How I came to really hate cactus.
a semicircular view of the area we hunted
January 2003; If anyone out there ever wonders why sometimes you never see, much less even hear, game in the boonies, I've discovered the answer. They're lurking about in the middle of town! Herewith follows my exposition on the merits of in-town hunting as opposed to traveling deep into the great wooly wildlands.
This whole escapade started about six months ago when Jim asked me if I might be interested in a Javalina hunt around Oracle, Arizona where he & Twyla had moved from nearly twelve years ago. I had always been interested in that area "Northeast" of Tucson and Jim said we would also have a chance to visit Paco & family as well as certain REAL SONORAN STYLE MEXICAN RESTAURANTS! Yippee!
After getting all the hunting license and permit drawing shenanigans taken care of in November, Jim wanted to know if the idea of camping out for several days would be alright since the road into where we would be hunting was "sorta rough" & it would be more efficient to stay out a few days than to travel back & forth each day. I agreed that as saving wear & tear on a vehicle is an admirable aspiration, I wouldn't mind roughing it for a few days. ( I really wanted to campout a few days anyway) The kicker to this would mean that we would have to take Dad's pickup as opposed to my Tahoe since we'd need the extra cargo space for Jim's tent & all the other assorted goodies needed to survive camping out in the middle of a desert. So far, so good.
It turned out we had packed about three times the amount of gear we needed but, needing a thing and not having it can quickly turn a minor inconvenience into an emergency out in the back country.
The day finally arrives, everything has been packed and away we go. The trip out was nice and I got to see new parts of Arizona. The last time I'd been through was over 20 years ago and that was the Flagstaff to Phoenix route on the way to California. We arrived in Oracle, Wednesday evening and spent the night with friends of Jim.
biosphere 2, about 6 miles away
Thursday morning found us on the road to the Biosphere 2, waiting to pickup Rob Lundberg and venture off the blacktop and into the boonies. I cannot really describe the "road" we drove to our campsite and these few pictures can only give you a small idea just how rough the going was out there. Jim had said he had driven his International Scout through here before without much trouble but, I can say that a standard two-wheel drive pickup would've had serious problems getting through some of the harder parts.
yipes, what a road!
After we had set up camp, Jim and I took a short walk late in the afternoon to get me acquainted with the area we would be hunting. That night and the next day we discovered several things. Among them;
1, The Coyotes seem to have discovered that life is easier in downtown Tucson than out in the hills. We didn't hear one solitary yip-yip until we were at Hacienda Paco.
2, You cannot have too many tent pegs and tie downs on a tent when the wind gets up. Also remember to tie the window flaps shut.
3, Keep a set of earplugs handy if your new hunting partner turns out to have a snoring decibel level approaching that of a Boeing 747 landing directly overhead. Be prepared to reassure him that he DID get quite a lot of sleep when he says that he didn't think he'd slept much.
4, Sunscreen isn't just for those who work in office buildings. I had a good burn going by Friday afternoon and I'm still peeling in several places almost two weeks later! This oversight was remedied by Rob letting us use some of his humongous tube of SPF 30 that he'd brought along and was the main reason we put up with him staying in the tent at night instead of setting up his own about 200 yards downwind.
5, Lack of a pretty intense hiking, walking training plan can be a serious mistake. I do some physically intensive work and also try to keep in good shape, but IT WASN'T ENOUGH. I did myself in the first day of hunting by doing too much hiking around on uneven ground, too fast & wound up pulling the muscle group in my left front thigh/groin. This proceeded to get worse and even taking Sunday off at Rob's house didn't help. By Monday I had serious problems walking uphill ( by the way 99% of Arizona is uphill ) .
6, Cactus is (are?) everywhere and in vast number. Sticks must be dealt with as soon as discovered. A small pocket comb can be used to rake off Choya and small Barrel cactus.
The weather however, was very enjoyable. Temps ranged from the high 40s at night to mid 80s during the day. Everyone we talked to before and after commented on the excellent weather for this time of year. I was thankful too. Jim & I had packed enough clothes to take us from tropical to arctic conditions and I really had no desire to look like Nanook of The North while hunting. On Saturday, I had set up about 40 feet above a fork in a dry wash to ambush a pig and heard Jim's shots. Our agreement was to head toward the sound of the guns and I had set off to get up to high ground to try to spot them after I'd heard the first shots go off. I was still trying to get to a tall enough ridge when the second shots went off. I glassed every hill in the direction I'd heard them but, I couldn't see a thing moving. After about a half hour or so of seeing nothing, I decided to climb out and head back to camp. I beat Jim & Rob there but not by too much.
I will however, finally get back to my beginning point. Jim & I had returned to his friends at Oracle to spend Sunday night and we decided to eat out again at the Mexican restaurant we'd gone to the evening we had first arrived. This wasn't Taco Bell OR your typical chain restaurant. On the way through "downtown" Oracle, just as pretty as you please, two fair sized Javalina decided to jaywalk RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. They had come out of a small dry wash and were sauntering across the road apparently to visit friends in a trailer park. We had stopped to let them pass and I had serious thoughts about plugging one of them with my .45 ACP and riding back to the house with the thing on my lap. I figured that it was so dark that no one could've identified the car we were in well enough to give the Sheriff any meaningful information. In any case, we would've had a pig apiece.
Anyway though, no matter the lack of seeing any Javalina or, dealing with physical problems, the old saying still applies;
The worst day hunting is better than the best day working!