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11 photos - negs on request
2500 words
Submitted by-
Rob F. Sanderson
724 Edgewater,
Portage, WIS

Down Mexico Way
Rob F. Sanderson

           Calling North American Sportsmen’s attention to the rich sporting opportunities available in the sparsely settled, game infested land of our southern neighbor, Old Mexico. More and more hunters are finding their hunting ideal here, and Mexico offers an increasingly hearty welcome as U.S.A. and Mexican relations grow more and more and hospitable toward each other.

           What’s there, where, how to get it, and what to expect while you’re down there, can be found by turning the page.

Down Mexico Way
You’ll find the hunting you’ve dreamed about, in the climate you’ve dreamed about.

           I met a fellow in the dime store while we both waited for the positives of our 3-for-15 cents pictures to be developed and dried.

           “You going hunting in Mexico too?” he asked, when he noticed I was having nine front views (for use on necessary permits) made. “I go down every winter; don’t even bother to hunt around home any more. Last season about sixty miles below the border I knocked over my two bucks on the first day out.”

           Naturally there’s an element of luck in getting two nice bucks the first day; game just doesn’t mill around in large numbers like cattle do, anywhere. But it is a fact that Mexico does abound with hunting grounds where any sportsman of fair hunting ability, willing to get out and cover a moderate area, doesn’t have much excuse for not bringing out several deer and some other game at the end of a week’s trip.

           Last winter I made three trips across the border, the first one at Christmas time. The first day out I saw about ten deer but none of the bucks were close enough for a decent shot. By noon the next day I had a nice five-and-four whitetail buck, and that night there was a total of four deer to the credit of three persons hunting. We each took out our quota of two bucks a piece when we left.

           I have a number of friends who plan their season’s hunt in this manner: They take in the open season in the United States, and if they fail to get a deer, they make a trip to Mexico in the middle of winter. If they do manage to get their buck during the local season, they go down to Mexico anyway. By this system they get two thoroughly enjoyable hunts spaced about the right length of time apart, and are assured of at least two bucks a year. Often they make a second or repeat trip across the border for a couple of more deer just before the season closes in the middle of February

           Mexico is becoming more and more the winter hunting grounds of America’s sportsmen. Each season sees more nimrods, thoroughly sold on mild-climate hunting in the winter, who like to spend their time at bigger game than quail-popping. So they now winter hunt in Mexico where they enjoy an exceptionally mild, dry climate during the generous seasons Mexico provides on a surprising variety of big game.

           In the month of February I was hunting deer and javelinas in central Sonora, and slept out comfortably in a light sleeping bag all the time I was there. At night I experienced a 45-50 degree minimum, and in daytime a genial sun kept me feeling just right while hunting in shirt sleeves. As the rainy spell over all of Mexico is during the three summer months, and as practically all of the area is arid with a total of less than a dozen rain inches a year chances are pretty slim for having a trip rained out. It is extremely gratifying to be able to plan a hunting rip for a long time ahead and have the almost certainty of sunny weather to hunt in. Nothing is more disconcerting than to have a schedule all set up with the necessary business arrangements made for your absence, and then watch a rain or snowstorm or sudden change in temperature settle down to spoil a long-planned trip.

           Another thing I have noticed is that many of my friends, pre-occupied with the demands of business or profession, often find it impossible to make their vacations coincide with the short local open season for big game hunting. This is true of all game seasons, but especially of big game, the seasons for which are usually set in the late fall, not so long before Christmas. After the first of the year, when almost all business is at low ebb, these men have no trouble getting away and are very thankful to be able to drop down below the border where the generous seasons make it possible to get the desired game almost any time during the winter months.

           Examine the open seasons in the state of Sonora, for this past winter. Whitetail deer could be shot any time between the middle of October and the middle of February, with the possession limit of two deer and the season limit of five, all five of which you could bring back to the states provided you took no more than two on each trip. In addition, you could bring out two mule or black tail deer on one of the trips, the season on the latter extending from the middle of November to the last of December.

