Javelina

 

By Jim Taylor

photography by Jim Taylor

January 12th, 2005

Originally published in the Oracle Magazine 1989

 

 

 

The hills and valleys surrounding our communities are home to a number of animals. Within a few miles of us are whitetail deer, mule deer, turkeys, desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions and a number of predators such as coyotes and foxes. Among the "big game" animals (so classified not because of their size but because of their importance to the hunting community) is one of my favorites, the Javelina.

The correct name for Javelina is collared peccary, so named because of the distinctive collar around the neck of the animal. Peccaries are rumored by some to be a rodent, but it is not so. The scientific name for them is tayassuidae, a relative to the common pig, suidae. If you get near them, you will find that they grunt and root like a pig. There are actually three different types of peccaries, although the collared peccary is the only one to inhabit the United States. The others are found in Mexico, and Central and South America. Arizona is unique in that it is one of only three states where the animals are found. Besides here, they appear only in New Mexico and lower Texas.

The Javelina was declared a game animal in 1929. Before that it was looked upon as more of a pest than anything. (As it still is in parts of Texas I have been told.) Since achieving big game status, the herds have continued to thrive and grow in size and number. Javelina are now found in parts of Arizona that never before supported any.

I have been an avid Javelina hunter for quite a few years, though I have limited myself to hunting them with only a handgun. To me, that makes it a little more even for the animals. Hunting them with a handgun means having to stalk in close, rather than shooting them from 200 yards across a canyon. Even though the Javelina has poor eyesight, hunter success has averaged only around 25%. For every 100 hunters in the field only 25 of them bring anything home.

I hunted for several years without getting anything, so I know what it feels like to be one of the 75%. After several hunts like that, I decided that I would either learn what I was doing wrong or else I would quit hunting the little critters. I studied everything I could get my hands on about the Javelina. I spent time in the hills finding and watching them. What did they do when they were scared? I watched and followed to find out. What did they eat? What were their habits? As I gained answers to these questions I also evaluated myself. What was I doing wrong during hunting season? Did I have to change anything in the way I hunted, or in my equipment? As I spent time learning the answers, I grew in confidence. A few times during the off season, I was able to sneak within feet of Javelina. I have called them to within touching distance on several occasions. Finally, I figured out why I had been unlucky during the previous years.

For one think, I hadnít hunted where the pigs live. Thatís sounds simplistic, but itís true. Just because the area looks good does not mean that there are any Javelina there. You simply have to find out where they live. Javelina are very territorial. Once you locate a herd, spend time finding the limits of their territory. When hunting them, you will then have a good idea of where to look.

Secondly, I had hunted much too fast. Slow down. Look at every rock and tree and bush. They are not large animals, and are very adept at camouflaging themselves. I remember once sitting down on a rock overlooking a bare area that had a small stand of brush and trees in the middle. It did not look as if you could hide a rabbit under the bushes. I sat there for about 10 minutes when all of a sudden a Javelina ran out from under the brush. As I watched in amazement, out came another, then another, until nine pigs had come out from under the bushes. On another occasion, I was standing on a hillside, glassing an area below me. As I looked through the binoculars, I saw a hunter walking up a ridge. Slightly ahead of him and off to his left was a Javelina lying on the ground. I figured he had probably shot it and was going to retrieve it. When he was within 10 or 15 feet of it, the Javelina jumped up, ran across in front of him and into the brush. As it ran in front of him, he leaped backwards, pulled out a pistol and shot into the ground. Later, talking with him, he said that he had not seen it until it jumped up and ran. He said that it scared him so badly that he just fired the pistol into the ground, not even bothering to aim.

The third thing I learned was to sneak in close. Even though the peccaries do not have very good eyesight, there is nothing wrong with their sense of smell. By using a scent disguiser such as skunk scent, you can sometimes fool their noses. If you work slowly and do not make a lot of noise, you can easily get within 50 feet many times. It is possible to get a lot closer than that, but you must be careful to watch the wind and the noise you make. More than once I have gotten within 10 to 20 feet just by being slow and patient. Too many hunters hunt too fast, making too much noise and then begin banging away at them at much too distant a range. This is the reason I like to hunt with a handgun. It forces me to work to get in closer.

Since learning more about Javelina, I have been able to take one every year. I still go out during the off season to scout them, watch them or just to take pictures of them. In fact, if you are not a hunter, the camera can be a real challenge. Limit yourself to a 50 or 55mm lens and try to sneak in close enough to get a good shot. You will work to do it.

Some hunters prefer to skin the pigs in the field and pack out the meat with a backpack or pack frame. That is a good way to avoid a mess at home. I have heard of some hunters who try to cut the scent gland out of the pig after they kill it. I feel that this is one of the reasons why many who have tried the meat do not like it, saying that it is impossible to eat. If you get the scent from the gland on the meat, or on your hands and then into the meat, you will ruin it. Leave the scent gland alone. When you skin the pig, it will come right off with the hide. The meat is excellent if prepared the proper way.

For further study of the collared peccary, write to: ARIZONA GAME AND FISH DEPT. 222 W. GREENWAY RD, PHOENIX AZ. 85023 and order the book, "Javelina Research and Management in Arizona" by Gerald I. Day. Even if you are not at all interested in hunting, you will find this a well written and fascinating study of the peccary. Include $5.00 for the book when you write.

The hills and valleys around here include a nice variety of animals. Take the time to get out and look for them. They can be a lot of fun just to watch. Persistence, practice and patience will pay off.

At this writing Rev. Jim Taylor holds the Safari Club International world record for the largest Javelina taken with a handgun.

(Author's Note: The skull was donated to the Wildlife Museum in Tucson, AZ)

Recipe For Barbequed Javelina

4 to 6 pounds Javelina, pre-cooked and shredded (my wife cooks them in a pressure cooker)

Ĺ cup oil

16 oz. Ketchup

Ĺ cup molasses

ľ cup soy sauce

ľ cup honey

ľ cup prepared mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 medium onion, minced very fine

1 jar orange marmalade (4 to 6 oz.)

2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavor

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon barbeque spice

1 to 2 dashes Tabasco Sauce

Mix all ingredients except the meat and set aside one hour. Place meat in a crock pot, pour 2 to 3 coups of barbeque sauce over the meat. Set crock pot on low and cook over night. Then ENJOY!

Jim Taylor

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