Hog hunting in Tennessee is alive and well, despite its not being recognized as a sport anymore. For the past few years, taking a wild boar in the Volunteer State has been the purview of landowners due to the belief that encouraging a sport hunting season only expands the infestation due in part to illegal stocking. That means if you want to go bag some bacon in the great state of Tennessee, you’d better either know someone with land or pay for the privilege of the hunt. The good news? You can do it year round, which is how I found myself participating in a Valentine’s Day hog hunt.
It’s true, Valentine’s Day was on Saturday, and we were hunting on Thursday, but it was close enough. Myself and my companions, two of whom were seasoned hunters – the third was the 12-year-old son of one of the men, hoping to get his first wild hog – had set out the night before from Louisville, Kentucky, hoping to get a quick hunt in before the holiday itself struck. The bed of the truck was loaded to the gills with the assorted guns, bows, and gear required to outfit our group, and in the extended cab was the conversation you’d expect: past hunts.
Ben sat to the right while John took the role of driver, and in the hours that followed I found out just how many game photos can be stored on a smart phone: a lot. As those who know me can attest, my taking the role of listener wasn’t unusual, and I enjoyed hearing about his hunts. The discussion ranged from size of game to ammo performance to a brief discussion of snipers, and the miles rolled by while the expected excited anticipation of a hopefully-successful hunt settled over us. It was February in the South and the weather was reasonably mild. We would, we assumed, be gifted with equally cool-yet-mild weather for hunting the next day. We were wrong.
Our hunt took place in Cumberland County on a nice chunk of land covering some decently sharp hills and valleys. Although we expected an early start it was after 0900 hours when we finally set out, parking at the base of a rise and tackling a steeper hike than we saw coming. The hill was covered in slick rock and the remnants of fall leaves, decaying and adding their own slip to the hike in. Each of us had our own destinations, John staying with his young son, Ethan, and Ben and I each on our own.
If you’re unfamiliar with the wild hog problems of the South, allow me to give you a quick lesson in why hunting them is, while potentially dangerous – big, sharp tusks, anyone?- it’s a pest problem, not a majestic game hunt. Wild hogs are an introduced species: domestic pigs, captive and feral, have been around basically since the days of Plymouth Rock and John Smith, but wild boar didn’t hit the North American scene until the 19th century. It was 1890 when the first 13 wild boar were released on fenced property in New Hampshire, and the first escapes took place almost immediately. While those escapees were swiftly hunted down and shot, another, slightly larger, group was then brought over from Germany and transplanted to New York in 1902. By 1908, there were New York escapees who set about populating the area, but it wasn’t over, no, it was seen as a fantastic idea to bring even more. Jump to 1912, North Carolina: 13 European boars were placed in a preserve in Graham County. 10 years passed before the Great Boar Escape which occurred during the aftermath of a rather massive hunt that caused the hogs to understandably flee for their lives, taking the fence with them in pieces. The rest is, as they say, history – or, in this case, wild boar-infesting-North-America history.
Those North Carolina escapees migrated into Tennessee a century ago, and their unknown-European bloodline remains today. It was the many-generations-removed piggy offspring of those long-ago wild boar we set about hunting for our own version of a Valentine’s celebration.
Wild boars populate at an impressive rate, and they’re tough as heck. There’s a gristly subcutaneous mantle over their shoulders, offering protection from goring during fights, and that mantle can become the bane of uninformed hunters. Their anatomy varies from other game; if a hunter was to take aim at a hog with the same shot placement used on a deer – behind the shoulder – they’ll likely end up gut-shooting the hog instead. The hog’s heart and lungs are, instead, found right above their elbows, and slightly forward. After all, just because they’re invasive, destructive pests – they do about $400 million in damage annually in Texas, destroying crops, annihilating plant and less-tough animal life – doesn’t mean they should be denied a quick death. Whatever you hunt, be it deer, bear, coyote, or hog, it’s your job, as a hunter, to deliver an ethically sound, clean kill.
To make my kill shot last Valentine’s Day – since I cannot help but think of it as my Valentine’s hunt, and my preferred way to spend such a holiday – I wanted Remington. As I trudged up the hillside that morning, reminding myself with each chilly breath these were hills, not mountains like I was used to in my birthplace of Washington state, I carried a Remington R25 Gen II. The next generation of the R25 has a 20” stainless steel barrel coated in Teflon with a 1:10 twist rate. Thanks to a carbon fiber forend and somewhat reduced size, it weighs in just a bit over 7 pounds, which is more than a pound lighter than its predecessor. Dragging myself up to what I hoped would be an ideal hunting area, and trying to be quiet despite the higher altitude than I was used to, I was quite grateful for my rifle’s lighter weight.