           Black bear are very plentiful in the higher Mexican mountains, which are covered with open pine forest, and grizzlies hang out in the remotest sections in numbers plentiful for their species. These isolated mountain ranges are very seldom hunted, as the human population is very sparse and the Mexican people are not natural hunters as were our own Indians and frontiersmen. During the long season from September 15 to the last of January, a hunter in any good bear mountains should be able to bag his season limit of two on a several day hunt. As bears make occasional group moves, a couple of days may be required to find the part of the country they are currently working in.

           Ranking with the most spectacular of Mexican big game are the abundantly distributed mountain lions and Mexican tigres. The latter are larger, heavier, and more fierce than their cousins. Their markings are spotted, much like a leopard’s. The natives fear both species very much as they extract a heavy toll from cattle herds as well as deer, but do very little to control the numbers.

           For the most successful lion hunting, dogs are an essential. While a fair number of these great cats are shot without the aid of dogs, ordinarily the slinking felines will slip away unnoticed through the brush. Good guides and dogs are available from a number of hunting outfits who operate below the line, and the more reliable will unconditionally guarantee your game. The big cat season is open the entire year.

           The javelina, peccary, or wild hog is among the more unusual game Mexico offers. These animals run in small bands, sometimes as many as twenty or thirty in a group. Two specimens I shot this past season weighed about forty and fifty pounds. While I have heard of hunters being charged and treed by bands of javelinas, I do not know of well substantiated evidence of this. They do have vicious looking tusks and when cornered could prove formidable antagonists. In Sonora they can be shot from the beginning of November until the last of April. Their hides can be tanned into leather of very excellent quality, a fact which unfortunately has caused depletion in many areas from hide-hunting.

           Far back from the settlements, well-watered canyon bottoms furnish what is probably the best wild turkey shooting on our continent. These wary birds stay close to the brushy, wooded covered along stream valleys in the mountains, and it is there that they can best be hunted. They do not abound over a wide variety of climate and geography as do, for example, the white tailed deer. The open season is from October 1 to February 15.

           In Mexico are some of the last sizable herds of antelope and bands of desert bighorn sheep. These animals, while not extremely scarce, occupy very limited areas of the country, and attracted such a substantial drain by visiting shooters that the government has placed them under additional protection. Hunters wishing to pursue either of these species must first obtain a special permit separate from the regular hunting license.

           Besides these big game animals, the country abounds with small game. Quail, mourning doves, white wing and banded doves, are very abundant and furnish exciting, light shooting on those days between more strenuous jaunts after larger game - days when we all like to rest up and relax a little at less taxing shooting.

           Ordinarily in arid country, as most of Mexico is, we don’t expect waterfowl shooting. But Mexico has it, in super-abundance where it occurs. The waterfowl shooting is confined to small areas, where the birds are densely concentrated. This fact makes for superb shooting. In ocean sloughs and lagoons large numbers of waterfowl gather, but the real population centers occur where a river delta furnishes a fertile, irrigated valley in which winter grains are grown. Here birds gather like flies flock around sugar.

           Rice, wheat, and other grains ripen during the winter months and the vast flights of waterfowl feeding in the fields become so numerous and persistent that they constitute a great nuisance. I know of one farmer’s organization that took money out of the treasury to buy five shotguns and large quantities of shells, and hired men to shoot the crop destroyers. The Mexicali and Obregon districts on the Mexican west coasts are renowned for their waterfowl shooting, the season for which is from the middle of November to the middle of March. Occasionally good water holes in desert regions produce good waterfowl shooting and a smaller scale than the coastal irrigation projects.

           In proportion to the size of the country, you meet very few hunters in Mexico. During the past winter I did not meet a single American hunter, although on my last trip the residents told me there had been two Americans hunting near the area I hunted. The available hunting area is so great that it simply swallows the few numbers of hunters who venture into it. Most of northern Mexico is very thinly populated, the small population being concentrated in the large river valleys, and almost all the country is excellent game cover. The Mexicans are not natural hunters, and the few that have guns are apt to be poor marksmen who know little about giving a firearm proper care. This, coupled with the fact that ammunition is very expensive and hard to obtain, leaves the field wide open for the visiting sportsman. The only two native hunters I encountered were an old man with a rusty 30-30, and a young lad hunting ducks with a .22 rifle.

