March 09, 2022
South Texas is some inhospitable country. It’s hot, dry, and loaded with poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, and every conceivable type of vegetation designed solely for the purpose of poking, sticking, slashing, and otherwise subjecting a bowhunter to significant blood loss! Every winter, I venture south from my frigid home in Minnesota, leaving the cold and snow in the rearview mirror, for a week of hunting in this stark landscape for one reason — collared peccary.
Day Two of my 2021 hunt at the Lincoln Ranch in Webb County found me sitting on a folding stool in a hollow of thick brush and cactus. I was guarding the intersection of two senderos; perfect travelways for the whitetails, hogs, and peccary that call this ranch home. As in much of South Texas, the brush is so thick it’s literally impossible for man or beast to move through it, so all manner of game use these two-tracks to get from Point A to B. Lincoln Ranch owner/outfitter Karl Dickinson spreads corn along the senderos each morning to lure javelinas and other game into the open for his waiting bowhunters, and on this particular morning his baiting strategy worked to perfection!
The sun was getting higher, and the day was already becoming uncomfortably warm. Karl’s truck had passed my ambush quite some time before, and I was just beginning to think that the peccary would be a no-show this morning when the telltale sound of sharp teeth crunching loudly on kernels of corn reached my ears from just around the bend. Peccary can be maddeningly slow feeders, and it seemed to take forever for the group to reach the intersection and feed into view. In all, there were four collared peccary in the group, all adults, and as they fed closer, I gripped my 52-pound longbow tighter while simultaneously trying to melt into the brush.
As the first animal passed me broadside at eight yards, I slowly started to draw my bow, only to have the peccary scoot through my opening and not offer a shot. The second critter did the same thing. Of the last two targets, the animal bringing up the rear was clearly larger, so I decided to allow Number Three to pass unscathed. But when the last peccary stepped into the clear, I wasted no time in drawing my longbow to the corner of my mouth and released the heavy, footed cedar shaft…
Collared peccary, more commonly called javelina or “javies” for short, are a completely unique animal and quite possibly the perfect bowhunting trophy. They live in the deserts of the Southwest, from the arid mountains of Arizona and New Mexico to the South Texas brush country and throughout Old Mexico. Not a large animal by any standards, most adult javelina in Texas will tip the scales at 35 to 45 pounds, while their mountainous brethren farther west can reach 60 pounds or more. With their blunt snouts they resemble pigs, but in fact they are not a pig at all. Their course, salt-and-pepper coats blend in well with the dry terrain they call home, and their formidable set of canine teeth is wicked to say the least! Many a bowhunter, yours truly included, has become more than a little unnerved when surrounded by a group of agitated javies; pacing stiff-legged, hair erect, and popping those menacing teeth at pointblank range. Believe me, it’s an experience not soon forgotten!
Javelina are very gregarious and often travel in groups of a half-dozen animals or more. I’ve seen them feeding in numbers of up to 20-plus animals, but that many eyes, ears, and noses can be problematic. On a previous trip to Texas, I had a large group of close to 30 javelina working down the sendero in my direction, and one huge boar definitely caught my attention. As the group neared my hiding spot, the trophy animal seemed like a sure thing, until a smaller male cut off the road and nearly into my lap! His sharp alarm bark and the ensuing mayhem had me looking for a tree to climb — not a good proposition in South Texas! Several of the tiny youngsters were squealing and darting in and out of the cover all around me, a couple so close that they ran between my outstretched legs!
Early on in my bowhunting career, I remember reading magazine articles clearly stating that javelina were a pushover and easy to bowhunt. These “experts” made it sound like a collared peccary was virtually blind and deaf, and mention of their sense of smell was never made. Well, I can tell you after chasing peccaries with a bent stick for 20 years now, nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, their sense of smell is on par with other game animals, so if you don’t keep the wind in your favor, you won’t be tagging too many javies!
A javelina’s eyesight has always gotten a bum rap. True, they don’t see stationary objects well, but they spot movement instantly, and being at the bottom of the food chain in a land of coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions has not made them a curious animal. Get busted by a close-range javelina, and there will be chaos like you can’t imagine — grunting, barking, popping of jaws, and a cloud of dust that will leave you shaking your head!
