Ramsey continues exploring Guatemala duck hunting culture by visiting with host Andres Collia, discussing how suddenly the trip came together and Guatemala’s famous “eternal spring” like weather. What were Collia’s waterfowl hunting origins in a country with so few hunters? What species are hunted and what are bag limits like in Guatemala? Where do they get most of their hunting gear, guns and ammo? How has American duck hunting influenced Guatemala duck hunting, and how does hunting in his homeland compare to what he’s heard about duck hunting in the US? In this second of 3-part series, a couple duck hunters from different corners of the world talk about these and other topics in an interesting conversation you’ll not want to miss.
Guatemala Continued: Little Country, Big Surprises
A Family’s Connection To Hunting In Guatemala
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere still in Guatemala, beautiful Guatemala. Today’s guest, Andres Collia, did I say your name right?
Andres Collia: Yeah, just perfect.
Ramsey Russell: You all folks give me a hard time about mispronouncing names and stuff, how do you say my last name?
Andres Collia: Russell.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, see? Russell. It’s different when you’re in a different culture, in a different area and things are spelled differently. But anyway, Andres Collia, Guatemala City, beautiful Guatemala. And here’s how this whole thing – Guatemala was completely off my radar, I wasn’t thinking about Guatemala or Guatemala duck hunting or going to Guatemala in March to duck hunt until I got an email or a message from you explaining what Guatemala was, you sent some pictures you talked about growing up some different things here we visited, but it didn’t take a lot of convincing, did it? It’s kind of like this, hey, you want to come to Guatemala? Yeah. What did you think? I mean, because it’s really only been like, I mean, really a couple of weeks, 3 weeks. But I knew we were running out of springtime, I knew that these blue wings are fixing to boogie back north and we’ve got a full moon, at the time this had recorded we’re entering a full moon phase it’s March and I know that when that full moon hits in March, those birds are going boogie, you’re going to see a lot – because some of the wetlands we hunted, the locals were saying a lot of them had already left.
Andres Collia: Of course, this is the last couple of days of the season. This is the last couple of weeks of the season, so we have lucky to still see some blue wings, some shovelers because they’re going to be back in the States in a couple of days.
Ramsey Russell: They’re going to get there as quick as they can and get on up to Canada and everything else. What did you think? I mean, I was meeting with your better half last night, Paulina talking to some of your buddies over here. And I’m just curious, you reached out thinking, hey, we may have some opportunities down here, we’ll reach out to Ramsey with getducks.com. But what did you think when I answered back, I immediately hit you up like gun permits, hunting license, details, where to go, what to do, were you expecting that?
Andres Collia: Pig day, season, I don’t know how to say it, I don’t know what to say to you because I have so much faith in this project and in Guatemala duck hunting and I love to do this, so I know you have to come to Guatemala, I mean, I know you have to, that you were going to be impressed about this, so when you tell me that you were coming, I didn’t think more, I just get starting to work and to look for the hunting.
Ramsey Russell: You did. I mean, I was still in Mexico and “bing-bing” you’re hitting me up with – I need my hunting license information, there was a lot of information to put together, it’s not like just going to the hardware store and buying a hunting license, it’s pretty involved, isn’t it?
Andres Collia: Yeah, we have to get a lot of information, you have to talk with the people here in the governments and all the things to take your license the most quickly possible, it was work, but I’m glad that I do it.
Ramsey Russell: How many duck hunters are in Guatemala? So anybody listening Guatemala is about the side of Tennessee, we’re down here in Central America, South of Mexico, east of the Pacific Ocean, west of the Caribbean and bordered on the south by El Salvador, Belize is kind of up there on the north east side and now, we got El Salvador.
Andres Collia: El Salvador down in the south, in the west and then we have a little bit of a Honduras too.
Ramsey Russell: Honduras, right? And so here we are in Central America and how many – and I was surprised at how much duck hunting habitat – and I’ve been here for five days, it feels like, man, as much as you all cram my schedule, feel like I’ve been here 5 months. My head still swimming from all the things I saw and experienced and thank you very much for your hospitality by the way. But we just scratched the surface, I mean, there are a lot of areas we have yet to see.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course, there is a lot. We have the rice fields that we talk about it in the north, but Guatemala is a little country like you said, like Tennessee maybe, but it has a lot of mountains, so you can move from one place to the other in a couple of hours, it is difficult to move around.
Ramsey Russell: And at least some of the parts we hunted besides just the mountains which yesterday, we went from like one country flat to my ears were popping because we were climbing mountains, I’m like, wow.
Andres Collia: Yeah, because in the sea, we’re at sea level and in Guatemala City we are like maybe 2000m above the sea, I don’t know, an hour and a half.
Ramsey Russell: That’s about 7500ft. And then several times throughout the trip in a short 4 day period, we had to board ferries, to cross rivers, go down rivers and navigate and I just found it extremely fascinating. It seems to me that there are a lot of people in Guatemala, its Central America’s most populated country, but probably most of the people live in the big cities. I mean, there are a lot of people out of the country but not really. I mean, we went through stretches that it was just farms and farmhouses and jungles.
Andres Collia: I don’t know, if you are right in that because in Guatemala we are like 6 million people and in the city, I think –
Ramsey Russell: 6 million?
