As promised, here's my report back from our awesome hunt in Tennessee!
Back in 1988, a friend at work mentioned he would like to sell his 1970 Marlin 336 in .35 Remington. I bought it for $150 as fast as I could get to the bank to withdraw the cash. My dad cut the barrel down to just over 16" with a hacksaw and then re-crowned the muzzle with hand files. He also cut a new front sight dovetail and backed up the forearm's barrel band. I refinished the stock to a satin look with Linspeed Oil.
I always thought this gun would make a great woods gun for wild boar. Many years later I decided to mount a Leupold Scout Scope on it. Jeff Cooper had written about his Scout Rifle concept and how well suited it was for dangerous game. There are those who say that wild boar is possibly the most dangerous game in North America so I thought the Scout concept would be well served on my Marlin.
My best friend Karl and I have wanted to take a wild boar for well over two decades. Neither of us had ever hunted before. I decided it was time to make it happen just a couple months ago. We wanted to drive from Northern Illinois so we wouldn't have to worry about taking our guns on airplanes. I googled and lucked on to Croy's Cabins in Greeneville, TN. ( http://www.croyscabins.com )
I called and booked the two night hunt for $650 each. I said that we both wanted the meat and that would be $150. They also have a taxidermist who could mount the head for $450. We wanted it all.
Karl bought a Leupold Scout Scope and mount for his Marlin 1894 in .44 Magnum. We both sighted out guns in at 100 yards and at 50 yards. We practiced standing shots at 50 yards and rested shots at 100 yards. I used 200 grain Remington Core-Lokt soft point .35 Remingtons and Karl used Hornady 300 grain hollow points.
We met at Karl's and hit the road in his truck at 5 in the morning. The sun rose over the horizon as we drove southbound through the windmill farms in Indiana.
We had plenty of snacks for the road and I started out driving. Here's Karl with a cigar to chomp (but not smoke) during the trip.
I chomped a pretzel.
Karl even brought limes for my Coke Zero. His mom made us "road snacks" too.
Karl owns Dolphin Boats in South Florida. ( http://www.dolphinboats.com ) His big Chevy is wrapped in his company's logo. Everywhere we stopped, people would ask what kind of boat a Dolphin boat was. I explained that Dolphin is the originator of the flats fishing boat and has been around for 48 years. They're fast boats with poling towers for getting in close to the mangroves for "flats fishing" on the coastal waters.
When I planned this hunt, I was thinking that the leaves would be off the trees and the ground would be more frozen and less muddy. A week before our trip, weather dot com predicted 47 degrees in Greeneville. It turned out to be more like the low 20's. We had plenty of snow flurries as we drove south.
We drove to Johnson City and stayed at a Hampton Inn about 45 minutes from Croy's Cabins. We left this past Monday so we could have Tuesday and Wednesday to hunt and then drive back home on Thursday. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner at Red Lobster and then hit the hay.
Karl's GPS brought us right to the long, winding, narrow, gravel driveway that lead to the top of a hill (or mountain to us Illininoisians!). We were laughing because we didn't think the GPS was taking us the right way. We called the Croys and they told us to just keep going because we were heading up the correct way.
At the summit we were stunned when we saw the lodge. This is the circle at the top where the driveway stops:
Here is the lodge:
After we went inside and brought our stuff into the front living room, the Croy family came up and introduced themselves. James and Janel Croy own the hunting preserve and their son Matt is a guide and their two daughters help out with cooking and cleaning.
The lodge was amazing.
This is the front entrance living room:
The dining room:
The hallway with stairs leading up to the second floor (note the Christmas tree. The whole lodge was decorated for Christmas):
The family room:
Glass enclosed sitting area which was very relaxing. Check out that view:
My Marlin 336:
My Ruger Blackhawk .44 Special, engraved by Michael Gouse ( http://www.mtart.com ) with birdseye maple handles from http://www.clccustomgrips.com all loaded up with 250 grain Keith bullets backed by 17.0 grains of 2400 as backup:
In the afternoon, Matt took Karl and I out and got us in a tree stand.
We sat there for 2 hours and 10 minutes. We watched huge rams come down the hill and out into a field. Then then circled behind us for awhile before coming back around and up the hill again. 7 of them and them were amazing. Very wary of us. If we flinched, they spooked very easily.
We decided to climb down and walk around a bit. The hill was very steep. The frozen ground was slippery but we made it to the top and then followed the ridge for awhile. It was very cold, around 25 degrees and windy.
The woods were very thick. We realized our Scout Scope set up would be perfect with such heavy cover. Our shots would probably not be very far at all. My 16" barreled Marlin was really handy in the woods like this. My Marlin leather sling carried very well too.
We had stopped at a Wal-Mart on the drive down and bought long underwear and fingerless camo gloves with fold over mitten tops. They were outstanding!
At the top of the ridge we heard wild boar! I was amazed at how loud they were. We couldn't see them and the sun was starting to set. They were really grunting and making a racket. It made us a bit uneasy since we couldn't tell where they were. Finally we spotted about 10 or so, all black, nosing around the ground, digging up everything.
We watched them and tried to get closer, but the hill was so steep we decided to just follow the top of the ridge some more. Suddenly a pure white fallow deer walked in front of me, just 15 yards away. I got out my camera and took some photos (not very good ones though).