Hearing is a peccary’s least important line of defense, but I don’t believe it’s because they can’t hear: The country they live in is dry and noisy, and the wind is almost always blowing and rattling the thick brush. Combine this with the fact that javelina generally travel in good-sized groups and make a lot of noise themselves, and it’s understandable that their hearing is often compromised.
There are three main methods for arrowing a javelina: spot and stalk, stand hunting, and calling. For a pure adrenaline rush, nothing beats calling, and I never head out in search of javelina without a couple predator calls in my pocket. I’ve not had a great amount of success calling blindly, but if you want some wild action, wail on a predator call after you’ve spooked a group of javies!
Years ago, while hunting the King Ranch in Texas, one of my partners busted a herd of peccary and I immediately ran to the spot where they had been and started blowing frantically on a rabbit-in-distress call. The results were unbelievable! For as long as I screamed on the call, the entire herd charged in and out — woofing, growling, and popping those vicious teeth. Some came to within an arm’s length, but they were in constant motion and never offered an acceptable shot. In the end, I ran out of breath and quit screaming on the predator call, and the herd slowly melted away, but the excitement was unforgettable.
Javelina live in big, inhospitable country, so setting up a blind and hoping for natural movement to bring animals past your ambush is akin to the proverbial needle in a haystack. Enter the “yellow brick road” — corn. Spreading corn along roads and senderos will bring the animals out of the impenetrable brush and to your hiding spot. I like to set up inside 10 yards from the travelway, with heavy cover behind where I sit on a small stool. Peccary are not large animals and their vitals are only about the size of your hand and tucked forward, so close-range shots are always best. Unlike hogs, javelina are not nocturnal; their sparse hair does not provide much warmth, so cold, desert mornings are usually slow until the sun starts to heat up the countryside. In my experience, midmorning through midafternoon offers the best hunting for javelina. Just like other forms of baiting, the animals will become accustomed to a bait schedule, so corning the senderos at the same time each day will improve your odds.
My favorite method for arrowing javelina is to spot and stalk these elusive critters. In mountainous country, get up high with good optics and pick the country apart slowly. As I mentioned earlier, peccary blend into their surroundings extremely well, so take your time and use good glass. In Texas, the spotting part can be exceedingly difficult, because the land is pretty much flat and the country incredibly thick. Again, here’s where the use of corn comes into play. Spreading corn on the open senderos pulls the animals out of the heavy cover, allowing a patient bowhunter to then slip within range. Most of the javelina I’ve arrowed have been taken in this manner: Watching a corned road, and then stalking slowly and quietly along the edge of the road, keeping the wind in my face. In good peccary country, a bowhunter will likely be presented with several good stalking opportunities per day — another reason these critters are perfect for bowhunting.
…The heavy, footed shaft hit with a loud crack and instantly fell to the ground, and the big boar rocketed off the sendero and was immediately swallowed up by heavy cover. Confused about what had happened, I sat quietly listening to the animal’s retreat. But the silence returned almost instantly, which left me even more confused. I waited about 20 minutes before easing to the far side of the trail to pick up my arrow. My arrow was intact and the broadhead still sharp, with very little blood on either. Easing slowly in the direction of the wounded peccary, I found almost no sign — save for some scuff marks in the bone-dry ground — but looking ahead, I saw my trophy piled up less than 25 yards from the impact site.
In the end the shot had been perfect, but the arrow had centered and then bounced back off the opposite shoulder — a quick, clean kill, nonetheless. This particular boar proved to be my biggest ever, tipping the scale at 52 pounds…a fitting end to another trip south to enjoy one of my favorite bowhunts — a Peccary Party!
The author is a custom bowyer and a longtime Contributor to this magazine.
Javelina may be small in stature, but they’re tough as nails. In fact, I like to refer to them as Texas Cape buffalo. Their vitals are small and tucked forward, so aim accordingly. That said, I use pretty much the same setup for javelina as I do for moose, or anything in-between: Low to mid 50-pound Prairie Panther longbows of my own design and manufacture; Thunderhorn bow quivers from Duane Jessop out of Montana; footed cedar arrows from arrowsmith Steven Burns from Oregon (719) 213-8801; and I tip my hunting arrows with 190-grain, three-blade VPA broadheads.
If you’d like to find an excellent place to bowhunt collared peccary, reach out to Karl Dickinson, owner and operator of Lincoln Ranch Bowhunting. Karl offers great bowhunting-only adventures for whitetails, hogs, and javelina.