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9:33 AM Sat, Jan. 19th

Javelina hunts popular with Arizona sportsmen

Laura Borden of Golden Valley shows the javelina that she harvested on her second Youth hunt in Unit 18B recently. Borden used this A-15 to take the boar at 185 yards. (Courtesy)

Laura Borden of Golden Valley shows the javelina that she harvested on her second Youth hunt in Unit 18B recently. Borden used this A-15 to take the boar at 185 yards. (Courtesy)

Javelinas really are one of my favorite critters to hunt. And apparently they are for a lot of other sportsmen as well. In Arizona, javelinas are the second most hunted big game animal in the state, with only deer being pursued more by sportsmen.

In 2016, the Arizona Game and Fish Department issued a lot of tags for these mostly desert dwellers. There were 11,455 general spring tags, 1,145 youth-only tags, 5,480 HAM (handgun, archery, muzzleloader) tags and 9,450 archery tags issued. Attesting to the popularity of javelina hunting in Region 3, every javelina tag that was authorized by the department for Mohave County was sold this year!

While most of us call them pigs, they are not really a member of the pig family. They are members of the collared peccary family which originated in Central America, but now inhabits areas all the way from Argentina to the southern United States.

Over the years they have moved north up into Mexico and eventually they made their way into the southern part of the United States.

Right now javelinas inhabit Texas, where they are considered a pest rather than a big game animal, New Mexico and of course Arizona, where they are listed as one of the state's Big 10 game animals.

Javelinas are normally diurnal, which means they are most active during the daytime, but javelina are also very active during the night, especially in the summer when it is very hot.

It just depends on the time of the year and the temperatures.

Javelinas depend on their senses of smell and hearing for their protection. Their eyesight is poor. They stay in herds for protection from predators, which include coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Birds of prey, including eagles and hawks, also take young javelina.

Though a female, or sow, may give birth to up to four young, or redds as they are called, usually just one will make it to adulthood. Javelinas normally live about 7 years.

An interesting fact about javelina is that they breed year-around and can reach sexual maturity in about 10 months. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, "Javelina have the greatest reproduction potential of any North American big game animal."

The weight of adult javelina is also interesting to me. In Mohave County, I often hear of hunters stating that their pigs weighed 50 to 75 pounds. They claim this is field dressed weight, but I doubt it.

Game and Fish notes that javelina typically weigh (live weight) from 35 to 60 pounds. I have kept records of javelina that have been harvested by our hunters for the past 10 years and our typical adult pigs (field dressed) weigh from 32 to 39 pounds.

Pigs that weigh over 40 pounds field dressed, though not unheard of, are indeed few and far between.

The heaviest pig that we have ever weighted was taken by Dan Reed. He took a huge pig that weighed, on the scales, an honest 44 pounds, 10 ounces.

Those pigs that field dress over 40 pounds no doubt have a live weight of over 60 pounds.

Generally males, or boars, are a little heavier than the sows, but I have noticed that this year the sows seem to be the heavyweights.

Javelinas are known to eat both plants and animals. This makes them omnivorous. While they feed on primarily of grass, shrubs, and roots, they also eat a lot of prickly pear cactus. They are immune to the stickers on the plants and digest them easily.

When digging around in cactus, or in the roots of plants, they often find pack rats or snakes. Both are eaten by these desert dwellers.

Javelinas have no fur. They only have long coarse hair that in reality provides them with very little protection from the cold. In the winter, they will go into dens and put the young in the middle of a group of adults who provide body heat to protect the younger animals. This is called by some a "pig pile."

I have often heard hunters talk about being "attacked" by javelina.

Those "attacks" are in reality the pigs just trying to escape after being alarmed. Remember, they have very poor eyesight.

But they will as a group protect their young by clacking their teeth and huffing while at the same time raising the hair on their backs to make them look much larger.

One successful technique often used by hunters is to blow rapidly on a varmint call. That mimics the sound of an injured javelina and will result in one of two things happening. The herd will either break out or start running away, or they will head straight toward the hunters! If they come towards you with teeth clacking, that can be a bit unnerving.

With the start of the general rifle hunt this Friday, many more hunters will be in the field looking for these "Grey Ghosts of the Desert."