Andres Collia: 16 million in all the Guatemala and in Guatemala City we’re like 3 millions, so there is a lot of people in the countryside.
Ramsey Russell: Maybe I just couldn’t see them for all the wood, I mean, really, because we went through a lot of communities and stuff. I saw so much and learned so much while I was here. Last night at dinner, you and Paulina were telling me – actually it was your brother Juan was telling me about, your grandfather’s connection or your family’s connection to hunting in Guatemala. Tell that story about your Granddad.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course. I was looking today in the morning for some photos of my grandfather hunting where I couldn’t find them, I will send it to you when I find them. My grandfather, he loves shooting, he loves wing shooting, he does a lot of hit wing when he came to Guatemala, he’s from Spain, he’s from Málaga in the south of Spain, when he came to Guatemala and he realized that we have a lot of wing shooting. So he started shooting doves and hunting ducks and that’s it, he gave me my very first 2 shotguns.
Ramsey Russell: What were they?
Andres Collia: A Beretta A300 from back the days and a Winchester Super X model.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Andres Collia: Yeah, I still have them and I started hunting with them, like, I don’t know, like 16, 17 years ago and that’s it. I went with my grandfather to some of his hunting, maybe one or two times and I just fell in love.
Ramsey Russell: Did he hunt – like I know, from being in Argentina and Uruguay and different countries where a lot of Spaniards came from the old country over here, they brought bird doves, they loved to hunt upland birds, partridge, quail, things of that nature. Did your grandfather duck hunt?
Andres Collia: Yeah, duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, he did.
Andres Collia: He most hunted doves, he was fascinated with the doves, but he did do a duck hunting too.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Andres Collia: They didn’t use decoys and they didn’t use calls back in the days, I don’t know, how did they hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Somebody said he was like one of the first hunters over here, like one of the first real out there wing shooters, how long ago would that have been, 70s, 60s, 80s?
Andres Collia: In the 60s, I think, like 50 years ago maybe.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And nobody really did that here until he came along, maybe but –
Andres Collia: I don’t know about that.
Ramsey Russell: He was a prominent figure.
Andres Collia: Yeah, he was a prominent figure. Here in Guatemala we have a – how do you call it? Like, a hunting guiding group and where they talk about it and –
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, kind of like your group.
Andres Collia: Yeah, he was one of the pioneers that guided together them.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, isn’t that something?
Andres Collia: And you remember, I told you that my great grandfather, died in Spain hunting goats?
Ramsey Russell: Tell me that story.
Andres Collia: Yeah. The father of my grandfather that he used to live in Málaga, he was a military back in the days in the time of Franco in Spain, and he was moving all around Spain and when he was in a military facility in Málaga, he fell in love with my grandmother in Málaga. There’s a little country in Málaga that is called Casares that is one of the white towns in Spain, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful. And he stays there and there is where my grandfather was born and there are a lot of cliffs in the south of Spain.
Ramsey Russell: He start hunting sheep and goats where there is cliff around.
Andres Collia: Yeah, he was starting to hunt goats and he was shooting a goat, but you know that when you shoot goats, you have to shoot them in the cliffs. So he was so excited when he saw one that he fell out on one. My grandfather was already living in Guatemala and they had try to take him to the hospital and he was like, 3, 4 days still alive in the hospital, all connected with all that stuff that they put in and my grandfather just take a plane to Spain to look for him and when he saw my grandfather, he died.
Ramsey Russell: Because he got to say goodbye to his son, it’s kind of like he was holding on until his son came by.
Andres Collia: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Ramsey Russell: Back to a question I asked and then we moved on. How many duck hunters do you think there are in 16 million people in a state the size of Guatemala, you’ve got a lot of mangroves and rivers and rice fields and marshes and habitats, how many duck hunters are there?
Andres Collia: Duck hunters, maybe 80-100.
Ramsey Russell: 80 to 100, that’s it in the whole country?
Andres Collia: That’s it in the whole country.
Ramsey Russell: How many hunters might there be?
Andres Collia: Hunters, a lot of them. But they’re not sporting hunters.
Ramsey Russell: Meat hunters. Well, we’ll talk about that. In terms of recreational hunters, like me and you, like the people listening, you think there’s 100, 200 in the whole country?
Guatemala: A Wildlife Wonderland for Waterfowl and Big Game Hunters
There are some big game animals, so to speak here in Guatemala. You got a White-tailed Deer, Brocket, Javelina and a Tapir.
Andres Collia: I ask in January to the guy that attends me in the CONAP that is the facility that helps the wildlife in Guatemala. And I asked him how many licenses that he get this year? And he told me that, it was like 150 maybe. But of a big animals, like I don’t know how to say, how do you call it? We call here in Guatemala –
Ramsey Russell: Big game.
Andres Collia: Yeah, big game and some of them are wing shooters.
Ramsey Russell: What are the big – let’s talk about some of the big game species, there are some big game animals, so to speak here in Guatemala. You got a white tailed deer, what’s the other little deer with the -?
Andres Collia: Brocket, we have two types of Brocket.
Ramsey Russell: Red and brown or red and gray Brocket deer and they’re hunted. You got peccary or javelina I call him. And those will be like more up north in big tracts of woods.
