Turkey Hunting in Old Mexico

Photos courtesy of John Higley

by John Higley

Last winter I couldn’t imagine where I would end up hunting wild turkeys this spring, other than here in northern California.  Then, in February, my vision was expanded by an offer to hunt in Florida for Osceola turkeys, a wild turkey subspecies that I never hunted for in the past.  I did that, and told you about the experience a few weeks ago. With the Osceola, I had acquired what turkey hunters call a grand slam—the four primary subspecies of wild turkeys found in the U.S.  They are the Merriam’s, Rio Grande, eastern and Osceola. 

Another subspecies is the Gould’s wild turkey meleagris gallopavo Mexicana which is present on limited range in Arizona and New Mexico, and where only low quota hunting opportunities exist. Hunters serious about getting a Gould’s turkey must go to the mountains of Old Mexico where the birds are numerous. Add a Gould’s to the other four subspecies and you go from a grand slam to a royal slam.

In Mexico, outfitters are given a set number of tags for the ranches they hunt, and their clients can purchase more than one of them if they choose to spend the dinero to do so. 

And so it was that I flew into Hermosillo on April 26, and, after clearing customs, I met outfitter Jorge Camou in the lobby at the airport.  What followed was a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the ranch gate in a remote part of Sonora County, and another hour long drive from the gate to the ranch house where we would stay for the duration of the hunt. If that sounds like a remote location believe me it is.  The house and sleeping quarters are clean, the sink water runs (but don’t brush your teeth with it) and the lights, such as they are, are solar powered.  There’s no cell service, television or washing machines, which somehow appeals to me.

The food provided is traditional and varied, and always there are beans and tortillas as sides.  A typical breakfast included eggs, bacon, tortillas and beans.  For dinner, chicken, beef or pork, is cooked outside over mesquite coals and it is quite good. But I digress.  Let’s proceed to the hunting.

Counting the latest trip, I’ve been on the property three times.  I had a couple of chances to harvest a turkey there in the past, but, for reasons I won’t go into here, I didn’t manage to do so. This year the odds were in my favor. Last spring there were lots of jakes (young toms) running around and, as a result there were plenty of adult toms in the mix this year.  

My Mexico connection began four years ago when I was introduced to outfitter Jorge Camou, who runs Sonora Adventures from his home in Hermosillo. Also a rancher, Camou has many irons in the fire, but his passion for hunting is above everything else. 

I found that out on my first hunt with him in 2014.  Parrey Cremeans, a hunting consultant from Redding, arranged that hunt and another one in 2016.  Having been in the turkey camp before I knew what to expect in the way of accommodations, weather, landscape and the turkeys.  This year I would be the only hunter in camp for four days.  I was glad to see that Jorge had hired David Lopez as his helper and a woman named Monse (pronounced Mon-say) as the cook. I met both of them on a previous hunt.

The actual hunts began, as most turkey hunts do, well before daybreak.  After snacks and coffee (breakfast came later), we bounced along what passes for ranch roads until parking within walking distance of the place where we expected to engage the turkeys.  At first light, distant gobbling told us we were where we should be.  After scouting for sign, and finding oodles of tracks converging near a water source, we knew where to set up. The turkeys would either have to climb a steep hillside right off the roost, not likely, or fly down and mill around until the water drew them in. 

When we heard the turkeys fly down from their roosts, Jorge alerted them to our presence with subtle calling like a hen looking for company. Our hope was that a tom or two would hear the calls and come in to investigate.  However, at first the birds were contented to holler at us from afar. I was beginning to wonder if our ruse would work when a single tom broke the silence from somewhere in the woods to our left.  He was at least a couple hundred yards away from us, but with each gobble he seemed to be getting closer.  Using a mouth call, I yelped to him, and kept my fingers crossed.

Right then we didn’t realize it but, with six hens leading the way, another tom was quietly entering the scene from behind our setup.  When he stepped clear of the hens, and stood still for a few seconds, I raised the Beretta 12 gauge I borrowed from Camou and squeezed the trigger.  The gobbler that was approaching from the other direction then rushed into view, gave the fallen tom a curious look, and followed the nervous hens out of the picture.

With that event there were smiles all around.  In broken English Lopez asked, “Are you happy now?”

“Si,” I said. “Muy grande pavo!” I think that means very big turkey.

That afternoon, in another location, I sat behind a low camo cloth blind and had a good time photographing turkeys coming to another water hole. Then, before the hunt was over, I tagged another mature tom thus filling a second tag.  Incidentally, this year Camou had 12 tags for the property and only three hunters.  Counting my two toms, eight tags were left over.

Camou’s operation is a bare bones affair. Personally, I like the remote location and the lack of amenities doesn’t bother me at all.  The cost of a hunt, while substantial for a low income hombre like me, is quite a bit less than you’ll find in a five star lodge with a gourmet chef on board.

For information on a Gould’s hunt in Mexico you can contact Parrey Cremeans by phone (530) 515-5682 or online through justforhunting.com.

 Or you can email Jorge Camou at sonoradventus@yahoo.com.mx.

Now, for me, it’s on to fishing somewhere for trout.  If that works out, I’ll let you know.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at myoutdoorbuddy.com. Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.