JAVELINA – OFTEN OVERLOOKED GAME ANIMAL
By Luke Clayton
Vera, Texas– If you’ve never visited the “Cedar Breaks” county of north Texas up in Knox County, you have missed some of the most spectacular views that Texas has to offer; also some of the best hunting! I first discovered this area while on a deer hunt at Ranger Creek Ranch a couple of decades ago and since this first visit, I find myself drawn like metal shavings to a magnet to this awesomely rugged country that is rich in game and history.
When quizzed by folks from out-of-state looking for a true “Texas” hunting experience, I suggest they plan a hunt for deer, turkey, quail or wild hogs at Ranger Creek. Javelina, the toothy little “brush pig” native to Arizona, New Mexico and South Texas are also plentiful on the ranch thanks to a stocking back in the sixties on the famous Waggoner Ranch which shares a common property line with Ranger Creek. Before the Javelina were released, culvert pipes were buried to provide shelter for the animals during periods of severe cold.
I’m told in the early days, there was much speculation as to if the desert dwelling critters would survive in north Texas but, survive they did and now they offer many hunters a “close to home” chance at a game animal they previously had to drive long distances to hunt.
Granted, Javelina hunting is not nearly as popular as hunting wild hogs and many hunters confuse the diminutive little “collared peccaries” with wild hogs. But Javelina are not swine, regardless their close resemblance.
In my opinion, Javelina are the perfect bow hunting game animal. They often travel in herds of eight to twelve and are relatively easy to stalk within bow range of, providing the hunter watches the wind closely and approaches from downwind.
This past week my longtime friend Ranell Scott, owner of Ranger Creek Ranch, invited me down for a Javelina hunt and another good friend, Jeff Rice who is also a “rabid” bow hunter, joined me. Jeff is one of the best bowhunters I know with a passion for hunting hogs on his Buck and Bass Ranch in east Texas but his experience with javelina was limited. When I told him about how much fun the critters were to hunt from the ground, stalking rather than stand hunting, always ready for a hunting challenge, Jeff was all in!
Javelina can be tough to locate in the big, rough Cedar Break country but thanks to their affinity for corn, it’s not difficult to concentrate the animals. “Corning” the ranch roads is best way to get the animals out of the thick cover when they can be seen and stalked. The accepted method is to sparsely sprinkle corn out of the back of a truck along the ranch roads in areas known to hold javelina. The trick is to corn long stretches of road and then, usually during the morning or late afternoon hours, walk the roads, using binoculars to spot animals that are pulled out of the brush by the alluring smell of the golden kernels. Javelina can’t see very well but they have an exceptional nose and once they smell corn, they make a beeline for the road. A few days before our hunt, Ryan Dwyer, the head guide at Ranger Creek, had been corning the roads in a remote area on the western side of the ranch.
Around mid afternoon on the day we arrived at the ranch, Rice and I followed Dwyer to the area which was a good 2 miles off the highway. Using the “corn slinger” mounted on the back of his truck, he “corned” several hundred yards of road in areas where javelina had been frequenting. The stage was set for the hunt and Jeff and I settled down for a couple hours “sit” around a corn feeder before we began our trek down the roads to look for javelin. Like all wildlife, the little “brush pigs” can be up and moving any time of the day or night but they are especially active early and late. We didn’t want to leave our scent along the road until the “prime time” hour or so before dark.
When the sun began dropping toward the western horizon, we began our still hunting, paying close attention to the wind direction. We eased our way along the roads, stopping every minute or so to glance far ahead, hoping to spot javelina drawn out of the brush.
For the first hour or so of our hunt, we spotted several deer including one good buck feeding on the corn and a couple of feral hogs out for an early snack, but no javelina.
As we were working out way back toward our truck, with only a few minutes of shooting light left, we spotted a “herd” of about ten javelina in the brush, obviously attracted by the smell of shelled corn. We didn’t need binoculars to spot them. They were only thirty or so yards upwind from where we stood. Javelina, well within bow range! Our adrenaline was pumping as we made a short circle to approach closer with the wind in our face. We decided to wait until a couple of the toothy little animals turned broadside and we would loose our arrows together. Our plan worked perfectly but in the waning light, our first shots didn’t connect. We were having trouble seeing our peep sights in the low light. We feared the hunt was over but the javelina simply scampered around the area of heavy cover and stopped again, giving us ample time to slip in for another shot. With the second opportunity, I was lucky enough to get a broadside shot at about 15 yards at what turned out to be an old boar and the 100 grain broadhead launched from my Darton Maverick II compound bow found it’s mark.
When asked if Javelina are “good eatin”, I reply just as when I’m questioned about wild hogs. “Yes, they can be but it all depends upon the animal. If you are going to buy a hog from the sales barn to eat, would it be a tough old boar or a younger, fatter animal”, is my usual reply. The meat from the old boar I took was very flavorful but did require slow cooking with moisture. I made a huge pot of smoked javelina chili and Jeff turned his half of the rewards of our hunt into smoked sausage. I’ve eaten younger javelina that was very tender and tasty. Like all game meat, the key to good tasting javelina is care during the skinning and butchering process.
Javelina season in north Texas ended February 25 but hunting year around is allowed in South Texas. At Ranger Creek Ranch, wild hog hunting is going strong right now and will continue throughout the spring and summer. There is a very healthy turkey population on the ranch. For more information on the hunting opportunities here in the “Cedar Breaks”, visit www.rangercreekranch.com and give Ranell Scott a call.
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org.