How To Hunt Javalina By W.R. Tony Dukes
Texas holds more javelina than any other state.
Stretching like a vaquero awakening from his siesta, the Texas brush country sweeps south and west away from San Antonio, a badland full of wild critters. From deer, mountain lion, bobcat and coyote, to dove, quail and turkey, it’s a paradise for those tough enough to withstand the country’s dry and thorny character. Javelina, the “desert pig,” thrives here.
Hundreds of miles away, west of the Pecos River, the terrain changes but the Texas toughness of the land- scape remains the same. This too, is home to the Lone Star state’s many roaming, squealing javelina bands.
Some quarter million of these bristly little beasts call this area home, creating a bowhunting opportunity too good to be missed. Actually, the quarter million figure is a conservative estimate by Texas game managers.
No detailed surveys. of javelina numbers have been done, but the state reports 18.000-20,000 harvested each year, mostly as kills incidental to firearm deer hunting. Texas holds more javelina than any other state. Also know as collared peccary, these pint sized “pigs” look a lot like hogs, but are not of the same family as pigs or wild boar. Features like a single dew claw on the hind foot, and four teats (only two are functional) separate them from the Old World swine.
Although javelina are classed as big game, they really fall somewhere between big and small game in size. In a Texas study, live adult javelina averaged 55 pounds, while an average, field dressed peccary falls somewhere in the 30-40 pound range. Nevertheless, Texas game management accords the javelina big game status, and fortunately, some protection. At one time, javelina were hunted for the soft, thin leather their hides provided. Many ranchers sought to exterminate them, but in recent years, attitudes have changed.
Today, javelina are no longer considered pests, and some ranchers are beginning to realize the peccary’s value as a bonus game animal for their regular, deer hunting clientele and for special javelina only hunts. Javelina require two things — food and cover. The most dense javelina populations invariably are found where prickly pear cactus is abundant. On almost all ranges, this succulent plant provides more than half of the javelina’s diet while providing most of its water requirements. The prickly pear diet is supplemented by forbs, vines, grasses, and green browse from woody shrubs. Thick brush provides cover from weather and enemies.
Whitebrush or beebrush, and blackbmsh, all acacia types, are favored in south Texas. In the hill country, cedar breaks and turkey pear offer the same protection. The javelina’s only natural enemies are mountain lions and coyotes.
Most bowhunters seeking javelina do their hunting in January and February, a time when brush has lost its leaves and daytime javelina activity increases. However, the season is open year round in most of south Texas, and from October to nearly the end of February in other areas.
During the summer months, javelina are active almost exclusively at night, laying up in the shade during the hot daytime hours. A band of javelina, usually 10-15 animals, inhabits a range of about one square mile, making them predictable if a fair amount of scouting has been done. By carefully scanning mesquite flats, scendaros, roads and other open areas, javelina can usually be spotted if they are in the area.
The animals seem to have no aversion to feeding in and crossing openings, explaining why spotting and stalking is the most popular method bowhunters use to purse the little “pigs On a stalk, the only thing a bowhunter has to worry about besides thorns and rattle- snakes is a javelina`s keen nose, its best defense.
The critters are nearly blind and have only a fair sense of hearing. So with caution, it`s not difficult for a skilled hunter to move within easy bow range. For the patient bowhunter, baited areas and watering holes make productive stand sites. Stands are typically located on the downwind edge of an opening in the thorny thicket, with the bait placed in the clearing. Javelina have a never-ending appetite for corn and can smell the grain at a distance of one-quarter mile. In good “pig” country, it is not uncommon to have bait visited within 24 hours of its placement. Like bear hunting, a persistent hunter that can keep still will usu- ally be rewarded with the opportunity for a shot. Since there are few trees capable of hold- ing a tree stand in the brush country, tripods are the elevated stand of choice. The little “pigs” can also be taken successfully from pit or ground blinds, however, their sense of smell must be respected the same way as that of a whitetail.
It`s impossible to talk about the javelina’s sense of smell without mentioning the rank odor the animal itself gives off. When down-wind from a bunch of javelina, a hunter can easily smell the beasts, and its not an odor easily mistaken, or forgotten. The cause is a musk gland located on the animal’s back, used as a means of communication. By far the most exciting way to hunt these Southwestern animals is by calling them. By imitating a young javelina in distress, a whole herd of calm, feeding peccary can be transformed into a charging, tooth-popping gang. Calling can make for some fast-paced, hair- raising action as the little critters come running.