I’d had an opportunity to sling lead down-range with the R25 Gen II a few months prior at a writer’s event with Remington at Gunsite last December, and getting a chance to hog hunt with it made me a happy, happy girl. It has a Hogue pistol grip and a free float hand-guard, and despite the dreary rain of the day testing first took place, it kept on going without lube, with no failures. The day of the hunt my rifle was chambered in .308 Win, but the model comes in other calibers including .243 Win and 7mm-08 and it has a SuperCell recoil pad for comfort’s sake. For stealth’s sake it has a Mossy Oak Infinity finish, and for speed’s sake in the case of multiple shots being fired it has an Elastomer extractor spring and dual ejectors. My gun was topped with a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 1.75-5X 32mm scope, and I was ready. It’s a sweet gun, and I was about to prove it was also a pig killing machine.
Though my gun was Remington, my ammo was Hornady. This year the 60+ year old company formally introduced a new boar round at SHOT Show, aptly named Full Boar. Full Boar comes in a wide range of popular hunting calibers including, but not limited to, .243 Win, 6.8 SPC, .30-06, and, of course, .308 Win. They’re topped with Hornady’s powerful ballistic-tipped GMX bullets and boast 95% or better weight retention, uniform expansion, and hard-core terminal performance. Basically all the ingredients necessary to take down tough game like a wild boar with one well-placed shot. I had two mags on me, one five-round and one ten-round, and I was burning to get to it.
Finally arriving at the top of the hill, I found myself surveying a beautiful slice of Tennessee countryside. Despite the browns of late winter and the surprising nip in the air it was a sight worth enjoying, and I took the time to get the lay of the land. I was on my own, and it was hog hunting time.
Those first hours passed somewhat slowly as I hoped for a hog, and the air continued to grow cooler with each passing moment despite the clock’s climb towards noon. When I paused to use my cell phone to snap a quick picture of the view, I discovered I was standing in just the right spot to confuse my so-called smart phone’s time zone sensor. This discovery resulted in a few minutes spent pacing a small area, grinning as my phone’s clock flickered one hour ahead, then behind, and ahead again. It was right about then I heard the somewhat distant grunting of a sow’s contact call.
The sow and her piglets were entirely oblivious of my existence, and I eyed them through my Bushnell scope as I considered my next move. They were rooting in the leaves for food, and as I admired the surprisingly pretty oranges and blacks of one piglet’s coat, a rust-colored boar edged into the clearing. Right about now is when you’d expect me to take my shot, but you’d be wrong, because right about now is when a small herd of deer came dashing through, scattering the hogs as they went.
And then, the snow began to fall.
At first I assumed I was seeing things – snow wasn’t in the forecast – but it quickly became evident this was the real deal as the tiny white flecks became full-fledged flakes and began sticking. The snow coated the ground quickly, giving the world a soft-focus appearance while simultaneously freezing my face and hands. Although I was wearing gloves they weren’t my warmest, and my thin camo balaclava wasn’t offering the greatest warmth, either. I pulled my knit skull cap down tighter over my head and began praying to the gods of hunting for a boar to cross my path, and spare me the agony of freezing to death.
I saw him coming and knew he was dense enough for me to take a picture with my camera before the more final taking of his picture through the Multi-X reticle of my scope. His coat was thick and blue, the hair bristling at his snout, nostrils twitching as he shuffled along, looking for food. The leaves were quite thick in places and he stood belly-deep more than once. We proceeded to join in a one-sided dance, his body hidden in the trees, mine slowing edging around for a clear shot. Finally he stepped around a tree just enough, clearly unaware of my presence. He stood on the hill’s crest, vital area briefly exposed. The still-falling snow blurred my line of sight and cast a haze over the blue of his hide. I squeezed the trigger.
For a moment he stood there, utterly still, and I paused. I’d been confident of my placement, and yet…and then he moved. He flipped around, revealing a through-and-through courtesy of the explosive power of Hornady Full Boar, complete with the hose-like gush of heart’s blood; he went down, hard, lurched up, crashed. The entire process took only a matter of seconds, and then he was careening down the hill, hooves twitching in death, plowing snout-first through the thick leaves. He came to rest thanks to the location of a downed tree, slamming against its frozen bark. In a matter of moments the snow had laced his coat, and I stood, trying to feel my fingers. Never go out without hand warmers.
My boar was about 300 pounds, and the lightweight R25 Gen II loaded with the enormous power of Full Boar took him down, hard. He was moving when I shot him, somewhere between 50 and 60 yards out, hidden in the trees. It was a good hunt, despite the cold.
The snow melted almost as quickly as it came; by the time I was standing by an outdoor fire pit wishing for a mug of coffee, it was gone. I’d gotten my heart for Valentine’s Day – of a sort, a heart shot, that is. All four of us had success, so much success, in fact, that the big truck was weighed down in back on the drive home. My blue boar made fantastic sausage and good ribs, and my rifle did exactly what it was meant to do: bring home the bacon. Literally.
Author’s Note: Thanks to Remington for the use of the excellent rifle and Bushnell scope, Hornady for the hard-hitting ammunition, and John, Ben, and Ethan Wade for the pleasure of their company on the Valentine’s hog hunt. It was a fantastic hunt, and we need to do it again ASAP.
Remington R25 Gen II in .308 Win
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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