The morning deer hunt was eventful, yet as we drove to another section of the ranch the real bowhunting action was about to start. There they were, about a half dozen big javelina feeding out in the open. Trying for a collared peccary with my longbow was definitely one of my goals for this trip, and now it looked like I was going to get my chance at one right off the bat.
Some of the javelina went back into the brush, so I quickly stalked the two big boars that stayed out in the open, moving from tree to tree while trying to stay in the shade. The interesting thing was that I had an audience for this stalk including my guide, the ranch owner, and one of the ranch hands. I got to about 25 yards away from one of the javelina when he spotted something that wasn't there a second ago and all the hair on his back stood up. It was now or never, and I drew and shot, missing just underneath him.
To make matters worse I found out later that the owner of the ranch had my whole endeavor on video and I got to miss all over again on a big screen television. I was hunting on the Colorado Ranch with Guide Jerry Gonzalez of Laredo Texas. Jerry operates Pedernal Bowhunts and really knows South Texas hunting, including javelina. Everyone was easy going and we had a great time. In fact I had so much fun there that I can't wait to go back.
Javelina have a lot of nicknames, like skunk pig because of their aroma and the scent gland on their back, but they really are not a pig, they are a peccary, and are native to the Southwestern United States. Today, javelina are found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In Texas, you can hunt them by simply buying a license. In Arizona and New Mexico, there is a drawing for the tags. The state of Texas has the biggest population of javelina of the three states, but hunting them is popular in each state.
The collared peccary typically run from 40 to as much as 80 pounds live weight. They eat fruit, grasses, small animals, and yes, even cactus. Peccaries have a nasty set of tusks, so you have to be careful when tracking a wounded one. They are also a social animal, much like turkeys, and they stay together in a group.
Hunting for javelina is basically a spot and stalk affair. Find some of them feeding in the open, get the wind in your face and it's on! They have an excellent sense of smell, so if you are not careful of the wind direction you will succeed in spooking the whole group. Their eyesight isn't the best. If you move when they are feeding or otherwise occupied, it is possible to get within twenty yards or so of them.
It is also possible to hunt from blinds if you are where they want to feed or on a route where they will come to water. On my Texas deer hunt I had javelina come by the blind a couple of times during the trip.
Late in the second day of the hunt, a group of javelina were near the blind I was going to hunt that evening. The two ranch hands were dropping me off for the hunt and they pointed to the javelina. They stopped the truck and I strung the longbow and was off. I managed to get within 15 yards of a big boar that was happily munching on a cactus. It turns out that I should have shot right then, but I thought I could get closer because he was totally preoccupied with eating. I got to within 10 yards and was just starting to draw the bow when he spotted me and blasted into the brush going right through the patch of cactus like it wasn't even there.
Fortunately, the same group of javies came back out in front of the blind about an hour later and the stalk was on again. I slipped out of the pop-up blind and was within five yards of a couple of the javelina, the problem was that there was a big cactus in between us. I could hear them and catch a glimpse, but there was no way to get a shot. I continued up the path to the dirt roadway and one of them spotted me, tearing off with all his buddies. Yet a couple of seconds later a single javelina came out of the brush and offered me a ten yard shot. The arrow struck home and mayhem broke loose as he crashed off into the brush, scattering the other javelina that were in there.
Tracking game is difficult in the Texas brush. Everything is trying to poke you, from the cactus to the mesquite, and you have to carefully pick a way to walk through them. The wounded javelina went through stuff too thick and nasty to walk in. Tracking is also much different than it is at home. You have to look for blood on the brush, and on rocks and twigs that are on the ground. The sandy soil absorbs some of the blood, making it hard to find.
I kept circling around trying to pick up the trail and eventually found him laying there about where I heard him crash. Of course I was so excited to find my desert javalina that I walked right into a low cactus and later spent the better part of an hour picking cactus spines out of my leg. The cactus wasn't my favorite part of the trip, but I was elated to have bagged a javelina with my longbow!
If you are looking for additional hunting opportunities, javelina are a great species to pursue. In some of the counties in Texas for example, there is no closed season on them. Thus, you can get out of the Great White North in the winter months and have a pleasant hunting experience in mild weather in any of the states where javelina are found. It is also easy to bring the meat home by simply adding a small cooler as another checked bag on the plane.
Javelina truly are a species that are made for bowhunting, whether you chase them with traditional archery tackle like I did, or wish to use more modern equipment. They are also no pushover. Some stalks will result in a shot, and others will go bad, but that is part of the fun. Spotting and stalking the collared peccary with archery gear is about as exciting as a bowhunt can get!
Robert Streeter is a freelance outdoor writer from upstate New York.