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Articles by Troy > Killing a Mature Boar with a Bow

1 Nov 2009




    I am hear to have a pow wow with the bow hunters, archery enthusiast, you know who you are, lurking out in the swamps looking to make a shishkabob out of some unsuspecting tasty morsel of pork, savoring the high you only get when you do the stick and string thing. Yes you know who you are.


      To put down the rifle and pick up the bow ups the challenge and the adrenalin will follow. I can think about releasing an arrow into a hog and the hair on my neck will stand up. To pick up your bow for boar ups the challenge more than you may realize. An alarming percentage of bow hunting clients arrive at my camp clueless to what they are getting into. For many, the following days will be educational, and the boar will do the teaching. Knowing these guys come from all over and from all walks of life has convinced me that what I am seeing is most likely an accurate reflection of the bow hunting public as a whole. That is the reason I am writing on this subject and have felt the need to do so for some time.


    I am going to shoot it to you straight, the majority of bow hunters that pursue trophy wild boar underestimate what they are  up against. Often times this sets their hunt up to fail before it begins. To many etenter the woods with without the knowledge or equipment it will take to do the job.


      Please understand this article is focused on grown mature boar. I am not referring to the many juvenile pigs you have harvested with your 3-D/whitetail set up you love so much for its speed and accuracy. I am talking about old mature boar that you dream of killing. If you plan on seeing your dream come true you need to accept the fact that you are after north Americas toughest big game animal by a long shot. I will reiterate, a mature wild boar has a hide thicker and harder than any thing you can compare it to on this continent. When I say thicker and harder I mean by ten fold. Moose, Bear, young hogs, old sows & Elk are all a challenge, they are big, they may be thick, but compared to a mature boar these critters are as thin skinned as a rabbit. I say this without exaggeration folks. Don’t fool yourself on this one. If you or someone you know has killed/recovered a mature boar with a 400 grain arrow consider it luck because it is what it is.


    If you were to bow hunt Africa you would expect to be making some changes to your equipment to be prepared for success, but you show up at my camp to hunt boar with that 3-D outfit day in and day out. Do you realize  that Kudu, Gemsbok, wilder beast, or zebra do not compare to a mature wild boar when it comes down to the thickness of the hide? I can tell you from experience that these animals are not in the same league with a mature boar by a long shot.


     I am not trying to do anything here but give you what you need to know to be successful at bow hunting big boar. I have grown tired of seeing bow hunter after bow hunter go home disappointed because they went into the hunt without any idea of what it takes to bring down a trophy boar with a stick and as string! 


    I guide hunters on boar hunts and have for years. My hunts are for trophy boar. My clients are looking for 200 # plus hogs with an emphasis on plus. 


     I have maintained a 90 percent shooting opportunity on hogs of this class. The recovery rate for bow hunters is half of that of gun hunters and I’ll explain why. I am going to tell you what I have learned after guiding over 2500 hunters ( 40 percent archery) on successful trophy boar hunts. More importantly what I have learned after guiding over a thousand bow hunters that were unsuccessful in recovering a wounded boar. 


     Keep in mind that nothing never happens and nothing always happens and there will be exceptions to everything that happens. The list of things that cause a hunter to fail is a long one, but a handful of things on that list are a common denominator found in a majority of failed hunts. When one of these “things” are factored into a hunt failure is not certain but probable. You can’t avoid what you don’t recognize. Lets discuss these common denominators. 


    The most important thing to remember is shot placement rules! Without perfect shot placement nothing else matters. You have heard this a million times, said it a thousand, but do you live by it, do you walk the walk? If your answer is yes you are among few. If you are not hitting quarter size groups at 20 yards the rest of this article will be of no use to you and you owe it to yourself and the boar to stay out of the woods until you are ready. You may say I’m a little hard in my way of thinking, I’ll say again, I have grown tired of seeing bow hunter after bow hunter go home disappointed because they went into the hunt without any idea of what it takes to bring down a trophy boar with a stick and a string! 


     If you are serious about bringing home a mack daddy bow kill. One thing you have to do is get away from those light 400 grain arrows. I know how fast and flat the things fly and I understand why you love’em. I also know the last thing you would like to hear me say is a light arrow will be the nail in your coffin. Giving up fast and flat seems like turning the clock back to the old days. The days when your arrow flight looked like a rain bow and to misjudge yardage by the least meant a sure miss. Trust me, the modern bows we are shooting today will launch a heavy arrow surprisingly well. Trading a little speed and flat trajectory for the momentum of a slow heavy arrow will give you the needed penetration to turn the tables in your favor. It is not a bad deal at all. We are not talking about kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is not a reliable measure for penetration. A light arrow that generates its kinetic energy from speed will not have the penetration of a slower heavy arrow with the same kinetic energy. It takes more resistance to stop the forward progression of the heavier arrow. A light arrow that’s twice as fast will meet four times the resistance on impact. That’s all I will say about the laws of physics, I will stay on the subject of boar hunting. 


     Ok, you are busting quarters at twenty yards or more. Your arrows weigh in at well over 500 grains. How do you turn this into pork? Where would you put your quarter on the boar for a clean kill? There are only two high percentage shots to take a mature boar with a bow.


