Once again we were blessed with the opportunity to hunt Mason Mountain. We had not been drawn for any hunts (as of yet) this year so any hunts we tried would be as standby. I had called ahead and learned that there would be a few standby spots available for the archery javelina hunt so we decided to try our luck.
“Going standby” is always a nerve racking occasion for me. First we have to get prepared as if we would get to hunt, guns and or bows checked and packed, backpacks filled and ready, hunting clothes washed and packed, cameras charged, fresh batteries in everything, butchering tools sharpened, snacks, food and drinks loaded up. But then get as mentally prepared as possible for the devastating disappointment of going through all of that and NOT getting to hunt. Not to mention the fact that most hunting areas are a couple to many hours of driving away from home. So I do as much research ahead of time to pick the very best possible places to try.
Anyway, we drive over five hours, with a few stops in-between, to get to Mason Mountain. Once there we check in, fill out a stand by card and wait. When all of the drawn hunters are checked in and the deadline passes we learn that their are still compartments available. Awesome! We were in.
We draw for our compartment then go through orientation. For this hunt only compound, re-curve or long bows were allowed. No crossbows. Each hunter is allowed only one javelina but all the feral hogs they want. Because it is archery only, hunter orange is not required. With archery you have to sneak in close so there is no need to warn other hunters of your presence by wearing orange.
While still at the check station, getting our gear ready and talking with Mark, the area Manager, the hunter in the compartment next to ours comes back in. He forgot to mark himself out before heading into his compartment. We notice that he is wearing hunters orange. Mark reminds the fellow that orange isn’t required and the guy marks that he is out hunting and leaves.
We also check ourselves out, that is, mark on the board that we are out hunting in the compartment. Then we gear up and drive into our compartment in hopes of finding some javelina.
Before this hunt we had been watching videos on javelina hunting. We got lucky last time and wanted to learn a bit more about the habits of these new world pigs. One thing we came across that we thought would be a blast was calling them in. Javelina are intensely social and highly protective critters. If one is in distress it is not uncommon for the whole herd to come charging in defense of their fellows. High pitched calls like cotton tail will sometimes bring them running, quite literally. So we brought one along in hopes of spotting a herd and bring them in.
The first day was spent intensely scouting, calling and climbing rocks. I even went back to the place I shot my javelina last year in hopes of finding them there. But no. We didn’t see, or smell, any javelina. We began to worry that they had moved out of our compartment. In addition to our hunting gear we were also carrying quite a bit of video equipment. Steve had a large tripod and camera. We had cameras on our bows and wore a couple of cameras as well. If we got the javelina to come to the call we wanted to get as much as possible on camera. But that meant lugging all that gear up and over rocks. The first day ended with no sign of javelina and two very tired hunters.
The second day wasn’t much better. But we did get to see some awesome country and beautiful views. The third day looked much like the first. We drove around, climbed vantage points, glassed and walked valleys and scaled stone walls loaded down with hunting and camera gear. We had covered almost all of the compartment without so much as a glimpse of our quarry.
Nearing lunch time on the third day we decided to head back in for some much needed people fuel. Lugging all that gear around was wearing us out. But before we left the compartment we stopped in one last place just before the check station. It had some decent rocks that we might concentrate on after we ate. We parked on the side of the road and were standing at the back of the truck going over our plan when I saw a group of javelina cross the road.
“Honey! There is a bunch of javelina behind you!” I yelled excitedly.
“Yeah right.” Steve says, thinking I was messing with him.
We grabbed our bows and started after the herd. Remember, we had put everything up. We didn’t have time to grab any cameras and Steve had just taken the camera off my bow to take video while we were driving around. Then, in the rush and excitement Steve double taps his bow camera resulting in just a second of video before his camera turns back off.
There were maybe 20 javelina in this group and they had split into two smaller groups as they made their way to the rocks and canyon ahead of them. They didn’t know we were there but were moving rather quickly. I broke away from Steve to try and head the largest group off as he closed in from the side. I looked back just in time to see him draw his bow and aim. He had picked out a nice javelina and made a great shot. She ran about 20 yards before piling up in a small ditch. The rest of the herd scattered toward the rocks and were gone.
What a shot!
Of-course none of it was on video.
With his animal down Steve unloaded his gear and set his bow down getting ready to take some pictures. I decided to try calling the herd back in. It couldn’t hurt after all. I called and called towards the herd that had run into the rocks ahead of us. I thought I could hear some grumbling but didn’t see anything. Then we both heard the distinctive sound of jaws popping uncomfortably close. BEHIND US!
I turned to behold a couple of javelinas not 15 yards behind us. They were bushed up, hackles raised, popping their jaws in defiance and looking for a fight. Crap! I drew my bow and waited for the closest javelina to turn broadside. He kept working his way towards us but wasn’t in that great of a position for a shot. I waited, at full draw, for a opportunity. Then another, much bigger, javelina came into view about five yards further out and stood broadside. I didn’t hesitate to line up and let an arrow fly. The hit looked good. It was through the shoulders, if a bit forward, but the penetration looked good. The javelina laid its ears back and charged right for the rocks. The only thing was, we happened to be between the mortally wounded javelina and those same rocks. The closer javelina, the one I was first going to shoot, zipped by beside us. My javelina split the difference and ran between Steve and I, jumping over both his bow and his javelina in the process. We watched as my javelina disappeared into the boulder field and was gone. I wasn’t worried though. I could clearly see blood as mine went by and was certain it wouldn’t go far.
