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Three Times Lucky on a Pig Hunt April 2015
Gerhard Schroeder  

We planned a not so usual javelina hunt for the 2015 season. Luck of the draw was with us. So, on opening morning, still in the dark, there were Michael and me with David giving us a ferry ride in his boat to the Unit 22 side of Bartlett Lake. The lake was low, and I got out when we reached the northern end of still deep enough water. Mike wanted it all, remained on board, armed with a fishing rod while hoping to find pigs on the shore. Those two never had a bite.

For me, the awe of a gorgeous morning soon burnt away as the sun climbed higher. Seeing two other hunters further robbed from my expectations. Javelina sign was not impressive in the area. After a long day in the mountains and flats in between, advancing from saguaro to saguaro for rest in the shade, I had seen no pig, only one whitetail spike. There had been one shot. David returned with his boat on time to fetch me back up. I learned from him that the other guys had carried out one porker.

Mike eventually did go on land. And then there was some miscommunication. We expected him to circle a mountain and arrive in one bay. He decided there wasn’t enough time for that, returned back to the cove he had started from, and sent a text accordingly. Problem was, he had reception from where he texted. But daddy, on the water, never got that message. Eventually, way after dark, we figured on such scenario, and found him, safe but impatient. Mike did report seeing pig tracks repeatedly.

So we returned in the dark on Saturday morning, this time with instructions to David to check for us in both coves around noon time. Initially same deal as Friday … morning beauty too soon cooked away by sunshine. And again I saw two other hunters. That drove me further away from the lake, higher into the mountains. While yet again resting in cactus shade, glassing the terrain, Mike happened to get to the exact same spot. We talked things over, decided to move up and around the next mountain, then back towards the lake as he again had seen plenty of sign in that larger valley. It was almost 10AM.

As it turned out, Mike remained on the west side of the narrow but steep side canyon while I opted to cross over. I really wanted to walk down in it, but too many trees and branches didn’t allow that. So we advanced parallel along the ditch, with me on the east side. Terrain was quite steep. Clearly we were not, could not be quiet. Also, every now and then I threw a fairly large rock into the ravine. After maybe two hundred steps something on Mike’s side looked different. Sure enough, binos confirmed a javelina, basically facing me. “Mike, I see a pig, right in front of you,” I said in a normal talking voice. There was no wind all morning, sound carried well. That critter was maybe forty steps from him. But no response, no shot. So I drew my Contender with “I’m going for it.” That made the javelina turn more broadside. It was an estimated seventy yards away. Shaky aim. I willed the crosshairs onto that body and squeezed - - the shot was not overly loud, the pig collapsed in the butt-down-first, front-following fashion, and rolled out of sight. “Got him!”

And with those words the hillside exploded! Pig after pig came into view, at various sizes and speeds, passing past Mike. Daddy’s 8-3/8" Model 29 roared, and roared, and again, and again. From my position I could see it all. No pig fell, or hunched up, or limped, or squealed. More pigs fled up and over the hill. With seemingly the last pig out of sight, Mike ran up and over after them. Then another shot. There must have been over thirty javelina in that herd.

Time for me to find mine. Bad deal – with all the distractions I lost track of where my pig had last stood. I took note of the cacti and tree where I thought it was, then crossed the little canyon again. The other (Mike’s) side was even steeper. Eventually I found my prey. I thanked God for the animal, this small adventure, then pulled fatso out of the bush he’d rolled under, and carried him up a few yards to more shade, to get on with the red work there.

As I was sawing off a smallish branch to make more work space, grunting came from the same little depression that all previous critters had emerged from. Sure enough, not twenty steps from me, two more fur balls left the scene, now at high speed, this time opposite of where Mike had gone. Eventually, a total of nine shots later, Mike returned. No pig. He then decided to follow those last two and circle back to shore. He would not see another pig that day. By a little after noon I was back on board also, pig ‘n all.