Andres Collia: Yeah, we have some in here and we have some in the north but it’s a little bit more difficult to get to them, they’re in the jungle.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And Tapir, do you all have Tapir down here?
Andres Collia: Yeah, but I think it’s not legal to hunt it.
Ramsey Russell: It’s protected, but I’m sure the indigenous people hunt them because it’s a great big old pig.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course, they hunt everything, they say.
Ramsey Russell: They say, it’s very good to eat. Well, I realized they eat everything down here because yesterday, we show up to a marsh, I wish we’d gone scouting it, but we got this excellent tour of that dairy. And as we walked out, Todo and I were way out and you set up in that corner that he really liked and as we were leaving, I saw a lot of people out there digging around and I figured they was cutting weeds or I don’t know what they were doing. But what were they out there hunting?
Andres Collia: They were looking for turtles.
Ramsey Russell: Green turtles.
Andres Collia: Green turtles, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Just red ear sliders.
Andres Collia: Yeah. They sell it for eating, they sell it for pets, they’re just looking in the way of living.
Ramsey Russell: Out there digging them out of the mud to go and sell them or eat them, I mean, they eat everything down here.
Andres Collia: Everything.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like, we were going through town one day, Andres, we were going somewhere to go hunting and we went through one of those communities and there go, a guy with a bicycle and this is 90°F, it’s warm, we had the air condition on the car and the windows rolled down at the time, but we go by and there’s a local guy and he got this handle bar that’s just covered with fish, just hanging fish, going home or going to sell. And a lot of people, I posted that picture, I thought so interesting, but a lot of people ask like, those good to eat? Because it’s hot and those fish, look like they’ve been hanging on his handle bars for a couple of hours. It’s different, isn’t it? The indigenous? You remember the guy with the fish?
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course. What is the question?
Ramsey Russell: I mean, why didn’t they spoil? I mean, people eat differently than we might eat in the United States.
Andres Collia: Yeah, I don’t know why they don’t spoil, but if you go to the market today or something like that, you will see the beef hanging out on the market without freezing without anything and they still eat it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Well, we drove by and I looked at some of those shops and they had the meat hanging up and no ice, no refrigeration, but it’s probably fresh slaughter that day and it’s sold quickly.
Andres Collia: Yeah, it’s fresh, so the fish, they maybe have like 20 minutes or half an hour on the handle bar of the bicycles or not 2 hours, you have to see just right there.
Duck Hunting Origins
…there was Marco and he told me that he was going to shoot some doves the next day, so I just hope in his trip and I went and dove hunted with him and I have never stopped since then.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. All right, what are your duck hunting origins? You’re 35 years old, how did you get started duck hunting? Did you hunt with your grandfather growing up or?
Andres Collia: No, I don’t know why he stopped hunting many years ago, he died already like 10 years ago and he stopped hunting like 20 years before, I don’t know why. I went with him, a couple of time, when I was a little boy and I always love hunting, always. I am the little one of three brothers and my father’s always get presents to them, like a rifle, like a motorcycle, like all that grown up stuff. But I was little one, so when they get tired of their things, they gave it to me.
Ramsey Russell: You got the hand me downs.
Andres Collia: Yeah. So when I was like 5 years old, I already had my rifle and I went to my garden every day, every day I go to my garden and I climb up a tree with my little BB gun and my BBs and I stood there for hours hoping that a squirrel or a black bear or something goes in front of me so I can hunt it.
Ramsey Russell: I remember those days.
Andres Collia: Yeah, I loved it, I love it. I put all my camouflage, clothing and I went to the garden and I spent hours in there. So I was always thinking about hunting and how could I go hunting in Guatemala with my friend, my real close friends, they don’t know anything about it, they’re city guys.
Ramsey Russell: But like in school, a lot of your classmates and kids you grew up with did not hunt, like you said there not a lot hunting licenses.
Andres Collia: Nobody hunts. So once, I was like 17 years old or 18 years old, I went to a friend’s house and there was Marco and he told me that he was going to shoot some doves the next day, so I just hope in his trip and I went and dove hunted with him and I have never stopped since then.
Ramsey Russell: How long ago would that have been?
Andres Collia: Like 15 years, maybe.
Ramsey Russell: 15 years, you’re about 20 year’s old and what is it? So you go out there with Marco and you start shooting doves. What was it that you – I mean, you’re 20 years old, you’ve lived 20 years without doing that kind of stuff, what was it that you just like, wow, I love this. And you’re a passionate hunter and you’re a great shot, I got to hunt with you a few times, you’re a great shot.
Andres Collia: Thank you. When I travel to the States and I don’t know any part that I travel back in the days, you go to the airport and the first thing that with me and my families is that we pass for the magazines story. My mom loved the Hola Spain magazine and all that kind of girly stuff and I always go to the hunting part and I buy like 2 or 3 magazines where I can read it the entire trip. So I never hunt since that day, but I have a lot of information in my head about hunting. So the first time that I shot a dove, I felt that I was shooting for it all my life.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And you never look back, you just kept on.
Andres Collia: Never look back, I love this.
Ramsey Russell: From that dove hunt, when did you start going duck hunting?
Andres Collia: Maybe like, I think the first hunt dove hunt was in June maybe, so 6 months later, it was duck season.
