The doves sang their sad goodbyes to the day as a gobbler took flight to his evening roost just behind our machan (stand). Soon, my guide, Antonio, and I were listening to his continuous gobbles and I sat there grinning at this perfect ending to my adventures in the Yucatan jungle.
Arturo Malo, of Baja Hunting, had a gorgeous display and, while we discussed his Coues deer operation, ended up spending most of our time talking about jungle hunts for ocellated turkeys and Brocket deer. We immediately hit it off and as my wife and I enjoyed the show, my mind kept returning to Arturo’s jungle hunt. By the end of the show, my wife was encouraging me to book the hunt, and I was headed to the Yucatan.
My birthday is April 26 and I arrived in Campeche, MX, on the 24th where Arturo was waiting for me. We jumped into his Suburban and made the 2 ½-hour drive to camp, arriving after dark. As we ate dinner, Arturo informed me that turkey hunting had been excellent and that all clients had either taken their turkey or had numerous attempts and just missed their shots. Arturo provides shotguns for hunters who don’t wish to mess with customs and bring their own guns. I fell in love with his over-under Remington Peerless 12-gauge and claimed it as my gun for the week.
Because of a drought in the area, most of the water holes were dry, so deer hunting had been a little more difficult, but zapote trees were yielding their fruit in abundance and the animals were all feasting on the fruit. Antonio and I hunted a zapote tree the first day, and while we didn’t have any turkeys or Brocket deer come to the
tree, we did have several agouti (an animal that resembles a miniature Capybara) eating the fruit. We had a beautiful toucan land in the tree above us and had many cotorras (parrots) landing in the trees around us. The vigil in the machan proved fruitless, but Antonio was determined to get me my birthday bird the next day, so with a little light left we drove to another area and put a bird to roost.
We parked the Jeep on the edge of one of the agricultural fields and listened intently for a gobbler to call as he went to roost. We heard three different birds. Antonio told me to stay put and then, machete in hand, disappeared into the jungle.
Darkness was quickly approaching and by the time Antonio returned I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. He was smiling and told me that in the morning we were going to be right back in the same spot and get my birthday pavo (male turkey).
The next morning we parked the Jeep in the same spot and Antonio told me to stay close and follow him. We entered the jungle without the aid of light, Antonio moving like a ghost and me stumbling and tripping over every stump and rock. The farther we got into the jungle, the slower we moved. I kept telling myself there was no way Antonio knew where he was going when he suddenly put his hand on my arm and motioned for me to be very quiet and still. In the moonlight, I could see his white teeth smiling and then he pointed up at the branches of a tree about 25 yards away and he whispered, “There is your birthday pavo.” I could barely make out the shape of a tree in the low light but I trusted his incredible eyesight. We stood rock still for what seemed like hours, waiting for the rising sun’s rays to penetrate the thick canopy of the jungle.
It finally grew light enough to make out a dark shape in the branches of the tree but that’s all it was–a shape. Finally the sunlight began to filter through the jungle and I could see the shape move. I could now clearly see it was the bird that I had traveled thousands of miles to hopefully see with my own eyes. The turkey lifted one of the most beautiful and yet ugliest heads I’d ever seen and welcomed the new day with his unusual gobble. I was amazed at its beauty. It had so many iridescent colors in its plumage. I kept staring at his beautiful, bright blue head with all the orange warts. Taking this bird was an incredible highlight to my hunting adventures. I took a moment to thank my Creator for this special moment and for allowing me to have this incredible experience.
Antonio found a zapote tree that was dropping lots of fruit with a great deal of sign around it. We worked our way another 40 yards up the hill above the tree before Antonio put a hammock between a couple of trees and told me to sit down. The setup allowed me a clear field of fire for anything coming under the tree and also gave me concealment behind the trunk of the tree the hammock was hanging in. I sat down with my back against a tree and my legs straddling the hammock.
I quietly sat in my machan for a couple of hours anticipating one of my quarry animals walking out beneath the zapote tree and presenting me with a shot. To my dismay, nothing came to eat the fruit. Suddenly, I had a feeling that an animal was close. All of us who have spent a lot of time in the woods have developed that sixth sense.
I didn’t hear anything and I couldn’t possibly have seen it, but I turned my head as far as I could to the right and there, slowly feeding his way down a slight hill was a beautiful Brocket deer. His antlers looked huge on his tiny head. For whatever reason, he hadn’t seen me sitting about 50 yards away and continued to feed closer. He was approaching from my right side and I am right-handed. Straddling the hammock I would have to move a great deal to lift my legs and get turned so I could shoot.
The buck closed the distance to about 30 yards and I expected him to see me at any moment and bolt. I slowly raised the double-barrel Remington to my left shoulder and tried to use my left eye to sight down the barrel. I alternated between my right and left eye, trying to feel good about the shot picture. The deer fed until his head was behind a gum tree. I closed my right eye, looked down the barrel one last time and squeezed the trigger.
To my relief, the load of BBs did its work and I collected an incredible gray Brocket deer. After I quit shaking, I untangled my legs from the hammock and walked over to admire the little deer of the jungle. I dragged him back over to my machan and then spent some time taking pictures then climbed back in my hammock to watch for more game and to wait for Antonio to return. About an hour later I heard his machete and then he was at my side.
He asked if I had seen anything so I played it up and said, “No.” I figured he had heard the shot but I guess as dense as the jungle is noise doesn’t carry very far. He scratched his head and asked again. I said I hadn’t seen anything except that Brocket deer lying over there and pointed. He looked confused, first looking at me and then where I was pointing. He finally saw the deer, screamed with joy and launched himself at me. He knocked me right out of the hammock and then pounded me on the chest while he was laughing. What a great memory.—Eric Boley