2013 Javelina hunt

I first spotted a new javelina herd back in November. It was close to thirty individuals and they were bedding down within about 3 miles of the highway, seemed like a much easier hunt then the herd I chased (unsuccessfully) in the previous year. I even told my best friend that I could guarantee him a pig for his bow hunt in December. We hiked in, spooked the herd, reconnected with them about a mile later, got within 51 yards, and spooked them again before he had a shot. I couldn’t find the herd for weeks after that.That was the end of his hunt. But I chased the same herd for mine.

Javelina Hunt Day One

I headed out around midnight took my heavy wool blanket, that I usually use instead of a sleeping bag, and spent the night in my Jeep. This was huge for me because this Jeep is the first car since my old Cordova back in the day that was more than transportation to me. I actually slept pretty well for a few hours and woke up 10 minutes ahead of my alarm. I hiked down into the valley right as the sun was coming up. The valley that I was hunting has a big mountain in the bottom off it. It rises up about 500 feet and from space looks like a backwards capital “L”. The point of the “L” is a lower elevation and creates an easy saddle to get through to another valley.

I set up on a big hillside opposite of the long side of “L mountain”, this side faces east and gets a strong blast of the morning sun. Usually javelina will look for a south or east facing slope to warm up first thing in the morning. This day they had other plans or I picked the wrong hillside. I hiked up the hill and found areas where the javelina had been feeding. I then headed North to the top of L mountain and in a patch of heavy palo verde trees I found a javelina bedding area with loads of fresh scat. I was only a few hours behind the herd and there was only one way they could have gone.

I headed further North to a rocky cliff with a narrow wash below. The bottom of this wash channels all of the rainfall from the valley and here it acts like a spring, bubbling up for about 20 feet then the water drops back into the gravel of the wash. There were javelina tracks everywhere but I could not tell if any were laid down that day.

I spent the rest of the day hiking up and down L mountain and glassing the valleys on either side. I watched a huge 4 by 4 mule deer walk within 60 yard of me and bed down but I never did find any fresher sign of my herd.

There is a huge 4×4 mule deer bedded down in this picture, do you see him?

Javelina Hunt Day Two

Day two went pretty similar to day one. I hiked in, glassed the hillside in the morning, and didn’t see any sign of the javelina. I hiked up L mountain and on a rocky outcropping found some old indian petroglyphs. There was a spiral carved into the rock right below my eye level. It was odd to stand in front of it and realize that it was at the perfect height to comfortably work, and to realize that a few hundred years ago someone was standing in the same place banging three rocks together to leave their mark on the world. I did the modern equivalent and posted it to instagram.

I had an apple for lunch and hiked back to the jeep under a light rain right at dark.

Petroglyph on top of the mountain during my javelina hunt.

This picture cracks me up.

Javelina Hunt Day Three

I decided on day three to hike into a canyon about an hour further down the road which I had hunted the previous year. In 2012 we were in the depth of a drought and there was hardly any water in the desert. Most of the animals were living off of the prickly pear cactus as a last resort. But this canyon, a few miles in had a series of springs that existed in even the driest years. There were at least a few herds of javelina that based their territory off of these springs and I had walked right up on them last year, but blew my stalk and never took a shot.

I parked in my usual spot and started the hike in. I immediately noticed a difference from previous years, water, water everywhere. the sandy wash I have hiked hundreds of times was a flowing river. There would be no spring and the herds would not be limited in their range. This made me a little nervous.

Usually this is all bone dry, but there was water for miles.

About half way into where the first “spring” would be my stomach turned sour. Something was suddenly not sitting right and I needed a bathroom right away, being hours from the nearest toilet I headed up the closest wash. There was almost no chance of anyone being anywhere near me but I still needed my privacy. I found an appropriate spot, took off my backpack, set my binoculars next to it, and my pistol on top of it. I dug a shallow hole, dropped my trousers, made sure my toilet paper was within reach, and squatted over the hole. Right then I heard something behind me, looked over my shoulder to see two coyotes about 20 feet away and coming in at a slow creep. I panicked, grabbed my pistol, fell on my bare ass and fired a shot into the hillside. What a way to start the day.

Thirty minutes and a mile further up the canyon I had composed myself and was following a set of javelina tracks trough heavy cover. I glanced up at the trees ahead of me and saw a huge man with a muzzle loader rifle in an argument with his GPS device. We were only about 15 feet from each other in heavy cover and he had no idea I was there. I whistled and he about jumped out of his skin. We shook hands and introduced each other. I had seen his bootprints on the way in, he was wearing military issued desert boots. I told him I had seen his boots on the way in but couldn’t date them, I then asked who was wearing the Danner’s. He laughed and told me that those tracks belong to his father. He told me that they had been scouting the area for weeks and had trail cameras set up all over, secretly I hope that they captured my coyote incident. I told him that I had hunted that canyon the last two years and never seen another pair of boot prints. We talked about the areas of the canyon that we were going to focus on and went separate ways. I was headed well beyond the area he was hunting and didn’t think we would cross paths again. About 30 minutes later I heard a single gunshot from back the way I had come and I hope it was him filling his tag.

