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Turkey Hunting in Mexico

ramblings, by John Higley, author badge for

know there are turkeys here in Shasta County, and I love to hunt close to home, but I’ve been known to travel extensively to get experience in different areas. I’ve been writing about turkey hunting since the 1970s and I find that hunting in far away places makes sense from the standpoint of material to draw from for future stories.

That’s my excuse for arranging a turkey hunt in Mexico with Redding resident Parrey Cremeans, who is involved in the hunt booking service Just For Hunting. Our adventure came together when Cremeans contacted Mexican outfitter Jorge Camou, and queried about a Gould’s turkey hunt somewhere in the Mexican state of Sonora.

Mexican Ranch with no electricity or running water
This is where we stayed during our Gould's hunt. No electricity, no phone, no television. Very peaceful.

There are five subspecies of wild turkeys in the U.S. Most common are the Rio Grande, Eastern, Osceola and Merriam’s. The fifth subspecies is Gould’s turkeys a few of which are present in small portions of New Mexico and Arizona. Hunting for Gould’s in the states is limited to a small portion of Arizona and it can take years to draw a tag. The largest population of Gould’s turkeys exists In Mexico, where you do not have to draw a tag to hunt. You do need to arrange a hunt with a reliable outfitter who will handle licensing and lodging for you and Jorge Camou, who has been in the hunting business for a long time, is just such a guy.

On April 24, Cremeans and I boarded a US Air flight in Sacramento for the first leg of our two flight trip to Hermosillo. After clearing customs in Mexico, not a difficult process with a passport and the agents spoke English, we met Camou in the lobby. Soon we were in his pickup truck heading roughly northeast from Hermosillo to a ranch located who-knows-where about 4-1/2 hours distant.

Good cook Alberto Bustamante prepares breakfast at stove
Good cook Alberto Bustamante prepares breakfast. You can almost smell the bacon frying.

That is where we stayed for the next 3-1/2 days and where we got a glimpse of rural Mexican life. It was like stepping back in time. On the ranch television is nonexistent, telephones might work somewhere (and might not), stoves are propane powered, air conditioning is wind through an open window, and the nearest paved road was 1-1/2 hours away via dirt and gravel.

The cowboys we met live in widely scattered brick homes with few amenities, if any, and no electricity. They have old pickups parked here and there and their work with livestock is done from the backs of horses and mules. Some of them have been away to school, many have not.

Mexican cowboy saddling up for a day of work.
A Mexican cowboy gets ready to hit the saddle where he'll be for most of the day. Being on the ranch was almost like stepping back in time.

Diminutive Coues whitetail deer are abundant, and the rugged terrain is home to scads of mountain lions, the tracks of which tell of their passing in the night. One of them stepped in my boot prints from the day before right behind the house where we stayed.

Camou has it together when it comes to hosting hunters. The house where we stayed was comfortable enough and the cook, Alberto Bustamante, cooks professionally in a Hermosillo restaurant. His meats, pork and beef grilled over mahogany coals, were wonderful and his tortillas the best.

We drank bottled water, canned soda and, after the hunt, were offered a beer. I don’t drink alcohol, so I settled for 7up and root beer -- but that’s just me.

John Higley and Parrey Creamens stand next to the Gould tom Parrey caught in Mexico
That's me on the left and Parrey Cremeans on the right posing with Parrey's Gould's tom. I didn't get one but I did get close. Horse shoes and hand grenades and all that.

But what about the turkeys? There were definitely enough of them to keep things interesting, but we were not exactly overrun. The birds are highly dependent on water and there is precious little of it in that region, so the distribution of flocks is somewhat spotty. Opportunities for harvest were limited and -- I hate to admit this, being an outdoor writer and all -- I blew my one opportunity to score on a big tom. I won’t bore you with excuses, of which I have several, except to say they involve a borrowed shotgun, a tight choke and a fast moving bird that was way too close. Meanwhile, Parrey did get an adult tom so at least we got a close-up look at our first Gould’s.

Parrey Creamens, John Higley, Jorge Camou stand in front of the Ranch after saying goodbyes.
Parrey and I pose with outfitter Jorge Camou before leaving the remote ranch and heading for home.

The toms are strikingly black bodied and the feathers are iridescent in sunlight. The tips of their primary and covert tail feathers are snow white. As for size, Parrey’s tom was comparable to the toms we harvest here in Northern California. His Gould’s weighed around 19 pounds and wore a nine inch beard. Some articles say Gould’s stand taller than other subspecies of turkeys because their legs are longer -- but I didn’t notice that with Parrey’s tom.

Over the years I’ve hunted turkeys in 17 different states, including Alabama and Missouri in the East, and most western states. Now, successful or not, I can say I’ve had the Mexico experience. Camou has invited me back next year, and knowing what I know about it now, I’m thinking seriously about his offer.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro, CA. His articles have appeared in Outdoor California and other fishing and hunting journals. He is the author of two books: “Hunting Wild Turkeys In the West” and “Hunting Blacktail Deer.”

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