by Rory K. Aikens, Arizona Game and Fish
|Javelina hunters may want to modify their hunting strategies this year due to the dry conditions and unseasonably warm days the state has typically been experiencing.
"We haven't seen significant rainfall since September. These are similar conditions to what we saw last year and in 1996, but this year the winter drought is more pronounced and we have been experiencing very warm days until the recent front came through. Those factors, if present during the season, can combine to change javelina activity and habitat use patterns," advised Tice Supplee, Game Branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Supplee, who has done extensive javelina research and has also spent a lot of time afield hunting collared peccary, said a key consideration for hunters is that javelina have thin, bristly hairs rather than fur and not a lot of hair on their undersides. "That means javelina activity patterns can change dramatically when it is hot or cold. If there are cold, freezing nights then javelina will stack up in the bedding areas, whether in caves or areas like bottom lands that are densely vegetated. Then they come out to feed in late morning with the rising sun on southeastern facing slopes where the sun is providing warmth," she said.
However, when there are warmer nights and hot days like the state has been experiencing recently, javelina may be up feeding at night and bed down in cooler cover during the daytime. "If it is warm, hunters will want to concentrate their search in canyon bottoms or the ridgelines and other terrain or vegetation features where there is shade during the day. If these dry and warm conditions continue to prevail, hunters may find javelina most active at sunrise or around sunset," Supplee said.
She added that the best available food sources might also be in the canyon bottoms during these dry times. "However, if we get any moisture at all, tuberous plants may start growing on the hillsides and attract javelina. If you see a hillside all torn up like an army of children have been digging, then you will know that javelina have been feeding there," Supplee advised.
In many parts of the state, prickly pear will probably be a primary source of food. In southeastern Arizona, areas with grassy hillsides and bottoms with shindaggers can be a key.
The winter drought and corresponding lack of water sources can also play a role, especially for those herds with lactating females nursing young. "Lactating females need a source of free-standing water. During times of drought, javelina herds may associate more closely with water sources than they might otherwise. Hunters may find the javelina in that portion of their home range that has free standing or flowing water. They will likely be in deep cover during most hours of the day if it is hot."
Having a hunting partner, Supplee said, can pay dividends when conditions are like these. "If javelina are holding tight to cover in the bottoms or along ridges and things like bedding grounds, a solitary hunter can be extremely challenged. But a hunting partner can put pressure on the javelina and drive them toward the other partner," she explained.
While the activity patterns of javelina do change to meet existing conditions, one basic javelina-hunting rule doesn't change, Supplee cautioned. "Wear out your eyes, not your shoe leather. Use your optics to locate the javelina. Due to their coloration this time of year, at a distance javelina can look like little black rocks on the hillsides. Wait for those black rocks to move."
If you haven't spotted javelina during the morning and early afternoon hours, Supplee suggests working the bottoms to "spook up" some javelina. "If you have a partner, one of you can walk the more densely vegetated bottoms while the other eases along the adjacent hillside. It's a team approach to hunting that can prove successful," she said.
Another piece of advice Supplee provides hunters is to scout the area the last couple of days before a season. "If you can locate a herd the day before the season opens and then get on that herd at first light before hunting pressure comes into play, your success rate will probably improve significantly."
The final consideration, she said, is that javelina have very poor eyesight but have extremely good hearing and olfactory senses. "If you are downwind and make little or no noise, stalking javelina and getting close is not usually difficult. The challenge and fun is finding them in the first place," Supplee said.
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