The box arrived on Tuesday, the night before we were scheduled to leave for a hunting trip to Texas. It was an afterthought for my husband Dave, who said, “Did you see this box that came for you today?”
“No,” I replied. “Who is it from?”
He told me that I would just have to read the label myself. I immediately knew where the mystery box had come from. It was addressed to Nancy Prancy, and no one calls me that except for one person in particular. With that in mind, I tore open the box, pretty certain that I knew what lay inside.
Dave and I left on Wednesday, headed to Boise with Fred and Jenny, to meet Larry and Belinda for a romantic Valentine’s Day extended weekend trip down to Marfa, Texas for some javelina hunting. I felt excited at the prospect of seeing new territory and hoped that this might be the hunt when I would finally take an animal with my longbow. There would be nine of us heading out on this adventure, seven of us hunting. We checked our bags, making sure we had everything we needed for the trip: Texas hunting license and javelina tag, broadhead sharpener, bow, arrows, boots, hunting clothes and that box addressed to Nancy Prancy.
We were all scheduled to arrive in El Paso within an hour of each other. The plan was to grab the luggage, pick up the rental cars, get a bite to eat and hit the road. It was a three-hour drive to Marfa, and we still needed to stock up on groceries. A couple of the guys had been on this same trip a time or two before, so they knew the routine.
We arrived at the houses where we would be staying and decided who would be staying where. Accommodations were cozy, but comfortable. Once we unloaded everything from the car, it was off to the grocery store and a stop at El Cheapo Liquor Store, mostly because we liked the name, also because we needed the fixings for margaritas for a trip in this country.
Back in camp the conversation revolved around what to pack, what to wear, what would the weather be, and how many javelina would we see. The mood was infectious. I checked out my bow, arrows, and broadheads, to make sure everything had survived the trip. It had been very cold in this part of Texas for the past week or two, so long underwear and heavier hunting clothes came out of the suitcase. With temperatures forecast down in the single digits by morning, I wasn’t taking any chances.
At 7:00 a.m. our guide showed up. We had to scrape frost from the windshields (yes, it was that cold) and turn the heater on full blast. On my way out the front door Jenny yelled, “Hey, do you have your hat?” I hit the brakes, headed back into the house, and grabbed the hat I had carefully packed from home.
Once we were on the ranch property, which was about an hour drive away, Jimmy told us to keep our eyes open because the javelina could be anywhere. They particularly like prickly pear cactus, so we got out the binoculars and started glassing the hillsides. We drove around a curve and there in the middle of the ranch road stood javelina. Larry and Dave had decided that they wanted to give Belinda and me first chance since they had both taken javelina the year before. We were certainly fine with that plan, so we hopped out of the truck, grabbed our stuff, and began our stalk.
Javelina are funny little creatures. They make grunts and snorts like a pig, but they are covered with bristles, smell like skunks (a smell I actually kind of like, much to the dismay of many) and are the size of a medium dog (about 30-40 pounds on average.) When they get scared, their bristles stand up on end to make them appear larger, and they try to stare you down. That technique didn’t work on me. I watched one that had its head buried in some cactus. When it wasn’t looking, I would sneak a little closer, bow poised and ready to draw. At about 10 yards, I brought my bow to full draw and let an arrow fly–right over the top of the javelina’s back. When that happens, you can’t act like you do when you miss a tennis ball and look for the hole in your racket. The javelina all took off through the brush with the two of us hot on their trail.
We followed them as they wandered in and out of the arroyos, around the mesquite, and through several thorny thickets. After an hour, we lost sight of the javelina and hopped back into the truck to continue our search. It’s amazing how they can disappear into thin air. As I returned to the truck, Jimmy remarked, “What were you waiting for? I thought you were going to step on the javelina before you shot him!” I just laughed and told him that I was waiting until the moment was just right. Truth was, I wanted to get as close as possible for a perfect shot. I was also amazed that the javelina was chomping away on a prickly pear cactus with its long, sharp thorns. Ouch!
By now it was warming up pretty nicely, the sun was shining, and I had a better idea of what we were looking for and where I should be looking. All of sudden something caught our eyes. More javelina! We pulled over in a cloud of dust and again, Belinda and I hopped out of the truck.
I grabbed my pack and took off to skirt around a small rise where the javelina were feeding so I could sneak in ahead of them as they moved toward me. I walked quietly toward them using brush for cover and trying to keep my eye on one animal in particular, standing still when he looked at me and sneaking closer when he resumed feeding. My bow was up with an arrow nocked. The moment had to be just right. I picked out my animal, and when I got close enough to feel comfortable shooting, I brought my bow back to full draw, picked a spot, and let’er go. I don’t even remember shooting!
