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.

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