“Wrapped up World”
By Bruster Beaty
As my AeroMexico flight touched the runway at Campeche International Airport, I realized the first, and easiest, leg of this adventure had been completed. The quest was to finally wrap-up my Turkey World Slam. Having taken my Grand Slam (Eastern, Merriam, Rio and Osceola) during the 2006 calendar year in the United States, and my Goulds in Chihuahua, Mexico in 2015 for the Royal; I had only the secretive Oscellated to fulfill my World Slam dream.
I had booked my hunt with Arturo Malo, owner of Baja Hunting. Arturo is an extremely organized and wonderful conservationist. He also runs a top-notch operation. I had been informed that one of his business associates, David Calderon, would be picking me up at the airport; due to Arturo needing to attend to a family situation that had come up.
As it turned out, David has his own operation centered on Goulds hunting, located in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua. He and Arturo have worked together over the years and cover for each other when issues arise. He speaks fluent English and was the perfect host throughout my six day excursion.
One thing I’ve learned is that in order to harvest the quarry of choice, one must first go to where the quarry resides. Makes sense huh? When dealing with the Oscellated turkey, that “where” are the thick rain forests of Campeche, which I believe is one of the few remaining strongholds of these magnificent creatures. Being from the Midwest, I really had no idea what to expect. What I found was one of the most complex ecosystems I have ever encountered. The jungle seems to be one huge entity in itself. It supplies all of its inhabitants everything needed to exist. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
As we departed the airport, David shared it would be a four hour drive to the base camp. It was an amazing, informative and beautiful trip. I quickly noticed that outside Campeche City, many of the comforts we are accustom to simply don’t exist. Water is trucked to dwellings, a high percentage live without electricity and many homes had only openings where windows and doors should have been. Those living in the rural areas, depend on the jungle for survival just as the wild creatures that call it home.
Our camp was deep in the jungle and consisted of five guest tents, a camp manager tent, dining tent, cooking lean-to, outhouse, and a carport style structure under which the guides and cook resided. Each tent had mosquito net walls, canvas roof, and two single beds. The guide/cook structure had no netting and the inhabitants slept in hammocks. The electricity was supplied by an aged generator and was spotty at best. I loved the place!
As alluded to, David is from Chihuahua. The rest of the staff were local Mayans. They spoke literally no English, some Spanish and a lot of Mayan. These people were the friendliest of any collection I have ever encountered. Continuous smiles graced their faces and the short stature of their ancestors quickly became apparent. However, it took no time at all to realize the hearts beating in their chests were as big as Montana!
Following the first night, we were up early and assigned to a guide. With five other hunters, from throughout the United States, and six guides; it was really nice to be involved in a 1×1 hunt. My guide was Claudio. As with the other Mayans, he was short, smiling and eager to please. As it turned out, good old Claudio lacked what I felt was needed to put me on a bird. Simply put….he only wanted to hunt the edges and, as David and I discovered, was not comfortable venturing into the thick jungle. He also didn’t fulfill 3 or 4 of David’s expectations.
After a disappointing first day, David excused Claudio from my cause and assigned another. Sergio, the replacement, was the polar opposite of Claudio. He quaffed at the edges and dove, we did, into the thick bowels of the jungle. It was at that point I realized the discrepancy between Sergio and myself that hadn’t entered my mind. To maneuver through the thick underbrush, Sergio chopped a trail with a machete. These guys go nowhere without their machete! It took me only 2 or 3 steps to realize the trail Sergio, bless his heart, was carving out of this mess served as a perfect path for someone of Sergio’s stature, as the Mayans might stretch the tape to 5’2”. I’m no giant at 5’10”, but that 8” difference made for a lot of crouching throughout the hunt. To this day, I still smile and laugh at what a great experience that was. For once in my life, I was glad I wasn’t 6’2”!
The two of us made our way to a junction of ravines where three streams came together. He quickly set-up a tent blind and we settled in. The main difference in hunting this species is they don’t come to a hen’s call. Instead, one uses the call of a Tom, referred to as “singing”. When I asked for an example of this particular sound, nobody in camp was able to describe it. In the past, a high percentage of birds were taken off the roost in the early morning hours. Arturo, having discovered a call that seems to lure the quarry within range, no longer allows harvesting a roosted bird. Soon, Sergio cut loose a call that sounded much the same as a person grinding their teeth, only a lot louder. He would replicate this every 10 – 15 minutes. After approximately an hour, we received a response from a lonely Tom and he was heading our way! Sergio hit the call softly one more time and we anxiously awaited the arrival of the jungle wonder. Soon, working along the stream directly in front of our blind, we spotted my Oscellated prize. Sergio slowly pointed and whispered “Teorkey”, as close to English as I had heard from him, and mimicked shooting a gun. Had he glanced to his left, he would have seen I already had the .870 to my shoulder and bead dead center. As soon as he came out of strut, that beauty became the final piece of my World Slam puzzle!
At the shot, Sergio dove out the blind’s window and raced to the prize. When he turned around, bird firmly in hand, the continuous smile became even bigger and brighter. As I collected the equipment, Sergio shared it was a 40 yard shot. All I knew was I had crouched through a short man’s jungle tunnel to get to this point, and felt that if the bird was in range, I was going to tickle that trigger.
The creatures of the jungle surely wondered what these two culturally diverse humans were doing as we danced, hooped, and laughed with one-another. Sergio pulled out a tape and found the spurs to be one and a half inches each, very respectable for this species. Back at camp, the scales brought him in at eleven and a half pounds. These are not large flappers, but none of their Northern cousins come close to the beauty Mother Nature has bestowed upon them. I have often compared the Oscellated to hold the looks of a very small Peacock. The remainder of the week was spent enjoying fellow hunters and staff of the Baja Hunting enterprise.
With the addition of the Oscellated to its five cousins, my trophy room leans toward shrinking by the loss of a few more feet of floor space. However, by sacrificing the floor space, my heart and soul have finally realized a self-set goal that was several years in fruition.
I sincerely respect the Mayan people and their simple, stress free way of life. Spending a week in the jungle with them has taught me the true meaning of the old saying, “Sometimes less is more.” To Campeche I shall return…to once again attain that inner-warmth of what a true Nimrod life is meant to be.