10 Javelina Hotspots

10 Javelina Hotspots

If you were lucky enough to draw a tag this year, you'll find plenty of desert porkers in these areas.

Javelina are just plain fun.

They're not serious game like deer or elk, but weekend game that allows a hunter to relax and enjoy the scenery. Javas are not that tough to tag, really, and the casual approach is often enough to fill a tag and provide some decent eating, if handled with proper care. This means boning out porky and packing its meat in a cooler between layers of ice. As the ice melts, drain off the water, adding more ice as needed. When water begins to drain clear, your pig is ready for butchering, with no gamy taste, no musky smell.

Hunt java according to vegetation and terrain, glassing in open country, still-hunting where it's thicker, calling them with a predator call for more excitement. In the end, your success is reflected in the amount of effort you are willing to invest. Work hard and success is assured, and in these hotspots, your efforts are well spent.

San Carlos Apache Reservation
The San Carlos has a little bit of everything, from high country elk and turkey, to desert bighorn sheep and javelina. It's the desert portions that interest me most because I love the cowboy Western look of it. I also like javelina hunting here because it requires so little pre-season planning. If I get a hankering to hunt javelina on the spur of the moment, San Carlos will sell me a permit over the counter, foregoing the need to meet an application deadline. Contact the San Carlos Apache Game & Fish for more information, (520) 475-2653, but this is cheap hunting for essentially "private" hunting, where collared peccary are abundant and pressure low.

I like the southern portions of the reservation because the country is so easy and the desert landscape is full of porkers. Areas along the Gila River and San Carlos Lake are always good bets because of easy access, wandering up sandy washes and glassing adjacent hillsides of cactus to find large herds of feeding javelina.

White Mountain Apache Reservation
This 1.6-million acre wildlife paradise is home to some of the best elk and turkey hunting in the state, but certain portions also offer superb javelina hunting. You might find javas almost anywhere on this reservation, but the southwestern corner of the big Rez offers the highest chance of seeing them on a daily basis. This is another area where you won't be forced to plan ahead: Simply show up, buy a tag over the counter, and have at it for a reasonable fee. Contact White Mountain Apache Game & Fish for more information, (520) 338-4385.

Gleason Flats, lower Oak Canyon and Canyon Creek are my favorite places to start on Fort Apache. All of the country along the rim of the Salt River on this side of the reservation provides great java country, steep hillsides of cactus and cedar where java are easily glassed up and stalked. Huge herds are the norm, so where you find plenty of sign you can be assured javelina are not far behind.

Classic javelina country involves low-desert areas. That means dry as a bone, and with lots of cactus. Photo by Patrick Meitin

Tucson Suburb Porkers
Tucson has begun to crawl into the adjacent mountains surrounding it. Talk to the average homeowner in the northern portion of town and they will beg you to hunt their property and shoot javelina, which are beginning to make nuisances of themselves by wallowing in flower and vegetable gardens, gnawing on drip-system pipe, and harassing backyard pets for their daily ration of kibble. In most cases, hunting these city-limit pigs is out of the question because of the proximity of other houses, but Forest Service land is normally close at hand.

The nearby Catalina Mountains are an easy commute from anywhere in Tucson, the perfect situation for the nimrod limited to weekends or after-work forays. Talk to area homeowners for parking permission close to forest land, or try any of several public roads leading into these overlooked java hotspots. This is a place where the normal mode of operation - trekking far from civilization - is reversed, where pigs are more apt to be concentrated close to man.

Willcox Farmland Fatties
Long ago, I was snared into an odd javelina hunt where bowhunting teams were pitted against one another in the quest for the heaviest overall bag of oinkers, with prizes to the winners. I was teamed up with a local who knew a thing or two about javelina. We hunted near Willcox, with its drab, pan-flat surroundings, dreary agriculture plots beneath pivoting sprinkler systems, and fencerows clogged with impenetrable tumbleweeds. If the surroundings were unremarkable, the pig hunting was anything but. Those were some of the biggest pigs I've ever seen. We won that contest hands down, with a 67- and 70-pound javelina. It's the farm crops that create this situation, fattening pigs on easy pickings.

You'll need permission to hunt much of this private ground, but for the same reasons that javelina have made themselves unpopular in more populated places, farmers generally don't mind a few pigs culled off their lands. Simply knock on some doors and you'll have all the hunting you could want. Of course, there are also places adjacent to BLM and forest property where you can hunt to your heart's content. A land-stat map is a help if you should opt to go with the latter option.

Lower Gila River Tuskers
As it departs the San Carlos Reservation, the Lower Gila flows through impassable gorge and then reemerges to brush-choked desert, is filthy with javelina. As the river slows and flattens salt cedar, mesquite and cactus along its banks crowd into jungle-like thickets where pigs find refuge. This is a place where still-hunting patiently along cow trails and into tight places will reap the bowhunter or handgun hunter point-blank shots.

Use your ears and nose in the thick stuff. Listen for traveling animals grunting or squabbling as they root in damp places along the river's edge. Javas can also give away their presence with their musky odor when hunting into the wind, alerting a hunter to slow down and take a closer look.

There is plenty of access along the southern bank of the Gila from the mining village of Hayden all the way to tiny Kelvin in the form of BLM and state-owned lands. Landowners along the river are normally open to letting hunters try their luck, especially if you are hunting with archery gear. Some of the best places in this area can be quite close to houses, where the animals become accustomed to handouts and nighttime raids for whatever food they can scrounge. If you have a problem gaining access to private ground, adjacent public land can be just as good. Buy a land-stat map and proceed accordingly.

