck.
That first bullet had, at least, knocked him silly. Shots three and four were made to his underside and one appeared to have taken out at least one lung. Shot five ensured he wouldn't survive long enough to get up and move again and possibly was not needed, but seemed like the humane thing to do.
For the next encounter, should I ever be so lucky again, I would want at least my.356 Winchester in hand. The .35 Whelen might now be my first cartridge choice for shooting very large hogs and a .45-70 +P load using 400-grain bullets (SD .272) should do well at short range. I'd say that most any caliber from 6.5x55 to 30-06 shooting heavy for caliber, well constructed bullets should do the job on a large hog, with good shot placement.
Do not be surprised, however, to find that a soft, fast expanding bullet of low sectional density does little more than tick-off a large boar if shot directly on the shoulder with its thick shield and heavy bones. My feeling is that they are tenacious and should be given at lot of respect.
One thing is for darn sure, though. Big feral hogs are a challenge and great fun to hunt. You can bet that Al and I will continue to chase these critters to our immense enjoyment!
Copyright 2009 by Ed Turner. All rights reserved.