I spent the day looking for sign, found tons of fresh tracks but no feeding or bedding areas. I climbed a few big hillsides and glassed the canyons below me. But never saw anything but birds and rabbits.

The view from up high looking over the creek.

Javelina Hunt Day Four

Rain, and more rain. I headed back to the valley with L mountain. I figured that if the big guy didn’t get his pig I would leave the whole valley for him. On the way into my spot I saw a big dist could up ahead of me, as I rolled over the ridge there was a car, upside down, on the side of the road with four confused teen aged kids slowly waking away from the wreck. I stopped to talk to them and found out that they were all uninjured. One of them was just finishing a phone call for help. His friend’s father owned an off-road towing company, but was two hours out.

I asked “what happened” and one young man answered, ” I over corrected.” He said this with a sense of pride, like he literally meant it, he could not have been more correct in his correcting, he was over correct. At this point one of the two girls punched him and said “you were going 80!”. I laughed, this was perfect.

overcorrected…right.

It was about 35 degrees out there that morning. The two guys were dressed for it and the girls were not. I offered to drive them to town and they refused, but the girls did not hesitate to take the extra jackets in the back of my jeep.

The place that I parked for my hike in was only a few hundred yards from where these kids had crashed. It was raining too much for me to hike in so I kept an eye on them and waited. They were gone within 3 hours and I was still waiting. The weather report said it would clear at noon, then one, then two. Around three it finally cleared and I hiked in. I didn’t see any javelina, and there was no sign that they had visited any of the bedding areas around L mountain. I was starting to think that with all the rain they may have headed off. This was disappointing. But there was an incredible sunset that night and Four Peaks had received a heavy dose of snow. It made for a great hike out.

Another Arizona sunset

Four Peaks covered with a fresh load of snow, the clouds parted right at sunset.

Javelina Hunt Day Five

This was Tuesday. Tuesdays are family day for me. It would be a short hunting day as I had dinner plans with my wife and grandfather. I hiked in and glassed the hillside at sun up, nothing. I hiked all over L mountain for fresh sign, nothing. I hiked up the hill opposite of L mountain to get some elevation and had a snack. Midway through an apple and bottle of water I realized I was not alone. Two bighorn sheep had walked within 50 yards of me. I watched them, finished my apple and left them the core.

The view from lunch, unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the sheep.

I decided to hike in a grid up and down the valley west of L mountain, again nothing. Then I noticed a staghorn cactus that had been shredded by javelina. The lower branches were scattered in every direction. And tracks, fresh javelina tracks, then I noticed other staghorns with the same damage. I couldn’t smell the javelina but knew this was close. There was no way that these tracks were more than a few days old because they would have been washed out by the rain the day before. I started hiking in a circle from that point, then found a bed. This was the freshest javelina bed I had found, and next to it another, and another. There had to have been at least 25-30 javelina here within the last 12 hours. I was right on the inside of the “L” of my L mountain. I hiked up the mountain where I would have enough elevation to see into the flat parts of the valley. After an hour, I had seen nothing and although I had several hours of daylight, I had to make it to dinner and I hiked out.

 

Javelina Hunt Day Six

I left the house at 5 am. I had a plan. Park the Jeep, hike in and glass the east side of L mountain, hike around the top of it where the water was, then south down the other side to where the hugs javelina bed was.

I parked the jeep and headed down into the valley. I stopped to glass the mountain several times. I then though to myself that I was wasting my time and that I should shortcut through the saddle and head right for the big javelina bed from the night before. I actually said out load to myself, “stick with the plan”. This was shocking to me, but not the first time I had talked to myself in the last week. Being alone in the desert is something that is hard to explain. So I took my advice, and halfway down the long side of L mountain I looked up through my binoculars and saw the herd.

They were 3/4’s of a mile away and about 500 feet up, feeding in the sunlight. I took a few minutes to plan my attack. There was a big rocky outcropping that I could use for cover, I would hike up to it, then over it and would be able to take my shot from there. When I finally looked over that outcropping after the climb, the pigs had moved on. I watched them for a few minutes, made sure that there were none between me and the biggest pig and made another plan. There was a big palo verde about 100 yards from me and about 30 yards from them that I could use for cover and headed out again. When I got to the tree I slipped and almost fell, making a bunch of noise. But, the herd did not notice. I spent the time to evaluate the pigs again, and there was one that was still way bigger than the rest. I was about 35-45 yard downhill from them here, just close enough for my Ruger Blackhawk with iron sights.

I raised my pistol, pulled back the hammer, and did my best to stop shaking from the hike and adrenaline. I lined up the shot with the ribcage of the big pig and squeezed the trigger. There was the expected hammer fall and a loud bang, my ears immediately started to ring, I had let my ear protection behind. But the pigs did not move, not even the one I had shot at. I figured that I had shot over it and pulled the hammer back again, spinning a fresh cylinder under the hammer. When I squeezed the trigger this time I saw the bullet hit. The herd scattered over the top of the mountain and down the other side. Except for the my target and one other that came right down my side of the hill. They passed within 20 feet of me and the one I had shot stopped 30 yards away. I pulled the trigger again and the javelina dropped where it stood.

