Start 2018 with Driven Mexican Birds

You may recall that Kevin Clements and I teamed up for that 2016 trip to South Africa to play with friends Richard and Ruth Lemmer, owners of Safari Afrika. In addition to a few other critters, we invested enough time and laughter in francolin, Guinea fowl, and various species of doves to entertain thoughts, on several occasions, about bird hunting on our continent. Kevin is a bird hunting nut.

Some months back, Kevin suggested I might enjoy a long weekend of hunting driven ring-necked pheasants and Gambel’s quail, with maybe some pass shooting of doves, in sunny Mexico. The more we talked, the more it seemed a pretty good way to get 2018 off to a proper start. We would book with Gordie White’s Expedition Adventures and hunt Arturo Malo’s Baja Hunting ground. All it would cost me was airfare to San Diego, a couple hundred shot shells, and tips for the bird boys and a couple others who would ensure our great time.

Seemed out that Kevin and three of his Ruffed Grouse Society buddies and long-time friends had tested those Mexican quail covers at the beginning of 2017. They wanted to go again – with additional family members. Sadly, the hunts require sets of four and by the time sons, fathers and grandson were added, they had an odd number – seven. Clearly, once they identified the need for an odd person, I was the obvious choice.

Once settled, our party of eight included Kevin Clements and his dad Larry, Colonel Doug Forsythe and son Tom, and Bob Olson, with son Andy and grandson Zack. I was welcomed as family – maybe like one of those uncles nobody mentions in polite company. Be that as it may, we had young guns, old guns and some in-between. This would be fun.

Thus, at dark-thirty a.m. on the first Friday of 2018, we found ourselves lifting off to San Diego International. There, we reclaimed shotguns and gear, and loaded into the Baja Hunting van to Mexicali and the Mexican border. The Federales were friendly, efficient, courteous, and welcomed us and our cased shotguns to their country. We easily slipped across the border, about a half hour from our weekend home, a bit southwest of Yuma, Arizona.

At Baja Hunting HQ, we checked into our rooms, had a quick bite, and headed out to an afternoon of mourning dove shooting. We met our bird boys; they spotted incoming doves, cheered when we connected on the darting rockets and retrieved those we hit. Humbling. Brian, my new best friend bird boy, was kind enough to note that 12% was not bad for the first afternoon. That evening, as after each half-day hunt, the bird boys cleaned the birds for the cooks’ magic.

Driving cotton

The next two mornings we were off to cotton fields, and the occasional milo patch, for driven pheasants. Two afternoons and our final morning we sought brushy draws and thickets for Gambel’s quail – similar to our California quail, with a bit more color.

These driven hunts were worth the price of admission. For pheasants, the eight bird boys – Brian, Bernie, Edgar, Luis, Pepe, Kiko, Ruly, and Oscar – would line up across the far end of a cotton or milo (grain sorghum) field. The shooters (us) would take positions along the near end. Everyone wore orange (hat and/or vest) for visibility and safety. Field hunt managers Tino and Pancho kept everything in order for Baja Hunting owners Arturo and Rachel Malo. On a signal, the bird boys pushed forward in a rising cacophony of sound.

Imagine a blend of these loud sounds from eight untiring and enthusiastic young men: “Yi, Yi! Arriba! Ya, Ya! Kya, Kya! Yip, Yip! Avante, Avante!” Throw in lines from Mexican folk songs, loud, rhythmic clapping, and a dog bark that had me looking around, and you may sense the wonder of each drive. When pheasants burst into the air it was “Hen! Hen!” or “Rooster!RoosterRooster!! Shoot ‘im! Shoot ‘im!” As roosters went down, the boys found them wherever they were in the tangled cover. Each bird found was cause for celebration – like some new world record.

Repeat for the quail, except we hunted brushy draws and woodlots in groups of four. Same rising crescendo and excitement, and now it was “Quail coming! Quail!Quail!Quail!! Shoot ‘em! Shoot

Quail brush

‘em!” One other difference: the quail were smaller and flashier and closer to the ground – and jet propelled right under our noses. Fast and furious shooting… Downright embarrassing now and again, even as the bird boys cheered us on.

Bird tacos

All our birds were cleaned and prepared in terrific dishes by a skilled and smiling kitchen staff under Rachel’s watchful eye. We had dove and quail hors d’oeuvres, pheasant and quail tamales, tacos, cordon bleu, molé, tostadas, and several other amazing foods. At one point someone observed that our fine meals were all Mexican food, to which the response was “Duhhh…”

After that last quail hunt Monday morning, we cleaned up, packed our guns and gear and frozen treasures (pheasant or quail tamales or cordon bleu or molé), and piled into the rig for the trip back to the U.S. …Back to the lives we live between outdoor adventures.

Our Bird Boys and other heroes

[Find out about Arturo and his wide variety of Mexico hunting opportunities at www.bajahunting.com. For more info or to book a hunt, reach out to Gordie White’s Expedition Adventures at 830-483-0796 or gwhunts.com/.]

Thanks, Kevin, for sharing your buddies on this great start to time afield in 2018.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized