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Tue, Feb. 25

What to do after you’ve downed a javelina

This photo shows an improperly tagged javelina. It is not legal to wrap the tag around the front leg. The animal must be tagged under the gambrel of a hind leg.  (Photo by Don Martin/For the Miner)

This photo shows an improperly tagged javelina. It is not legal to wrap the tag around the front leg. The animal must be tagged under the gambrel of a hind leg. (Photo by Don Martin/For the Miner)

The first week of the HAM (handgun-archery-muzzleloader) javelina season is just about over.

Let’s assume that you are one of the lucky ones who have managed to bag one of these little desert dwellers who live throughout Mohave County.

Now what are you going to do?

Many people claim javelina are not fit to eat. The big thing that determines the table value of the critters is how you take care of them.

What follows is the process of taking a javelina from the field to table, and hopefully you will then enjoy eating javelina.

Make sure the animal is deceased

The first order of business for a hunter is to make sure the javelina is deceased. Never approach the downed animal from the front; always approach an animal that is down from the rear. You can touch the hindquarters with the barrel of a rifle or use a long stick and see if it moves. If it doesn’t move, then touch an eye of the animal. If it blinks it is still alive and needs to be quickly dispatched.

Don’t use your hand to touch the eye. Javelina have some very sharp front teeth and even an injured pig can quickly move its head enough to cause serious injury.

Unload your firearm and take some photos

After you are sure the animal is dead, you’ll want to take a few photos of you and your pig. Make sure all the blood is wiped off the animal and put it in a natural pose, with the legs tucked underneath it. Set the javelina on a rock outcrop and get down low and take the photo. Get in tight for this photo. That means this is not a scenic photo, it is a photo of you and the animal. Take lots and lots of photos. That animal is gone and deserves to be remembered in the years to come.

Properly tagging your javelina

After your photos are taken you need to tag the animal. The tag is a transfer of ownership from the state of Arizona to you, the hunter. Game wardens say improper tagging of javelina is one of the most common violations they see.

The only legal method and location to tag a javelina is to split the skin of a back leg and pull the rear tendon or gambrel away from the leg, then pull the tag underneath the gambrel and fold the tag together so it sticks together.

It is illegal to tag javelina around the rear legs, front legs, around the snout or even around the ears.

Field dress your javelina

Your javelina is tagged and you are now ready to start field dressing. If there are no trees on which to hang the animal, lay the pig on its back on the ground with the head elevated higher than the rear. Put on nitrile gloves and remove the sex organs of the animal. Then make a small incision from between the hind legs up to the sternum, split the pelvis, and reach inside the body cavity and cut loose the windpipe and connecting membrane inside.

At this point you can literally remove all of the entrails by grabbing the front legs and shaking the animal up and down. Splitting the pelvis facilitates the removal of all internal organs at one time.

Then put the pig on top of a bush where all of the blood and body fluids can drain out. It doesn’t take long to field dress your pig.

Now that the javelina is field dressed, you need to skin it as soon as possible, taking care not to touch the gland on the top of the hips.

A small spreader bar can be used to put the rear legs of the javelina through and hang it with a rope on a sturdy tree branch at shoulder height.

Start the skinning process by making a slit up the hind legs all the way from the hooves to the anus. Pull the skin off the leg and cut the small tail bone off.

Now you can pull on the hide and it will have the scent gland that is above the hips of the javelina attached.

Do not ever touch this gland with your hands or a knife.

This scent gland emits an oily, smelly liquid that smells like a skunk. Javelina use the scent to mark their location as they move through the brush. They can also emit a microscopic burst of this liquid at times when they rub against each other. This liquid is oil based and doesn’t come off easily. If you touch your knife to the gland you will contaminate it and when you make cuts inside the body cavity of your animal you will transfer the scent onto the meat. Then it will taste like a skunk.

You will need to make a slit down the front legs to the hooves and skin them up to the body. Pull the hide to the base of the skull and remove the entire head with the entire skin from the carcass.

Once the hide and head have been removed, wash the carcass as soon as possible in cool water and let it air dry. If you have some kind of breathable material that lets air flow through, put the carcass inside of it and seal up the top to keep flies and bugs off.

If you do this, the end result is you will have meat that is good tasting and can be used to make pulled-pork sandwiches, tacos, chorizo and even small roasts. You can even make breakfast sausage and add some Boston pork butt to the mix to make it even better.

If you’re handy with a knife you should be done with the field dressing and skinning in about 45 minutes.

You’ll get 15-25 pounds of boned out meat from an adult javelin. If taken care of, it will be very palatable.

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