Ramsey Russell: With Marco.
Andres Collia: With Marco and Pablo.
Ramsey Russell: Pablo. Yeah, got to meet both those guys.
Andres Collia: Yeah, we went to Jutiapa, there is a department of Guatemala and like one month before that duck season, I went to Miami with my family to a trip and that was the first time that I went to Bass Pro Shop and I was like, wow, it was amazing, my skin still got goose bumps for the first time.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, you just got goose bumps talking about Bass Pro Shop, that’s an incredible store.
Andres Collia: Yeah. So I went there and was so fucking hype and for being there and I buy some ducks, some decoys and his weights, I buy my first best for hunting, my clothes, my caps, and my first call, that is the one that I use.
Ramsey Russell: Because there aren’t any hunting stores like that down here. I mean, can you buy stuff like that in Guatemala? Can we go out to Guatemala City and find a hunting store and buy –
Andres Collia: Right now, like 2 years from now, they’re starting to get some little bit of stores, where they sell your guns, the gun stores, they have a little decoys maybe and some chairs for hunting, but it’s not that common. It’s very hard to hear in Guatemala to become a duck hunter, you have to know somebody to do it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. What Guatemala lacks in a lot of hunters, sport hunters, it makes up for in fishing, it’s like the bill fishing capital of the world, am I right?
Andres Collia: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You told me the other day, 70,000 tourists come to Guatemala to catch sailfish and Marlin and you were showing me some numbers of one of the outfitters, one of the fishing charters the other day of rises and hook sets and land and it was unbelievable, dozens. If I’m on a charter out here in Guatemala, I may land over a dozen sailfish in a day, that’s incredible. And did you tell me that it’s all catch and release?
Andres Collia: All catch and release of a sailfish and Marlins.
Ramsey Russell: You catch them and you release them.
Andres Collia: Yeah, that’s a law.
Ramsey Russell: The government recognizes this as a huge commodity.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And they value those fish beyond what they feed somebody.
Andres Collia: They’re trying to protect them more.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. And next time I come, we’re going to get on one of them boats.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course.
Ramsey Russell: We got a lot to do next time I come down here.
Andres Collia: It’s amazing, it’s a lot of fun.
Guatemala’s Marshlands: The Perfect Playground for Duck Hunters
Rich duck hunting habitat, I’ve been here for five days, it feel like I’ve been here 5 months.
Ramsey Russell: Do you remember your first duck hunt?
Andres Collia: I don’t know, I have so many memories that I don’t know if I remember the first time, I think, I know. We went to Jutiapa to a big lagoon that is called Lago de Güija and I remembered it, yeah. I have like 6 decoys –
Ramsey Russell: I remember my first Guatemala duck hunt and I’ll tell you now, you had 6 decoys –
Andres Collia: And I spread all in the water, I know what I was doing. I buy a DVD that comes with my call, I buy my call and it comes with a DVD and I watched that DVD, I don’t know, 50-100 times to learn how to make a good call for ducks and I was there standing up.
Ramsey Russell: I remember my first Guatemala duck hunt and we step into a boat with Trujillo and the boat guys and they take us down this river with little out boards and then they cut the motors off and they push pole into the marsh and we set up in pitch black dark and throw the decoys out, you all got mojos and we sat in the cattails and we shot ducks and it was amazing. Because I love blue winged teal, but all the bird life and there’s a lot of things that really struck me about that first hunt was, you did have a blue winged teal call and you go to a lot of countries that don’t have a lot of hunting history and they lack the call. You all had very high quality decoys, you had the mojo, we put some other motion decoys out and it was a very good game. But I never will forget like, we had talked that night, there was a volcano somewhere that had been erupting and lava coming down and stuff like that, it was just very different, it was just this massive expanse. I could hear to the west, I could hear the Pacific Ocean waves and as we were going to pitch black and they were push polling, I could hear all the blue wing teal surrounding us out in the marsh, it was amazing.
Andres Collia: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Ramsey Russell: It was amazing, especially for somebody like me that loves blue winged teal and I love blue winged teal. What other species besides blue wings do you all hunt here?
Andres Collia: We got a lot of shovelers, we get some gadwalls.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, saw some of them.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Andres Collia: I think that is all.
Ramsey Russell: Did we say whistling ducks?
Andres Collia: Whistling ducks, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: We saw a bunch of them and you get two species of whistling ducks, fulvous and black bellies, a lot of black bellies and those black bellies are local birds, they live here.
Andres Collia: Yeah, they live here.
Ramsey Russell: But the blue wings migrate through.
Andres Collia: But we have a pretty good blue winged teal population that lives in Guatemala already.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, they do, that’s interesting. So you’ll see them during you all summertime and growing season.
Andres Collia: We don’t shoot them in other day that is out of the season. But when we go dove hunting or something like that or we pass the lagoon, we can see them.
Everything You Need to Know About Duck Hunting Season in Guatemala
Ramsey Russell: What is the hunting season down here? What is you all’s formal hunting season? Like, when does your hunting season start and when does it end?
Andres Collia: It starts in, I think, the last days of the November or December, the first days of December and it goes all the way back to end of February, the first weeks of March.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And when is like the peak time? When is the best time to hunt ducks typically in Guatemala?