Two years of unfilled tags, hundreds of miles of hiking, as many hours of scouting, finally paid off. I was shocked to see that I had shot a female. I was really hoping for a boar this time and I had spent the time picking out a big one. But I wouldn’t say that I am disappointed. I took a few pictures then carried her off a ways before field dressing her. Even after being dressed out she weighed enough that I had to take a break on the way back to the jeep. Next time I may think twice about hiking so far for a hunt, for sure if I get drawn for elk.

View of my javelina from the top of “L mountain”

When I got home with the pig, I skinned it out for the taxidermist and to get the meat out. Pulling the skin from the meat really shows you exactly where the bullets hit. When I got to her left side I found three bullet holes. Each bullet hole less than 1/4 inch from the next. I had put three bullets into its heart and lungs. Three perfect shots within an inch of each other, I have no idea how she moved at all after the first shot, and part of me thinks she wouldn’t have moved if I had not fired again.

So now the freezer is totally full, time to start eating in a little more often. I still have half a lion, 4 squirrels, and a few pounds of bear and buffalo from a friend. I have a turkey hunt coming up in about a month, then this meat will have to last me through summer, or I get to go vegetarian again, like last year.

There was no one to take a picture of my with my javelina, I managed to catch this in the reflection of my Jeep’s rear window.

Share

Half day fox hunt

I had a chance to get out this Thursday and took a good friend with me. He is an Arizona native and has hunted every corner of the globe, but never harvested a gray fox. I told him that there was very good chance that I could put him on a pair of them if he could spend the day with me. We both had things to do early that morning so we got out there around noon to hunt through the afternoon. I took him out to an area where I have called in a half dozen foxes during the scouting season, but never run them off or taken a shot.

The first stand was a blank, but we didn’t really have a good wind and the sun was high. The second stand was a great setup overlooking a big riverbed and we called in a coyote at about 10 minutes. But the coyote never came closer than about 200 yards and there was no way for me to reach out there with my shotgun.

The next few stands were blank as well, but we were in some amazing country and a light rain blew in cooling everything down about 20 degrees. We then hiked about a mile through a small canyon that was absolutely covered with tracks. Mule deer, coues deer, javelina, fox, bobcat, coyote, and some very fresh mountain lion footprints. All these tracks right on top of each other covering every inch of the wash. Our blood was pumping and our voices were low as we positioned ourselves on a steep hillside overlooking the dry wash running through the bottom of this canyon. We were hunting foxes but we both had mountain lion on the brain.

With the natural rock piles, low cover, and steep hills I was really expecting to see a fox here. But at about 10 minutes into this stand a coyote appeared out of nowhere directly behind the caller and decoy. For the second time that day I couldn’t reach with my shotgun and my buddy was not interested in shooting a coyote. The coyote stepped downwind of the decoy and did not like the smell at all. He quickly headed off up another big hillside to our right. I switched sounds to a coyote distress yelp and the coyote froze looking back at the decoy. I told my friend to take the shot but when I looked to my friend he was still scanning the bottom of the wash. The sun was setting out in front of us and he had lost sight of the coyote in the shadows.

My partner got a look at where I was pointing but still had no interest in shooting a coyote, so he handed me his AR and told me to take the shot myself. By the time I got seated the coyote was at the top of the hill looking back over the valley for a final glance before heading out. I placed the cross hairs over his chest and pulled the trigger, just as the ‘yote trotted off. The shot scattered the rocks on the hill right where the coyote had been standing.

We both climbed over to the top of the hill where the coyote had disappeared just to be sure, and realized that in a way it was a good thing I had missed. I had not brought all of my gear with me and I would have needed to carry the coyote all the way back to my truck, which was at least a mile and a half away. The coyote was pretty good sized and 40 pounds of dead weight would not have been fun. We stayed up there on that hill and watched the sunset, it was pretty dramatic with all the storm clouds in the sky and everything in the desert had come alive from the rain. I took some pictures with my phone couldn’t quite get one to do it justice. I love this desert more every time I go out, even more when spending time with an old friend that I had not seen in ages.

It was a day I won’t soon forget. We never did see a fox but sometimes hunting success isn’t measured by the fur in the back of your truck.

The sun just starting to set through the storm clouds from high on the hillside on the last stand of the day.

Share

Arizona mountain lion

Things have been busy at work lately and I have not been getting out to hunt at all. Today I had planned on leaving work early and heading out into the desert to chase some coyotes. I work the night shift so early for me is 5 am. My wife had a rough day so I decided to stop by the house on the way out of town, this ended with me falling asleep instead of going out.

When I woke up around 10am I had a text message from my boss so I decided to hit the office really quick and get out in the early afternoon. Really quick turned into 5 hours and I didn’t get my tires back on the road until about 4pm. Years ago I had some gold claims up north and with my new Jeep I could actually get back to it. I had seen and heard coyotes there in the past but it was about an hour away which would leave me with about 30 minutes before sunset to hunt. I really needed some time out in the desert and figured 30 minutes and an Arizona sunset would be worth the 2 hour round trip.

