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Hunting Ocellated Turkeys In Mayan MexicoSteve Felgenhauer
As daylight illuminated the landscape, the sounds of my surroundings were foreign, and for good reason. I was hunting Mexico for the most elusive of all the turkey species, the Ocellated turkey.
Mosquitoes found us hiding in the thick underbrush that blankets miles of terrain. The locals refer to the thickets as "junglas" or jungle. But, the little pests were soon forgotten when my guide, Marcos, whispered, "Dur-KEY" in his broken English accent. My heart rate instantly rose several beats per minute as I watched the lone tom make its way across the outer reaches of the field, well out of range of the shotgun I was holding. The emotional roller coaster inside me subsided as the bird fed out of sight.
Things slowed to a crawl; boredom was averted by swatting the mosquitoes that found "gringos" much more appetizing than my Mayan friend sitting next to me.
Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder; I turned and looked to see Marcos, excitement in his eyes and a gesture of a cocked finger as if he were pulling the trigger of a gun. Though we didn’t speak the same language I understood his gestures clearly. A Pavo was coming our way.
I readied myself and squeezed the trigger as I caught sight of the legal bird. The Remington bellowed; the load of 2s found their mark, and the tom went down. The two remaining birds took to the air and flew back in the direction from which they had come.
Just a few days earlier while announcing my plans to some friends at the NWTF Convention, I bit my lip at the jokes and horror stories of hunting Ocellated turkeys. Phrases like "Yard birds"... "Not real turkeys" and "Federales throwing gringos in jail" were thrown around at my expense. I was the butt of all the jokes, but in reality, jealousy was the motivation behind the good natured razzing.
I was assured by friend and turkey hunting legend Ray Eye it was safe and the stories were just that -stories. Eye’s promise of plenty of turkeys proved to be true. If the chance arises again, I will be on the first plane I can catch back to the Yucatan Peninsula to hunt what has been called the most beautiful turkey on the planet.
Hunting Styles Past and Present
For centuries descendants of the Mayan Indians have traditionally guided hunters who hunted the Ocellated turkey by finding the roost and taking them off the roost at night. Today, this is still a legal means of hunting Ocellated turkeys in Mexico; however, many U.S. turkey hunters have snubbed their noses at such practices.
In response to this negativity, other means were sought to take these elusive birds. One method includes having hunters sit in a blind overlooking a water hole during the daylight hours. It can be a very effective method, but for those without the ability to wait out a bird, another alternative is hunting in fields.
Decades ago, farmers began cutting the dense vegetation to clear them for agricultural purposes, which provided food for humans and wildlife alike. Being the adaptive sort, the Ocellated took to the fields and today thrive in these areas as well as the jungles.
Mexico experiences multiple growing seasons annually in the area of Campeche. While there I noticed one field of sorghum was nearly ready for harvest while another field was just developing heads. The turkey also likes this arrangement and cruise the fields looking for seeds and insects. I noticed remnants of harvested soybeans lying on the ground. Undoubtedly this area is a draw to the turkey.
A Pioneer in Field Hunting
While in the U.S. hunting turkeys in fields is popular, hunting the Ocellated in this manner is relatively unknown.
Jorge Sansores has been hunting the Ocellated turkey for decades. In 1944, his father began hunting operations and guiding hunters. While Sansores might not be the first to hunt fields for turkeys, he has introduced the method to many U.S. hunters. Today, Sansores and his son, Roberto, own and operate Snook Inn located in Campeche, Mexico.
Sansores saw the need to offer hunters, especially ones from the U.S., a chance at the Ocellated turkey, to complete their quest for the World Slam of turkeys. Utilizing his skills and experience as a hunter and guide, Sansores opened up his camp to hunters worldwide. His success rate hovers above 95 percent.
When to Go
Sansores opens his camp in early February and hunts for the Ocellated until the end of April. His hunting camp has an open airy feel. The quarters are clean and comfortable with hot showers and plenty of good food and drink.
Bringing Firearms Into Mexico
Though Sansores can help arrange requests to bring firearms into the country, it is much wiser to use one available at camp. Sansores has a small arsenal of well used but serviceable Remington 1100s for use. Regulations prohibit bringing ammunition into Mexico.
If you have a hankering for an Ocellated with archery gear you are in luck, as there are no restrictions to bring archery gear into Mexico.
Bringing Your Trophy Home
Sansores can also assist in bringing your trophy home. He has the proper forms available onsite should you wish to take the bird home frozen or prefer to have it shipped directly to your local taxidermist.
Other Species and Things to Do
Sansores offers other hunts including brockett deer and peccary.
Located within an hour drive from Sorenson near Edzna is just one of the many examples of the ancient Mayan civilizations. During our stay, only a handful of people were visiting the historic site, which made for a very enjoyable time.
Once we arrived back at the hotel in Campeche we met up with fishing guide, Miguel Encalada, who specializes in fly fishing for baby tarpon. Baby tarpon is not a sub species, but is in fact young tarpon which hatched in the mangrove flats and remain there until they reach 30 pounds or so. Once they’ve reached maturity, they journey to open water.
Learn Some Key Phrases
While Sansores and Encalada both speak fluent English, I did have a little trouble when I wandered into a local pharmacy to buy some antiseptic for a cut on my foot. Knowing a few key words or having a smart phone that translates for you would be handy as the use of hand gestures and body language will only get you so far.
Many question my sanity on a trip to Mexico. I felt as safe hunting Campeche as I do my own home state and look forward to my next encounter with another Ocellated turkey. Of all the locales I’ve visited and hunted, Campeche ranks high on my list of places I want to return.
For more information on hunting the Ocellated Turkey in Mexico, or to contact Jorge Sansores, visit www.snookinnhunting.com.mx
For more information on fly fishing Campeche, or to contact Miguel Encalada, visit www.campecheflyfishingtarponbay.com.mx
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.