Another great thing about javelina hunting, particularly calling, is that it ’s not critical to be hunting at dawn. This allows the bow-hunter to savor an extra hour in the sleeping bag or a chance to check out gear and sling a few practice arrows. A hunter won’t be rushed if he decides to do both. Unlike rattling whitetails where the shooter sets up in front of the rattler, when calling the javelina shooter positions himself as close to the caller as possible.
The “pigs” will come directly to the source of the call, often nearly bumping the caller and shooter as they move through. Some hunters have been unnerved by the response of the javelina, mistaking the action for an aggressive attack. The same type of activity is often observed after a band of javelina are spooked by a bowhunter trying to stalk the animals.
In fact, the javelina “at tack” is seldom more than the blind movement of the nearsighted animals as they try to leave the area in the quickest way possible. Javelina do possess vicious looking teeth, but they seldom show real aggression unless cornered. They do, however, seem to fight constantly among themselves making woofs, growls and grunts in the process, a factor that can aid hunters scouting for the animals.
The javelina`s mean looking dental gear are not tusks as referred to with wild boar. The 2·inch, razor sharp extrusions are actually canine teeth used for rooting and tearing some of the tough desert plants they eat. The teeth can inflict injury in a battle, a factor that has led to a decline in the number of hunters and outfitters that will risk running dogs on the little beasts.
Weather conditions on a January or. February Texas javelina hunt can range from that of a summer safari to cold and wintry, all within a few days. Long underwear and a good warm jacket are items to pack along. Rain gear is a must because this is the time of year that Texas gets most of its precipitation. Many hunters wear chaps and snake leggings to protect them in the endless brush. A good pair of tough leather boots are standard fare.
Camouflage clothing is helpful, but neutral tone outerwear will work just as well for this type of hunting. Javelina aren’t know for being tough to kill. Actually, when compared to other big game animals, the peccary goes down easily. Any well-placed broadhead from a medium weight hunting bow will do a nice job dispatching them. Shots average 2-20 yards when javelina come to the call. Usually darting through the underbrush, javelina make small, deceptive targets. The fast-moving, close-range shooting gives instinctive shooters an advantage here. Bait hunters can dictate their own distances by their setup and personal confidence.
Felt-lined rugs, full or shoulder mounts or a pair of handmade leather gloves are some of the exciting options the successful javelina hunter can have produced to remember his
hunt by. It’s a good idea to find out in advance how the taxidermist wants the trophy caped or cut. A bleached skull, canines glistening, always makes a nice addition to any trophy room. Anyone who has field dressed a javelina knows too well the smell of these critters. The musk gland, located high on the rump of the animal, is a four-inch dark area lacking hair. It can easily be removed by taking a knife and cutting around the area. However, because javelina often are loaded with fleas, many hunters prefer to skin the animal on the spot. In this case, there is no need to remove the musk gland because it comes off with the skin.
Javelina, with their almost exclusive vegetarian diet, make good eating at a young age. When hunting for meat, select the medium sized animals in a group. Trophy sized javelina, whether boar or sow, are not palatable, Don’t expect to get much meat from these “pigs.” An average animal yields only about 15 pounds.
Javelina Shoot Out
Way down south near the Texas border town of Laredo is a particular tract of land chock full of javelina. The Callahan Ranch lazily encompasses some 135,000 acres of Texas badlands. Here is the home of the annual Texas Javelina Shoot Out, originated in 1980. Behind a Texas-sized handlebar moustache, a squealing javelina call and a razor sharp Snuffer, you find Ron Collier, co-organizer of the annual javelina shoot. Collier and long-time hunting pal Ed Foreman are pioneers of javelina calling in Texas. Both are veteran bowhunters.
Each year these two, along with about 450 other bowhunters, visit the Callahan Ranch to camp, exchange hunting stories and chase the desert “pigs Precision Shooting Equipment (PSE) is a major sponsor of the gathering. The hunt is open to the public for a nominal registration fee and 1990 marks the tenth an- nual event. For more information write to Ron Collier, 7700 Delafield Lane, Austin, Texas 78752.
Whether you team up with the other bow-hunters at the Callahan Ranch or set up your own “javelina shootout,” hunting these animals can be a quick cure to the midwinter blahs. Javelina can`t compare to a trophy bear, deer or any of the other animals listed by the Pope and Young Club record keepers, but they are just challenging enough, and just easy enough to score on, to make the hunt well worth the effort. And when that first bunch of javelina is encountered, the excitement will easily over-shadow any doubts about the small size of this animal. The thrills are big!
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