When I got out there, I found a good place to hide the Jeep, hiked a few hundred yards down a hill, and found a great spot on top of a 20 foot cliff that gave me about a 270 degree view of the bend of a dry riverbed. There was some heavy cover out between 150 and 300 yards in front of me. I hiked down into the riverbed and setup my FoxPro Hellfire about 60 yards from where I would be sitting.

When got back into position on top of the cliff it was 5:10 pm, I had 26 minutes to hunt before sunset. I started running the call with some rabbit distress and about 8 minutes in was scanning the treeline through my scope when I thought I heard something behind me. I took a quick glance over my shoulder and didn’t see anything. I figured the sound was just the strap of my rifle hitting some tall grass where I was sitting.

About that time I switched up the sound on the caller and heard a low growl behind me. I looked over my shoulder again and still didn’t see anything. This time I thought the sound might have been a small airplane rolling. A lot of pilots come out this way, do barrel rolls and buzz a nearby lake, I was hoping that they keep their distance. I thought I heard the growl a few more times, but something just seemed a little off. I looked over my shoulder at least a dozen times and never saw anything.

At 5:30 I had been on the stand for 20 minutes and decided to call it a day. I took my shotgun out of my lap and set my rifle down next to it. I pulled out my cell phone to take a picture of the area I had been calling, the sky was starting to change and the reds and yellows reflecting of the rocks looked great. I stood up to stretch my legs, stretched my arms over my head and twisted to the right to stretch my spine.

That is when I saw it, the lion was about 40 yards behind me, staring right at me, crouched low, in that position cats get right before an attack.

I dropped my cellphone, cracking the screen, and bent over to grab my shotgun as fast as I had ever moved in my life.

As soon as I moved so did the cat. It covered 100 feet in about a second.

I kicked off my safety as I was swinging the barrel at the cat and aimed for the hollow in front of his shoulder. It was weird, there was a shadow there about the size of a quail, and in that instant I was thinking in my head, “just hit that bird”.

I pulled the trigger right as his front paws were hitting the ground about 20 feet from me and he just collapsed like a marionette with cut strings. As fast as it happened I think I had the next round loaded in my 870 before he fully hit the ground and I was already taking a step back.

I didn’t need the step or the next round. But I held the gun pointed at the big tom for at least a minute before I moved toward it. I stared at it in shock and for a long time couldn’t hear anything but my heartbeat pounding. At some point over the next few minutes I realized that my caller was still running and went to collect it.

I took the caller and my guns up to the Jeep and looked for a way to get closer to where the big cat was laying. I managed to get the Jeep a few hundred feet closer but still had a major hill to haul it up. I was pretty spent by the time I got the cat to the back of my Jeep. If anyone had been watching me I am sure they would have been laughing at that point. Any pro-hunter points I scored with that great shot on a charging animal, were totally canceled out by my inability to get the cat into my Jeep. I did everything wrong for about 10 minutes before I was flat out exhausted and realized that I just needed to either work on my deadlifts in the gym for a month and come back, or bear hug it and leap into the back of the Jeep with it.

After I got the cougar situated in the Jeep I realized that I hadn’t taken a single picture of it, and that my phone was still on the ground back down the hill. It was nearly dark by the time I found my phone and the cat was laying on a tarp which isn’t the best background for a picture. I briefly thought about unloading the cat and trying to get a few pictures but I had a long way back to town, and even longer to my buddy’s place where I have a game freezer.

When I got to my friends place I didn’t tell him what I had, just that I needed a hand outside. The look on his face when I popped the back door of the Jeep was absolutely priceless.

The only way I can really sum it all up, terrifying and awesome.

Share

Back into the desert

Well it finally happened, my old blue hunting truck decided it wasn’t going to go freeway speed anymore. With that, I have not been able to get out coyote hunting for the last few weeks and barely been able to make it to work. I spent two weeks shopping around for something that I could use out in the hills and as a daily driver. I finally decided that I needed a Jeep Cherokee. After spending several hours on different websites I narrowed it down to a 1999 Cherokee for a number of reasons. Saturday I finally found one with relatively low miles and a perfectly straight body.

my new jeep

My new daily driver and coyote hauler

I bought the Jeep around noon, spent 3 hours getting it registered, and got home around 4pm. The Sun is setting pretty early these days so I had to race across town to get into position before dark.

I headed deep into Unit 22, in an area I had been four wheeling and seen lots of sign the last two years, but had never been calling. I found a spot off the main trail to park and hiked into the sunset. I crossed four or five hills before finding a place to setup. I was on a big rise, with a giant cholla behind me. I was positioned just to the west of where two washes joined in a Y. I set the caller and decoy on my side of the Y so that nothing would be able to sneak in without me seeing it. The Sun was at my back and the wind blowing up the wash in the direction I hiked in from, so I knew I was pretty clear for anything coming in anywhere except from due North.

