Are Unit 18B javelina hunts too successful?
Even though Mother Nature tried her best to shut down the general javelina hunt in Unit 18B with some cold, windy weather, a number of local sportsmen and women did quite well.
There were 250 tags issued to hunters, many of them local, and those who knew where to go were successful.
Mike Cobb is a veteran hunter who knows Unit 18B very well. Cobb and a group of his friends had a phenomenal hunt.
Included in his hunting party was Cobb, who bagged a pig; his wife, Debbie, who bagged her first pig; and Dr. Santiago and his two friends, who all bagged porkers.
Then there was Tony Campbell, who got a pig, as did his friend Lacie Robbins, who bagged her first pig on this hunt.
On the last day of the season, Cobb and Campbell helped Ken Robison Jr. and his dad, Ken Robison Sr.
Both got unusual pigs, Cobb noted.
"Ken Jr. got a pig with the longest canine tooth I've ever seen, while Ken Sr. got the oldest pig we have ever taken," he said. "All the teeth in that pig were almost worn out."
On the down side, Cobb noted that herd sizes overall seemed to be the smallest seen in a number of years.
Cobb's group generally hunts on the north end of the unit and he knows that area very well.
Another group that did quite well on the general hunt was our hunting group.
We had 10 tags in our hunting party, including a couple of new hunters. We hunted from Goodwin Mesa all the way down to the unit's southern boundary, U.S. 93.
I went out with Colby Adams and Dan Driggs, who live in St. George, Utah, and were on their first javelina hunt.
We didn't find anything in the morning, but when I took them to one of my "honey holes" in the afternoon, I found a group almost immediately.
I videotaped the action from a hillside as the two hunters made a stalk that covered more than 700 yards.
When the pigs started moving, the shooting started. When it was over, Colby had bagged a big boar, while Dan had an adult sow.
But they weren't the only ones in our camp that had success.
Jay Chan had also bagged his second pig of the season on opening day.
On the second day of the hunt, Ryan Chan got his second pig of the year, while later that day his uncle Alan Chan and first-time pig hunter Grant Wiseman, both from Flagstaff, also got pigs.
Sunday was windy and only three people in our camp still had tags. Las Vegas resident Kensen Lee, Orville Wiseman and Miner photographer J.C. Amberlyn hunted hard, but nothing was seen.
Lee and Wiseman left. Amberlyn stayed and hunted on Monday. She saw a group of four pigs that day, but she didn't get a shot.
She was able to come back and hunt on Wednesday, but you'll have to wait until next week for that story.
Meanwhile, several other javelina hunters also found success. For example, during the handgun-archery-muzzleloader hunt, a camp made up of many search and rescue personnel from Kingman bagged as many as 10 animals.
Like Cobb's group, we also noted that the average number of pigs in the herds had decreased dramatically from years past.
More than 80 percent of the herds we hunted had six or less pigs. According to Arizona Game and Fish management guidelines, tags should be reduced when herd sizes drop to six or below.
No one seems to know whether the decline is caused by predation, disease, or the fact that it was the last hunt of the spring season.
There is no doubt that Unit 18B is a good producer of javelina. But I wonder - are they are being over-harvested?
Personally, I'd like to see this unit removed from the multi-unit archery package in January and left to stand on its own with a fair number of tags assigned to that hunt.
The department should also re-examine the new rule allowing hunters to take two pigs a year.
From what I saw, most of the hunters who got a second tag this year also got two pigs. They knew where the pigs were, and those herds got hammered.
So how about this: Allow hunters to draw one tag, and if there are tags left over, allow them to purchase another - but also reinstate the one-pig-per-year bag limit.
The department could continue to sell all the tags while also limiting the number of pigs being taken. Hunters who were not successful on their first hunt would have the opportunity to try again on another hunt to fill their tag.
I mentioned these issues to both Erin Butler, the Region III game specialist, and to department director Larry Voyles at the recent hunt recommendation meeting.
Both promised to look into the situation.