Monthly Archives: October 2014

Winter Doves and Ducks in Mazatlan, Sinaloa

 

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When my wife said her family was going to Mazatlan for Christmas, I did the same thing I always do when she tells me about a trip to a non-hunting, tame location. I found hunting. As an aside I even found hunting in the Galapagos believe it or not, but all the goats were exterminated before we would have departed (we went back to Africa again instead, the whole family was pleased). As for this post forgive it’s curt nature, I only have a smart phone to work from.

I did well on this hunt, Mazatlan is a proper wing shooter’s destination and a rather poor place to look for solitude. On the former I had no idea, the latter I was quite familiar with. About the only solitude in the tourist areas I’ve found is on the beach at night long after all the hawkers lose interest, and it’s just you and drunk locals, not an unreasonable setting for cigars. Considering I left from my northern home 60 degrees into a good end of Canada in mid winter, the weather is a welcome change as well.

Many reading this will have hunted doves, I had not until today. What a hunt! The birds come through extremely fast, low, and at obscene angles; some of the most sporting wingshooting I’ve enjoyed. Sporting clays must have been developed by dove hunters. When they come, they rip through by the dozen and your shotgun will get some kind of hot, keep well stocked pockets of shells. This is the first wingshooting hunt I’ve savoured where I properly enjoyed an auto, and had had no interest in a double, my absolute favourite wingshooting gun- all you’d be doing is reloading. I also nailed three sea ducks of a species I can no longer pronounce or remember, some reading will probably recognize them.

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I hunted with the Aviles Bros, my guide was Fransisco and the retriever Philip, both of whom had worked for the Aviles brothers for the same amount of time, a rather startling fifty-two years. Philip was seven when he started retrieving, and is now on the cusp of sixty, the changes they’ve seen are quite interesting. Most interesting was Leopard used to be plentiful in the now heavily populated Sierra Madres. Today cartel violence and drugs are the first thing one thinks of when hearing “Sinaloa, Mexico”, not Leopards and wingshooting. The Leopards are still here I’m told, just barely.

Carlos, one of the company’s two namesakes, picked me up from the hotel at 05:00 for the roughly two hour trip out to the hunting area, including pick ups of Carlos and Philip. Most fascinating was Carlos is the first and only person I’ve met with any, let alone his extensive experience, in hunting Leopards. Carlos Aviles used to guide Leopard more than forty years ago when it was still legal, and describes it as a significant challenge. This piece of rather remarkable history is referenced by the spotted cat featuring proudly in their logo.

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Hounds were employed, as was baiting and blinds, pretty well standard big cat hunting practices, though apparently Jaguars, the strongest pound for pound cat in the animal kingdom and featuring the strongest bite, tear through hounds in a hurry. His take on Jaguar was worth the trip in itself, so forgive me if I talk more about our conversations on that than the ducks and doves. Don’t get me wrong, the birds were wonderful, and added flavour to Mexico I had not experienced yet, I’m simply captivated by hunting history especially something as iconic as the big cats.

Back to birds, natural blinds in the form of trees on the edge of a marsh are employed, surrounded by Mango plantations and cattle ranches. Carlos had a sling of calls around his neck for the harder to bag ducks, the doves pretty much motivated themselves and seemed spurred more than anything by the shooting. For brief periods the more you shot, the more doves lifted and zipped past from all directions. Keep in mind there are enough birds you can select only those coming in from your 9 to 3 o’clock, and no need to swivel about as I initially found myself doing start of the morning. Quickly it became apparent I would not need to worry about letting birds go.

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 All in all, I can highly recommend Mazatlan to the hunter escaping Northern winter, and it is very affordable. Solo hunter rate is $350 for the day plus shells and drinks, or $250 each for two hunters on the winter rate, including the guns, either a Remington 870 or a Browning automatic per the hunter’s choice. Add to that a budget all inclusive of $100 a night, and bargain flights, and you can enjoy a very affordable jaunt to the palms, sun, and doves for a few days. As a final aside for those who will ask, you can bring your own gun, however the cost of import is more than the hunt at $500US, and a significant hassle; not recommended. Below, a lovely new pre-hunt ritual, what better way to melt away the work side of life, at least for a few days.