Javelina, Corner Pocket
Before I moved to Arizona I spoke with lots of outdoorsman. I knew that moving from the Wasatch Front in Northern Utah to the Sonoran Desert would be a big change. It has been but there is give and take. The fishing is not the same as i’m used to but the hunting is better. I heard someone say this and it’s true, “we call it Game and Fish Department here because there is more game than fish.”
My friend Jack is one of the ones I spoke with before the move. I met him through my wifes family, he’s originally from Utah, and he’s a hunt-a-holic. This is his first year archery hunting and although he had quite a few close calls with his Elk this last fall, he was yet to connect with an animal. A couple weeks ago he called me and asked if I would help on an archery hunt for Javelina on Monday, January 2nd. I had work off and was happy to help out.
Sunday night we put the little ones in bed, packed a few things, and were on the road. It’s just over an hour from our homes here in the Valley of the Sun through the Mazatzal Wilderness to our hunting grounds. We talked about the game-rich area we were to hunt and got excited on the drive up. We met John who graciously let us stay in his camping trailer and fed us christmas-time venison tamales. We stayed up late talking about the next morning then hit the pillows for a short five hours before the the alarm sounded. ”You can sleep when you’re dead”, I thought as I wiped the heavy sleep from my eyes.
We drove a short distance on the highway before pulling off and unloading the Polaris Ranger that would take us to the pigs. ”The Pocket”, as these two avid hunters have named our final destination, is a few series of draws and valleys at just the right elevation to hold deer and pigs. The hills are covered in prickly pear cactus which Javelina find irresistible. Upon arriving we dropped John off on one end of the pocket and drove back to the other end so as to cover the whole area. As we arrived at our destination we loaded our packs and started toward a high point to glass a hillside in the early morning light. We made it no more than 20 yards when Jack noticed some dark shapes in the drainage below us. A quick check with my 10 power binoculars revealed three adult Javelina and two piglets. I could see the excitement in Jacks face and snapped a quick picture as he decided what to do next.
The pigs were only 200 yards away so Jack quickly put a stock on with the wind in his face. I glassed from the high point as he got into position. There were more than three pigs, I counted nine and they were all around him when he made it to them. I could tell he was getting lots of looks as they moved around him no more than 25 yards away. Finally, one of the pigs had had enough, it woofed loudly and started to trot off. Jack thought quickly, grabbed his Javelina-in-distress call from his pocket and shattered the silence of the morning with squeals that made my hair stand on end. All heck broke loose and the pigs ran in all directions trying to find the heard member in distress. A pair of adults trotted right in front of Jack. He woofed at them and one of them stopped and looked right at him as he drew the bow. He settled the 20 yard pin and punched the heart and one lung of the pig. The Javelina never took another step.
We spoke briefly on the radios and I made the short hike down to help with the processing. Although I had watched the hunt from a short distance away I got to hear Jack tell his side of things when I arrived. What a rush to be in the middle of a heard of animals and harvest one with a bow and arrow at a short distance. We took a few photos and went to find John.
When we got within radio range of John he announced that he was watching both Whitetail and Mule Deer bucks from about a half mile away. Jack has a 2012 archery deer tag that is open in that unit so we spent the next two hours closing the distance on four mule deer including one nice four-point. I spotted from one ridge while John spotted from another and Jack made a good stalk with the wind in his face. He got within 30 yards of the big boy but in the end the bushes obstructed his view of the deer and they busted out of the area before a good shot could be made. John called on the radio as the deer disappeared over the ridge and said, “you cant get em all”. He’s right and thats what makes it fun and keeps you going back.
All of us were tired at this point so we met back up and spent some down time glassing. We saw more deer and another small heard of pigs but nothing we could make a stalk work on. As the winter sun was getting low in the Western sky I snapped a photo of the pocket. It had been quite a day and I was happy to have spent it with good friends in a special place.