Bucket List

The collared peccary probably isn’t a common bucket list item for most hunters, but it definitely is a critter that has risen in rank over the years for our family of hunters. For whatever reason this unique little desert dwelling mammal, that stands at most a couple of feet tall at the shoulder, has intrigued me since I first saw one while camping some 50 years ago. Apparently my fascination with javelina rubbed off on my sons since they’ve expressed a keen interest in them too.

It was only a couple of years ago that my eldest son and I had the opportunity to go after javelina, but my youngest missed out on that trip. So this past fall we all put in for the upcoming spring hunt. Our goal was this, to look over the Arizona proclamation and select an area with a statistically high probably of drawing a tag. Since we were unfamiliar with all of the hunting areas anyway, drawing any tag would scratch the itch for Carson who’s been dying to try his hand at hunting for the pig-like varmint for a while now.

 Arizona desert sunset 

                                   Awesome desert sunset as day one came to a close

October arrived and delivered great news, all three of us had drawn a javelina tag! Albeit the area we’d be hunting was a ten hour drive from home, so doing any preseason scouting was out of the question. And the seven day hunt was during February so our hunt would be limited since Carson could not afford to miss school. However, as luck would have it the season dates did include Presidents Day so we’d plan to make the most of the three day weekend.

 camping Arizona desert javelina hunt 

              In the daylight hours it would have been a lot easier to find this camp spot

At long last the time had finally come -- we were headed to Arizona! While we had already missed out on opening day we were still very excited at the prospect of hunting the long weekend. At 11:00 p.m. on Friday night, we pulled off the main highway and began searching for the camping spot we’d previously located on Google maps. At night the desert terrain was a little hard to recognize, differing, it seemed, from the images we viewed on our computer. In fact, one small wrong turn led us straight into a sandy wash that we luckily navigated without getting stuck. After some amount of searching we finally picked out a camp spot devoid of cactus, pitched our tent and turned in for the night.

The next morning we were up early and bound for the predetermined destination that we had once again found on Google maps. As we drove along the winding dirt road we continued to pass hunting camps, one after another. Rather than being discouraged by the gobs of people, we were actually optimistic that we had in fact zeroed in on suitable javelina country, or so we thought. But then, just like that day one came to a close. We had hiked about 5 miles and hadn’t seen a single javelina, nor had we heard a single gun shot. And of the six hunters we encountered along the way, none of them had run across any javelina either – disappointing.

 javelina hunting hiking spotting for wildlife  4 point mule deer antler shed

          With my sons and grandson hoping to spot wildlife               Carson came across only shed during the hunt

That night we spent more than an hour scouring our onX maps until we located a spot that was as far away as possible from any road, trail or easily accessible wash. We figured that we needed to distance ourselves as best we could from all hunting pressure. That way we just might find javelina lingering there.

 javelina hunting spotted javelina  collared peccary, javelina, skunk-pig

                         Just spotted a herd of javelina                                      Turned out to be approx. 15 in the bunch

The next morning after making the 2 ½ mile hike we stood on a hillside overlooking several prickly pear covered hills and valleys. The area seemed quite barren even though catclaw, the occasional mesquite tree and various types of cactus littered the area. However, spotting an 18 – 24 inch tall javelina within this desert terrain is surprisingly difficult. So we broke out our spotting scopes and binoculars and started combing the area. And then it happened, there about 800 yards away I spotted a single javelina feeding on a south facing slope! After a few minutes the group of us had spotted several more of the little critters. Wasting no time we quickly mapped our route and were off.

As we neared the top of the last remaining ridge that hid us from view, we paused to catch our breath and readied our weapons. Our adrenaline was pumping because once we crested the bluff we’d have a clear view of the spot where we’d last seen javelina. Carson was first up. We planned for him to take the first shot unless two of the skunk-pigs presented themselves such that a countdown to shoot simultaneously could happen for both Carson and Dallas. We inched up and over the top but the shooting situation wasn’t ideal. So Carson and Dallas split up and settled themselves about 10 yards apart while my grandson Daxton and I kept eyes on the animals. In no time both shooters were ready to go. Each had their crosshairs on a javelina, but coordinating the shot wasn’t going to be possible so we gave Carson the go-ahead to shoot whenever. At the blast of Carson’s .243, javelina started darting every which way. Seconds later, Dallas leveled his .22-250 on a pig of his own and dumped it, two peccary down! Now it was my turn but I was without a gun. Earlier in the day the scope mounts on the gun I was carrying came loose so I had to leave my weapon behind.

The boys quickly passed me a rifle but I struggled to get a clear shot. The little beasts were scampering about and each time I got ready to take a shot they would disappear behind some obstacle. I kept moving on to the next one until there wasn’t any noticeable movement. At last the boys spotted two javelina heading toward the top of a knoll 150 yards away. I swung the rifle to my left and aimed. And it was at the very last possible moment, just before the final javelina disappeared, that I cracked off a shot at the fleeting animal and made what I’d call a very lucky shot!

 javelina hunting, boar collared peccary  boar collared peccary, sow javelina, skunk-pig

    Able to connect just before he disappeared               The boys dropped their javs within feet of each other

The four of us exchanged high fives and proceeded to go claim our prizes. Even though it was quick we had an awesome vacation; spent memorable time together, put wild game on our menu and checked off another bucket list item!