A day following the NWTF convention in Nashville, I was making plans to hunt ocellated turkey in the Yucatan region of Mexico. I’d always dreamed of hunting these birds, but never thought I would.
Camera man, Ty Cary, and I boarded a plane at our hometown airport, and 36 hours later were hunting amid upper 90 degree temperatures. Success came fast, with a lanky ocellated bird making his way by our blind, through thick jungle habitat.
These birds rarely respond to a call, never gobble, have no beard and the males are called males…not toms. The noises they make resemble nothing most turkey hunters are familiar with; but their beauty is second to none.
Admiring my first ocellated turkey, I was enthralled with all the colors it’s many feathers cast in the sunlight. Never before have I seen such iridescent coloration on a bird. The golden caruncles on his head an neck were mesmerizing, and the crown that sat atop his head, unlike any turkey appendage I’d seen.
His needle-sharp 1 13/16” spurs were impressive, and his 12-pounds of mass made him the largest bodied bird taken in camp so far this year. With all the feed these birds have, and thanks to sound management, it’s no wonder the section we hunted is touted as having the highest concentration of ocellated birds on the planet.
Working slowly along the edges of a sorghum field, bordered by dense brush, we soon saw another deer, then another. Given the extremely dry conditions in the region, it was obvious the deer were relying on agriculture for sustenance. Sitting in the corner of the field, wind in our face, setting sun at our back, we waited. Minutes later a little doe emerged from the brush…followed by a nice buck.Many hunters filled tags quickly in camp, and soon some were looking to fill a second tag, myself included. In the afternoon we went to a different area, but before reaching where the turkeys were, caught glimpse of a gray brocket deer, one of the smallest, least studied deer in the world. With a brocket tag in my pocket, my focus changed.
They quickly made their way into the two-foot tall sorghum field and began feeding into the wind. My local guide, Mito, suggested we try stalking within shotgun range. I loved his aggressive thinking and soon we were slithering through sparse, 18”-high cover. The deer quickly fed away and we had to hustle to catch up. After more than 200 yards of slithering and crawling, we finally closed the distance, and the buck gave me the shot I was looking for. Putting the red dot of my Trijidot sight on the deer, a payload of 0000 buckshot was on the way, quickly covering the 42 yards.
Walking up on the dainty buck, I was surprised with his diminutive size. He weighed just over 40 pounds and was 20” tall. His five-inch antlers and mass confirmed he was a record-class buck. These deer only grow spike antlers. Though one of the smallest, he’s one of the most elusive, most hard to attain game animals in the world, and though a number of hunters have pursued them, relatively few have been taken. This may have been the first–or one of very few–gray brocket deer hunts every captured on high definition film for a hunting TV show. The next night the whole camp had fresh brocket deer for dinner..it was delicious!
The last two days were spent trying to fill a second ocellated turkey tag. We were on to a big bird and I wanted him, or nothing. On the fourth attempt we caught a break. We’d been watching him for over an hour, pecking seeds from the stalks of sorghum across the field in which we sat. When another mature male stuck his yellow-dotted head from the brush, 20 yards from our blind, the big boy saw it and reacted.
The aggressive march was on, and soon our bird walked directly at us, focused the entire time on his challenger to the right of us. For 95 yards Ty filmed him. When he got inside 25 yards, I let him have it. It was one of the most fulfilling, most magical moments I’ve ever spent in the turkey woods.
The camp, Snook Inn Hunting, owned by Jorge Sansores, was great, and the food, the best I’d had in any hunting camp, period. Everyone in camp tagged out, and we went home with 11 gorgeous birds to mount. The best part, every bird was skinned in camp and we enjoyed some of the best eating turkey we’d eaten.
I also had the honor of spending much time with Jon McRoberts, a man I consider to be among the world’s most knowledgable when it comes to ocellated turkeys. He’s spent 4 years living in the jungles and surrounding habitat, studying these birds for his doctoral research. He has unbelievable stories to share and will be speaking at the 2014 NWTF convention.
It was the most enjoyable hunting camp I’d ever been a part of, thanks to the people who ran it and the hunters in it. We’re excited to share these hunts on upcoming episodes of Trijicon’s The Hunt, on the Sportsman Channel. Stay tuned for air dates and details.
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