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Still Hunting

If you're not glassing hill sides, the only other option is to hunt the desert flats.  Cruising (walking) the desert flats is my favorite method of hunting Javelina.  This method is not for every one, as more often then not, it involves several miles of walking with nothing tangible to show for your effort.  However the intangibles can far exceed the discomfort  experienced.  I define intangibles as the myriad of "things" you encounter while slowly stalking through the desert.  Man, the desert is alive!  There are coyotes, mule deer, buzzards, hawks, quail, cactus, snakes, gila monsters, rabbits, even Indian artifacts, and so on. 

Leave the Spotting Scope at Home

More importantly, with this method of hunting, you must derive great satisfaction from learning how to identify the various signs and tracks of animals which make the desert their home.  

To successfully hunt the "flats", being able to identify and interpret Javelina sign is key (be sure to visit the Javelina Tracks, Where to look and Bedding Areas page).  Fortunately for you, no book or web site is going to really teach you much beyond the basics-that's a good thing? Yes!  

Flat ground still hunting takes the hunt back to its primeval beginnings-a hunter, using all his senses and experience, searching likely areas, cutting a track, trailing, spotting the quarry, stalking to close the range, moving in for the kill, and finally, harvesting the animal.  Going through all those emotions and stages of a hunt can be easily contrasted by the other method of hunting Javelina-glassing.  Sitting on a hillside, sipping coffee, bundled up in a nice warm coat, using a multi-coated light enhancing 20X50 spotting scope, just doesn't elicited (from me) the same level of emotion and gratification when the animal "drops". 

Author's note: I want to strongly state, I do use glassing as a method of hunting, and have harvested Javelina, Deer, Bear, and Elk via glassing. I merely want to highlight and encourage the still hunting method of Javelina hunting as well-especially for those who have never tried it.

Still Hunting (walking the flats)

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Massive Javelina trail to favorite feeding area ~ mesquite tree thickets.  This picture was taken in late December, when Javelina normally scour the thickets for any remaining mesquite beans on the ground. (click on photo to enlarge) Photo by AP Jones.

Cutting a fresh "pig run" is a joy filled moment in flat-land Javelina hunting.  Please study the above pictures for a few moments; it's a good teaching aid. 

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The classic 'pig run" (click on photo to enlarge). Photo by AP Jones.

Note the following in the above picture.  

bulletThere were 9 Javelina in this herd, your typical herd size
bulletThe picture is a graphic definition of the term "pig run"
bulletThe term "pig run" actually means "in travel mode or route"
bulletWhen in travel mode the Javelina herd move generally in a single file group formation from point "A" to "B"
bullet90% of the time, one or the other point "A" or point "B" is a feeding or bedding area
bulletConsider this:  Undisturbed, a herd may  move less then a 1/3 mile in a day.  If this spot was at the halfway point of the day's travel, you are standing within 300 yards of the herd
bulletYou don't have to be a full-blooded Apache Indian tracker to trail a herd in travel mode.  Most hunters could fairly easily follow this trail 300 yards
bulletThe Javelina herd is crossing the wash, not moving down or up it.  Several Javelina hunting articles I've read imply or would have you believe Javelina travel exclusively in dry desert washes.  That just isn't true.  Of course they do travel up or down washes, but they just as commonly travel, feed, and bed in the desert flats and ridges between washes and arroyos

How to hunt the flats

If you're lucky enough to live in or near Javelina country finding and picking a good Javelina hunting spot starts in late July or early August.  That's when the key ingredient makes its appearance-Rain!  The late summer monsoons in Arizona and New Mexico bring with them the perfect conditions for learning and honing tracking skills.  Wet dirt equals mud or at the very least very wet ground, which equals easily spotted and followed Javelina tracks.  This is the time of year I head for the desert in the early morning after an evening rain storm.  

My scouting technique entails desolate dirt road travel to "likely" and "not so likely" looking desert flats or foothills.  My scouting technique once I find a likely spot:

bulletHiking in, following washes, arroyos or ridge lines looking for pig runs
bulletFollowing runs to beds or feeding areas.  Marking bedding and feeding area coordinates with my GPS unit
bulletPatterning the herd range area comes next.  Normally, I make several more scouting trips into areas I've marked with my GPS which show good potential (not waiting till after a rain as sometimes it can be months between rains) in an attempt to isolate prime feeding and bedding areas.  
bulletWhen moving through prime feeding areas, I frequently pause and listen.  Javelina often make considerable noise while feeding and occasionally have very noisy squabbles with each other.
bulletIdentify 4 - 6 different Javelina herd's range areas, beds, travel routes, and feeding areas by December.  You will find that once you identify a herd range area, baring something out of the ordinary (like a housing development going in), Javelina will be in the general vicinity year after year.  In fact, in one of my hunting areas, I first bagged a pig in 1984, 16 years later, in 2000,  I bagged another, 44 yards from the first.  In all, that particular herd has produced 14 animals for myself and friends.
bulletPractice stalking animals.  While on scouting trips if the opportunity presents itself, stalk an animal.  Remember, don't EDUCATE THE HERD! Make a goal of getting within 30 to 50 yards depending on your skill and experience level.  Any closer and the risk of spooking and educating the herd is very likely.  Consider a stalk to 40 yards and a successful retreat as a "kill".  
bulletAlthough I believe the predator call is the most effective weapon for putting Javelina in close range and always use one while hunting, I do not use predator call while scouting.  I strongly discourage you from doing so as well.  A predator call should only be used while actually hunting Javelina as it spooks the herd.  If properly done the animals will be within feet of you; they will see you! And they may associate the call with humans, i.e. if overused, it may not work when you want it to-while you're actually hunting!

When I "cut" a fresh pig run or trail while hunting, I slowly walk the trail.  Following Javelina sometimes can become very difficult, especially if they spread out in feeding mode or get into hard or rocky soil.  You have to be patient and take your time.  It may take 1 hour to cover 100 yards, but if it's a hot trail, it will be worth it.  Whoever said "practice makes perfect" was dead-right when it comes to honing tracking skills.  Practice is the only way to become proficient.  While following the fresh trail, I take time to scan the area 50 to 100 yards ahead of me often.  With a little luck you will soon See Javelina.


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Last modified: Wednesday July 11, 2012.