     The most common of the two is the quartering away shot. This is not my shot of choice overall, but is the best shot from an elevated stand. The up side to a quartering away shot is it will get your arrow into the vitals while avoiding the thickest part of the shield. The down side is you will seldom have a pass through shot ( a heavy arrow will be your friend here) because the front shoulder on the exit side will stop the arrow and if you are more than ten feet or so off the ground the arrow trajectory will allow you to hit only one lung. If the heart is left intact a boar can cover a lot of ground on one lung. The boar is certain to die but if he does not go down in a few yards ( when you have hit the heart ), the hunt is just getting underway. With no exit hole, the entrance wound will be the only source of blood to create a trail. This wound is high on the body, filled with arrow shaft and pig fat that will restrict the flow of blood. The blood will have to saturate the hair before any will hit the ground. Your first drop of blood to hit the ground may be as far as eighty yards from the point of impact. When you begin blood trailing this hog you need to pay close attention to the vegetation traces of blood rubbed off of the hide. You should look for blood on the same side of the trail as the entrance wound on the vegetation 8-10 inches off the ground. This will be your first sign that you are on the right track. 


     There are a couple of factors that determine how effective the quartering away shot will be. The main one being, did you luck up and get a pass thru shot? If you have not put down those light arrows you wont find your luck here. If you do get a pass through you are one of few and one that should go home with a boar. If you did not get a pass thru shot but put a broad head into the boars heart, you should go home with a boar. A heart shot will leave you little tracking to do. The majority of quartering away shots will hit a lung and if you are lucky your arrow will damage the liver on its way there. A damaged liver will help bleed a boar out at a much faster rate. The best quartering away shot is taken at such an angle the shot is gutsy going in but will rest in the vitals.


     The second high percentage shot and my favorite bow shot for boar is only possible from the ground. I prefer to do the majority of my boar hunting from ground level for this reason. This shot is difficult to pull off with low growing vegetation. I know hogs live in the swamp and the swamp is full of low growing vegetation. This shot will be your ace in the hole if you hunt hogs from a ground blind over bait. You have some control over this scenario and can trim the underbrush. If your bait site is slamming with hogs the undergrowth will be beat down. With the underbrush gone you should take a broad side shot right behind the front leg into the "arm pit". The point of aim should be low on the body right above the brisket. The shield is non existent there and you will get a clean pass thru shot taking out the heart on the way. The result will be a heavy and short trail of blood that ends at a dead boar.


    I must add that a quartering away shot taken from ground level will give you the chance to hit both lungs. This is a good thing. The arm pit shot is a better thing. Without question.


    The only down side to the arm pit shot is that your point of aim is so low on the chest if you pull 2 inches low you will miss the entire animal. This will only happen to the hunters that should be at home practicing, the rest of us are hitting quarters right? That’s right.



    Sticking to only these two high percentage shots will increase your success in recovering your boar. I have seen many other shots lead to a successful recovery but for every success story there were many others that went wrong. I have seen a boars shield stop an arrow in its path on many occasions. I have watched several boar walk away after taking an arrow straight down into the spine. On several occasions I have seen these shots bring down a boar but in each case a heavy arrow was used.  


     I can not help but think of a guy I guided a few months back that insisted on stalking with his bow. Although I prefer stalk hunting hogs over any other method, the conditions were not good. The wind was calm and the woods were dry. Admiring his dedication to take a hog his way we stalked for a couple of days. We finally found our self in a position that looked favorable with a sounder of hogs feeding toward a ditch we were laying in to hide our position. The lead boar was not a big hog but after two days of stalking was looking right good to us. The boar was approaching and walked behind some brush at about 35 yards out. I looked back at my client lying behind me in the ditch and told him to draw as the boar’s sight was blocked by the cover. Looking back ahead as the boar reappeared from behind the brush walking toward us head on I heard the arrow as it left the bow. I was in disbelief wondering what in the heck is that guy doing as I watched the boar drop like a dirty shirt in the bathroom. I would soon discover the fellow shot the hog in the eye! As I said earlier there are always exceptions and this was one of many ( I don‘t recommend this shot ). This guy was also shooting a quarter size group at 40 yards. 


    There are some other things you can do to fine tune your arsenal. I stay away from mechanical broad heads. I know many readers will disagree with me on this. You make your own decision on this one. All I’ll say is I don’t use them for boar, I have seen to many fail, take it for what its worth. I do realize that there are many different types of mechanicals on the market today and some are a big improvement compared to what was on the market a few years ago. I have not found any that are as reliable and consistant as a well made sharp cut on contact fixed blade point. I use a cut on contact three blade 140 grain broad head and wouldn’t recommend anyone using less than 125 grains. I have found the one piece style is more rugged than those with replaceable blades. Both seem to do well.


    I am not big on “gadgets” and seldom add a new product to my bag of tricks until I am convinced it will be an improvement to have it. One such thing is  illuminated knocks. There are a couple of brands on the market that I have tried and both worked well. I have recovered hogs shot with these knocks that would have never been found without them. I do most of my blood trailing after dark because most boar are shot late in the evening. If the arrow stays with the hog you have a light glowing on the animal you are looking for. If the arrow breaks off when the boar plows into the underbrush ( this happens often), you will have a glowing knock lying on the ground where your hog ran. This can be a big help when there is little or no blood to be found. Adding these nocks to your arrows is not expensive to do and may turn out to be the best money you will spend. 


    When you go after hogs with your bow just keep in mind that there are hogs and there are old mature boar. The two do not have much in common. When you are after a mature grown boar the rules change. It does not matter how you have been killing pigs. You are bowhunting North Americas Toughest big game animal. Are you hearing what I’m saying? North Americas toughest big game animal. Think about it. See you in Tusker City Baby! 

Troy Ayer