The next thing I knew my arrow was in the animal, and he was weaving back and forth as he tried to figure out what just happened. All the other javelina starting running around me, but it never occurred to me to try and shoot another even though our license allowed us to harvest two animals. The arrow was embedded just behind the front leg and slightly below the shoulder. It looked too far back and maybe a little low, but what did I know? I had never done this before. Everything I had learned about hunting, especially the part about sitting down and waiting 30 minutes to watch your animal before you go after it, went right out the window. When I saw the javelina weaving back and forth, I was shaking so badly I thought I would pop.
Recognizing that I might need to shoot again, I nocked a second arrow and started running toward the javelina. I don’t know what I was thinking! The javelina took off, ran about 20 yards, and stopped in front of a large bush while I stood staring at him from 10 feet away as he swayed back and forth. Then I saw a large spurt of blood and knew that a second arrow wouldn’t be necessary.
All this time, the other javelina were still running around me, and I hadn’t even noticed that Larry and Belinda were trying to get set up for a shot. Dave was about 50 yards away from me, heading in my direction and watching the action unfold. Larry and Belinda were about 50 yards behind me, watching the other javelina. When the javelina I shot fell over, I just couldn’t contain myself anymore. I started jumping up and down and I yelled to Belinda, “I got one!” I actually didn’t think I was yelling, but I was told otherwise later. (I thought I was speaking in a loud whisper.)
Dave was gesturing to me to calm down. When I regained my senses, I immediately covered my mouth with my hand and hit the ground, realizing what I had done. I’m sure no hunting books or videos recommend that you chase your animal down, jump up and down, and yell when you kill an animal. I was just so excited that I couldn’t contain myself.
Dave and I got the camera out and took a hundred pictures of me with my first longbow harvest. With the photo session done, we started field dressing the javelina, trying to get it cooled down as quickly as possible since it had warmed up considerably. I was peeling layers off since I was overheated after all the excitement of the last hour. The hat that Jenny reminded me to take that morning never came off my head. I couldn’t believe I had almost left the hat behind.
The javelina was a nice adult male in good health. It took about an hour to skin and field dress it, which I did myself with the new knife Rod had given me as a trip souvenir. As we finished, Larry and Belinda came walking back to see how things were going. Larry couldn’t stop chuckling at my behavior and christened me with a new nickname: Jumpin’ Jack Flash. He told me that I was leaping six feet off the ground in my excitement. I think he was exaggerating, but that’s okay. He can tell the story however he wants.
We loaded the javelina into the back of the truck and headed out across the ranch. It was only the first day of the hunt and there were still javelina to stalk. When dusk rolled around, we headed back to town to share our day’s adventure with Helen, Gary, Rod, Jenny, and Fred. We were dusty, hungry, and eager to find out how everyone else had done.
I thought I would be calmer by the time we got back to town, but as soon as the truck pulled into the driveway, I was out of the back seat and bounding up the porch. Jenny and Helen were in the kitchen and as I ran through the front door, Jenny yelled, “Did you get one?” She could tell my answer from the ear-to-ear grin on my face. After hanging my javelina, we headed back inside to get ready for dinner, share hunting stories, and toast the day’s success. Belinda made a batch of margaritas, and we lifted our glasses to success and friendship as Larry began to tell the first of many renditions of how and why my new nickname was Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
As the conversation wound down and we finished off second helpings of dinner, Jenny said, “Aren’t you glad you took your hat?” Of course I was. If she hadn’t reminded me that morning, I would have left it behind and been so upset. I had, after all, carefully carried that hat from Oregon to Texas, and it had been sent to me specifically for this trip. When I wore that hat I felt that someone special was hunting with me, and he could only bring me good luck. Since I killed two javelina on this trip, I know the original owner of the hat would have been proud.
The box that arrived right before our trip was addressed to Nancy Prancy, and no one called me that except Glenn St.Charles. The hat had belonged to Glenn, and although my acquaintance with him was short-lived, I could take him hunting with me as long as I wore his hat. He would have laughed loudly at my story, which would have reinforced why he called me Nancy Prancy.
Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the Aug/Sep 2012 issue of Traditional Bowhunter Magazine. Sadly, both Larry and Dave have passed away. Happily, Nancy still does the Jumpin’ Jack Flash when she gets excited!