After catching my breath from the hike up the hill, I started running the call at about 30% volume. Within about two minutes I saw a coyote coming in hard over a hilltop about 400 yards to the South-East. The coyote was headed straight to the West and turned heading North when he reached the wash bottom that the caller was setup in. at about 80 yards from the caller he slowed up, pausing a few times behind bushes where I couldn’t see. But when he came into the open in front of the caller he was moving pretty quick. I had the coyote in my sights and was just about to bark to freeze him, when he raised his head, looked at the decoy, and paused.

The coyote was right at 100 yards from me and I pulled the trigger with the crosshairs right behind his shoulder. Usually this drops them like they have been hit by lightning, but this coyote took off running like nothing happened. I have been worried that my scope might be a little off and cursed myself for not seeing where the bullet hit. I tried to pick up the coyote in my scope but he was moving too fast, then he turned and started running straight up the hill toward me. I dropped my AR-15 and grabbed the pistol at my hip, but he was too fast. Before I could clear my holster the coyote was 5 yards in front of me moving top speed.

Then the coyote collapsed, sliding through the dust, coming to rest short of 8 feet from my boots, stone dead. It’s funny, you think that you play through every possible scenario in your head, but when you get out there something totally unpredictable happens every single time. I had setup the stand with about 10 minutes before sunset, and had a coyote in my hands with 5 minutes to spare. I hiked down to pick up the caller and spent a few minutes enjoying the sunset.

sunset in the desert after coyote hunting

Enjoying the sunset at the end of a great day.

 

 

First coyote with the new jeep

This coyote almost ended up right in my lap.

Share

Called one in

So Wednesday I had a late start in the office and decided to go call an area where I had heard some coyotes, but never pulled the trigger on one. I headed out from home at about 4 am, set off the locator call before first light, had some responses and snuck in within about 300 yards of where I was hearing ‘yotes.After dawn I was running some quiet rodent distress calls when I heard a vehicle coming down the road behind me. I muted the call waiting for the truck to pass, It was about a half mile off but made a bunch of noise. After a few minutes of silence I was about to start running my call when I heard a FoxPro Bay Bee Cottontail about 80 yards behind me. I still don’t know how i missed them coming in but I was sitting pretty much in the open within what had to be line of sight to their caller. I thought it might be funny to tear loose with some bark howls on my caller which was about 30 yards from me. But was actually worried that I might get myself shot on accident. Instead, I sat stone still while they ran through about 10 sounds in 8 or 9 minutes. Then they got up and left. When their SUV was headed back down the dirt road, I took off my camo, gathered my things and hiked out.Last season I called in the same two quail hunters twice on the same day, about 10 miles apart, but this was the first time I have run into another predator hunter in the field.

It was a few miles from where I was parked back to the Highway, but when I got there I saw the same white SUV parked on the south side of the road, for a minute I thought it would be fun to sneak up on them and start blasting my caller, but I headed home instead.

Anyway, if any of you were hunting Cow Creek wash north of Lake Pleasant Wednesday morning, you almost got me.

Arizona sunrise

Didn’t get any coyotes, but I caught this great Arizona sunrise.

Share

FoxPro Hellfire vs. Wildfire review

I have used the Wildfire and Spitfire, both with a lot of success. Recently someone was asking about whether they should get the new FoxPro Hellfire or the Wildfire on one of the forums I frequent. It was late and I was tired so I typed up a little more than what was probably needed. Anyway, someone else asked the same question a few days later and I couldn’t find my review. After some digging I decided that I should post my review here in case it comes up again:

Both the Wildfire and Hellfire hold 200 sounds, and use the same remote, with Foxbang. It is about $350 for the Hellfire and $200 for the Wildfire.

The Wildfire it a little smaller and about half the weight than the Hellfire. Batteries last longer in the Wildfire and the Wildfire does not get as loud as the Hellfire. When you power up the Wildfire (and the Spitfire with the same speaker) there is some noticeable static coming from the plastic speaker.

The Wildfire has a green indicator light and the power on switch is identical to and right next to the speaker off switch. The green indicator light is hard to see in the daytime and even with it powered up there is a chance that the speaker will be flipped to ‘off’. I cant tell you how many times I would sneak out to setup my caller, get hidden, sit for a few minutes, then send a signal to a caller that wouldn’t make noise. Then had to go back out and start over again, laying down more human scent in the area I wanted to call. I eventually got in the habit of placing the caller to my ear to listen for the static before setting the caller down and walking away.

The plastic speaker also seems to have issues with certain notes at high volume. The tone becomes tinny and some coyote howls resonate weird when the volume is up.

Aside from those issues the caller is deadly. I used my Spitfire for two years and called in hundreds of coyote, and a half dozen bobcats. I still carry that caller if I am doing a lot of hiking because it is so light and easy to pack. This is the caller I was using to bring in foxes on a failed Dove Hunt.

Wild specs review.

In Red: Power on/off switch, and Speaker on/off switch. The switches have a high profile and can get flipped in transport. Leading to dead batteries in addition to the problem with setting up to call.
In Green: is the power indicator, which is difficult to see in the daytime.

