by: Bryce Bare
After a tough vertical hike through jagged rock, prickly pear, ocotillo, catclaw acacia, and shin-daggers, we made it to our perch and prepared to put the binoculars to work. The previous two days we spent getting beat down by wind, sleet and snow; so to get to our glassing position in relatively calm weather with the sun starting to crest the far-off Whetstone Mountains made the thorns feel small and the hill flat.
I pulled my eyes away from my binoculars for a split second to survey my surroundings and found myself speculating about the cattlemen that wandered this area. We were hunting in an area that was once part of the 1,000,000 acre, Empire Ranch once owned by the Empire Cattle Co. and later the Chiricahua Cattle Co. (the Empire is still an operating cattle ranch (and historical site) but downsized to 326,000 acres). When I wasn’t methodically picking apart the mountain side for any site of javelina, I would just sit back against my backpack and try to imagine some of the adventures had during this area’s heyday. As a side note; these hills have also been host to many western films, such as, Red River (1948, John Wayne), 3:10 to Yuma (1957, Glen Ford), The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976, Clint Eastwood), Bonanza (TV Series), Gunsmoke (TV Series). You can find the complete list here.
As the sun started to drop behind the Santa Rita mountains a herd of twelve javelina started feeding up a hill; rooting around the grass covered hill, flipping boulders, and grazing in the last of the warm sunlight. Tate spotted their sundrenched and shining coats from about a mile away. We knew immediately, that with light dwindling, this was a “now or never” situation, so off we went periodically stopping to find the heard along the way.
It only took us about a half hour to get into a good position to take a shot on the herd. As we crested a small knoll and peeked over the top we could see the pigs feeding off into a wash. We knew this was bad… We doubled back and took a different tack at the heard. By the time we found them again they had moved down into the wash and were feeding up the other side. So not feeling that we could get any closer, Tate drew his bow and settled the 70 yard pin just behind the shoulder of a large boar. It was dead silent as his arrow cut across the canyon. You could only hear the slight whisper of hid broadhead as it sliced through the heavy evening air. I waited and watched for the impact only to see the arrow shatter against a rock just over the boars shoulder. The herd squealed and grunted as they scattered in all directions. Tate immediately knocked another arrow and I got on a closed-reed call. Within seconds of blowing into the call a large boar comes roaring up out of the wash; hair standing and jaw snapping, ready to protect his own.
Tate wheels around with bow at full draw, zeros in on the boars chest and lets the arrow fly. On impulse, Tate proceeds to knock another arrow, while I watch the brute dash out of sight then pile up, dead, at the bottom of the wash.
After some back-patting and pictures darkness overtook the semi-desert grassland and we were forced to cape and quarter our quarry under the dull glow of headlamps.
We spent that last night resting and reliving the hunt, at our headquarters, in the back of a friend’s horse trailer. We spent one last night in Sonoita then made a slow trip back to Phoenix; smiling from ear to ear…