It has been a great hunting season that has included two trips: A Backpack Elk Hunt in Colorado and a Backpack Whitetail Hunt along the John Muir Trail in Tennessee. For the last few days of the season, we’re headed to Cherokee National Forrest on the Tennessee & North Carolina border to opportunistically hunt in the most remote corner of Tennessee. On this hunt, we have opportunity for Black Bear, Whitetail and even Wild Hogs. If you are not from the Southeast, it may surprise you that bears can be hunted this late in the Fall, but the Smoky Mountains are experiencing a bumper mast crop this year and we have had some unseasonably warm weather meaning that bears may not be necessarily denned up right now. My limited experiences with stalking bears in Tennessee has thus far been an exercise in futility, but I still feel compelled to hedge a bet on sheer luck.Look at that elevation change! We’ll be running up and down those mountains , cussing at the thick brambles and undergrowth the whole time.
Tennessee has taken a fairly non standard approach to stopping the spread of invasive hogs throughout the state. Cherokee does tend to hold a population of them, however, they are hunted hard with dogs (the most effective way to hunt them in this region) and tend to stay holed up in impossibly thick Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, only moving nocturnally. The proposition of Whitetail hunting in this part of the state is also fairly bleak. The general area we are going to has a reputation for very low deer numbers. Having previously hunted bear in that area, the lack of deer sign was a bit shocking (compared to what I’m used to in Middle and West Tennessee), to say the least. However, there ARE Whitetails in the area though we are limited to killing bucks only (bag limit for this period of time in Cherokee is Two bucks, though they are actually bonus bucks to the statewide bag limit of three bucks). In that terrain, in that part of the state, I would consider killing any deer basically equivalent to successfully hunting and killing a mature buck in other parts of the state. I am in need of one more deer for the freezer (though a bear or hog would certainly suffice) so I intend to fully throw myself at an encounter with a mountain buck before the final bear hunting segment opens.
Once again, I’ll be travelling from one end of the state to the other, leaving and driving through areas with very high deer populations in order to hunt in an area of the state with the lowest population and most rugged terrain. Hunting is about experience. I also wish to fully take advantage of the resources (bear, hogs, mountains, large tracts of public land) that my state has to offer. If nothing else, it will be a backpacking trip with a rifle where I get the opportunity to tweak my backpack hunt set up for round two of Elk hunting in 2015. My gear list for this trip will be basically identical to the BSF hunt. Expect a full report upon our return. I’d really love to return with a load of black bear meat and fat, but I’m setting my expectations level well below my level of gratitude for even having the opportunity to even take this trip.