“Never, ever be the first hunters of the year or, even more importantly, never, ever be the last hunters into a camp!”
In my sixty-plus years of hunting, that saying has served me extremely well, but I am happy to report that there are exceptions to the rule. Being the first hunters in Bobby Balderrama’s Sinalopato Duck and Dove Club for the 2013 – 2014 waterfowl season was truly unbelievable.
That hunt had an unusual start. In the summer of 2013 I sold my deer ranch in Mecosta, MI and one of the leftover pieces of equipment was a beautiful little, ten-year-old jeep that had just 9,000 miles on the odometer. I really wanted that jeep at my home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, so with a little arm-twisting, I convinced my hunting partner, Rod Merchant, to make the 3,100-mile one-way journey with me.
When Rod found out we would be driving right through Los Mochis, I did not have to twist his arm too hard. Over the years, we have hunted ducks in many places around Mexico, but we have always found Sinalopato in Los Mochis by far the best.
I have to admit we were a little apprehensive about showing up the first week in November to be the virgin hunters of the new season, but not to worry! We got plenty of ducks the first morning and finished up with more in the afternoon. It was enough shooting, even for me.
The guns Balderrama provided were excellent, but when you have ducks flying helter-skelter, every which way imaginable, eventually you let the stock slide ever so slightly from your shoulder and–man, that begins to hurt!! By the end of the hunt Rod and I had huge, embarrassing bruises on our right shoulders but, more important, there were huge smiles on our faces. It was the best Mexican duck hunt we have ever experienced.
While hunting with Mr. Balderama you stay in his five-star Plaza Inn Hotel. Awakened at 4:30 a.m., you are driven to the hunting area in an air-conditioned van and turned over to an airboat operator to scoot you out to well-camouflaged blinds that are strategically placed. Nothing is left to chance–no details overlooked.
Each hunter has a knowledgeable guide to stay with him who does all of the calling and retrieving of ducks. The guides have been with Sinalopato for many years and, in our instance, were as anxious to get duck hunting as we were. Snacks and drinks are as plentiful as the waterfowl, and the entire staff does everything possible to make your trip enjoyable.
We’d return to our hotel for lunch and a siesta, then grab our gear and be off for the afternoon hunt. Evening meals were not only spectacular, but very convenient as Owens Restaurant is located right in the hotel.
The drive from Canadian Lakes, MI to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico took a little more than two weeks, but it was a trip of a lifetime. We traveled a great distance of Old Route 66, stopping at every opportunity to visit the relics of cross-country travel in days gone by. Time was spent at the Arch in St. Louis, detours through the desert were embraced, the international border was painstakingly navigated, local cuisine was devoured at every opportunity and, best of all, the landscapes that continually changed, were breathtaking beautiful.
We ended the trip with a whole new repertoire of funny stories. The fantastic waterfowl hunt along the way was just one more chapter in a wonderful journey. The older I get, the more I find the “journey” is as important as the actual hunt.–R. Card