Hunting in Texas Brush Country: Turkey, Javelina, Hogs, Snakes, Bugs

rattlesnake courtesy TheTruthAboutGuns.com

About 90 minutes WSW of San Antonio, about 20 miles from the Mexican border, sits the town of La Pryor, Texas. Well into Brush Country, everything there will bite, sting, or stick you. It’s a part of Texas I hadn’t seen before, so when Remington extended a last-minute invite for TTAG to join them on a turkey hunt, I jumped at the chance . . .

Based on the friends and family who have come to visit us, it seems most people think Texas is all desert. They expect nothing but sand, cacti, and tumbleweeds. Sure, Texas has that, but it’s an awfully big state and it has a lot of not that, too. Central Texas, Hill Country, Brush Country, the various plains areas, Piney Woods (NE)…it’s all extremely green.

Between San Antonio and La Pryor and points beyond, it’s characterized by rolling hills packed as dense as can be with bright green mesquite, huisache, Spanish dagger, prickly pear, live oak, wildflowers, and more.

Of course, most of it will still rip you to shreds, pretty or not. Huisache looks friendly, but is covered with two-inch spines that are so dang sharp they slip through clothes and skin like nothing. Off some sort of trail and without a big machete, this region is practically impassable.

I met a large moth, which may or may not be something that bites or stings (I bet on “not” while brazenly sticking my fingers near it for photo scale purposes). When it flew in I thought it was a mentally disabled and gimpy hummingbird, it was so dang large. Turns out it’s the ol’ Manduca Quinquemaculata. No threat to my fingers.

I assumed this little guy wasn’t about to bite or sting me, either. Pretty sweet black and white pattern.

Chaparrosa’s La Paloma Lodge was great. Big rooms, nice dining area with a pool table, fireplace, bar, etc., and some excellent cooking (if bad coffee). They have a huge outdoor fire pit area, a 500-yard shooting range just beyond the rooms, and a pool.

Though on my visit the pool was being used by a swarm of yellowjackets — a cloud floated over it, and 30 or so at any given time were on the surface, drinking water. I’m well aware that they bite and sting, and I didn’t end up swimming.

Breakfast at 5:30 and then I found myself in a blind in the dark. Gotta get out there before the turkeys do. Thankfully the weather in much of Texas in March at dawn is about as pleasant as can be.

Don from Wildlife Systems was in the blind with me, calling the birds in after they woke up. Heck, he had full conversations with them. Eventually they found their way to the clearing in front of us and the largest Tom separated himself from the flock and turned to face us. I squeezed the trigger.

In the photo above, a different Tom came running over almost immediately — within 10 seconds — and started kicking the crap out of the bird I had just shot. Don’t show weakness in a flock of turkeys, I guess.

With an EOTech-equipped Remington 870 DM Predator at about 30 yards, missing wasn’t an option. I pegged this guy exactly where I wanted and he went down instantaneously and never twitched so much as a single feather.

A 22-pound turkey is a big bird. We’ll talk about cooking it later, but much of that has already happened and so far it has been quite the success.

A bit of a dinosaur, that.

Of course, while the turkeys aren’t much of a threat to you or me, they do pack a little punch with their spurs. Apparently this Rio Turkey’s just over 1.25-inch spurs (see my middle finger in the pic above) are about as big as they get in this area.

If danger’s more your game, there are always the rattlesnakes, which are pervasive. This Western Diamondback was crossing the road when Don spotted it.

Its biting days are over, but they didn’t end completely until maybe 10 minutes after it was dead. Taking shotgun pellets through the head didn’t stop its reflexes. The snake continued to react to being touched, including opening its mouth and moving to bite, for a long freaking time.

That’s Don. He’s 5’10”.

On to other pursuits, then. We drove around looking for hogs and Javelina. I was shooting a new gun from Remington Defense, details of which are under wraps for the time being.

Stalking up to the edge of a lake, we spotted hogs on the far side. I dropped prone, experiencing the issues detailed here, as Don ranged a 300+ lb hog at about 375 yards. Unfortunately, I had left my phone in the truck so I didn’t have a ballistics app or any DOPE on the Remington 700 Magpul in my hands.

In fact, this was to be my very first shot with it. I guessed two mils (checking my app later, the correct hold was 1.93), held for that and the approximately 8-10 MPH full value crosswind — which put the reticle above and out in front of the hog’s nose — and pulled the trigger.

Don heard the impact on the hog and saw him stumble slightly, but he disappeared from his small clearing into the brush. We had no means of getting around to that side of the lake at the time, but a couple days later, after I was home, I got a text to say they spotted the hog with binoculars from another angle and he hadn’t gone far before expiring.

The Javelina were harder to find, and we struck out on day one. Day two, though, was lousy with the nasty creatures milling around near the roads. This little guy wasn’t much to write home about, other than a decently well-placed shot from prone at 150-ish yards.

My second Javelina — you can only take two per year, despite their pest status — was more impressive. He was the biggest in his pack and had a great set of teeth on him.

Yep, even these little not-pigs-not-rodents-something-in-the-middle creatures have ridiculous, nasty chompers. Though you’d have to corner one and call it mean names to incite an attack, I wouldn’t recommend hanging out with these things.

