This was my first javelina hunt. A buddy, also from CA, invited me to go with him this year after getting completely skunked last year. We started by glassing the washes from higher points in the landscape. I was getting concerned about not seeing any prickly pear where we were but tried to stay optimistic. At about 2pm, I suggested we climb out of the wash we were walking in and get up on a steeper ridgeline to finish the day. I found a little bit of prickly pear up there and was slowly walking along a deer trail up high, trying to keep my eyes open while my buddy followed some distance behind me. As I was looking around, he signaled that he found a group and the game was on.
Sure enough, about 400 yards off, there was a group of 6 javelina making their way down a finger and into a draw. The wind was in our favor and we had one more finger between us and the pigs. I slipped downhill to get out of sight (deer hunting habit) and we crawled into position along the ridgeline overlooking the group, putting us about 150 yards away. We agreed on taking alternate positions with my buddy continuing on to setup on the opposite side of the draw while I waited and moved closer from my side. The pigs, as they moved further down into the draw, would be in a perfect "kill box" for us to each get one, provided they didn't wind us. We dropped our packs, taking only rifles, binos and my trekking pole to steady on.
Once my buddy had made it across the low spot of the draw & started his approach, I started mine. He had cover. I didn't. So I was going slow & crawling. At about 60 yards from the group, two bedded down together, making me a bit more nervous about moving. The others were still feeding. I was into the draw at this point and would see one occasionally sniff the air in alert, which had me curious about whether there were swirls that might bring my scent their way, in spite of the prevailing wind being favorable up higher. But all alertness soon relaxed and I settled into position, steadying my rifle on the trekking pole in a seated position. At that point, my buddy had also gotten into position and had leveled his rifle twice when I signaled to go ahead & have him shoot first. After a minute or so, it looked to me as if he didn't have a shot after all. I continued to watch, seeing one smaller pig give me a broadside shot before turning again. I figured if the bigger one behind it followed and gave me a broadside shot, I'd take it. Sure enough, the second pig moved down to about 60 yards away & stopped broadside. I moved the cock back, hit the set trigger & started my shot sequence with the sights on the vitals.
Upon hearing the shot, the group scattered but not far. I couldn't see the initial reaction of my pig through the smoke. But he had ran about 10 yards and staggered a bit before stopping. Others puffed up and moved about 10-20 yards trying to figure out what the noise was. Then my buddy took a shot at one that was still running a bit & missed. That really got them moving. My pig ran uphill a bit more and staggered before stopping, giving me a clear indication he was going down soon. He puffed up and then dropped, barely 10 yards from where he stood at the shot.
It took me a few minutes to find him, though -- even though he went down in-sight. All the chaos had my eyes looking elsewhere for my buddy, scattering pigs & such. And there was no blood trail. Thankfully, he wasn't far. Upon gutting him, I saw that my shot had landed a little bit low in the chest, putting the roundball almost perfectly through the heart. I really don't think that pig knew he was shot. He just spooked at the noise and then went unconscious as the blood drained out of his brain. It's about as clean a kill as I could hope for.
There's way more to this story, of course. I was face-to-face with one of the pigs and really regretted leaving my pistol back in the pack 100 yards away. No harm came to either me or that pig, thankfully. We still had my buddy's tag to fill, which we did the next day. I think his spot/stalk was actually more exciting since I spotted that group about 1/2 mile away at about 10 am and he took his shot at around 12:30 at only about 15 yards. We didn't see any other hunters while we were out either. I'm sure it helps that we were 3-5 miles from camp.
Not only was this my first javelina hunt, it was also the first time I've managed to take any animal from all homemade components -- powder, cap and ball. It was a hardcast ball that I normally use for practice -- figured it would be fine for javelina. .480 round ball with 80 grains of homemade powder (kind of a 60-70 grain equivalent of commercial powder) & a beer-can cap. That 60 yard shot was certainly at the furthest end of my range with that setup. I've practiced out to 90 yards in field positions and knew I wanted something right around 50 or less for javelina. But when the time came and I was looking down the sights, I was calm, the rifle was steady, the pig was still and unaware -- it all seemed right and I had no question in my head that I could make that shot. The stagger of the pig told me everything I needed to know -- him falling just confirmed that all was as it should be. It was also the first time I've had a spot & stalk hunt. Thus far, I've always gotten my deer and bear by ambush or still-hunting. After trying to stalk deer many times, I was absolutely floored at what javelina will let you get away with. They are very forgiving animals on the stalk as long as the winds stay favorable.
I'm grateful for the experience and hope to come back to AZ for their HAM (Handgun, Muzzleloader, Archery) season next year.