Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the opening of the HAM (Handgun-Archery-Muzzleloader) javelina hunt in Game Management Unit 18B, and including the generally poor weather, it turned out to be a typical hunting experience for me.
For some strange reason, whenever I draw a big-game tag, there seems to always be a lot of drama involved in my hunts. Also having tags for this hunt was my long-time hunting partner, Jay Chan, my brother, Gary, and friend, Cory Erpelding.
On Friday, Chan and I had decided to hunt one of our favorite pig areas, while Gary was going to hunt a canyon near camp. Cory and a friend, Eric Hawkinberry, were going to try and find some pigs in another canyon where just a week or so ago Hawkinberry had assisted his nephew to his first javelina.
Erpelding has never hunted javelina before and would be using Hawkinberry's 50-caliber muzzleloader on his first trip to this unit in western Mohave County.
My brother would be using his Colt 357 Python handgun on the hunt, while Chan was going to use his Savage Stalker pistol in 22-250 caliber.
I would be using my old and usually reliable Knight MK-85 50-caliber muzzleloader. Though we were fashionably late getting to our area, Jay and I got lucky when I glassed up a herd of pigs across a deep canyon.
Problem was, we were almost 300 yards away from the pigs and dropping down in the steep canyon would be a long and arduous affair.
The canyon was covered in cactus and thick brush, and getting into muzzleloader range of the feeding pigs without them hearing us would be difficult at best.
As we started down the canyon, a large rock I stepped on gave way, and I unceremoniously fell into a bush.
Remarkably, the pigs didn't hear this little mishap, and after a half hour, we had worked our way to just over 100 yards of several of the pigs. Then, a chain of events started that demonstrates the kind of luck I have when I have a tag.
The herd apparently heard us and started moving away in the bottom of the canyon. It wouldn't be long before they were out of range of my muzzleloader, so I hurriedly sat down and attempted to find a target. I picked out what appeared to be a mature boar and tried to steady the rifle while sitting precariously on the steep hillside. The range was 110 yards when the pig stopped momentarily, and I fired. I saw dust from the bullet strike as the pig ran into some thick brush. I thought my shot had been good.
Jay quickly tried to pick out a target and his off-hand shot at 131 yards barely missed the mark. I found another pig standing next to some brush at 150 yards and Jay set up and fired again.
This time his aim was good, and the pig, a young boar, dropped in his tracks. I wasn't able to reload the muzzleloader so Jay handed me his pistol to use in case the pig I had shot at came out. A short time later, I spotted that pig coming out of the brush and I tried to get him in the scope. The range was about 200 yards when I fired.
The shot missed the mark and the pig sauntered up on the hillside. The range was now 217 yards when I fired the second shot.
Neither Jay nor I saw where that bullet hit, and the pig seemed to disappear. We walked down to the bottom of the canyon and found Jay's pig but were disappointed to find that apparently all of my shots had missed the mark. When we got back to camp that evening, we found that the other hunters had done quite well. Gary had taken a boar with his pistol and Cory had bagged a big sow with the muzzleloader.
On Saturday morning, Jay's son, Ryan, arrived to provide another set of trained eyes to assist in my quest to bag a pig.
It didn't take long for the Chan boys to find a small group of pigs that were almost three-quarters of a mile away on a hillside. With the wind in our faces, we made a march toward the unsuspecting pigs and soon were close enough to plan the final stalk.
I told the Chans to wait while I made my move. As luck would have it, I walked up to two pigs that were just 15 yards away.
As one of the pigs stepped out of the brush at a range of 15 yards, I took aim and squeezed the trigger.
Instead of a loud boom that is usually associated with the firing of one of these modern smoke poles, all I heard was a loud "pop" and the pigs scattered and ran off. The rifle had misfired. Ryan had videotaped the mishap, and if not for the fact that I still didn't have a pig, it would have been quite humorous.
I told you my personal hunts always seemed to be full of drama. I've owned this rifle for 20 years and it had never misfired! It was a long walk back to the vehicle, and the weather had turned cold, wet and windy. My opportunity to take a pig that weekend quickly ended.
I'm not giving up though, and plan to go back on Friday. I'll have one more weekend to try and close the deal on one of these grey ghosts of the desert.
But with my luck, it will probably rain.