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Opening Day Magic
April 2000
Gerhard Schroeder

To finish out the ’99/Y2K hunting season, Game & Fish handed us another Javelina permit for 20A. By now well familiar with our ‘usual’ spot, no further scouting took place. Finally, ‘that’ Friday morning came, and Glenn Sampson took the lead out of town, under the cover of darkness. We arrived at our campsite, a large saddle, in time to waste a few minutes of catching up with some general BS. Soon darkness faded, and the hunt was "on".

As planned the week before, I headed for a little knoll near the bottom of the large valley we traditionally comb for the little porkers. A little hump, the place allowed 360-degree vision into the surrounding hillsides, and limited view into the wash below. In years past other hunters had spotted them from just that point. Rather than ‘walk & view’, I wanted to remain there, until pigs showed up, or the whole thing became boring.

Perfect Plan?
First light was sufficient to begin glassing, even though the sun was still hidden. My rifle (ohmygod, yes, I had broken the tradition of hunting javelina with handguns, even on a rifle hunt) rested on a bush in front of me. I had opted for a shoulder weapon primarily because none of us had taken an oinker the year before, we were at the tail end of a record drought, and the tool (toy?) was new, in .300W caliber. Before you go too ballistic (what’s he doing with such a cannon against javelina?) let me expand that the "W" doesn’t stand for "Winchester" or worse, "Weatherby". No, "Whisper".

My Contender had ‘stretched’ to 18.5 inches of barrel, with factory rifle stock. The ‘Whisper’ is a .221 Remington Fireball opened up to .30 caliber (more on this in a future article). My load was a self-poured Lee 108 grain lead slug, propelled by 12 grains of 2400 to what must be around 1500 fps (call it .30 Carbine power, certainly less than the 7TC/U I normally carry). This load is also easier on my ears. During field plinking the week before it showed capable of ‘minute-of-pork’ accuracy.

I surveyed the terrain as if on a turret. Memories began to flow. This country had history. Up the valley to the west about three quarters of a mile I had bagged my first 20A javelina. Between there and here two other porkers had lost a confrontation with big bore slugs a few years later. To the south, on the desert slope past camp, I had 44’ed my last pig two seasons ago. To the east, David had found ‘em on a drive-type hunt after lunch, but I got the killing shot at one. And to the north, below me just beyond the wash was ‘butcher ridge’, where on a fateful Sunday morning in a hailstorm of over twenty bullets out of six barrels, five javelina had perished in a matter of a few minutes. Also to the north, but one mountain range further, was my secret spot where I had found another herd and connected with an irresponsibly long but lucky shot after initially missing six times. Yep, I was where I wanted to be, standing on the throne of this javelina kingdom.

Slowly, but unstoppable, the sunrays climbed down the mountain. Every time I had completed an all-around sweep with my 10X binos, more of the open terrain was covered in yellow light. My scouting dance must have been going on for a little over half an hour, when my eyes glued themselves to this one patch of prickly pear on the opposite slope. Seconds later, a snot-eat’n grin materialized behind my binoculars. Pig!

My Bullet Broke
Glenn Sampson

You would think that I would have had enough, after 15 years, give or take a few, of hunting javalina. In that whole time I guess I've only seen three, and didn't have what I considered a decent shot at them. No here I was again, in the great back behind, over hill and down ravine, doing it all over again. This time I had an advantage, Gerhard my hunting companion, and now guide and nurse maid for the afternoon. I would go into more detail, but you can read his version, and I'm not to differ with it. Instead I wish to address a subject that has long interested me, and one that I have had little opportunity to investigate.

What exactly happens to the bullet once it arrives at its destination? Who the heck cares, as long as it does its job? Well, I do.