Andres Collia: Because it depends in the winter in the States, but typically is from mid-December to the last days of February.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, that’s when it’s bang time. And is duck hunting regulated by the government here? Because I know we got hunting licenses and the hunting licenses come with a register to where I put the date and the species and the number killed and the area hunted, is that then turned into the government?
Andres Collia: No.
Ramsey Russell: That’s just my personal records that the police or the wildlife department can look at, where I’ve been hunting and who I’ve been hunting with and what I’ve been shooting.
Andres Collia: You have to take your license every year in January, so you hand them back the little cart when you ride the things.
Ramsey Russell: What is the official bag limit?
Andres Collia: It is like 20, 25 ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. Do you all distinguish like in America, I’m going to give you an example in Mississippi, we have a 60 day season and I can shoot 6 ducks daily no more than 4 mallards, 6 gadwalls, 6 green wings, 6 blue wings, one pintail, do you all have it like that or is it just 25 ducks?
Andres Collia: No, we got it like that.
Ramsey Russell: 25 duck or so many of different species.
Andres Collia: We can get like, 20, 25 blue wings, you can get like, they call here in Guatemala pato golondrino to the pintail, you can get like 2 or 3 I think and the same with the gadwalls, you can get like 4 or 6.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. What is the bag limit on the doves?
Andres Collia: Doves like, 3-5.
Ramsey Russell: Daily?
Andres Collia: Daily.
Ramsey Russell: No possession limits or nothing like that. Like in America for example, for some reason, I could shoot 6 ducks daily, but if I’m out in the field, if I’m at hunting camp or traveling, I cannot have more than 3 bag limits in my possession, that’s crazy, isn’t it? I’ve got to eat them or give them away or do something before I could continue hunting.
Andres Collia: Oh yeah, you can get into the car, I didn’t understand that.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like, okay, you and I go hunting in Mississippi, we shoot 6 ducks a piece and then we go hunting the next day, we shoot 6 ducks a piece now we’ve got 12, by federal law after that third day, I’ve got to start eating ducks or giving them away or doing something, because if I’m going down the road and get stopped by the game warden, I can have no more than 18 birds in my possession, they have to have a head or wing attached, if I’ve picked them or plucked them or clean them, they still have to have a head or wing attached, I have to have them tagged, the birds have to have a label that shows this is Ramsey’s birds, this is Andre’s birds, I mean, but it’s not that complicated here, is it?
Andres Collia: No. Here in Guatemala that the part of the government that protects the animals, they don’t know anything about ducks and doves and that kind of animal species, I don’t know how they managed to put the numbers in the license and all the things, they don’t have the money to really protect these species. So they have just like a few policemen in all the country looking for a –
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, we met a few of them.
Andres Collia: Yeah. I have 15 years hunting maybe and this sort of the first 2 times that they stopped me in my life.
Ramsey Russell: Was when I was here?
Andres Collia: Yeah, when you was here.
Ramsey Russell: Do you think it’s because you had a gringo with you? Did they see the gringo and go, let’s stop this guy.
Andres Collia: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know. I think that this year they’re trying to protect a lot more of the birds, so they’re just looking around for us.
The Food, the Culture, and the Social Aspect of Guatemala Duck Hunting
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s an amazing country to hunt, I’ve so enjoyed being here and I tell you getting back to my first Guatemala experience, we go out, we hunt the ducks, we put the decoys, we shoot the ducks and we’re all hunting, you and I hunted together, but everybody else, your friends, he hunted in a blind, you can hear shots around and then we get back in the boats, we pick up the decoys, we take pictures, we start easing back, but we don’t go back to the boat ramp, there’s this little shade tree, this little cashew tree and it was breezy, shady, wonderful and we go there and you and I show up and Trujillo starts picking ducks and we’re waiting and then somebody else comes in, they start picking ducks and then somebody leaves and boats to town and comes back with barbecue and we sat there for hours socializing. We ate Chicharrón, we ate fresh coconuts, we drank beer, carnitas and we just had this wonderful time and it felt – and I see that in duck hunting groups and clubs worldwide is the social aspect. And that is when around noon on the first day I realized holy cow, this is my people, I mean, this is real. This ain’t just going out and shooting birds in the sky, you’ve got decoys, you got the art and you’re hunting, but now I bring in the social aspect.
Andres Collia: Yeah, when you’re really a hunter that’s one of the most important parts of the hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I think so.
Andres Collia: Yeah, I love that. You don’t go all out there and kill some birds, we don’t use that word anymore.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Andres Collia: We say, we got to go hunting and then we have a good experience about it.
Ramsey Russell: I tell people, one of my favorite aspects of duck hunting worldwide is the food and the culture and the people and the stories, because if you remove all the traditions, then it’s just a bunch of dead ducks and I can go to the grocery store and get a bunch of dead ducks.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course.
Ramsey Russell: I like the whole pageantry of it all, the whole drama, the whole experience and Guatemala has really got that experience man.
Andres Collia: The hunting starts hitting Guatemalan city, when you prepare your coolers, you prepare your clothes, your weapon, you clean it and you go and buy those shells, there’s where the experience starts.