I have a Hellfire as well. The Hellfire is built on a TOA PA Horn and is LOUD. The FoxPro electronics are solidly built into an extended magnet cover on the back of the speaker, held in place with three screws, the battery pack is attached to the frame. I love the on/off switch on this unit, it is an old school steel toggle that just feels solid to flip on. When I first powered mine up I thought it was broken, because there was absolutely no static coming from the speaker. But It plays the sounds perfectly, sounds are crystal clear at any volume, and it gets loud! The sounds never break up or sound tinny even on difficult howls at top volume. (Did I mention it is loud?).

The Hellfire is a little bulky, being twice the weight as the Wildfire, but maybe I am not used to carrying it yet. It also burns trough batteries faster, but using the FoxPro rechargeable pack they tend to last much longer. You will still get a full day of calling at max volume with regular batteries (8+hours).

FoxPro hellfire review picture

At the top is the steel on/off toggle, that is recessed enough that it won’t be turned on in transit. This picture is the off position. The ‘Batt’ indicator light is bright amber, so you will see it an predators won’t. It also flashes as a low battery indicator. The Wildfire does not have that feature. All of the electronics are located in this housing, the black nylon case on the frame is the battery pack.

I wanted to save up the money for one of the CS24b’s from the custom shop, but other than the custom remote I couldn’t see or hear too much difference between it or the Hellfire. I am sure at some point I will be kicking myself for not putting up the cash for that other remote, it has the dial selector on top and comes with the Foxcast programming.

In my eyes the Spitfire/Wildfire are ‘entry level’ e-callers. The Hellfire is by far the cheapest ‘Pro’ caller on the market. The great thing about them is they both hold their value. A statement about the quality of the company and the honesty of their business practices.

Either way you go you are going to call in ‘yotes for sure. Feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions.

Share

First Bobcat of Fall

With the foxes last weekend and the coyote a few weeks before, I am in full swing for predator season. I have been avoiding some of my coyote hot spots, hoping to save some for the FoxPro hunting contest this year. So in the mean time I have been doing a lot of scouting and a little calling.

Saturday morning I went out to Unit 22 with my buddy Don. We went into a spot on Sycamore Creek that had been closed for the past few months due to the Sunflower fire. We were a little late getting out there but we put in three 20 minute stands without anything coming in. We also didn’t hear any howls in response to our calls. Last year I regularly got a great response to group howls in that area. It could have been too late in the morning, or maybe there just weren’t any coyote around. We spent the rest of the morning driving the back roads looking for scat and tracks with little success.

Sunday night I was having a hard time sleeping, so about 4am I gave up and decided to get out and do some calling for a few hours. I headed about an hour north of Phoenix in Unit 20b. I went to a place where I had done some calling a few weeks back and had a few coyotes howling back to me.

I hiked into a wide wash with my FoxPro Hellfire and my R-15 until I found a fairly open area with a clear hillside overlooking it. I set up my Hellfire in the middle of the clearing right in the middle of a dead staghorn cactus. From here there was a clear line of site in every direction for about 40 yards. I climbed the hill and set myself up about 60 yards from the caller, I could see just about every route to the caller, but there was a palo verde tree right in between me and where the caller was setup. This is a good thing because I think I tend to watch the caller and decoy if I have a totally clear line of sight to them.

I started the call at about 25% volume and turned it up over the next two minutes to just under 50% running cottontail distress. I was facing West and the sun was coming up behind me but I was still in the shade of the hillside. About 2 minutes later I heard a series of howls off to my right, at least a pair of coyote, maybe more, but a long way off. About two minutes after those howls I decided to switch sounds to reach out to those coyote. I grabbed my remote, highlighted the sound I wanted, and looked up just in time to see a bobcat coming in to the call from the right.

It was standing tall but creeping in to the caller. I put my scope on it and was shocked by the spots on its back. Most of the bobcats I have shot were almost completely solid orange on their backs but this one was covered in tan spots. I had not planned on taking any bobcats this early I the year, but I have an idea for a project in my head and really wanted these spots.

At about 70 yards I took a broadside shot, the cat flipped about 10 feet in the air, took three steps, and collapsed. I kept the call running for another 10 minutes with a mix of sounds before going over to check out the cat. It was thinner then I had thought, but tall, by far the longest legs and body of any bobcat I have shot. The spots looked great too, I can’t wait to get this one tanned.

I skinned the cat in a big mesquite tree and was back in town by 8am. Pretty great way to start the day.

Share

‘Dove Hunting’ for grey fox.

This weekend I decided to go out dove hunting with a good friend. We headed up north on a tip and hunted near Cordes Lakes. I am pretty sure that neither of us have an eye for dove. I think total for the day we each saw and shot at one, with no hits. After awhile we gave up on the dove and decided to do some calling with my FoxPro caller. We put in two 20 minute stands and didn’t see a thing. The whole area was infested with giant grasshoppers, maybe the foxes and coyote are full up on them. I have never seen such big grasshoppers or so many in one place.

