feature By: Trent Swanson | January, 18
The first night we glassed until dark and found both javelina and deer, including a 160-inch 4x4 muley. All were too far away to give chase, but it definitely proved to be a good omen. We also realized how cold it was, and even though I told Matt it was going to be cold, he didn’t really believe me. When we got back to my house I set Matt up with some warner clothes, primarily some heavier pants.
Javelina are kind of like us in that regard. They have very coarse hair that does not prepare them well for cold temperatures. They often stay holed up in a group to conserve heat, which makes them very difficult to locate. Glassing with tripod-mounted binoculars is the most
efficient way to find them, even when it’s hot. Since the temperatures were so low, we focused our morning glassing on the eastern slopes, hoping to find them warming in the sun.
No deer were seen the next morning, but as soon as the sun hit the hillside we were glassing, the javelina appeared no more than 10 yards from where they were the night before. We figured their bedding area was nearby because we saw them heading back to it the night before, and just leaving it that morning. From three-quarters of a mile away, my 15x56 binocular clearly showed the little buggers. Even though we were bundled up for the snow and cold, we shivered as we watched them for a little bit and then quickly made a plan.
Our route would take us up a small hill and then along a flat so we would end up with the wind in our face and the javelina below us. When we were no more than a few hundred yards away from the herd, we stopped to cross a fence. I made it over with no problem, but the barbed wire broke as Matt perched precariously with one leg over the top and his left hand on the T-post. I was able to untangle his leg from the barbs as he tried to save my borrowed pants from being torn, but I could do nothing for his hand. I didn’t realize that the rusty, jagged top of the post gouged a huge gash into his palm.
When he pulled off his torn glove, I took one quick look at the wound and immediately made the decision to take him to the emergency room. Once back at the pickup, I tried to clean up his hand a little bit before heading into town. As we entered the hospital, Matt’s hand had stopped bleeding so I made him “pose” for photos. He was then trimmed away a bunch of skin and sewed him up with eight stitches.
With our hunt done for the morning, we headed home and asked my wife, Nichole, to help salvage Matt’s hunt. She is a physical therapist and athletic trainer, so she fashioned a splint that allowed him to draw his bow without too much trouble. He practiced a couple shots and was able to shoot pretty accurately, so we headed back out for the evening but saw nothing of interest.
I awoke early on the second day to find Matt’s face nearly as green as the camouflage he was wearing. He had been prescribed a painkiller and took one before going to sleep, but reacted poorly to it and was up half the night puking. We stayed home that morning, but Matt cowboyed up around midday, so we headed back out for an evening hunt. We found the javelina again and gave chase, but the best we could muster was a shot by me at 62 yards as they paused on a snowy hillside – I missed clean, which is not uncommon for me, especially on such a small critter.
On the third day we found the javelina again, and after pinpointing their location headed after them. We circled around, crossed a fence (Matt went under it!) and snuck in close. Expecting them to feed toward us, they stopped short just over a rise. We stalked even closer until the wind swirled and a “pig” started to huff, huff, huff. I told Matt to move around the oak in front of us, “Fast, but quiet! Fast, but quiet! Fast, but quiet!” I think he thought I was crazy, but he made it around the oak and drew on the closest javelina as I ranged it at 17 yards. The arrow struck home, so I ran to try to pick up a straggler. The only straggler was unfortunately the one Matt just shot, so he ran to the edge of the draw and finished off his first javelina.
Javelina usually weigh no more than about 30 to 40 pounds, so we strapped it to Matt’s pack and headed back to the pickup. Even though there snow was still on the ground, the winter sun was starting to melt it and had warmed the day nicely.
As a celebration of Matt’s success, we had a great lunch at a small cafe and then headed back to our glassing spot for an afternoon siesta before the evening glassing session. Late in the day we finally found the herd again – once there were 12, and now there was 11. They were too far away to make a play on them, so we left them for the next day.
To ensure no other hunters beat us to our glassing spot, we made it back well before light the following day. After a quick nap in the dark we awoke to another bright morning. It didn’t take long to locate the same herd of javelina again on the same hill. It is a good thing they are so predictable! This time I sent Matt down to a hill overlooking them so he could glass and direct me as I made a stalk. He quickly learned it is nearly as fun to be the spotter as the shooter.
He nearly had a coronary as he watched me sneak to within 50 yards of the entire herd. The closest pig that offered the first open shot was at 28 yards. I slowly drew, pressed my release, and missed wide to the left. I quickly nocked another arrow, ranged another pig, drew, released, and missed again to the left! With the pigs scattered to the winds, I sat tight as Matt located them again.
He directed me to the right area, but I couldn’t find the herd so I glassed back at Matt. Using archaic sign language, he “told” me the javelina were right there! I moved a few yards downhill and shot the first one that gave me a chance. It turns out the shot, at less than 20 yards, was on the javelina farthest from me – there were a few no more than five yards away that I couldn’t see! I hit it a little left, but it went less than five yards before breaking my arrow and expiring. Even though I had previously shot javelina with a rifle and a handgun, this was the first one I shot with a bow.
The cold weather early in the hunt gave way to sunshine and warm temperatures later in the week. Since we both also had deer tags, we spent the next few days glassing and stalking. Matt was blown away that we could get even remotely close to the deer in the wide-open country. Even though none of our deer stalks worked out, the memories of the javelina were enough to get us through the rest of the winter and spring.
Javelina aren’t the prettiest animals, the hardest to hunt or the best tasting, but they give hunters a great excuse to extend their season and visit the typically warm country of the Southwest during a time when most other big-game seasons are closed and the polar vortex dips its way into the Midwest. For Matt, his first javelina hunt left him a cool scar and the desire to hunt the West as often as he can. For me, it was proof once again that the size of the critter is not the main draw for me to go hunting – camaraderie, laughter, fun experiences and memories are what keep me heading back. I also get a smile on my face when thinking about Matt every time I cross a fence.