I followed a nice blood trial through the rocks, under the rocks, around the rocks. Yeah, there were A LOT of rocks. But the blood trail was pretty good so I kept tracking. Finally, after about two hundred yards and about that many embedded cactus spines, I came across my javelina. My very alive and extremely irritated javelina. She had crawled through a small crack between two massive boulders and wedged herself into a tiny cave at the back. She was making her stand and dared anything to come in after her. Our only glimpse of her was her snout as she loudly popped her jaws in warning that she was not to be messed with! Seriously!
Now I had a wounded javelina on my hands and no way to put her down short of crawling into that stinking, flea and chigger infested hole with her and her attitude. This is something I REALLY didn’t want to do. But I also didn’t want her to suffer.
Our first plan was to get her to poke her head out just a bit further so I could get a shot at her neck. First we tried tossing in some rocks. Nope. Then we got a long branch and waved it around the opening hoping she would try for it. Nothing. So I took off my hat and put it on the end of the branch, certain that she would move a bit further out to attack it. This time it worked. Sort of. In the blink of an eye she lunged out, grabbed my hat, and drug it in with her. CRAP! That was my favorite hunting cap!
After trying a bit more to get her to come out further it became apparent that a change in plans was in order. She was wedging herself further back and showed no signs of wanting to budge. The only way to get to her would be to completely lose my mind and crawl through that narrow crack. After some discussion it was decided that I would stay put and keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t move. Steve would take his javelina back to the check station and ask if it was OK to dispatch mine with a pistol. We thought it would be OK but wanted verbal conformation that using a firearm to put a wounded animal down on an archery only hunt would be allowed.
Steve returned to headquarters, put his javelina in the cooler and went in search of someone to explain the situation to. After not finding anyone and no one answering the phone one of the guys finally pulled up. Steve told them what was going on and got the go ahead to shoot her.
When Steve returned I took his pistol, gathered up my courage and prepared to meet my javelina. One thing about where she had gone was that there was a small ledge in front of her. I crawled into the cave, planning to use that little ledge to protect my face if she happened to attack which was a very big possibility. Thankfully she stayed put at the back of the crevice. Unfortunately, it was dark back there and I had trouble making out how she was positioned so I could make the best shot possible. I wanted to drop her if possible. Otherwise she might decide to leave her shelter and I was blocking her only exit. Not a good situation.
My eyes began to adjust and I could make out that distinctive salt and pepper collar for which this species of javelina is named. It was all I needed. I aimed and pulled the trigger. Then, with my ears ringing, I hunkered down hoping the shot was good and she wasn’t about to try one last lunge. Thankfully, she dropped. Talk about adrenaline!
I recovered my bloody, dirty hat and drug her out. She was a big one!
We drug/carried her back to the truck and headed back to the check station to get both of our prizes logged in and weighed before skinning them out.
You would think that would be the end of this story and normally you would be correct. But not this time. We put my javelina in the cooler and went to change out of our hunting clothes. When we got back to the skinning station another hunter had been successful and was checking in his kill. It was the hunter who had the compartment next to ours. He had taken a small (baby) javelina. We were impressed that he could make a shot on one so small or as he said “crock pot sized”. He had gone ahead and quartered it up in the field so brought back an ear for them to put the tag in.
After that was done he was getting ready to leave but, as hunters the world over are inclined to do, we started talking. I wanted to know how many he had seen. He told us that he came across a group but only had a shot at the little one so he took it. Then we got to talking about our javelina and I was recapping our hunt. When I mentioned finding my arrow he was confused.
“You shot yours with a bow?” He asked.
Steve and I looked at each other slightly confused.
“Um, yeah this hunt is archery only.” I said
“Oh, well I shot mine with a gun.” He replied blandly.
“Oh.” Was all I could reply with.
He told us that his buddy had put in for the hunt and didn’t tell him it was archery only so he didn’t know.
I said that the permit should state the means of take as archery only.
“Well, don’t tell them.” He said. Referring to the hunt personnel.
Inside it was thinking really loud… Oh I am going to let them know.
He began to head toward his truck and I went inside to let Jeff (the hunt Co-Coordinator) know that that last javelina was taken with a gun.
In the mean time the guy gets in his truck and hauls out of there. Jeff left soon afterward, hot on his trail.
Before you think that in the end it really was no big deal, consider this. The means of take (archery only) was covered on the very first day during orientation. That day he was later reminded that orange was not required. This fellow was hunting in the compartment right next to ours. We were not wearing hunter orange because it was not, and should not, be required for archery. He could have easily taken a shot towards us not knowing we were close by, putting our lives in danger. What if we had been stalking the same group of javelina between our compartments and he decided to take a shot at them? And don’t forget, he had a high powered rifle so he didn’t have to get as close to the herd as we did. Still he decided to kill a baby instead of waiting for a shot at a mature animal.
I’m glad we had a successful hunt and nothing bad happened. Mark, Jeff and the other TPWD staff run a tight ship and put on yet another wonderful hunt. I hope we can return again some day.
One of the many exotics that roam the property.
For more stories of our Texas Public Hunt Adventures go HERE.