If not for the teeth, then for the smell and the pests. These “skunk pigs” have a giant scent gland on their back, and they smell horrible in general and especially there. They’re also completely riddled with fleas, ticks, and other parasites. In fact, just posing behind the rifle for a photo and holding the Javelina’s mouth open for a few seconds was enough to end up with some fleas on me.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for a follow-up article on the various ways in which I’m cooking up the turkey breasts, plus another with much more information on that Remington Defense gun that took down a couple skunk pigs.

comments

  1. avatar The Rookie says:

    “These “skunk pigs” have a giant scent gland on their back, and they smell horrible in general and especially there. They’re also completely riddled with fleas, ticks, and other parasites.”

    So, I’m guessing Javelina are not good eating (or even particularly edible) then?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Apparently the meat is mushy and not particularly appealing. I wouldn’t look forward to field dressing one, either haha. As they’re pests that cause a lot of damage, people kill them for that reason alone. But if you find one with particularly impressive teeth it’s really common to keep the skull (clean it, bleach it, etc), only the teeth, or have the entire head mounted. JWT has a nice Javelina mount on his office wall, in fact.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Yup, one of my favorite hunts is javelina with a revolver when they are all packed up. If you just shoot the ones that charge you you’ll be there all day.
        I eat just about anything, often the stuff nobody else can eat. But even so, javelina is just barely edible. The only way I’ve found it to be so is to brine them forever, then smoke them into dry sausage stuffed with jalepenos. Even then, man, you’d better be hungry.

        1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

          Peccary sausage is what mine get processed as.

          Maybe there is a food-source difference in AZ vs other places that affects the taste? I wouldn’t eat them in any way other than sausage, but I’ve quite the taste for that sausage (with cheese and crackers).

          And based on feedback from others I’ve given the sausage too, it goes over pretty well (usually in the form of “I’m putting in for a tag next year”).

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Nigel, the difference is that whoever is doing your processing is probably also putting in some pork or beef, or maybe venison into that sausage. Mixed like that, the javelina adds a bit of spiciness.

    2. avatar Bloving says:

      Hope you ate everything you killed… rattlesnake can be mighty tasty – I’ll have mine barbecued, please!
      🤠

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        I leave the snakes alone on my land because I’d rather have snakes than rodents,but then again, I don’t have cattle. Are snakes that big a deal for ranchers?

      2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Only the turkey was eaten. The Javelina, as JWT detailed, is not good eating. Big old boars like the one I shot are not very good eating, either. Though way better than the Javelina. Both are shot primarily (though in the case of the Jav also for trophies) because they cause significant property damage…pest animals, invasive in the case of the wild hogs, that are extremely numerous.

        I DO like rattlesnake! Typically tossed in corn starch with some lemon pepper and fried up. In this case, that was the plan — the cook at the lodge would have done a great job, too — but this snake is off to taxidermy instead for a full mount. The typical coiled snake about to strike deal, I believe. Yes, it would have been possible to skin it and still eat the meat and send the rest off, but they were worried about ruining it or cutting it incorrectly for the purposes of the taxidermist.

        …They do occasionally bite the cattle on this ranch, yes…

        1. avatar Pliablemoose says:

          You haven’t lived until a rattlesnake spooks your horse, holy crap my horse turned into a handful instantly…

  2. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Good job on a Texas style hunt. A great looking mount is a full mount of a Javelina biting a rattlesnake. It’s kind of a classic, and now you know why. I would highly recommend Cole Stevens up near you for just such a task.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I have no space for such a thing right now, but that sounds awesome!

      …I’d probably tent the javelina, throw three bug bombs in there, seal it up for 12 hours, then collect it haha

  3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Sounds like a great time.
    Although the coffee remark turned me off. I’m kind of a coffee snob. If the coffee ain’t good, I’m outta there.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      It was a bit of an outlier because all of the food was so darn good! But weakly-brewed Folgers through a diner style drip machine isn’t my brand. Especially since I’m an unsweetened black coffee kind of a guy. If I visit there again I’m bringing my own haha

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Yup. I would also bring my own grind.
        Sometimes I get funny looks, till they taste it.

  4. avatar Z says:

    Javelina is plenty edible (if you are careful about the scent gland), seems silly to waste that meat. People around AZ make it into chorizo.
    I’ve never heard of them being considered pests on a ranch before, though they do a number on planted crops and golf courses.

    1. avatar Gralnok says:

      Super true! I live in Arizona and have encountered many javalina, unfortunately mostly by the side of the road. They are smelly, dumb, yet determined at the same time. I’ve seen them go down a street knocking over garbage bins and making a mess looking for food before moving to the next bin.

  5. avatar Joe R. says:

    That sounds like a great hunt, transitioning to different quarry. I guess it’s possible as long as you bag the turkey quickly.

  6. avatar A O says:

    This is a great write-up. Thank you Jeremy.

  7. avatar Tom says:

    Dickhead. Why randomly kill a snake if you aren’t going to eat it?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Because by killing it, you have turned a live rattlesnake into a dead rattlesnake. It’s complicated.

      1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

        It ain’t like there’s a shortage of rattlesnakes. Especially not in Texas.

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