Youth & Parents' Junior Hunt Experience
By Rory Aikens
Arizona Game and Fish
Thirteen-year-old Jennifer Patti of Phoenix had the distinction February 8 of bringing in the first harvested javelina to the Junior Arizona Mule Deer Association's camp on opening day of the Juniors-Only Javelina Hunt in Game Management Unit 20B just north of Phoenix.

But Jennifer took it all in stride — she's a veteran junior hunter, having harvested three javelina and two deer. On opening morning, Jennifer hiked a couple of miles with her dad, John Patti Jr., before finally locating a small herd of javelina. A short stalk and one shot later, she had her third javelina.

Her dad likes to point out that Jennifer might have missed a day of school to go on the hunt, but she learned more by being afield on the sunny February day than she would have in the classroom. "Jennifer's teacher thinks these hunts are great educational experiences," John said.

Jennifer and her dad have a secret recipe for success — pre-scouting beforehand, using their binoculars exhaustively to locate the javelina, and then using a tripod to steady the rifle when she takes the shot.

For Tanner DuBois, age 15, of Mesa, harvesting a javelina is only a small part of the experience. "I like the excitement of the chase. And I like getting anywhere far from the city. But mostly, I just like hanging out with my dad and my grandpa," Tanner said, while putting his arm around the shoulders of his grandfather, Bob DuBois of Phoenix.

Although Tanner did not harvest his javelina on opening day, he hiked a long ridgeline with his dad and grandpa within sight of Sunset Point. During the first morning of the hunt they saw two deer, a coyote, a fox and even a Gila monster.

"When you want to see pigs, you see deer. When you want to see deer, you see pigs," Tanner quipped philosophically with a big grin on his face while eating a barbecued hamburger, courtesy the Junior Arizona Mule Deer Association.

His dad, Mike DuBois, also said that what his son experiences while being afield hunting is a phenomenal learning experience. "I don't know whether his teachers think so or not, but since he's an honor student . . ."

Jennifer and Tanner on Friday were just two of the young hunters who came into the Junior Arizona Mule Deer Association's (JAMDA) camp located about six miles east of Interstate 17 in the Bumble Bee area. Farther south, the Chandler Rod and Gun Club also had a camp set up for junior hunters. Both organizations have a commitment to help support junior hunting. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission honored both organizations with awards last month at its annual awards banquet.

Bill Larson, a hunter education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said javelina provide the perfect introductory hunt for youth, and even for adults who have not hunted big game before.

Larson said javelina are plentiful in Arizona and there are always plenty of juniors-only tags available. "They are typically one of our under-subscribed hunts each year."

Larson added that successfully finding javelina means the junior must spend a lot of time using their binoculars, so they build up their glassing skills. "Javelina have poor eyesight, so if you stay downwind and are quiet, they are easy to stalk. They are also smaller than the other big game animals in the state, so they are easy to handle even if you are miles from a vehicle. All that makes then a great introductory hunt."

Larson, who is 53 years old, can attest to the value of javelina as a teaching tool. "That's how I was introduced to big game hunting, and I have been hunting ever since."

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