Three more fallow deer of various darker colors followed the white one. I kept watching them, amazed at how close they were. Then I looked at the last one and it wasn't a deer! Here was a huge, red wild boar 15 yards from me, looking right at me. And all I was holding was a camera!
I admit to being a bit scared. I realized how fast these animals so I just slowly backed up. I put the camera away and unslung my rifle. It was a sow and she was very big. She went on her way and my heart slowed down a bit. Karl was behind me and he couldn't believe what had just happened.
We felt we had experienced both the stand and the stalk methods and we were done for the day. We phoned Matt and he picked us up where we had been dropped off earlier. We talked with Matt in his pickup truck as he drove us back to the lodge. He explained that is was good that we got to see some boar and that we were able to begin to judge size for the next day.
Back at the lodge, Janel had made us some homemade brocolli and cheddar cheese soup, green beans, and elk meatloaf. Yum!
Karl and started a fire in the fireplace and watched some tv before going to bed.
Here is the first floor bunkbeds for kids:
Karl took the master bedroom:
I took the guest bedroom and we slept really well.
Wednesday morning, Matt and his friend Tyler picked us up and drove us back down the mountain. Tyler helps Matt out and both were phenomenal guides, despite their young ages. They were both very knowledgable and the easiest guys to talk with. They really made us feel comfortable.
We climbed back up heart attack hill (Karl and I are in our mid-40's and we stopped twice to catch our breath) and then Matt and Tyler walked ahead and we spent about 45 minutes trying to find some wild boar. Finally we came around another side and we heard them. We stalked closer and closer. I can't stress enough how steep the hill was and of course the boar don't come up to the top where it would be easier to sight them.
We watched some boar come along from out left. I could see the tops of their ears. There were some little piglets, maybe six of them. Matt advised us that the sows would be very protective of the piglets.
I watched some big black boars and shouldered my Marlin. Then I saw a big, hairy reddish/brown one come into view. I confirmed with Matt that it was a boar. A male. It was. Matt said, that would be a great looking boar to take. Every boar mount I've seen at my local Cabelas, Bass Pro, and a nearby restaurant has black boar mounts. I wanted this red/brown one!
Remember that I've never hunted before. I've wondered about my abilities. Bench rest shooting is one thing, standing without a rest on slippery frozen mud at an extreme angle is another. I've read that a hunter's ears don't ring due to the adrenaline rush despite not wearing hearing protection. My short barreled .35 would be quite loud.
I sighted on the boar's left shoulder as he was walking from my right to my left. Both of my eyes were open and the Scout Scope's crosshairs came naturally to my field of vision. The boar turned slightly and then came back broadside to me. I let half a breath out and held it. I squeezed the trigger.
I saw the bullet impact the boar's shoulder. I ran just a step or two and then crashed down immediately head first and stopped dead. I heard the birds and there was no ringing in my ears at all. Amazing.
Matt and Tyler told me I had made a perfect shot. The boar was down. It was so bizzare to me that the rest of the boar didn't run away. They stopped but then continued on, rooting around for acorns in the ground.
Now it was Karl's turn. He wanted a big black boar, but other smaller ones kept clustering around him. Karl couldn't get a shot. He had to move a few feet and then sight and then move again. A group of about five boar made there way out of his sights down the hill. But then another group came by. A big black boar came into Karl's field of fire. He fired and the boar went down.
Before I left my spot, I used Karl's Leupold ranger finder and measured my boar at exactly 52 yards from where I fired.
We all went down to my boar and took photos. To me, it was the perfect boar. I really liked the color and the tusks were big. My shot had broken through the shoulder and went right through the center of the boar's heart. Later, when the boar was gutted, we looked at the heat and the hole was right in the middle. The bullet exited the other side. I lost a little meat because of the shoulder.
Karl and Tyler and Matt then walked about 50 yards from my boar over to where Karl's was down. I stayed with mine for a few more photos.
Then all of a sudden I hear snorting and Matt yells, "GO! GO! GO!" and Karl starts trying to run up the hill. A red sow had come back and was charging after the three of them. I think it was the sow that had surprised me the day before behind the fallow deer.
Matt and Tyler were really fun to listen to from my vantage point as the two of them went up trees.
"Hey! This is my tree!"
"No it's not, I'm in it. Go find another one!"
"I was here first!"
They were having a great time. Once they were up in the trees, they shouted at the boar, "Go away lady! Go tend to your piglets! Git!"
Here they are after they got back down out of the trees:
Here's Karl up the hill with his back to me as he got away from the sow:
Eventually the sow went away. Karl and I were laughing, but I must say it was nervous laughter. I had my Ruger and Karl had a S&W 29 Classic DX on his hip, but we sure didn't want to have to use them.
Matt and Tyler recovered our boars and used a tractor's bucket to bring them down off the mountain.
We walked the top of the ridge and paused to take in the beauty of the mountains of Tennessee. It was cold but we were sweating a bit. I'd say the weather was actually just about perfect. Any colder and we would have frozen, any warmer and we would have been too hot. After some reflection, we then made our way back down heart attack hill.
Karl and I drove ATVs up to where the boars would be gutted.
Karl got some photos of his boar.