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Weekend for Javelinas
Rob F. Sanderson

          Charlie and I looked out the window of the Mexican Tourist Relations Bureau high in the Valley Bank building, which towers over the flat city of Tucson, Arizona. Southward through the arid sunshine we could see the pine-topped Santa Ritas’ summit, and fifty miles down the Santa Cruz river valley to where the south horizon flattened into the Mexican border.

          “But, Mr. Milling,” Charlie reasoned, “a single weekend isn’t very long for a big game hunt in a foreign country.”

          The Mexican Tourist Representative waved his hand positively. “If you can get off from your office a little before three o’clock on Friday afternoon, you can be at Nogales on the border by four, and I can see to it that all papers are in order and someone is their to see that you get across within twenty-minutes. You will be able to hunt all Saturday and Sunday and come home late Sunday night.”

          Sitting there in a comfortable room of a tall modern office building in a thriving city, it seemed a bit strange to think of getting everything in order, including car, gun, and tourist permits, and crossing a foreign frontier to make a two day big game hunt. As I sat there, I doubted there was any other frontier in the world outside of America, where such a feat could be done. And little did I realize that before our two-day weekend was over, I was to face a charge from a wounded javelina boar!

          The charge by an angry boar was one of the things Carl Molling left unmentioned. Indeed, perhaps I would not have been so eager to make the trip!

          Friday afternoon Charlie and I escaped our offices on schedule, reached the Mexican border before the customs closed, and found Carl Molling had everything arranged so that we were on our way southward into Sonora only twenty-two minutes after we arrived at the Mexican customs. I contrasted this speedy crossing with the stories I had heard of hunters being delayed hours and even as long as three days while trying to get the necessary papers and routine form dispensed with!

          That night we rolled our blankets on the floor of a Mexican adobe ranch house, a primitive retreat from the neon lights and bustling city of Tucson. We were as far as we could go by rough mountainous road in an automobile, and the next morning early after an open-hearth breakfast we set forth on horseback for our day’s hunt.

          Though it was little more than mid-winter we were hunting in shirtsleeves for the sunbeams warm from Sonora’s bright skies. Our Mexican friends were rattling off voluble Spanish concerning where the deer had been recently, where the freshest lion track had been seen, and of a new band of javelinas or wild hogs which had just made their appearance in the locality.

          At the mention of “javelinas” I perked my ears. While I had managed to shoot almost every other kind of Mexican game earlier in the winter, I had not realized the good fortune of encountering the fierce desert hogs known to Mexico’s people as “Javelinas”. The past several years had seen most of the javelina bands killed off by hide hunters, who with large packs of mongrel dogs risk the fury of a band of javelinas in order to get a chance at the high prices paid for the hides by American importers.

          We hunted separately the first day. I had no luck myself but along about mid-day I heard the thunderous echo of a 30-60 roll from across a nearby mountain and clatter back and forth between steep rock canyon walls.

          Sure enough, back in camp I discovered my partner had brought in a small whitetail buck. I rode in late and as I camp into the firelight I heard the sizzle of fresh liver in the frying pan. In a jiffy my mount was unsaddled and turned into the ancient pole corral, and we hunters discussed the days’ accomplishments with our mouths full of hot grub all the while.

          Pablo, a Mexican amigo, came into camp just as we were about to turn off our portable radio program of news casts and dance music and roll up for the night. He had been riding the range all day, and further to the north he had seen the fresh sign of a large band of Javelinas. Would we care to go there with him in the morning?

          “Si, si,” I quickly agreed. “Con mucho gusto.” (You bet, and how!) But Charlie had an idea he wanted to go back over the same ground he had covered during this day and shoot one of the bucks he didn’t get close enough to today. The limit in Mexico is two bucks of the whitetail species on each trip out. In addition, you can shoot one or more other species, depending upon where and when you happen to be hunting in Mexico.

          Pablo and I got an early start, taking along a two-quart saddle canteen, as the county we were to hunt was very dry and without the clear running streams found in the mountains to the eastward. A package of raisins and a spare box of cartridges in my saddlebags, and our light duffel was complete. I carried my carbine in a leather boot slid under the stirrup fender of my saddle, while Pablo sat on his own rust-pitted weapon. How a Mexican can carry a rifle by putting it between their buttocks and the saddle cant is beyond me, but only once have I known a weapon so carried to be dislodged and fall.

          Mid-morning saw us riding over the low desert hills. Here and there among the rocks we would find javelina sign, but none less than a day old. There was little breeze and the sun was warm. Our dry mouthed mounts turned their heads whenever they heard the canteen water gurgling into our desert-dried throats.

          Just before noon I heard a cry from Pablo, who was working a wash below me while I rode down the adjoining ridge. “Fresh track”, he called.

          Plunging my pony stiff-legged down to where Pablo was pointing; I saw fresh signs of a lard herd. They were moving along rapidly up the valley to the northward. It was possible they had heard or scented us and had moved on ahead. At any rate, it would be almost impossible to overtake them by riding down behind them, for they would hear our horses’ hooves on the rocks when we were a quarter mile away.

          Pablo discussed the situation excitedly, so fast I could not comprehend half of what he was trying to say. At any rate, I caught on that there was another valley parallel to this, not far distant over a few hills. If we could ride fast enough, we could get over to it, work swiftly up it, and then cross over a couple of miles on and ambush the javelinas as they came by in the valley we were now in.