Waterfowl Hunting in America vs. Guatemala
Ramsey Russell: That’s where it starts, man. You’re talking about, you get a lot of your gear from the United States, those are very nice decoys, same decoys I would use, a bunch of mojo, a lot of America set up. But how has your understanding of duck hunting in America influenced how you hunt? What do you know about American duck hunting versus Guatemala duck hunting and what would you say are the similarities and the differences?
Andres Collia: I can say this is the same that in the States how influencing me is because I look at a lot of YouTube videos in the internet and they explain me how to put the decoys, you have to make it like a B and you have to put like a landing spot so they can land, they show you how you have to get the wind in the back so they can land that good, all the stuff I get it from the YouTube channels.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I think, and I don’t say this in derogatory but man having traveled around the world, American hunters approach hunting and duck hunting or practically everything in life like Michael Jordan, it’s an absolute extreme, camo and guns and ammo and techniques and hunting in America is tough, it’s very competitive because a lot of hunters put a lot of pressure on birds, the weather and everything else and we want our birds and we value it and we have to go out and play for keeps, absolute play for keeps. And as I travel around the world, I see that a lot of places like Guatemala, like parts of Mexico emulate American duck hunting, they start to borrow from it versus I’ve been to some countries that have no basis and no American influence.
Andres Collia: Guatemala is very American influence, US influence, a lot of – you can see on us. We have a lot of brands, a lot of things, we speak really good English, I can say because we’re near to Mexico and there’s the States, so the States is one of the biggest countries in the world and one of the most influences. So we copy a lot of things from you, a lot of things. We have barbecue here, we watch the NFL, we watched the NBA.
Ramsey Russell: I was telling Paulo last night on the way back over here to his apartment, how similar, different Guatemala and America are different, but how similar, how at home I felt here in Guatemala, the food, the culture, the habitat, just so many similarities, I felt so at home and so comfortable and for a Latin American country, you all do speak a lot of English. I mean, everybody I’ve met and socialized with speaks enough English, because I don’t speak any Spanish, you know that and it’s been very comfortable and very easy to get along here.
Andres Collia: Once you go down to South America, they start to speak a little less and less of English because they are away from the States, we’re like one hour and a half from Miami and they are like, really cheap, tickets. We go to New York, we go to Chicago, and we go to Mississippi to Louisiana because it’s easy to fly for us there. So I don’t know, we’re a little bit of Americans to.
Ramsey Russell: I did not know what to expect coming to Guatemala, I really did not know. I knew that, it had maybe a similar history to Mexico, it was just further south but it’s real different to me than Mexico.
Andres Collia: You think so?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s Latin American and you all have Mexican food but I think it’s better, I do. I think more people speak English, I think it’s a little different and different in a good way. And I tell you something that really shocked me, some of the places that we hunt in Mexico that are very popular and I love to hunt them and I always hunt them, but the flight to Guatemala City was so easy. Some of the places we go in Mexico are a little obtuse, we got to go here and here to get there, but here I flew from Jackson to Houston, Houston to Guatemala City, boom, I’m here. It was just click, I’m here. It was very easy travel to get to Guatemala, very easy coming through customs and immigrations, I was like, wow. But you know when we first met, you picked me up at the airport, are you hungry? Yeah. And we stopped over here and we went to a restaurant, we went to a Mexican restaurant but it was very good Mexican food and I’m a Mexican food snob, I don’t eat it in Mississippi because it ain’t good Mexican food in Mississippi, great Mexican food down here really. And us sitting there talking, you brought a Springer spaniel, you got a hunting dog Olivia, that’s a Springer and my family grew up raising them, we hunted with them for decades. And here we are sitting in a restaurant, she’s sitting there with us and I’m like, wow, it’s connection all of a sudden that I didn’t expect.
Andres Collia: I have a lot of dreams when I was a boy and all of them has to do with hunting, the first of my dreams was to become a hunter and the second of it is to have bird duck hunting, I just dream with it. And 7 years ago I get Olivia, I was looking for a hunting duck, I thought that it was time to buy one and I was looking for a pointer vizsla but I couldn’t find one in Guatemala. So I found some of them in Mexico, so I was starting to make all the paperwork’s and all the things to bring him from Mexico and one day Olivia appears in my life from some friends and I buy it and I start teaching her how to hunt, they gave her to me when she was 2 months old and I trained her till she was 8 months old and I took her for her first dove hunting and I can see the first time that I take her to dove hunting, I can see her, how you say it, her hunting spirit.
Ramsey Russell: Instinct, yeah, her desire. Somebody that raised Springer spaniels for a long time, they’ve got an extreme innate, nature to hunt, they love to please. But if I were to live in Guatemala, I would choose a Springer spaniel because they tolerate the heat better than lab, I love my Char dog. But those Springers tolerate this heat and it’s warm down here, you all don’t get cold down here, you told me the other day that Guatemala has an eternal spring.
Andres Collia: And that is cool. Guatemala is the spring city.
