If you live in Arizona or Texas, you’ve probably heard of javelina. For anyone else, hunting javelina makes a great beginner’s expedition during the off-season, so it may be well worth a trip.¬†In Arizona, javelina hunting season runs from January until February, while in Texas the season extends September to August.

Before booking your next javelina hunt, first you have to understand your prey, both its strengths and its weaknesses. Here are seven important things to know about hunting javelina.

Not a pig

For starters, javelina are not feral pigs or hogs, although they bear a close resemblance with their strong bodies, massive head and tusks. In actuality, they are collared peccary. Their behavior, however, is very similar to hogs as they live in packs sometimes as many as 100 but usually around five to 15.

Smell better than eyesight

Like wild boars, javelina have a better sense of smell than they do eyesight. For this reason, when stalking one it’s more important not to be smelled than seen. Javelina are said to have decent eyesight up to about 50 meters. But their sense of smell is extremely acute. If they get a whiff of you they are likely to scatter. However, they also have short memories, so if they spot you they will likely forget about you after about 10 minutes.

Thin coat

Javelina have relatively thin skin and coat of fur. What this means when hunting javelina is it gives you a clue as to where you can spot them. Realize that because they have thin coats, they often seek cover behind bushes and on the lee side of hills or boulders. But in the morning time when it’s cold, they are likely to sun themselves in the open.

Small range

One thing that makes hunting javelina such a great beginner’s hunt is that they do not roam very far. The average javelina pack roams just about a square a mile. They also need water, so if you find water with sing of javelina, you’ve got a pretty good shot of tracking them down. When you finally do catch up with them, just be sure to stay quiet and approach on the upwind side.

Sausage or pulled?

Some people debate over the meat quality of javelina. Yes, it’s kind of like pork, but not exactly. It’s much tougher for one thing. Two ways that are popular methods of preparing javelina meat is the slow cook or pressure cook it for some pulled pork-style action, or you can turn it into sausage.

Scent glands

Another method of tracking javelina is to smell them. They earned the nickname “skunk pig” for its scent glands under their eyes and on their backs, which are used to mark fellow members of the pack as well as territory. The smell is often no pungent, you won’t miss it.

Camouflaged

Like many wild animals, the appearance of javelinas blends into their natural environment. They are also very low to the ground and only about 60 pounds. For these reasons they are extremely hard to spot. A good scoping glass is essential to a successful javelina hunt. I suggest finding a high spot near some natural shelter on a desert plane with some water nearby and you’re likely to have yourself a day.

Photo credit: Larry Lamsa via Flickr