“Breaking the Ice” Part 1 2015

It was last January, while out hunting coues deer with a buddy, when I made the decision to chase javelina with my bow the following January.  My friend was nice enough to offer up some help and show me the country he was so familiar with to try and get me a javelina.  I had always heard that they were the perfect introductory animal to archery hunt, due to how relatively easy it was to get in close to them.  Having not harvested anything with my bow yet, I was eager for the following year, jumped at the opportunity, and applied for the archery javelina tag when the time came.  Later that year I found out that I was successful in the draw and that I would indeed be chasing these “stink pigs” down in southern Arizona.  The hunt couldn’t have came quick enough.

Snow in the Desert

Snow in the Desert

My alarm clock sounded off at 2:30 a.m. and before I knew it, I was on my way down south to meet up with my friend.  A day or two before my arrival he informed me that the area just got hit with snow!  This was going to be something new for me.  Hunting in the desert……in the snow.  On our way into our glassing spot we kicked up a few coues deer.  I also had a deer tag in my pocket, so this was a nice scene.  As the sun started to wake we just kept seeing deer after deer after deer!  I had never seen so many deer in one place before.  I actually questioned if it was legal to be hunting where we were hunting.  We saw in upwards of 60 deer just in the morning hours.  Finally, at around 10 a.m. we spotted a herd of javelina.  They were pretty far away from us feeding on high ridge.  The stalk was on.  It took way longer than expected due to the fact that we just kept running into deer.  We finally reached the ridge that the peccary were on.  I quietly made my way towards where we thought they were, but to no avail.  Where did they go?  All of a sudden I spotted a MONSTER coues buck.  The biggest I have seen in person by far.  The javelina were out of the picture at this point, so we started making our way down towards the 100 inch plus buck that was now bedded about 200 yards below us.  At least we thought the javelina were out of the picture.  When we started to make our decent, we were greeted by the pigs we saw earlier.  Now, we had a herd of javelina standing between us and the huge buck.  There was no way that we were going to get around these guys to get to the buck, so we decided to pursue the pigs.

The next part was chaos.  At least to me it was.  I practice shooting my bow a ton and now I know what people mean when they say that shooting at animals is completely different than shooting at targets.  Even 3D targets for that matter.  I missed 5 shots at these little guys.  One was at 30 yards!  Most of the time I couldn’t get an accurate range on them through the brush.  Either it would be a clean miss or my arrow would deflect off of a branch.  The disappointment that ran through me was almost unbearable.  I put so much work into hunting and to have something like my first archery kill just right there in front of me, but then just taken away was pretty taxing on me.  Hey, that is part of the game though right?  We learn from our mistakes and we get back up and try again.  That is just what I would do the next morning.

Due to scheduling issues, my friend and I parted ways that evening which left me to hunt alone the second day.  I decided to try another area that was given to me by a family friend.  My plan was to stay high up on the ridges and glass as I went.  Right off of the bat there were mule deer standing in front of me.  It was a group of does.  This morning was starting to look like the previous one.  There were deer everywhere.  Only this time they were mule deer instead of coues deer.  2 bucks then emerged out of a nearby canyon in pursuit of a group of does that I was watching cross canyon from where I was. These bucks harassed these does for probably 20-30 minutes.  In the end one buck took all of the does and the other went on with his business.  What I didn’t expect was for his business to be headed right toward me!  He covered probably 500 yards in minutes!  He was onto something and moving quick.  Quickly, I grabbed my bow and started to ease down the hill to try and get closer, not knowing which direction he would travel once he got on my side of the canyon.  Long story short, this buck ended up busting me at about 100 yards.  On my way back up to my pack, I was greeted by a fellow hunter.  We exchanged words and he informed me of a herd of javelina he saw not that far away.  He was even nice enough to point them out for me.  In return I gave him the whereabouts of yet another herd of mule deer that I had been watching.  We then parted ways.  I went after the javelina and he went after the deer.  Can’t beat that.

Mule Deer Dead Head

Mule Deer Dead Head

These javelina were about 3/4 of the way up a pretty steep mountain on their way into a nearby canyon.  So, what I did was stayed on the bottom of the canyon and just followed them until they started to feed again.  As my pack lay at the bottom of the canyon I made my way slowly up the hill towards my quarry.  I get to the top of the hill and they are running away from me!  The wind had made a complete 180 and started blowing right at them.  I was yet again busted.  On my way out of that area I found fresh lion tracks, a javelina den with no javelina, and a pretty cool dead head(my first).  It was a fork horned buck that was probably killed by the mountain lion that made the tracks I found previous to that.

It was time for lunch and more glassing.  About an hour went by without seeing anything, so I decided to move down the ridge a bit to get a different vantage point.  With how hard the wind was blowing, I found it hard to believe that I was going to find any animals out on open hillsides.  This turned my focus to the bottoms of the canyons.  I figured that is where I would be to try and get out of the wind.  Well, as luck would have it, I ended up spotting a javelina standing under a mesquite tree at the bottom of a wash.  “Here we go again,” I told myself.  On my way over there I just could not get the wind right.  I bounced back and forth probably 3 times on both sides of this wash before I made a decision on where I was going to begin my stalk.  As I neared the area I jumped up a small herd of mule deer 60 yards away from me, that were bedded probably 70 yards above where I last saw the javelina.  Once again, they were all does.  Waiting until the deer moved out of the area gave me some more time to relocate the javelina.  There was way more than just the one that I saw.  Before I knew it, I realized that there was a whole herd in front of me.  I would estimate there were about 20 in the group.  My pack and boots were left at the top of the hill and I was on my way down to get within bow range of these guys.  This was going to happen.  The distance was closed from 100 yards to 45 yards.  The crosswind that I had when the stalk started now started blowing directly had the herd.  I could tell that they were onto me.  A few started trotting around on the alert.  I even had one start to woof at me.  There was one javelina bedded 45 yards in front of me broadside.  Because, of the actions of the other herd members, I decided that it was now or never with these guys.  My focus turned to the one 45 yards in front of me.  Once I reached full draw, the animal stood up and an arrow was on the way.  Chaos erupted in the wash!  These animals are so short that it makes it pretty hard to tell how many are really in front of you below the bush line.  Javelina scattered everywhere, including the one that I shot at.  The shot felt good, but I still wasn’t certain if I hit home or not.  After waiting a bit and retrieving my pack and boots, I made my way down to where the animal was standing when I shot.  There was my arrow!  Not a drop of blood was on it.  I had missed again.  Judging from where the arrow was, it looked like I had shot just over the top of the animal.

The hike out was long and filled with disappointment.  How could this have happened again?  The answer is inexperience.  In my eyes, the shot was rushed, which is probably what happened on all of the previous misses as well.  My hunt was not over though.  There was still one day left for me to hunt before I had to get back to town for work.  At least I thought.

Hopes were high the next morning as I gobbled down a nice hot bowl of oatmeal.  That was until I turned my truck on.  Low engine power popped up on my instrument cluster.  You have got to be kidding me!  In my best judgment, and the fact that my truck wouldn’t go over 25 mph uphill, I made the decision to head home and get my truck fixed.  To say that I was frustrated, would be an extreme understatement.  This wouldn’t be the last that the javelina had seen of me though.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my hunt!

 

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