1938 Wild Boar Marathon Hunt on Unaka Mountains

In October 1938, an unidentified outdoorsman, whom I will call Jim, joined a hearty group of fellow hunters on what was billed as a cross-country marathon boar hunt on the Unaka Mountains in the hills of East Tennessee. One of the men, Ben Ellis, served as guide for the party. The rugged trip was said to offer the thrill of the chase, the beauty of the mountains at stunning peak fall colors and, if successful, from 60 to 150 pounds of the most scrumptious pork imaginable.

European boars, introduced as game animals in the early 1900s, thrived in Southern Appalachia but were generally considered a nuisance because they destroyed plants and robbed food resources from bears.

The hardy outdoorsmen left at the crack of dawn and traveled up the Tellico River into Cherokee National Forest. Just before 9:00 a.m., they stumbled down a steep trail to the bank of the river and ended up with their first reward – a 150-pound tusker that they slung on a pole between them. The hunters then parked their car a few paces from where the Bald River plunged over a cliff to join the waters of the Tellico and followed a trail that winded far above the Bald.

Prussian boars in the Cherokee Forest were said to be able to run 60 miles in one stretch. When they were rested, they could sail over hills and through timberland with little effort. But when pressed closely, a bewildered hog often turned and gave battle with the hounds, affording the hunter an opportunity to get close enough for a shot.

While they followed Ellis up the steep slope, they observed that the dogs had passed over the crest and were out of hearing distance. It seemed as though they would never reach the top, but they finally made it and paused for a moment to catch their breath and listen for any sign of the dogs. About that time, a faint yelp was heard in the distance.

The boys continued their journey into Cow Camp Hollow, tearing openings through patches of briars. When they were almost in sight of the dogs, the pack ceased baying and took up the trail again. Their prize had taken to his heels and that they had to make another dash after him. They crossed the little creek and climbed to the opposite side of the hollow.

Jim began experiencing sharp shooting pains that ran through his body causing him to fight off the desire to sit down and give up. When the group finally climbed the top, they were wet with perspiration. After a brief rest, there came the welcome chorus of the hounds indicating they had cornered an elusive boar once again.

Presently, the hunters came to a small clearing in the center that contained a growth of blackberry briars. On the far side of the patch the dogs had the hog at bay, but before one hunter could fetch his gun, the hog made a break for the timber with one of the hounds between him and the hog, putting the canine in harm’s way.

The huntsman couldn't run another step, choosing instead to walk through the woods on a fairly level stretch of ground to the edge of Cow Camp Hollow. About that time, the dogs came tearing around the mountainsides; the faithful old hounds had brought the boar back and were now chasing him straight down into the hollow below them.

Jim somehow managed to navigate his way through the tangled mess of undergrowth. He stumbled upon Ben who was casually sitting on the bank of Cow Camp Creek watching the boar stand off the dogs. Ben handed Jim his weapon and graciously allowed him the honors. Jim steadied his trembling hands just enough to bring closure to the animal.

The journey back was about a half-mile up the mountainside and an equal distance down the opposite side to the road, but even with a heavy hog between them, they didn't mind the weight. Their hunting exhibition was a complete success.