Nose To Nose by Jon Bryan
There’s a lot of up and down walking while hunting Mearns quail and you’d better be in shape! In southern Arizona on a cool morning, Jake and I are closing in on a covey with Candy pointing and Rooster backing. Good grass, steep incline and abundant oak trees, are all prime requirements for the birds.
On this hunt, our dogs, Candy, Rooster and Ned Pepper, were locked down in three picture perfect points next to a big clump of buck brush. ”A funny place for a covey of Mearns Quail to be,” Jake Schroder remarked. We walked into the dogs expecting the familiar “whirrrr” of a covey rising, when…no birds. The dogs broke their points and began to run around the brush, and then they started to bark. Brittany Spaniels generally don’t bark when they’re hunting. “What’s going on, Jake?” “Beats me, Beech,” he replied as he began to walk around the brush. I began walking around the other side, and at the same time, we both exclaimed, “Javelina!”
In 1979, the Mearns season in Arizona ran the entire month of January so in the middle of the month Rooster and I arrived in Tucson for a three day hunt. We were met by Jake and his dogs, Candy and Ned Pepper, and then set off for Mearns’ country, Patagonia, Arizona, twenty-five or thirty miles east of Nogales, right along the border. At that time, illegal immigrants weren’t the problem they are now!
Just after some very good shooting and dog work by Candy, Jake and Beechnut deliver a couple of handfuls of Mearns quail. Again, grass, oak trees, an incline and throw in a lot of rocks and you have good Mearns country.
By mid afternoon of the first day, Jake and I had reached the outer limits of our hunt and began a wide “swing” back toward our camp. We both had near our limit of Mearns quail and needed one more covey to fill out. We were expecting that covey when the dogs pointed the Javelina, or Collard Peccary. There was a special bow only, Javelina season underway but we didn’t carry bows and arrows, only twenty gauge shotguns and .22 pistols, mine a magnum.
We could see the Javelina, and sticking out of its right hip, with the point buried, was an arrow. “He must be hurt bad and can’t run,” I said and Jake replied, “Can you get a shot at his head or eyes and we can put out him out of his misery?” “Nope, the brush is too thick and I don’t have a clear sight,” then not thinking clearly, I said “ I can crawl into the brush pile, get close to him and then get a shot.” “Your funeral Beech,” Jake laughed.
“Hold the dogs Jake,” and into the buck brush I charged on hands and knees, two beady, black eyes watching me. “He must be hurt bad, not flushing out, with me this close to him,” I called out to Jake. No reply, he was probably laughing himself silly at this foolish, hundred and ninety pound, executive crawling on one hand and both knees, carrying a .22 magnum, pistol in the other hand, to “count coup” on the Javelina.
Deep into the brush pile, I got within ten feet of the Javelina, still on my hand and knees, raised the pistol to shoulder height, about two foot off of the ground, drew a bead between the Javelina’s eyes and prepared to cock the hammer. And then, very quickly, the Javelina jumped to its feet, looked me right in the eyes, clashed its tusks together, and charged! The animal was only about forty pounds, but in these close quarters, the clashing of his tusks together sounded like the symbols of a philharmonic orchestra!
Here he came, tusks clanging! My left hand was on the ground, my right holding and aiming the pistol. I took aim right between his eyes, and, Bam, the .22 spit out a forty grain hollow point to the point of aim and the javelina started down and rolled onto my left hand, dead!
Breathing heavily, I got out of the brush pile real quick and said to Jake and the dogs, “Did all you all hear his tusks clash?” Quickly I developed post-shooting, buck fever. I could stand and breathe, but I was shaking like a leaf. His tusks could have messed me up in those close quarters! “Nice shot!” said Jake.
We found one more covey and both of us got our limits. That turned out to be my last hunt for Mearns quail.
On another hunting trip, one afternoon Jake and I jumped a black bear while we were quail hunting on the Mustang Ranch, east of Tombstone. We did not offer chase, or try to “count coup” on him and the dogs also showed no inclination to give chase.