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Javelina the Minimal Way April 2018
Gerhard Schroeder  

It seemed ridiculous. There are literally hundreds of square miles of javelina habitat in my hunt unit, and I chose one saguaro cactus to sit near and wait for the critters to come by.

OK, the location wasn’t totally random. Inspired by the success at our last deer hunt the prospects of ‘waiting in place’ did not look so bad. Plus, that cactus, which may have been the biggest in the area, did provide shade all day, as long as I moved my chair periodically. It was also near where Mike had killed his porker the year before. Plus there were a few tracks around. Then again, how often have we had big game success in basically the same spot? Doesn’t matter, I tried anyway. It almost worked.

All morning long not a thing happened. From my position Horseshoe Lake offered beauty, despite being down to about 14% of full capacity. The previous year it had been full to overflow, meaning too much water in the Verde to cross by vehicle, and you could only get to the east side via boat. That translated into few other hunters.

For this hunt I got here by crossing the river, had my vehicle nearby. So did Russel, with Mike riding shotgun. Except it was their first time to drive to the east side, to cross the Verde. And they came oh-so close to drowning Russel’s 4Runner. They traveled after work, in the dark, took a slightly wrong path while in the river, had the headlights go under and some water splashing onto the hood! Close call, but the motor did not suck in a drink. (On our way home they closely followed me across, so now they know where to place the tires). The low flow also allowed other hunters to cross, meaning we had way more company in the field this year.

Around 1:30PM on that opening day, sitting in the shade, I heard noise behind me. Pigs! But there were immediately two problems. They were running, and it was momma with young’uns. I probably over-thought that situation. Regardless, in Germany they don’t shoot momma when accompanied by young. Besides, these little guys were barely larger than a well-aged jackrabbit. The fourth and last pig in that small group was about ¾ size. In the last moment it seemed acceptable, but my shot missed high.

Then it became clear why they had come on the move. Mike, on his way to me to let me in on what he and Russel had been up to, had kicked the small herd out of their midday beds. Mike and Russel had seen javelina several times, had taken shots, but neither tagged one. I remained at that cactus until last light. Opening day ended with no pigs for us. But we obviously were in the right area.

That Saturday I returned to the cactus, left my backpack and chair there, then hiked to a wash about a mile away. Nothing.

On my way back to my pack and chair, and lunch, I ran into Mike. The big .44 Mag was in his hand! Minutes before he had seen pigs again. He whispered that they had fled into the nearby wash. We made a plan that I would go down into that thicket. Bingo, they darted back out, close enough past Mike that the Smith barked twice. Still no blood. I went to have lunch, and remained in that shade for a while. After that I took another loop through the country. Again nothing.

Later in the afternoon, from what sounded like it was near the road, somebody target-practiced. Fast shots, quite a few. Then a pause, like for a reload, and a few more shots. Almost at last light Mike came by again, informed me that Russel had done all that shooting, had downed a pig from a herd of over ten with his .40 S&W Glock.

Those two had radios. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all my stuff with me at that cactus I may have come along with Mike towards Russel’s position. But I stayed, because there was the chance that the herd would follow the contour towards me. At very near last light a single shot rang out. As suspected, it was Mike bagging his javelina.

After dark we met in camp, tended to the animals, had dinner, and decided to leave for home that evening. In the following days the rains came, and also Valentine’s. The weatherman proclaimed that the rains would stop Thursday morning by around sunup.

So I returned then, solo. Indeed the drizzle stopped when I reached my destination, by first light. This time I would walk and not sit. Weather was perfect for it, solid clouds, and the ground not muddy, yet wet to show every fresh track. Except I had seen none by the time I circled back to my 4Runner. I ditched all my gear, and headed into the opposite direction, with no backpack, no walking stick, no binos, not even a holster. Just gun clutched in hand, knife on belt and a few extra cartridges in my front pocket.

The weapon was my .30 Herrett Contender, with suppressor attached. That’s a lot of metal, but it balances perfectly when carried by its fore end. Maybe twenty minutes into that walk, some forty paces ahead of me, a javelina hurried away, into a small side ravine. Now with hammer cocked and barrel skyward (it is way too bulky to hold that rig with one hand pointing ‘downrange’), I advanced towards the edge of that ravine. Another porker ran for cover, not in panic, but still too fast to get it into the scope. And right near the edge another porker rushed for cover, this one with a loud woof.

Of course the bottom of that ravine was choked full with brush and small trees and cacti. No patch of hide visible anywhere. I paused, hoping the gang would appear on the opposite hill side, a far piece away but by my estimate within reach of the Herrett.

That Contender, by the way, with suppressor is two hands full to aim with. However, once on target it stays on target. The heavy bulky Sig Sauer seems to also act as a stabilizer.

Minutes passed. Even though inside me the anticipation boiled, I remained still. Eventually they did not. Now there was movement down in the very bottom, mostly concealed by all the thick stuff. When one moved into almost open, meaning there were branches between us, its head still hidden by some thick bush, the crosshairs found that patch of hide, and I fired. The suppressor muffled the discharge, while the 110 grain Speer JHP broke the sound barrier with plenty. She collapsed, yet legs kicking spastically.

I reloaded and remained still. For one, I wanted to make sure the pig was down for good. Legs kept kicking occasionally. For another, what would the other critters do?

Well, aside from the now frequent anxious woofing they moved about rather slowly, and amazingly almost always in good cover. Twice one of them came to ‘visit’ the stricken. None panicked up the opposite slope. After a couple of minutes all was quiet.

When I finally descended and walked up to my javelina, none of the others were around anymore. Ghosts of the desert! How they departed, and to where, I never saw. Or heard. I assume it had to be ‘downstream’. Not obvious either as to how many others there had been. Makes me wonder how often we walk right past javelina. This wasn’t the first time I had experienced javelina either staying put or melting away when they sense danger.

My shot was high, paralyzing, through the tip of her shoulder and penetrating her back.

The rest was standard procedure: a prayer of thanks, the red work, tagging. Carrying her back to my ride took less than ten minutes. Gun in one hand, pig in the other. Then came hanging, skinning, let cool while having lunch, cut up, place into cooler, wash up. The weather invited to stay. However, there was work waiting at home, helping a guy to trim our trees. With a little regret and certainly in no hurry did I put the Toy into gear.

The following Saturday Russel returned with the fourth guy in our party. Bryce could not join us on opening weekend. Now, during the last days of the hunt, they never even saw any of those desert ghosts. You know they did not really move away. Probably found another insignificant looking canyon and melted in.

Especially when the weather cooperates I enjoy hunting for javelina. Despite our successes (2 out of 4 in 2017 and 3 of 4 in 2018) near Horseshoe Lake, we’ve already decided that our first choice will be different for 2019. May we have good fortune in the next drawing as well.

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