Big Hatchet Wildlife Management Area
The Big Hatchets are a long way from anywhere, which in my book makes them highly attractive. This is home to one of the state's healthiest populations of desert bighorn sheep, with mule deer, mountain lions and desert quail also abundant. This is also glassing country, a place where the hunter can get out and unlimber his legs, achieve a vantage point and cover miles of ground in a single sitting. You might find desert tuskers nearly anywhere, but you are wise to concentrate efforts near water where animals are certain to drink. Such places are found far out into the flats where windmills pump water, high in saddles where Game & Fish projects have installed guzzlers, or on rare occasions, in canyon heads where wet seeps well to the surface.

This is desolate country where you must arrive prepared to take care of yourself in the event of breakdowns, flats, or minor mechanical problems such as a broken fan belt. A bit of preventative maintenance is cheap insurance, as well as two spare tires, and a cell phone. Too, Boot Heel landowners have never been open to visitors, so invest in a land status map and don't even think of wandering off public BLM or state lands. These are also big, rugged mountains, so bring a daypack, water bottles and sturdy boots.

Florida Mountains
The Floridas appear as a huge galleon ship on the horizon as you cross the sea of desert surrounding the range. This ancient volcano cone is nearly all straight up and down, treacherous and nasty. This is Persian ibex country, gift of the late Shah of Iran, released here because there was little native game for them to compete with. The mountain proper does not hold that many javelina, being too rough and owning too little provender.

It's the brush-choked, sand washes spilling out into the desert at its base where you will find this mountain's javas, especially if that wash also holds water. Some of the bigger, gentler canyon bottoms can also be counted on for numbers of pigs, especially those on the south end that hold stingy seeps and springs at their heads. Don't discount the featureless cactus and mesquite flats far from the mountain, as porkers often feed out from high cover. Gaining a shoulder of mountain and putting glass to work is a good way to proceed in these places.

There's a good road beginning at Rock Hound State Park, turning rougher as you proceed, that allows hunters to circle the entire range. Other 4WD tracks spoke off from this road to clamber up most major bottoms. This allows you to check many of the windmills and tanks at the mountain's base, seeking the small, rounded cloven hoof prints, dog-like droppings, and rooted cactus that show javas are around. This gives you a good idea where to begin, hunting farther up rough canyons when concentrations of sign are discovered.

Pinos Altos Freeloaders
Javelina don't seem to mind the presence of humans as much as other game animals do. In fact, where you have people in javelina country, you'll have problem pigs. These javas have become used to stealing dog food left out for pets, rooting in garbage cans, invading gardens, and otherwise looking for handouts. In some cases, misguided residents actually feed pigs regularly.

This is why places like Pinos Altos, up the road from Silver City, always seem to have concentrations of pigs, and make great places for bowhunters to hunt the edges of civilization and find pigs fat on easy pickings. Take a land-stat map along to find patches of national forest adjacent city limits, and look for worn trails leading in and out of town. These make great places to stand hunt, especially in thick piñon/juniper thickets, or for a still-hunting bowhunter.

There are untold acres of national forest just up the road from Pinos Altos for those who wish to hunt these "domesticated" pigs, or continue onto Wild Horse Mesa for more PJ country than you can hunt in an entire season. Wild Horse Mesa is glassing man's country, where sitting and putting glass to work in areas with abundant sign will net more results than walking endlessly. Look for prickly pear cactus concentrations and you'll normally discover javelina sign.

Southern Black Range Monsters
I don't know what it is about the Black Range but it hosts some of the biggest javelina anywhere. I've taken several pigs over the years in this area that have gone well over 55 pounds field dressed. My good buddy Alfredo Julian, owner of TrophyPhotos.com, shot a pig with me this past winter that weighed 65 pounds gutted. That's the biggest pig I've ever hung from a scale, that's for sure! I have heard theories that these are actually a different strain of javelina, but it may also hinge on the fact that this is at the far northern extreme of the animal's range where it gets colder come winter. Better yet, drawing a tag for this area is easy, and the season is three months long, giving the weekend warrior plenty of opportunity to get into the field.

Access is not difficult but is limited and tricky for those not familiar with the area. Roads can be found from the Membres River side, the Royal John Mine Road being the best to take you over the top. With a better truck you can come in from State Road 27, up Terra Blanca, Berrenda and Macho canyons. Buy a map. Don't discount lower Greasewood Flats north of 27, where javelina are often common in wide-open places. You will have to cover more ground, but the hogs are easy to spot.

Alma Access
Alma is only a wide place in the road but gives you access to a world of country. Roads travel uphill to get you into the lower sections of Mineral Creek and the San Francisco River where pigs are always abundant and the scenery superb. By crossing the San Francisco and traveling toward Arizona you will find more country than you can hunt in an entire three-month season. This takes you all the way into Indian Peaks and Whiterocks, and allows quick access to the southern reaches of the Blue Range Wilderness Area.

During an average year I like to hunt the prickly pear flats beneath the big power lines between U.S. Highway 180 and Whiterocks. This is easy country to hunt, but bigger than it appears at first glance. There are plenty of disguising washes, terrain dips and cedar thickets in which to hide pigs. l

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