Boar or Sow, shoot or don’t shoot?
This is the million dollar question that guides and hunters continuously ask themselves every season. This is also the hardest question I have to answer when in the field with a hunter. Along with deciding whether the Brown Bear will square 8 ½ foot or 9 ½ foot, I want to make absolutely positive it is a boar. It has been said to me numerous times by many people “well a sow is legal,” and that is true. A sow (without cubs) is legal, but also remember that sow is your future. In our area we have seen the population increase dramatically by targeting only mature boars. Have mistakes been made over the years taking a sow when it was thought to be a boar? Of course; but we have managed to keep them very minimal through the extensive training of our guides. We have taken a few extremely large sows that were barren and at the end of their life cycle, but our camp goal/rule is a 9 foot or better boar, and we have had an average of 9’5” for the past 12 years.
There are many other opinions and ways to judge by other folks. Here is my personal perspective, which by no means is saying this is the end-all be-all method, but it is what works for me. One of the initial assessments I make when I see a bear is “does it look back?” So people say I’m crazy, but after watching hundreds of bears it has been a telltale sign in distinguishing between a boar and a sow and actually helps with judging the size. 90% of the time a sow will be looking over her shoulder, as do smaller boars; neither of which I want to take. When you see a bigger boar he very rarely will look back, if at all, because that is his domain and he’s the boss. If he does look over his shoulder it is to keep an eye out for a challenger.
Sows tend to have a round face and a cone shaped muzzle. They also have that teddy bear look. This is especially true with younger sows and even, to an extent, younger boars. Their hair is another telltale sign. If you see a bear’s hair blowing in the breeze, it is most likely a sow. A sow’s hair also tends to be longer than that of bigger boars. Sows tend to be lighter in color in most cases.
Body mass and shoulders is another good judge. This is much more noticeable in the spring, as opposed to the fall, when they are at their bulkiest. When they have used much of their fat reserves during hibernation their shoulder will be straight, per se, and not have the bodybuilder look as a mature boar will have. Sows also tend to have an overall appearance of being round with very short necks as opposed to a big boar being more elongated. Gate is another way to tell. Boars are more pigeon-toed and sows tend to stride more straight-on as a human would. The bigger the boar the more pronounced the pigeon toe walk will be.
Please watch the video and if you have any observations I would love to hear them. Bear are a continuous learning process and the more you know the better-equipped you are when you head into the field.
I hope this helps a little. Please feel free to give me a call anytime if you have any questions on bears or just want to talk bear hunting. I can honestly say I would rather talk bears than eat! Best of luck on your next hunting adventure wherever it may be.