Few sights on a hunt chill my bones more than the canines on a javelina so close that you can literally see the staining from its desert diet. Subsequent woofs, groans, growls and the unmistakable sound of chattering teeth warning you to leave have downright stood the hair on the back of many a hunter’s neck. As an avid hog hunter, part of my obsession is definitely moments where my vulnerability is questioned and Javelinas take their respectable place there, although they are not really hogs at all; a fact easily missed or rebutted by many.
The truth is while hogs and javelinas, also known by their formal name, collared peccary, or nicknames such as javis, musk hogs and skunk hogs, share various characteristics, there are many differences scientists used to confirm they are a different class of mammal. Most notable differences include the absence of a noticeable tail, only one dew claw on each hind foot, a scent gland on the back near the base of the tail, differences in vital organs and even an overwhelming size difference where javelina average 35 to 50 pounds. Regardless of their size, javelinas are formidable prey; they are intelligent, possess a keen sense of smell and fairly good hearing compared to humans. The javelina’s greatest weakness is poor eyesight.
Here in our Lone Star state, approximately 100,000 javelina occupy much of west and southwest Texas. With a gestation period of 150 days, an average of two javelina per litter, and the ability to reproduce twice per year, help ensure our second most popular Texas big game animal is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones hunting javis. Coyotes, bobcats and cougars also love to wreak havoc on herds, especially on the young. The mortality rate for piglets hovers around 40 percent; fortunately, with a 1:1 ratio, differences in gender remain close at 51 to 53 percent female and 47 to 49 percent male.
The Trans-Pecos region, also known for great pronghorn antelope and mule deer hunting is a favorable home for javis. The abundance of prickly pear cactus in that region, as well as the rest of the west and southwest areas make great habitat; roughly 50 percent of food source and 80 percent hydration for javelinas come directly from prickly pear cactus. While primarily observed as herbivores, they are really omnivores, taking advantage of wounded varmints or carrion on occasion but meat only comprises 1 percent of their diet; other forbs, grasses, insects, surface water and secure bedding in thick foliage are critical to good javelina habitat making our south and west Texas landscapes a perfect place to call home and the perfect backdrop for a fun and memorable hunt.
When hunting javelina, it’s important to recognize sign. Look for small hog-like hoof prints but remember the single dew claw on the hind leg. Scat looks similar to that of a dog; however, depending on hydration and diet, it can also look like a small pancake. If possible, scout the terrain looking for herds. Javelina are social and live their lives in groups as small as 10 and as large as 100 — they are rarely, if ever alone. Use your prevailing wind direction to aid in your stalk. As mentioned earlier, javelina eyesight is sorely lacking; however, it’s better than many give credit. Don’t attempt to simply walk up on a herd. They are acutely aware of objects and movement at closer ranges; I would suggest a quiet stalking approach to close distances within 100 yards. Use varying terrain to mask movement and never approach up wind. Hunters ignoring wind direction often experience humbling, or downright frustrating results; know your prey, especially its strengths and weaknesses.
While many consider javelina hunting an easy pursuit given consideration to their senses and our best hunting strategies, changing weather and habitat conditions can intensify the hunt. Moreover, many accomplished javelina hunters employ increasingly difficult methods of harvest to add to the excitement of the hunt. Setting down the rifle and picking up a bow, handgun or muzzleloader can really heat things up. Getting close, hearing the chatter of razor sharp canines and haunting growls, and standing amidst the chaotic stampede of an alarmed javelina herd are experiences best avoided by the faint of heart; however, if that adrenaline charge feeds your outdoor spirit, head west to where the stars shine bright, deep in the heart of Javelina Country.
YOUR OUTDOOR ROADMAP TO A SUCCESSFUL JAVELINA HUNT:
Strategy – Use good optics to scan open country for herds. Spot and stalk is the preferred hunting strategy for javelina although still- or stand hunting also produces great results in areas with active sign. If considering stand- or still hunting, make sure you’ve done some boot-level scouting.
Rifles/ammunition – When rifle-hunting javelina, I like to carry a smaller caliber such as a trusty .22-250, .223, .243 or .257 using controlled expansion bullets such as Nosler Partition, Hornady Interlock or Remington Core-Lokt. My personal favorite is my .257 Roberts. Handguns also are a great challenge. With handgun calibers, consider using .30-caliber and larger.
Gear – Since you’re hunting in the arid regions of south and west Texas, I suggest you dress according to the weather forecasts. During colder seasons, dress in layers and use a pack system capable of holding any shed layers. Keep plenty of water, binoculars, a spotting scope if possible and a laser rangefinder readily available.
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