Grasshoppers

 

Even if the hunting was lacking, it was a great way to spend a day with a great friend. He has a lot more experience dove hunting then I do, and he did his best to pass some knowledge on to me without actually shooting at anything. This got me pretty fired up about hunting doves, so I decided to head out on my own the next day.

I overslept in the morning and had a few things to do around the house. So I made plans to hit the road about 3pm, which would give me the last 2 hours of the day to hunt. I decided to hit up some of the big cattle tanks West of Four Peaks. With all the rain this season I figured that they would be full, and there is no ranching going on out there so I wouldn’t have cows to deal with.

On the way out to Four Peaks, just a couple miles passed the Verde River, I had to swerve to miss a desert tortoise that was crossing the 87. It was right in the middle of the highway, so I spun around, flipped on my emergency lights, and stood in the highway in a blaze orange shirt directing traffic around it until it was well on its way.

When I got to the area I wanted to hike into I grabbed a box of dove shot for my 870, and an extra 3 rounds of Dead Coyote #T shot. I had my FoxPro SpitFire in my backpack and figured that I could do some calling if the dove hunting didn’t work out. Within the first few steps from the road I nearly stepped on the biggest desert cottontail that I have ever seen. It looks like the rain has done more than just green up the desert, I will be chasing those fat rabbits in about 2 months.

The rest of the hike to the tank had me jump 3 coveys of Gambel’s quail and one big red striped rosy boa.

I hiked around the tank a few times, there were a bunch of coyote tracks in the soft sand. I also found some bobcat tracks, and the tracks of 2 other hunters, one with a big dog. Most of these were a few days old, but the coyote tracks were fresh. So not seeing any doves I decided to change tactics.

Calling Arizona Foxes

This is the view from the stand. My caller is on the lower left, Four Peaks in the background.

I hiked just short of a mile from the tank and set up the caller on top of a staghorn cactus. Then I climbed a hill about 30 yards, and put the three Dead Coyote ammo in the 870.

About 7-8 minutes into the call I saw some movement to my right. A grey fox was coming up out of a rocky wash and headed right to my caller. I waited until he was about 15 yards from the caller before I dropped him.

Normally at this point I would shut off the caller and pick up the fox. But I decided to sit tight and let it run. About 2 minutes later, another fox came up out of the same wash. This one was following right in the first ones steps and I wasn’t sure what it would do when it came up on the first one. So I shot it about 60 yards out from where I was sitting.

This was my first fox ‘double’, and on a dove hunt. Not what I drove out there for, but it definitely made my day.

 

Share

First Coyote of Fall – Hunting Coyote in Unit 6a

Well I guess calling it Fall is a little generous. It is still well over 100 degrees in the valley so I have been spending my weekends in the tall pines. Either with family at our cabin in Pine or up on Willow Springs Lake with friends. This weekend was spent with the family and, as usual, I couldn’t sleep. At about 4:00am I decided to give up on sleep and go do some calling up on the rim.

Calling for yotes in 6b

Calling for coyote in 6a. This area burned in the spring which is why everything is orange, but it is recovering fast with all of the rain this season.

Early one morning last fall I had seen a big dark coyote crossing the 260 outside Camp Verde. Back in January I had tried calling that area but in 3 feet of snow nothing was moving. About 2 weeks ago I was able to get in a quick stand in the area between cloudbursts and called in a dark coyote like the one I had seen on the highway. But I didn’t notice it until it had seen me and it was gone before I could get my scope on it.

Today everything was wet, but not raining. The area I was hunting had burned this spring and with the rain it was easier then usual to hike in without making any noise. I set up my first stand just outside of sight from the truck right as the sun was rising. I called for about 20 minutes without seeing anything but angry woodpeckers.

I picked up all my gear and went in for a hike. I had never hiked into this part of the forest and ended up going a few miles across the forested plateau over to the rim looking North. Being this close to the rim I was glad to have a lion tag in my pocket and hoping to get lucky.

I set up my second stand looking South in the shadow of a big ponderosa pine. I set up my caller and decoy about 70 yards in front of me, made it back to my seat, checked the screen on my remote for the sound I wanted, put my finger over the volume button, and looked up to see a coyote about 20 feet from my decoy standing broadside staring right at me. I was so shocked I just kept on with my routine, instead of lifting my rifle I hit the volume button on my remote. The caller screamed out at 80% volume and the coyote bolted in top gear. I raised my rifle and watched it disappear into the trees. It did pause about 250 yards out, but not long enough for me to pull the trigger, then it was gone.

This was the first time since about February that I had a clear shot at a coyote and my heart was pumping. I sat there sweating and shaking with my pulse beating in my ears like bongo drums. I was totally thrilled, and kicking myself at the same time.

It took a few minutes to get my heart rate under control while scanning the trees in case he circled back. Then I turned the caller down, ran it for about 5 more minutes. Then changed to a higher pitched distress call and turned it back up.