Back in camp I hung the beast from the hatch of my 4Runner, vehicle oriented so fatso was in the shade. Once skinned, the lake shore breeze cooled the meat nicely. I’d come prepared with a butcher board. Since fish weren’t biting, de-boning the meat came next. That revealed the 110 grain Speer HP projectile. And the end of this story. But it invites …

Some Analysis
I do count this as a 3-time lucky hunt. Lucky to have found the pigs (more on this in a moment); lucky to have hit the boar such that it anchored him instantly – the hollow point had entered high on its neck where it joins the shoulders, clipping a neck bone, then penetrating the chest cavity high and ahead of the first rib, and breaking the opposite shoulder bone, where it came to rest; and lucky with my ammo.

You see, for my first shot I had chambered a downloaded .30 Herrett. Since that shot was, as intended, gentle on my ears and also flattened the pig in convincing fashion, I thought I’d found the win-win combination. Well, that optimism dampened once the shot placement became known. Any bullet would have been fatal. During practice, a 100 grain lead bullet from Magnus with 8 grains of Trail Boss was reasonably accurate and so mild on recoil. For the jacketed 110 grain HPs, I had upped that to 10 grains, which filled the Herrett case. That load worked well during our HSC Handgun Hunter’s Challenge, meaning I had a high hit ratio on the steel critters. Now it had downed my boar, too. But how fast are we going here, from the 12” barrel??

At first opportunity after the hunt the Chrony gave some data. The last 7 cartridges I had left told a horror story, registering between 575 and 1177 fps! And yes, some sounded supersonic, some did not. I don’t recall hearing an obvious supersonic crack when that javelina died. Told you, I got lucky that there was enough power to propel the bullet through that pig. So my quest for a compromise no-earplugs lower power first shot load continues. By the way, the 8 grain Trail Boss load with that 100 grain lead bullet registered a steady 900 fps (896 to 904). It will definitely remain my practice load. I’m hoping to find something running the 110HP up to about 1400 fps, without a piercing blast. That’s a thousand fps less than maximum. I have the better part of a year to work that out.

Also a few words about these javelina:
Of course there are always exceptions. Yet on this hunt I again noticed an obvious difference. That whitetail buck Friday afternoon moved away when I was not even within 300 yards of him. Clearly that spike had seen me move, probably heard me, too. There was little wind and the ground was crunchy, all recent rains long dried up. The buck just moved up and over the hill, no panic run, just a precautionary move on his part, so it seemed. In turn, he was easy to detect, being taller than most vegetation there, and moving. That’s how I noticed that spike, and the other hunters that weekend, too – when they were moving.

In contrast, our herd of javelina had to have heard us. Yet they seemed to rely on their “camo”. They froze as we approached. Low-riders as they are, of those at least thirty animals I had only seen the one. And that boar was by no means obvious. Binoculars confirmed him. The others were simply hidden behind vegetation, in some small depression, just not “sticking out”. Even me talking while I was within about seventy yards did not spook any. They trusted their behavior. Maybe knowing that the steep ravine was between us added to their ‘margin’ in the event of a flight. And I assume that since they heard us approaching, there was no need for any alarm grunts. During some previous hunts I had heard the pigs first. They can be quite loud while feeding. Or made them grunt when a little stone fired from a sling shot impacted way lower on the hillside I was on. And notice again those two pigs which fled not when I was talking, or shot, or when Mike was firing. Not when I came across the ravine. Not when I walked around until found my boar. Not when I pulled their dead buddy out of his resting place. Not when I carried the pig about twenty steps uphill to better shade. No, what unsettled the last two of those sneaky hogs was the strange noise of a saw cutting a limb.

Makes me wonder how many times we have passed by pigs over the years and never seen them. I’d also say that the bigger the herd, the more probable that when seemingly all eventually run off, count on at least one straggler – seen it many times, even with shots fired. They also seem to prefer hills with steeper slopes, with escape routes in all directions, including up and down.

That’s exactly what the terrain offered for this herd. Never give up hope. Believe.

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