The first blush of excitement when I learned that I'd been selected to join a south Texas hunt for Rio turkeys and javelinawith Remington was fueled by the news that we would be hunting javelina with suppressed BushmasterAR-15 rifles. Although I'd had the pleasure of shooting with suppressors on ranges before, I'd never had the opportunity to actually hunt with one. I already knew that I'd be working with a highly accurate Bushmaster Minimalist MLOK, an AAC SDN-6 silencer, EotechEXPS-3 holographic sight and Remington .300 Blackout ammunition, so the tools I'd be using were solid and dependable...but was I going to be as accurate and dependable as my equipment? After all, the truth of the matter is that being able to punch a nice sub-MOA group on a target, from a benchrest, while calm and relaxed isn't the same thing as being able to ethically and humanely harvest a small, fast-moving target.
We sighted-in our MLOKs (which they didn't really need; the Eotech had held its zero quite nicely despite the slings and arrows of outrageous airline baggage handlers) the day we arrived. It was comforting to reassure myself that this gun, with its adjustable stock and recoil-damping semi-automatic action was simply a pleasure to shoot. You see, suppressors don't just absorb sound: They also reduce recoil. Naturally, even the .300 Blackout chambering and suppressor don't completely eliminate the report--it still absolutely sounds like gunfire--it's just that the sound level is more like shooting a .32-caliber pistol than a rifle. All of these things together take quite a bit of pressure off the shooter, since there's no need to anticipate or flinch at the recoil or report. I reassured myself that I would be free to focus my complete attention on a good sight picture, good trigger squeeze and good breath control.
What's perhaps most interesting about hunting javelina is that it's much like hunting wild boars. In fact, javelina even look like wild boars, right down to the piggy nose, piggy tusks and porcine trotters. Like pigs, their vision isn't great but their sense of smell is fantastic; like pigs, they're intelligent enough to realize that human beings represent danger and they're quite capable of motoring away at speeds that would astonish you. That said, javelina aren't pigs at all...they're just as closely related to hippopotami as they are to hogs.
Although I was able to take my Rio on the first morning of the first day, the javelina led me quite the merry chase for the following three days. My guide, Ted, would take me to a spot where he'd seen javelina just a couple days before. There would be sign everywhere...but no javelina. We'd wait. We'd stalk. We'd hear them--javelina are quite vocal--and sometimes we'd even smell them.
About that smell. There's a reason that javelina are known colloquially as "skunk pigs," and it's because they have this gland on their spines that secretes a substance that I'm pretty sure has been outlawed for use in war by the Geneva Convention. Likening this aroma to a skunk's spray is an insult to skunks. That said, it was pretty obvious that the javelina could smell me too, and found my odor equally repugnant...because no matter how close they might have been, they made sure to stay out of sight. (It's frustrating, sure, but that's why they call it "hunting" and not "shooting.") Of course, that doesn't mean that I didn't get a chance to experience some other types of Texas fauna, all up close and personal. Here's a new friend we made while we were checking around for skunk-pig spoor:
Yes, that lovely diamondback rattlesnake is approximately as long as I am tall, and he really didn't seem particularly eager to get out of our way. I was quite impressed with both the speed and distance of his strike. Judge me if you will, but I'm here to confirm for you that although it may seem like overkill to use a Remington HTP Copper 130-gr. load against a rattler, it only seems that way when there isn't a 5-and-a-half-foot rattlesnake with an attitude problem striking at your boots.
Speaking of boots, I was quite glad that I'd made the last-minute decision to purchase (yes, even outdoor writers pay retail sometimes) and wear a pair of Danner Women's Wayfinder Snake Boots for this Texas adventure. I'd felt a bit silly about it, in part because I hadn't had the time to break the boots in at all, and snake boots are famously stiff and difficult to walk in. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even right out of the box, the boots were quite flexible and comfortable. Hunting boots generally give me blisters as a matter of course, but even after three days of walking and stalking in the Texas heat my tootsies were unblemished. Danner's marketing says the flexibility is due to a SnakeGuard fabric that's sewn in between the liner and exterior of the boot, and that the comfort is due to using a true women's "last," which is essentially the model around which the boot is built. Although Mr. Diamondback may not have made actual contact with my boots, I've never been more grateful to have donned a set of footwear in my life. The Wayfinder set me back approximately $200, and on that Texas afternoon I decided it was the best money I'd ever spent.
It was only an hour before sundown on the last day of the hunt, and it looked as if I'd been...well, if not skunked, then skunk-pigged. The previous evening had featured a big, bright full moon and clear skies, and Ted and I conjectured that the javelina had simply fed all night and weren't hungry. Just so we could say that we tried, we tiredly decided to set up in one last spot before packing it in and heading back to the ranch house. As we settled into the blind, a familiar (uuuuggghh) scent wafted its way to us. That was good news; it meant that we were downwind. And then...like magic...six javelina just sort of appeared about 150 yards away. Dropping my face to the rifle's stock, I instantly found my sight picture in the Eotech red-dot. I selected the largest pig, hoping for a boar, and settled the dot on its shoulder. I was beginning my shot sequence when the animal spun sideways, and began to casually trot right towards me head-on.
One of the lessons that I'd learned from Ted was "if the critter is coming towards you, let it." So I took my finger off the trigger and just...waited...as the javelina got bigger and bigger in the sight. When it was about 80 yards away, I simply couldn't stand the anticipation one more second and squeezed the trigger. A perfect headshot, which was much more than I'd been hoping I could do. The javelina dropped like a marionette with its strings cut, and it stayed down.
I think hunting Texas javelina (and rattlesnakes) the Bushmaster way is my new favorite!