Fall javelina hunting: Information and tips for success

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August 29th, 2008

Successful junior javelina hunter - photo from azgfd.net/photos.

Do you know a young hunter that would like to go big game hunting? Here is the perfect hunting trip for a youngster fresh out of hunter education class.

There are almost 2,000 fall javelina tags available for junior hunters. The permits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The majority of the hunts are in units in beautiful southern Arizona. The season dates are either Oct. 10-16 or Nov. 21-27, depending on hunt choice. For details on applying for a tag, visit www.azgfd.gov/draw.

Note: The harvest limit is one javelina per calendar year. If you harvested a javelina this past spring of 2008, you cannot hunt javelina this fall.

Javelina hunting is fun, exciting, challenging and a great way to test your skills of locating game, glassing, stalking, shooting and hopefully, processing your harvest.

Hunting javelina during the fall, as opposed to the spring, is fairly new. However, temperate fall weather and mixed bag opportunities for rabbit and quail, makes this a desirable hunt. The department is hosting a couple of javelina hunting workshops in September. These informative workshops are taught by knowledgeable wildlife biologists and fellow javelina hunters. Their goal is to teach new hunters how to get started and increase their odds for success. For locations and times of the javelina workshops, visit www.azgfd.gov under the “what’s new” section.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for your tag to come in the mail, the following tips will provide you with plenty to learn about how to find, hunt and harvest a javelina this fall.

Stereotyped for their lack of intelligence, the javelina is not any less intelligent than our other native wildlife. Their eyesight is very poor at distances greater than 100 yards. This is understandable for an animal that evolved in the thick brush where food, water, shelter, and predators could only be seen at very short distances. Their sense of smell and hearing abilities, however, are very well developed.

Javelina travel in large groups, or herds; on average there are 8-12 animals in a herd. These herds occupy a territory of about 1-2 square miles that is defended from other adjacent herds. In good javelina habitat, each territorial boundary abuts the boundary of adjacent herds. This makes it somewhat difficult to answer the question, “Where are the javelina in this area?” Answer: Find good habitat, you’ll likely find javelina.

Although javelina are “everywhere,” they never seem to be where you are (even when you’ve seemingly been everywhere). Knowing how javelina feed and what signs they leave behind is the key to successful javelina hunting.

Javelina eating prickly-pear cactus. Photo AGFD

Feeding javelina concentrate heavily on succulents such as prickly pear, hedgehog, barrel cactus, lechuguilla, and cholla. The fruits and fleshy parts provide not only nutritious feed, but water as well. When javelina feed on prickly pear pads they grasp the pad and pull, which shreds the pad and leaves the stringy interior fibers visible.

Hedgehog cactus after javelina feeding. Photo AGFD

Small cacti such as hedgehogs are knocked over with a front hoof and the insides are eaten out so that only the tough outer skin and spines remain. Lechuguilla leaves are pulled apart and left scattered as the javelina eats the fleshy heart out of the plant. Roots and tubers are also dug or “rooted” up by javelina in search of nutrition. All of which give indication if there are javelina in the area.

Typical javelina bedding ground area - photo AGFD.

Javelina spend their time resting and feeding. Resting occurs primarily in traditional bedding grounds which are located in low areas of thick brush or caves throughout their territory. Bedding grounds offer soft soil to lie on and protection from predators and the weather.

Javelina meat is considered, by some, to be less than palatable. However, if properly cared for in the field, javelina provide good eating. The key is to field dress the animal immediately and skin it at your first opportunity. Don’t worry about the scent gland above the tail; it is attached to the skin and will come off when you skin the animal. The hairs of the javelina are covered with this scent; make sure you do not touch the meat with the hand that has been holding the hide.

Tips for finding pigs:
Hunting is 100-percent luck, and the other half is hard work, but there are things you can do to greatly improve your chance of being in the right place at the right time. Here are our “Lucky 7” tips for finding game.

  1. Be prepared: Spend a significant amount of time scouting/researching before the season. You can locate herds of javelina and start to understand their distribution and movement patterns.

    Javelina under typical cover - photo AGFD.

  2. Take your game sitting down: The old adage that a good hunter wears out the seat of his or her pants before the soles of their boots describes perfectly what glassing is all about. At least 90 percent of your time should be sitting down behind your optics.
  3. Look on the bright side: You always want to have the sun to your back. Not only does this prevent you from looking into the sun, but more importantly, you will be looking at canyons and hillsides illuminated brightly.
  4. Get high and lay low: When glassing you should climb as high as possible to get the best view and set up in the shade of a tree, bush or other structure. It is always tempting to stop short, but for every 50 feet in elevation, more and more country down below opens up for your inspection.
  5. Concentrate on the details: Natural-colored big game animals are not going to be standing out like a neon sign on the other side of the canyon. If you are not concentrating, you will miss javelina right in the middle of your field of view.
  6. No room for random: Glassing does not entail looking around willy-nilly hoping to spot something. Glassing efficiently and effectively means you search your visible area in a systematic way. A tripod is a must if you are serious.
  7. Come early, stay late: If you want to be successful you have to make sure you are active during the same time periods as your game. Take advantage of the “Golden Hours” — the first hour after the sun up and the last hour of sun in the evening. Pack a lunch and stay afield all day.

By Jim Heffelfinger, Tucson regional game specialist, and Doug Burt, public information officer, AGFD

Jim Heffelfinger has worked with the department for more than 16 years. He is well known in the wildlife community, is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arizona, and is the author of “Deer of the Southwest, A Complete Guide to the Natural History, Biology, and Management of Southwestern Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer.”

2 Responses to “Fall javelina hunting: Information and tips for success”

  1. I was just wondering if anyone could give me some pointers on where to hunt around the Tuscon area. What is the best animal to hunt in the spring and how should I go about it? Thanks

    -A Curious Hunter

  2. Jim, you are in some of the finest hunting country in the state for quail (Gambel’s, scaled and Mearns’), rabbit, javelina and deer.

    Small game season stated Oct. 3 and only requires a general hunting license. Any of the open mid-desert country should serve you well for all the small game species. (note: Mearns’ season does not open until Nov. 28). check here for hunting areas and ideas:

    The small game season is looking good for this year – here is the info on that:




    As for deer, you can buy an archery-only tag at any license dealer or department office.

    Spring javelina tags are issued by a lottery system, the deadline is Oct. 14 – paper applications hand delivered to department offices are required. Here is the info for that:

    good luck and keep us posted.

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