First, I was using my Thompson Contender, with the 14-inch, 7-30 Waters barrel. The bullet was either a 120 grain Barnes 'X' bullet, or a 120 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. Either was in front of 32.5 grains of W-738. They both had been chronographed at an average 2340 fps, from my T.C. The bullet confusion stems from the fact that I had both loads in my shell holder, and while I'm sure the Nosler was the bullet I finally hit the pig with, the other was also used in the fray. The fact that I had fired six shots altogether, isn't helping too much. The little bounder that finally stood still long enough for me to hit, I'm sure doesn't really care.

The Nosler manual ballistic tables for the 120 grain, 7mm bullet, states that a bullet leaving the barrel at 2340 fps, should have approximately 2050 fps remaining at 150 yards. It should also exhibit about 1050 ft-Lbs. of energy, more than enough for javelina. The 150 yard estimate comes from my companion Gerhard, although he stated that it was 150 - 200 paces. How you are going to pace that distance off across a 40 yard deep ravine, I can only guess, but I will take his word for it, and take the liberty to convert it into yards. It looked further than that to me, but I always have been a lousy distance guesser.

After annoying the other 5 pigs, the one that I did hit was angled almost directly towards me. I had aimed at the front shoulder region, and was quite surprised to see both hind legs drop with the shot. Now I'm not the greatest shot in the world, nor is the 3MOA red dot that fine a sight, but still I thought I did better. He stood for a moment then started down hill. While I reloaded again, Gerhard stated, "Congratulations, you got him, he's down." "Good," said I, "where?" "Down the hill, on the trail, by that green bush." "Great, what trail, which bush?" "Oh, never mind let’s go get him." It’s no darn wonder that I never see or get a shot at anything, even with tri-focals and 10x50 binoculars -- I can’t see anything. If he hadn't found them, rubbed my nose in them and almost held them for me to shoot, I probably wouldn't have one yet. On top of it he cleaned it and carried it out for me. I guess he thought it easier to haul a 35# javelina, rather than a 190# blob.

The pig was field dressed and it was found that the shot had entered via the right shoulder/neck area, traveled down the insides, creating a mass scramble as it went. Once more a stinky mess to clean out (my cow elk a few seasons ago had the same surprise inside). No exit wound was noted. At home when I processed the meat I found the bullet had separated. The inner core had lodged in the left hind ham, the outer core had lodged in the right hind ham. No wonder his rear legs went out from under him. The core showed some flattening, the outer jacket had mushroomed, and the classic petals were formed. Under the folds of the petals I found some hair which indicated to me that it exploded pretty much on contact.

The picture shows the extent of the mushrooming and core flattening. I never found the pretty plastic nose, but imagine that it was somewhere in the insides that we dumped out. As an aside, the 120 grain bullet ended up as two pieces weighing 107.4 grains, as weighed on my Dillon D-Terminator. Gotta justify that thing somehow.

What does this all mean? First, I finally got a javelina. Next, I got it with my favorite T.C. Next, it's in the freezer, well most of it, and finally I too can have my moment as a Techno Freak.

Thanks Gerhard.

Early-Morning Rush
I scanned a little to the right, and found another critter in the open, then a third. Only one minor problem, they were some 500 paces out there, across the wash and slightly uphill. Too bad Glenn hadn’t followed me. He could have . . ., oh well. "Do something!" I grabbed the short rifle and hastily walked downhill, now almost running, toward the little ridge ahead of the javelina in hopes of heading them off.

Ever since my buffalo hunt, where I had found the herd late on opening morning, but another hunter had beaten me to them, scattering the whole bunch before I got into shooting distance, I am all hyped up when I detect my potential prey. Concerned about the unthinkable, such as another hunter getting to the piggies first, or somebody launching a hyper-magnum at them from the main road, or a big cat trying to get its breakfast, or whatever screwing up my plan, I plowed through bushes and ignored all cacti. Before losing eye contact and crossing the wash, I briefly checked through my binos that the little swine were still there. They were, feeding towards the top.