Ramsey Russell: It is. And here in the city of Guatemala City, its 65°F in the mornings warmed about 90° year round. I asked, somebody last night we were eating dinner at a dinner party and the windows were open, it was so pleasant and nice throughout the day and he said, no, he said, our windows are always open, every day of the year. If you’re cold, you shut them and if you’re warm, you open them and that’s it. And as a forester and a biologist going out through the country, the countryside intrigues me down here because like in Mississippi, even in the Deep South, we have seasons, our hardwood trees, they’re bare in the winter and they begin to bud out and they begin to flower and fruit and then in the spring, then they leaf out and in the summertime they’re full green. But here in Guatemala, I see all of that happening at one time. I’ve seen fruit, I’ve seen flowers, I’ve seen all the seasons at one time. Sitting on the balcony here looking out, I see all the seasons at one time. That’s intriguing to me, it’s an eternal spring, it’s an eternal dynamic.
Andres Collia: It’s an eternal spring, yeah. If you see the world map, we’re in the middle of the world and we are very close to the equator so I think that is why.
Ramsey Russell: We were talking about how you all hunt very similarity and the influence from America and you and I had a conversation the first day out there hunting blue wings and I asked you how, Trujillo and that bunch, how they hunted it was very different because they’re indigenous, they’re local and you were telling me how they hunt, like sometimes you’ll give them a handful of shells and when you all are gone, they’ll go sit in the marsh and just wait on ducks to pile up, they go boom, shoot them on the water just to eat, that’s kind of how the locals eat down here, isn’t it?
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course.
Guatemalan Culinary Traditions: Duck
…and before he got done answering he named every duck, in other words, the next duck in his pot is his favorite duck.
Ramsey Russell: What do they think about the hunting? And I’ll tell you something funny, the other day when they were plucking the ducks and I asked how they were going to cook them very different than what we would cook them, certainly different than what, Big Al would cook them, and I asked them what his favorite duck was and you were interpreting and before he got done answering he named every duck, in other words, the next duck in his pot is his favorite duck.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course.
Ramsey Russell: Have you eaten, pato real?
Andres Collia: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Are they good?
Andres Collia: They’re amazing.
Ramsey Russell: How do they compare to blue wings?
Andres Collia: They are a little bit more mild flavored. They have a little more fat in it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Very fatty.
Andres Collia: And that’s it. It’s like a big chicken.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Pato real means royal duck.
Andres Collia: Royal duck, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the royal duck.
Andres Collia: That’s the royal duck of Guatemala.
Ramsey Russell: And it just blows my mind that what I recognize is one of the most domestic species of duck in America, we’re talking about the Muscovy duck, the wild version, it’s like, it emanates from the Amazon Basin, it spreads out into Latin America and it’s a wild Muscovy duck, that one of the most tame farm type park ducks in America is actually in some very hairy and wild and remote mangrove type environments down here and you all really like to hunt them, it’s a very good eating duck and that was on my hit list this time and we saw one yesterday he was a little far off and in fact, he’s a long ways off, he’s across the lagoon, but he was so big, it’s a 12lbs duck and very easy to recognize when he flew in and landed way over there and maybe next time I’ll get a shot at one.
Andres Collia: Yeah, of course, we’re going to make that happen.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your favorite ways to eat ducks?
Andres Collia: I love to eat them just after the hunt, fresh hunting, gathering around the guys, we plucked it out and we’re making on the barbecue and I love to eat it like that with a little lemon, salt, pepper. Then when we come to back to Guatemala and we have more time to make them slowly, we just gave them to Big Al and he do it the way that he likes them.
Guatemala: A Good Duck Hunting Destination
There are little secrets in Guatemala, a lot of secrets.
Ramsey Russell: I’m fixing to interview Big Al, I call him Big Al, Big Al’s good eats and man, that guy, he’s a real chef and last night he threw an amazing dinner party, he cooked ducks 4 ways and you all cannot believe the way he cooked one variety of duck, I’ve never heard of such, I thought he lost his mind, because he breasted out the duck for some parts of his recipes and he took those carcasses and did something entirely different, you going to have to listen to next episode here how he did it. And we all looked at it like, I don’t know about that, but when the women started eating it and thumbs up and smiling, I’m like, wow, don’t tell it, don’t spill the beans to all the people listening to Big Al’s good eats next time. Here’s a question, why do you think Guatemala would make a good duck hunting destination for people listening?
Andres Collia: Because of the experience, the Guatemala’s experience that’s it. You can come here and shoot 5, 10, 15, 20 birds and that’s the same thing that you’ll do in all the other parts of the world.
Ramsey Russell: And sit there and look at the Pacific Ocean and go through the jungle and see the different experiences, we didn’t even talk about dove hunting, talk briefly about the dove hunting because you all do have very good dove hunting here for mourning doves and white wings.
Andres Collia: And the big one, do you remember the purple one?
Ramsey Russell: That’s right and I’d never seen that dove before.
Andres Collia: No? Only in Guatemala? I don’t know where is it, but we had one in Guatemala a lot of them, they’re the big ones, they looked almost the same as the Churchill doves, but these are wild and they are great to hunt and to eat too.
Ramsey Russell: They’re big.
Andres Collia: Yeah, they’re big.
Ramsey Russell: Do you think your political system, your government, how do you think they would react to the idea of commercial duck hunting down here in Guatemala? I would think they’d be excited as a form of tourism because Guatemala has a relatively, very small economy, fishing is huge, I mean, they’re protecting all those bill fish out there and see what I’m asking you is maybe you take a country that right now does not have a lot of money and put a lot of money into bird conservation doves and ducks, maybe if an economy was built around it, they’d say, hey, this is also a commodity, we need to exercise some conservation practices. Do you think that’s possible?