          I quickly assented and we were off at a swift trot. There being no trail to the adjacent valley, we had to buck brush part of the way. Upon reaching the shallow valley I found the going to be clear and direct although in spots the sand was a little loose.

          For an hour and a half we trotted briskly, walking our mounts only long enough for them to catch their wind. Then Pablo spurred his pony to the lead and led up a tributary arroyo back into the low hills. We crossed the summit, and shortly we tied our mounts so that their hooves would not make warning noises on the bare rocks. On foot we went ahead to take position along the valley we presumed to javelinas were moving along. Pablo planned to take a station about two hundred yards south of me, and agreed not to shoot until most of the animals had passed him, which would frighten the rest of the band straight into my ambush.

          A half hour and more I waited behind a rock outcrop. While I pride myself on a reasonable degree of patience, I refuse to compete with Mexicans on this score, and becoming curious I left my stand to inspect the tracks in the sandy valley in order to find out if any of the wild hogs had crossed that day. Quite a number of tracks had, and I had apprehensions that our wait was in vain.

          Hardly had I inspected the tracks that I heard fireworks from Pablo’s 30-30. I raced for my rock outcrop. I reached my vantage position just in time to see a sow and two half grown hogs come running up the valley in my direction. Not caring for any of these specimens I held my fire, as I knew any shooting now would warn away any on comers. As soon as the trio racing my way came to my footprints, they became greatly excited, probably getting my wind there, and dodged off into the brush on yonder side.

          About two minutes after the three hogs had vanished I heard a great threshing in the bush where we had tied our horses. I feared a lion or a snake in their vicinity and was weighing whether it would be prudent to leave my stand and investigate, when I saw two forms racing down a hillside about a hundred yards away, going at an angle from the horses so as to pass about ninety yards west of me. I was north of the horses.

          I at once recognized the fugitive as javelinas. The first was a large boar. I raised my carbine, swung the post sight into the boar and squeezed. The shot struck just low, exploding crushed rock and sand into the animal’s face and turning his flight quartering away from me. On the third shot he dropped and rolled downhill. Later I found these two animals had fled the valley at the sounds of Pablo’s shots, had almost run into the horses in their flight and the frightened horses’ threshing had turned the javelinas in my direction.

          I reached for three fresh cartridges and as I fed them into the magazine a band of half dozen javelinas came humping into sight down the valley. About this time Pablo fired twice more. One of the hogs was a medium sized boar.

          I drew a snap bead and fired. The shot struck just behind the boar. The four pigs behind him saw the bullet strike and dodged into the brush. There is a big tendency to shoot behind a running javelina. Their feet are short, they do not make great bounds, but they are traveling with the speed of an old-time canon ball.

          Again I fired. The boar’s hind quarters went down, he struggled to his feet and trotted into the brush.

          I ran downward into the valley to where the boar’s tracks entered the brush. I hesitated to enter, but with safety off, I very carefully stepping into the thick tangle, eyes alert for every movement. There was enough blood trail to follow.

          I was weaseling through a thick growth of Palo Verde when I heard a terrific commotion ahead. The boar! Swinging my carbine to my shoulder, the sling caught on a limb. The carbine stopped short and I was thrown off balance. As I went down my finger jerked the trigger and the heavy explosion roared. The javelina stopped short at the noise, wheeled and headed for the open now-dry waterbed in the valley.

          A few seconds later I heard a 30-30 explode and the bullet whined over my head. A noise in the brush again - the boar was coming back!

          Thirty feet away when I saw him, I knew he was coming at me. His black piggy eyes were riveted right on me. Had his getaway not been blocked by Pablo, I do not think he would have charged. But his getaway was cut off and he was charging. It was too obvious to call for a thought and in a flash my carbine was up and the recoil jolted my shoulder.

          The boar rolled over his tracks. His thick body gave few tremendous quivers, his long white tushes clamped into the gravelly ground; then he relaxed in death.

          The brush was crashing again and I brought my gun up in a nervous jump. But this time it was Pablo. By the sheepish grin on his face I knew he had not made a kill. If Pablo makes a kill his face wears a somber dignity.

          “Didn’t I do well?” he asked.

          “How many did you get?” I queried, wondering if my first appraisal was unfounded.

          “No! No!” he objected. “ I did not try to kill. I mean, I just tried to scare them over to you.”

          This I knew to be a gross exaggeration, but I could hardly complain as I had bagged two nice boars. I congratulated him generously on his efforts.

          The sun was sliding down the afternoon sky. We quickly dressed the hogs out and tying them behind our saddles, headed for home at a steady jog.

          At camp, Charlie was already there. He had all equipment save our cook outfit stowed compactly in the car. And in the dry pan was … you guessed it…

          More warm liver! Charlie had bagged his second buck. We had averaged a trophy per day apiece. As soon as we hungry saddle-bums had devoured the camp cook’s efforts, adios given to our amigos, we started the second-gear grind toward the main road, then home to Tucson.

          It was seven hours of driving. We lost a little time at the border and arrived in Tucson heavy-lidded between one and two in the morning. “How was it?” I queried my equally sleepy partner.

          “Not bad,” he said, and showing he was not too tired to joke he added to his understatement, “Next weekend let’s go Rhino hunting in Tanganyika!”

© 2003 Chronicles of Bob