Which calibre is best for wild boar?
Bruce Potts and Mark Ripley offer some advice
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) thrive in the UK and the woodland and scrubland here gives wild boar plentiful cover and the chance to breed successfully. The highest population is found in the Forest of Dean. Their ancestors escaped from a farm in Herefordshire in the 1990s and a dumped herd left on the edge of the Forest. Forestry England’s 2022/23 estimate for the wild boar population in the Forest of Dean stands at 441 head, down from 1635 in 2018/19 due to a culling programme.
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Hunting wild boar
Before raising a rifle to a wild boar, you must ensure your firearms certificate specifies you are allowed to shoot these animals. If your certificate says (as it should) that you may shoot “any lawful quarry” you can shoot boar. If it does not, ask the local police licensing department to have this condition added. There is no charge for this.
Shooting Times contributor and hunter Mark Ripley advises: “Many people believe that there is a law against using anything smaller than .270 on boar, which in fact is not quite the case. The .270 is the minimum ‘recommended’ calibre for boar, not a legal requirement. A .243 with a good shot placement at sensible range will kill boar reliably. That said, should you shoot a boar and cause unnecessary suffering, and that animal was found by someone and it could be proven that you had shot it, then you could, potentially, be prosecuted for it.
“In many areas wild boar will be simply passing through and can be seen one day then not seen again for months or even years on the same ground. They are also extremely elusive.”
Forestry England also advises that wild boar on land managed by the organisation may only be shot by the professional wildlife rangers it employs. However where the land owner / land manager holds the shooting rights, it is legal for that private land owner /land manager to shoot boar on their land.
Best calibre for wild boar
- A 200lb boar has an extremely tough, thick skin and powerful bones, and demands a calibre which will ensure a killing shot.
- BASC recommends that rifles chambered for the .270 cartridge are the minimum that should be used for hunting boar.
- Proper hunting ammunition loaded with expanding bullets should be used on the grounds of safety and humanity.
- The minimum calibre to be used against wild boar is the .270 Win, delivering a muzzle energy of 2,700ft/lb, but it is recommended that a calibre of no less than 7mm with a bullet of 160 grains-plus and muzzle energy of no less than 2,800ft/lb should be used.
- A specialised Continental calibre such as a 9.3x74R with a 270-grain bullet travelling at 2,300fps and delivering 3,172ft/lb energy can be effective, though a .30-06 with a 200-grain bullet would also work well.
- If you only want a dedicated boar gun, a 9.3x62mm is excellent, shooting a 285-grain bullet at 2,200fps and giving 3,063ft/lb energy, or even a .35 Whelen, a necked-up .30-06 case to .35 calibre, is one that makes a good red deer cartridge.
- A rifle in .308 or .30-06 can be excellent for these animals but as with any other game you must place the bullet in the right place for a humane shot.If you have a .308 then this can double as a deer rifle.
- If you are using a high seat rather than driving, you can take a better, well-aimed shot and even a 6.5x 55mm with a 156-grain bullet will do the job.
More advice on hunting wild boar
- Boar do not have any close season but should be treated with the same respect that you would any quarry.
- Do not shoot wild boar with young.
- Wild boar are fearless and can be ferocious, especially females with young.
- If you shoot a boar, treat the carcass in the same way as deer
- It is always a good idea to have an eye on a potential escape route when you are hunting in case a boar becomes aggressive.
This article was originally written in 2014 and has been updated.