I returned from a Gould’s turkey archery hunt in northern Mexico last week after spending five days in the mountains around Copper Canyon. The scenery was spectacular, the company was friendly, the food was fantastic, and the travel was Hell. Turkey killing opportunities were not as plentiful as we had hoped but everyone had at least one chance to score.
Traveling on a plane these days is a lesson in patience and being able to adapt your travel plans. After missing our flight to Chihuahua City due to weather delays, my hunting buddy, Greg, and I spent the night in Dallas. We arrived at our destination the next day the same time as the other hunters in our party so no time in the field was lost. We left the airport around 1:45 in the afternoon and didn’t pull into camp until 9:30 that evening. The best way to describe that trip is this: Imagine vertically mounting a jackhammer into the bed of an old pickup. Now imagine somebody strapping you to that jackhammer and turning it on while someone else simultaneously starts driving that pickup as fast as they can while wearing a blindfold. Now imagine doing this for a solid eight hours. Note to self: Always pack Dramamine when going to Mexico.
Home sweet home
Hunters and guides
Rough and beautiful country
The first day of hunting started well before daylight. We had a light breakfast of granola, yogurt, toast and fresh fruit. Fernando Rodriguez, the owner of the venue, paired the hunters with their guides and we loaded up in 4-wheel drive vehicles to get to our hunting spots. Greg and I were the only bowhunters in camp and we had made it very clear beforehand what was required for us to have a chance at success. Ideally, we would be hunting from blinds with decoys out front to distract the toms. Both of us had packed a jake and hen decoy because we weren’t sure what camp would have. Fernando and Perez were the guides for Greg and me. We drove for about 20 minutes on a road that used a very liberal definition of that word before Perez stopped and Fernando and I got out. I grabbed my decoys and gear, and Fernando grabbed a single chair from the back of the truck. I thought that was odd, so I asked him if my chair was in the blind we were going to. Imagine my surprise when he answered that we wouldn’t be using a blind and that I was just going to have to hide in the brush.
So it’s getting daylight now, and we can hear a couple birds gobbling in the distance, and I am just a tad upset. I reiterated to Fernando that I was hunting with a recurve and that I needed those toms CLOSE in order to kill one. Doing that without a blind was going to be a mighty tall order to fill. He seemed rather non-plussed by it all, so I got busy trying to figure out how and where to set up. We were about 15 yards off the road next to a dry pond. Fernanda said the birds came out of the woods on the far side of the pond and walked across the dry bed. The bank on the east side of the pond was a hill and up about 10 yards from the pond bed was a big pine tree. I placed my decoys in the pond bed and hunkered up by that tree to start calling. If the birds came from the correct direction, and if the tom focused on my decoys, and if a thousand other things went just right, I just might be able to pull this off. Fernando set up about 15 yards behind me and we both started calling.
A view from my tree
The tom’s point of view
For a few minutes, the only bird interested in our love songs was a tom to the south of us on the other side of the road. He was a long way off but he’d gobble every time I called and it sounded like he was coming closer. Of course, where I was at was not good for a longbeard coming from that direction so I started gathering up my stuff to move. On the north pond bank was a little cedar tree and it would offer me some good cover for the bird coming in. However, just as I stood up to move, a tom gobbled from 25 yards away in that direction. Where did he come from?!?! I quickly kneeled down, checked my arrow, and putted to him a couple of times.
The tom came right in gobbling and in full strut. He went up the hill behind me just a bit and I could hear him drumming and walking around about 10 feet behind me. He finally committed to the decoys and walked just on the other side of the tree I was next to. I could have easily bonked him on the head with my bow, he was that close.
As he walked down into the pond bed in full strut, I drew my bow and picked a spot right at his wing butt. He was oblivious to my presence, and I had all the time in the world to concentrate on my shot placement. I let go of the string and watched my arrow hit its mark a mere 7 yards away.
And that’s when things all went to pieces. Instead of me watching the bird roll over and start flopping, I saw my arrow get almost no penetration. The only thing I can figure out is that I hit him right in that knot of bone and gristle where the wing attaches to the body. In any event, he ran off with 90% of the shaft hanging out from under his wing. He crossed the road and then took flight across a boulder field. Fernando jumped up to see where the tom was going as I just sat there sick to my stomach. I had done everything thing correctly and still had an undesirable outcome. I just hoped against hope that a miracle would occur, and we would find him dead over there somewhere.
Finding a turkey in this is tough!
Everything has thorns
After about an hour of looking, Fernando and I met back up to compare notes. Fernando said he found the bird, alive with my arrow still hanging out of him. He was going to put the bird down with his shotgun when a cow came out of the brush and spooked the tom. He took flight and disappeared into the Mexican bush.
Greg also had an opportunity that morning but had some bow/blind contact that caused his tom to run off before he was able to take a good shot. At least we knew that we could get the birds in close enough.
The rest of the hunt consisted of us hunting from blinds, usually around feeders. We both saw a bunch of hens and jakes but toms were in short supply. Greg did end up killing one on the third morning of the hunt so I was really happy for him. We found out later that the group that hunted in that camp the week before had taken eight birds. That certainly explained the lack of opportunities for us.
Greg and his tom
We saw a lot of these
These ladies worked their tails off to keep us fed!
Overall, the hunt was a good experience, and I would use the outfitter again now that I know what to expect in camp. The guides and cooking staff were very friendly and you could eat yourself into a coma if you were so inclined. Also, if you kill your first bird and want to hunt for a second, you don’t have to pay for the second one unless you are successful. That is almost unheard of.