The opposite hillside had looked so innocent, yet climbing it was a bitch. Unbelievably steep! Quickly, my breathing was intense, my heart pounding, and my calves were questioning if all this physical abuse was really necessary. Dammit, yes, the pigs would not wait.

I pushed on, sweating, climbing, breathing like a pervert. Soon I was above and on the ridge to the west of where I had last seen the javelina. I paused, looked below me, and "hello", there was one of them. I had climbed too far. "Don’t screw it up now!" I snuck back, downward, out of sight behind some low bushes. Then inched back towards them, breath still hammering, now more from emotional than physical stimulation. "Careful now!" I could see them, and crawled the final steps.

First Blood
Finally settling down into shooting position, slightly above the javelina, one ridge apart, I recovered 4 spare cartridges from my front pocket, and placed them on the ground next to me. With one last look through the binos I could make out three porkers. One was further back, partially hidden. The other two were about the same size. Oops, one was behind some thin branches or tall grass or something. The last one was in the open, yes! The plastic T/C stock found my shoulder, and the upper button of the mil dot reticle in the 6x42 Leupold traced onto the coarse hair, then danced around, but not leaving the pig.

A little more pressure from the trigger finger, and the supersonic crack echoed through the valley. The pigs bolted for a few steps, then milled around, excited, confused, neck hair straight up. My javelina tumbled, then crawled, then tumbled again, down the slope, maybe for a dozen steps, not dead, but doomed.

I settled down and reloaded the tilt barrel. My second shot, more steady now, hit the ribs. Four porkers high-tailed downhill, gone. The doomed one crawled one more step, only to disappear behind a patch of brush. I could see movement there for a few moments, and got ready for the next shot. Minutes went by. The little hog did not reappear.

After collecting my ammo and brass, I crossed the small ravine to approach from above. Four more critters lit out of the area. At the brush, no pig! But wait, a solid blood trail, then five steps away was my prey, still gurgling. One final shot to the neck, and the lights went out. The Whisper had drawn first blood.

Hard Labor
I drug my prize into the shade of a nearby juniper, and began the ‘red work’. That’s when Glenn yelled my name, and I screamed back across the wash, indicating the direction I had seen the herd flee.

After gutting, I tied the front legs and hind legs together, inserted a 2-foot section of century plant, and carried my sow suitcase-style. First downhill, then through the wash and the long and steep track back to camp.

Many stops later, I reached the 4Runner. Then a bright idea: with the support of yet another century plant, cut to exact length for two support beams, I hung my pig on the Toy’s opened hatch. There, in the shade, I skinned it immediately.

Skinning is always interesting. Here was confirmation that my first shot was too far back and high, breaking the spine right where the hind legs attach. This shot had done most of the damage. For my second shot the animal must have been facing away from me more than I had thought, since the bullet had entered at and broken the last rib, then traveled parallel to the ribs and exited at and broke the second rib, also nicking the shoulder. Thus the lung had only minimal damage. Well, with the meat hanging in the cool breeze, it was a perfect time for lunch. A good hour later, I cut the chilled sow to size, and put it in the ice chest.

Perfect Plan #2?
Glenn returned a little after noon, hadn’t seen a track with a pig still in it. He had his lunch, while I shared my success story. Shortly after 2PM Glenn agreed to ‘go back’ down the hill, slowly though, towards where I had seen the pigs take cover.

About an hour later we topped the hill, entering the north-facing slope of the mountain where I suspected the javelina would be recovering from their earlier disturbance. This slope has thick growth, and many ridges. Lots of places to hide, basically impossible to glass. It was also way too much country to cover on foot.

Another bright idea: I would squeal on my varmint call to see what happens. To ‘cover’ more terrain, we agreed to sit on opposite sides of a major ridge. Glenn hiked over the hill, facing west, while I faced east and gently began to talk dying rabbit. Nothing. My second mouthful of air made the cottontail complain at full throttle, and immediately 8 piglets scampered out of the bushes, confused, excited, neck hair ‘at attention’, about 80 paces east of me.