Andres Collia: Yeah, that’s possible. That’s the work that I have to do this time of the year, I have one year to make them understand that this will be a good business for them and for the people around it, all these little towns around the parts that we hunt, they’re going to be excited and they’re going to be benefited with the hunting. So I don’t know, we have to make them understand because it will be amazing if they understand this.
Ramsey Russell: The whole time I was here, I was so needed Guatemala and I mean, it like this, it’s like, it was fresh, it was new, it was exciting, I learned a lot, I immersed myself. You and your team embraced me like a friend and I just became completely immersed in Guatemala, the food, the culture, the traditions, the habitats every day was a new adventure, whether we were shooting ducks or going to shoot ducks or it was just whether we were sitting at the dinner table, it was this huge adventure, it opened up this world that I had not yet seen in duck hunting and in life and I needed it, it challenged me, it made me think, it made my head swim with ideas and new experiences, it made my heart happy with the extreme amount of hospitality that I received here, I truly feel like I met family and lifelong friends and my trigger finger, well, it’ll heal, it’ll feel better later because we did plenty of trigger pulling, it was the total package. And what I recognize, how I would describe Guatemala is like, it’s like a gold mine before the hole is dug because it’s brand new and we’ve all talked for the past week about, organization and things we can do and things we need to do to prepare for guided hunts down here. But what blew me away was as I was documenting on Instagram, all the little experiences, my inbox just blew up. Man, Guatemala spoke to people that follow us on social media. It spoke to them at a lot of different levels, from the food, the culture, the people, the scenery, the duck hunting, the species, it spoke to them, it resonated with them the same way it did me. So now we just got in the next year or two, we got to dig the hole, we got to start mining, we got to lay it out.
Andres Collia: Guatemalan people they are so welcome with the people that comes to Guatemala because I think that we’re a little country that every time that we have the opportunity to talk to an American or to another a person of the world, we want them to know that Guatemala is amazing, we love to talk about our culture, our food, our families, our traditions, so that is Guatemalan people, I think.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a little country and a big experience.
Andres Collia: A big experience, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: It sure is. Andre, thank you for bringing Guatemala into my life, thank you for welcome me, like a friend and family and showing me this wonderful country, thank you for being here this morning and sharing and talking to me on this podcast, I really appreciate you.
Andres Collia: You’re welcome. Thank you to come to Guatemala, because I know it has to be hard to go to a country and you don’t know anything about it.
Ramsey Russell: I got to admit now, somebody asked me last night at dinner, what did I expect? And I said, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, truthfully, just watching Netflix or something, I mean, man, my wife is like, what is Guatemala like? I don’t know, I didn’t know, I just got on a plane in Houston and flew down here and as I’m flying over Guatemala City, it was beautiful, it was late in the afternoon, the sun was setting all those big purple flowers, I could see these courtyards just full of these purple flowers and these trees and this beautiful Spanish influence building and this, oh it was just, I kind of expected something like, I don’t know, like a jungle with people wearing camo and I did not expect this. I did not expect to feel so close to home and of course Ryan, with Todo going down the road listening to the blues music and barbecue and no, I didn’t expect this at all. And I just got to say, man, one day we were out somewhere and I don’t want to say the name of this area because if I retire or run away from home, I’m going to your childhood friends always dreamed of having a hotel on the beach, we could have gone there to eat that cheeseburger and I could have sat right there the rest of the week.
Andres Collia: Of course.
Ramsey Russell: It was unbelievable.
Andres Collia: It was so relaxing, right?
Ramsey Russell: It was relaxing, it was laid back, the food was amazing.
Andres Collia: You feel like a family there with everybody.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody, no strangers, there were Europeans, there were Americans, there were a lot of locals, Australians, we sat next to a couple of Australians. But it’s not the kind of place you’re going to see advertised in a highfalutin tourist magazine, it’s off the beaten path, it’s what you want to experience when you come to somewhere like this. I loved it.
Andres Collia: There are little secrets in Guatemala, a lot of secrets.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a very well kept secret. I made a post and the way my initial impression of Guatemala was that, the conquistador came to this part of the world looking for the mother lode and apparently they weren’t duck hunters.
Andres Collia: They were looking for India.
Ramsey Russell: They were looking for India, they were looking for gold, they were looking for – the conquistador came to this part of the world Aztec, the Mayan, they were looking for gold and they were looking for that mother lode. And I thought to myself as I was falling asleep the first night they weren’t duck hunters, because I came here on a lark, spur of the moment, you called, I said I’m on my way because duck season’s fixing in, I want to see it now, I don’t want to wait till next year, I want to see it now. So I came home, I literally was in Mexico, went home, left my gun, left my dog washed my clothes and I was on the next flight to Guatemala and I found the mother lode, little country big experience, awesome.
Andres Collia: I send you a link to your WhatsApp, you remember? I want you to see it and then talk to me. It is called “The Lost City of the Mayans” it’s a NatGeo program, you have to see it, please.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to watch it, don’t worry and you all might want to watch it too, folks. Thank you, Andre.
Andres Collia: Thank you, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere in Guatemala, little country, big experience coming to getducks.com soon. See you next time.