           Owing to the fact that the elevation of Mexican topography varies widely over small areas, you can pick just about any country you wish to hunt in. Thirty miles from where you hunt for mule deer on the cacti-covered plains, you can be hunting turkeys and white tails among the pines. Hunting on horseback, one foremoon I covered cacti country and then climbed a couple of thousand feet to hunt among mountain oak trees in the afternoon.

           Hunting on horseback eliminates many big game hunting aspects that normally prove somewhat strenuous for the man who spends most of the year in a swivel chair. The country is open and long distances can be covered with relative ease on a horse, and there are no back breaking totes back to camp, staggering under the heft of a well fed buck. Instead, you simply strap the buck on behind the saddle and ride on in search of another.

           An easterner going down to Mexico this winter for his first hunt in the Southwest, was rather pessimistic about bringing any game back. “I know game is plentiful down there,” he reasoned. “But with the climate this mild, I don’t see how I can possibly get the meat out without it spoiling.”

           While it remains true that game is this country requires more care than in the Klondike where the meat is frozen almost before the bullet comes out the other side, with proper care meat will keep well within certain time limits.

           This is due to two factors; the extremely dry air, and the cold crisp desert nights. Game should be skinned soon after killing and hung so as to drain well. In a short time, a hard crust will form on the meat surface, a result of rapid dehydration by the arid air. This crust keeps out bacteria , flies, and it so tough and shell like that you can drop it in the sand and it will dust off as readily as a leather jacket.

           At night, temperatures drop rapidly. The clear dry air and the relatively high elevation combine to radiate the earth’s heat quickly out into space. In the cacti country up to 2000-2500 feet, where winter daytime temperatures are often in the 70’s, the night air will cool to the 40’s. Up in the oak country at 5000-6000 feet, or among the pines at 7000-8000, very often the water bucket will form night sheet ice despite the fact you may get a sunburn in the daytime. As the meat becomes cold at night, if hung in a dobe building or shade of a canyon during the day, it will retain its chill temperature. However, even with these favorable factors it is not advisable, if you are making an extended trip, to shoot game to take out, until the last four or five days.

           These abnormalities in temperature call for warm bedding at night, although light clothing suffices in the daytime. Odd as it may seem, a little sun tan cream may not be out of place even in January. A leather jacket and whipcord riding pants are advisable for protection against the thorn brush and cacti at lower elevations. Take plenty of canteens and water containers. Otherwise an ordinary camping outfit is sufficient in most respects.

           As much of the Mexican shooting is done in rough country sparsely covered, a flat shooting, long range weapon is best. Hunters coming from wooded country with efficient 150 yard calibers are apt to be disappointed, as with few exceptions, the best buck will be at longer ranges. Myself, I use a .270 Winchester Model 70, with a 20 inch barrel for convenient saddle use. A telescopic sight is a decided advantage in this long range shooting, as I have seen numbers of killing shots accomplished with their aid at ranges far beyond the limits of consistent accurate shooting with open sights for most of us, while with a good scope we can easily add another hundred yards

           With the money exchange rate offering over four and a half pesos to every American dollar, most guest shooters in Mexico are surprised at the nominal cost of their trip. A hunting license for thirty days costs only fifty pesos or slightly over ten American bucks. Firearms permit, car and tourist permits, bring the total up to slightly over sixteen dollars for the four permits. Once in Mexico proper you’ll find living conditions extremely reasonable in the rural districts. Horses and saddles rent for three pesos (sixty cents plus) per day, and other prices are in proportion. Full day services from a rural resident will cost about three pesos.

           Planning your trip is simple. Simply write to the chamber of commerce in the United States border town you plan to pass through on the way into Mexico, and they will put you in touch with reliable persons who can furnish all the information you wish to know about this section and when your trip and you think of your trophies, the mild sunny climate, the variety of geography, the convenient long seasons, and the shortage of competing hunters; likely as not you’ll find on tabulating your expenses that they’re considerably below what you’d have paid to go big game hunting in a neighborhood state!


© 2003 Chronicles of Bob