"Glenn!" It was one of those muffled yells, yet had all the urgency, and I wanted him to be here right next to me in two milliseconds, dammit. A few more porkers emerged from the bushes, and no Glenn! "GLENN!!!" This one was a full scream, as if life itself depended on it. The herd bolted into panic pace, but at least Glenn re-appeared at the crest of our ridge. I urgently motioned him down next to me.

First Blood, Again
"About 10 pigs just came out of the bushes, right there!" At that moment the herd re-appeared amid the bushes, a good 120 steps out. I shoved earplugs in, Glenn sat down, pulled his 14" T/C in 7-30 Waters, aimed and let fly.

Watching through my 10X binoculars, I could not see where the bullet might have impacted. The pigs accelerated. A second group showed up at about the same place, a second shot, again no signs.

By now the first bunch of javelina had reached the final ridge, crossing an open area before escaping over the crest, somewhat uphill and at least 200 paces away. Glenn’s third shot kicked up loads of dirt right behind the last pig’s ass. The beasts sprinted to safety.

There, the second convoy crossed, same place! Shot #4, so close! More dirt, more top-speed pigs. This hillside was now void of swine. Some 15 had escaped. I pulled my earplugs, Glenn refilled his ammo pouches. Slight discussion of what just happened.

He had just sat back down when my elbow went into Glenn’s ribs. There, now somewhat below us, but closer, two javelina had returned? Whatever. My earplugs went back in, Glenn took aim at the larger of them, and plowed the Nosler into the ground such that the dirt hit the belly. Of course it bolted, but at an angle towards us. A hasty reload, but the fat pig disappeared behind bushes. Its smaller companion, however, made a fatal mistake and stopped just shy of cover. Watching all this through my 10 power glass, shot #6 shoved the rascal to the ground momentarily. The pig lurched forward, out of control, tumbling, crawling, falling, then still. Game over. Glenn had taken his first big game with a handgun.

Hard Labor, Again
It did not bother me to help field dress this javelina. Watching the action was just as intense as being the hunter. I also saw it as obvious to carry Glenn’s prize back to camp for him, even though this trip was further yet, and steeper. No, none of that mattered. We were two tired but happy dudes trekking back to our vehicles.

Finally hitting camp, we had not even hung the beast for skinning when "Herr Oberst" arrived as well. Mike Kelly could not take Friday off, so he came for dinner.

The boar was skinned and left to cool out. Dinner consisted of the traditional deer steaks, grilled over the campfire, fried onions, mushrooms and bell peppers, cranberries . . . Life is good! We spent hours at the campfire, enjoying the stars, talking guns, reloads, hunting, complaining about women, you know, guy schtuff. Before turning in for bed, Glenn’s boar, now nicely chilled, was cut up and placed in the ice chest. It had been a memorable opening day indeed.

The Day After
On Saturday I guided Mike to ‘pig’ mountain. We circled the whole damn thing, glassing frequently, throwing rocks down slopes, squealing on the varmint call. No pigtail to be seen. Glenn had stayed back, glassing the slope we were on. He saw no hide, either. At one point we had an excuse to fire Mike’s 6.5 Swede (scope check). A javelina-sized rock, way out across the canyon had to put up with this. The 140 grainer smacked it right at mid ship. Too bad it didn’t have bristly hair!

Lunch was long to recharge the Oberst. Then I talked him into hiking to another lookout to the east. We waited for the desert ghosts to come out of hiding until the day was doomed, but they did not cooperate. Yet another splendid dinner and quality time at the campfire ended the day on a high note.

Sunday morning things got a little rougher -- wind. We tried my opening day lookout, but saw nothing other than a crow that had feasted on my sow’s gut pile. The pigs would stay out of the wind, out of sight. We left for home after lunch, but not until Mike pledged to next time take Friday off, in an attempt to harvest some of that ‘Opening Day Magic’ for himself.

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