About 90 seconds later I saw a flash of blonde in the trees a few hundred yards out. Raised my scope and waited. The coyote stepped clear about 50 yards from my decoy in a trot, then bolted right at it. I let loose about 2 seconds later and dropped it dead at 110 yards. He was probably the biggest coyote I have shot, but still smaller then the other two I have seen in that area. He is also the first yote I have shot in unit 6a. I will definitely be back.

coyote stand arizona 6a

View from the stand, you can just see the coyote on the ground 110 yards out to the right of the big pine.

Unit 6a | Coyote M | 8/18/2012

 

 

Share

greening up in January

I had a late start this morning counting against me but with a little cloud cover on my side I figured we might have a good chance at seeing some action today. I was with my buddy Don who was hoping to get a shot at something with a new 20ga over under that he had received as a birthday gift the night before. We were heading into an area that I had some success with the previous week and figured at the least we would get a shot at a fox or two.

The other thing up against us on this morning was the fact that this was the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The road on the way out that usually is totally empty, aside from some cactus and snakes, looked like a gypsy camp. The first mile of the forest road looked like it had a higher population density then most cities in the Phoenix area. I was starting to doubt my decision to come out here.

Eventually we had to drive about 2 miles down the river bottom further from the highway then I had planned just to get free of the campfires. This took us into the far end of the canyon where I had not been before, but I felt like we were sufficiently clear of any campers.

Our first stand was in my typical coyote cover. A mix of cactus, creosote, and thin mesquite. I had a half dozen open shooting lanes from where I was sitting out to a slight incline 50 yards in front of me. My buddy set up on the other side of the low tree I was using to break up my silhouette and my caller was setup about 35 yards right in front of me.

Started the stand with the DSG cottontail, then switched to Platinum Fox, about 8 minutes in I changed to the Bay Bee Cottontail. Just as I was about to shut off the caller 15 minutes in a small Coopers Hawk buzzed my decoy. I usually see that as a good omen, and I really love watching these birds so I let it run a few more minutes. He circled all around us a few times making some noise and trying to figure out what it was looking at.

Still running the call 5 minutes later, watching this hawk, I saw some movement on top of the rise about 80 yards in front of me. A reddish coyote was coming in and froze on the hillside looking right at my decoy. In a smooth motion I shouldered my R-15, put the large reticle of my Nikon Coyote Special right over its shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

I had run the call longer then I had planned and it paid off big time. A coyote on the first stand, my day was made no matter what. As I was standing up to collect my prey the hawk that had been circling dropped out of the sky and sunk its talons into my decoy. The big bird wrestled with it for about 30 seconds and even flapped it wings a few times trying to pick it up. Don and I both started laughing and the bird took a few hops towards us before flying away.

 

I shot from the yellow spot in the upper right. I am tagging the coyote on my GPS.

We drove up the canyon a few hundred yards after this and hiked in for our second stand. I repeated the same call pattern and at about 10 minutes I saw the back of a coyote coming in to the call. I got my rifle ready and waited for it to clear the horizon but it never came. I tried turning down the caller and cranking it back up, but never had another response. The only thing I can think is that it circled down the sleight wash we were sitting above and winded us. Still I was pretty happy seeing 2 coyote on 2 stands.

By now the campers were waking up and we were starting to hear machine guns and motorcycles in the distance. It sounded like they were filming another sequel to Mad Max. There was plenty of room between us but to be safe and to increase our chances of calling something in we headed even further down the canyon away from any traffic. Also to be safe I decided to trade in my 223 for my 12 gauge, I really can be paranoid.

Another mile down the road it started to look like we weren’t in Arizona anymore. The river bottom here had a canopy of mature mesquite with thick green grass coming in below. The tree cover was thick enough that it was easily 15 degrees cooler here and we were in shade the whole time. The thick grass muffled any noise from our boots and I was fairly optimistic about our next stand although it was only about a 100 yard walk from where we had parked the truck.

The thick green grass under the mesquite kept us cool and muffled our footsteps on the way in.

Started the same song on the caller, DSG, Platinum fox, then bay bee cottontail. During the bay bee cottontail I saw some movement to my left. There was a good sized coyote that I could just make out on the other side of a big cat claw bush. It stop just opposite of the bush from me and I could see was its head. It took a quick look at the decoy then turned and looked right at me through the thick cover. I had not moved an inch at this point and have no idea how he made me. The only thing I can think is that he was suspicious of me before I saw him and was just double checking.

Until he looked at me he was on a beeline for the decoy and that would have put him right in line with my buddy and his new 20 gauge loaded with #3 buck. But he froze looking in my direction and looked like he was about to back out of the area. I raised my 870 and fired at him with a load of Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote T shot. This dropped him in his tracks.

Coyote number two. Taken with the 870 and T shot just under 30 yards.

Over the next hour or so we put in two more stands and called in another small coopers hawk and three big angry bulls, nothing to shoot at.

By the end of the morning I had two ‘yotes, and between stands Don shot a good sized jack rabbit. It took us about an hour and a half to get them all skinned out and cleaned up. Nothing beats time spent outdoors with a good friend. All in all a pretty great day.

Share