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Freaky Pig Hunt
April 2016
Gerhard Schroeder

We know they refer to them as ghosts of the desert. Yet there seem enough of them that it’s the only Arizona big game species we’re allowed to kill two of in a year, as long as it is not at the same time or in the same hunt unit. Therefore, getting a permit for javelina comes with favorable odds, and we got our second choice.

Our unit in 2016 was 20B. Yep, that includes the location we hold many of our annual HSC shooting events. On opening day Steve, David, Mike and I were there, mighty early. Due to rather strong winds we opted to wait in the vehicles until there was enough light to see.

We had a general plan. Each of us had a copy of a map of the area, with the hills arbitrarily marked by letters. Each of us began in a different location in order to cover a lot of ground. Plus we stayed in radio contact. Toughest part of hunting pigs is to find them. The idea was that if one of us spotted some, he’d radio the others.

Such call never came on opening day. But the wind remained, strong and cold. We concluded that the javelina would be low, in the valleys and washes, out of the wind. Mike and I occasionally hiked / hunted over a mountain, to check the lower regions on the other side. But by around 4PM we had seen no fur, merely a few quail, some 30 geese flying over, and no fresh pig tracks, scat, or signs of rooting anywhere.

Steve and David decided to call it a day and went home. Mike and I opted to get to the southern end of the mountains and check things out there. I decided to climb one last range, glassed the valleys from the top. Same result. On my way back to the Toy I decided to check out a wash right next to that dirt road. Wouldn’t you know … fresher-looking tracks as soon as I got in! With about half an hour of daylight remaining, pursuit did not make much sense. But I would return Saturday morning.

Mike had an even better story to tell: he had used a varmint call, and indeed five pigs hurried towards him. He had first seen them when they were a good hundred paces away. But he was right by a wash with thick vegetation. There the wind became his enemy. Pigs got him in their noses; he’d seen one briefly as it turned and fled, from less than a stone’s throw away, yet no chance for a shot.

Yes, we’d be back next morning.

David and Steve did the same. Again we divided the country, with radios ‘on’. Except, this area was smaller, and after about ninety minutes Mike and I found ourselves in the same place. I volunteered to wander and climb a wider circle to the northeast. At one time I noticed that the south-facing slope of mountain “G” seemed shielded from the wind. Trees there barely moved their branches. And “G” was one mountain none of us had been on top of the day before. Plus, it features a side canyon on its north-facing slope. Then the thought entered my mind that “G” could stand for ‘God’. A smile came over my face and I began to climb the fairly steep incline, taking plenty of stops to keep breathing out of the ‘like a pervert’ range.

Once on top, the wind hit me again. With the side canyon on the north side in mind I slowly headed that direction. Then, over the wind, I heard a noise, almost like a varmint call, not like a rabbit in distress, but more like a javelina. Not like I ever heard a pig in distress before. Anyway, even if it was (only) a coyote gnawing on a jack’s tail, I was intent to interfere. So I drew the Kimber and headed for the noise, which by then had already stopped.

Two immediate problems! What to do with my walking stick? A priceless asset to especially hike downward in rocky and steep terrain, it was now a hindrance for getting both hands on my 1911. I ‘solved’ that problem by keeping the stick between my legs, and holding it with my left hand. If needed, my left hand could help support the Kimber, now in my strong hand, while my legs would pinch the walking stick, preventing it from rattling to the ground. That worked relatively well, since no running was needed. However, after a few steps I wondered what that actually might look like to an observer.

Anyway, the other problem was the .45 diameter bore. The wind blew that like a whistle! Turning the gun from the wind enough fixed this. And so I was cautiously on my way towards that mysterious noise. Didn’t take much walking, and indeed a javelina appeared, already running away. It was some fifty steps out. With several tree branches in between, no situation for a shot.

But wait, now it was running back. I lost track of it behind trees, so advanced further, now even slower. Soon some brown ‘mass’ became visible under one tree, maybe fifty yards ahead. I decided to take a shot right from where I was. With both hands cradling the Kimber, I did not get to finish my thoughts of possibly switching to the TC in .30 Herrett.

Another sow appeared slightly to my right, no more than thirty steps away, standing broadside. The open sights sucked themselves on its shoulder instantly. A little more squeeze, and the .45 barked loudly over the wind. That pig jumped way up and ran away, not at full speed. I expected it to collapse any moment. She didn’t.

Second rule after a first shot: if the critter is not down, keep shooting. So, two, three, four more times the Kimber belched. Pig kept running, and I lost sight of it by another cluster of trees. Darn. I advanced to where I had last seen it. Looking for blood, looking ahead – AH, there she was, down.

Out came my thanks to God, then the radio: “I just killed one on top of ‘G’- mountain! Mike, the others headed south, kind of towards you.” I really had only seen two out of the corner of my eye while spraying lead. It was 10AM.

To make it short, none of us ever saw any more javelina that day. By noon pig and me were at the 4Runner. That didn’t happen without some complaining, because as soon as I was heading off the mountain the wind began to decrease – little natural AC on my long way huffing back. And I was really hoping for that cooling wind once my pig was hanging off the rear Toyota hatch. Oh well, still a fantastic hunt for me.

Some analyses: Whatever made one of those javelina squeal in distress remains a mystery. Without that I would have walked past them. My guess is they were fighting for best place under that tree.

The sow I killed was on the smaller side. Last year’s boar was noticeably heavier. Quite alright, this one I had to carry a lot further.

It had also been perfectly broadside. On both shoulders the bullet barely missed bone at the exact same spot. It had zipped high through the lungs, just below the spine. The doomed critter could therefore run some thirty to forty yards before its lungs filled with blood. All my follow-up shots missed. I may need to practice that running game thing with Miss Kimber.

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