It’s another beautiful sunshine-filled February day in Mazatlan, Mexico and the resort is buzzing with happy tourists. Following the usual fast-paced morning duck hunt, Ramsey meets with long-time associate Ivan Paplovich, discussing all aspects of Mazatlan, Mexico duck hunting. What was it like growing up in Mexico and how’d Ivan get into the hunting industry decades ago? Why is Mazatlan a popular destination for both duck hunters and tourists alike? Are there really bag limits in Mexico–and are northern shovelers really a protected species? What all is required to legally hunt in Mexico and why isn’t do-it-yourself duck hunting as simple as just driving south of the border? Pull up a chair and join us to learn more about duck hunting in Mexico.
Mazatlán, Mexico, Duck Hunting Especial
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season! Somewhere from the world-famous honeymoon duck hunt in beautiful Mazatlán, I’ve got a special guest today. long-time associate down here, Mr. Ivan Romo Pavlovich. It’s very interesting how they come up with names. I just learned that I’ve been coming to Mexico for 20 years and just learned how last names are derived in Mexico. How did you get your last name, Ivan?
Ivan Romo Pavlovich: In Mexico, Ramsey, we use our name, and then we use two last names. The first last name belonged to our dad, and the second last name belonged to our mom’s side. So my mom’s folks came to Mexico in 1900 from Yugoslavia, so that’s why it’s Pavlovich. And on my dad’s side, the Romo, whose complete name was Romo De Vivar, came from Spain. But during the years, I think—I’m not sure about this—about 1930, when the Mexican President tried to get all the Chinese, mainly, but all the foreigners out of Mexico, my grandpa changed the Vivar and took it away because it sounded so Spanish and they wanted to take their properties out of them, and they used to farm down south in Mexico in the Guadalajara area, and that’s why. And then in the 20s before that, in the 20s, the President wanted to get out all the Catholic churches. So my grandma moved to the States; that’s why my dad was born in the San Diego area, grew up, and joined the US Army. And then he came back with the international tractor concession, started business down in Mexico, and got married to my mom. They were big orange producers, those Yugoslavs.
Ramsey Russell: What part of Mexico?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Hermosillo is in the state of Sonora, which is the border there, and is 150 miles south of Nogales, Arizona.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s a big orange area or community. That’s where you got your baseball name now, I know. Naranjos.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: The Naranjos Exactly. They used to call it Orange City, but that changed in the late 1970s.
Ramsey Russell: Are you a big baseball fan? Because I’ve been through Hermosillo, I saw the statue of a famous picture you all had that could have played pro anywhere in the state you wanted to.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: The name is the Naranjos, the orange team, but I’m not a big fan of them in baseball. In that kind of sport, I used to dive a lot and go hunting and fishing.
Ramsey Russell: You weren’t one of these cliff divers around here, were you?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: No, in the swimming pool.
Ramsey Russell: Off a springboard?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: No, thanks. I’m too heavy now for all kinds of sports.
Ramsey Russell: You were born and raised in Hermosillo.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yes, I was born and raised there.
Ramsey Russell: Where’d you learn English?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: On Gale. No, I didn’t. I never learned it. I just spoke a little.
Ramsey Russell: Good Spanglish.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Good Spanglish. Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve been partners down here a long time on this Mazatlán hunt; we’ll get into all that. But what else do you do? And I know you’ve been involved in a lot of different hunting and other activities throughout your career.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Mainly, I graduated from the communications school in the old days. We used to do TV ads and stuff like that on radio. But the first year I get out of university, I get a job through a friend in the national wildlife concept. We started in 1987, and we’re doing surveys for desert bighorn sheep in the states of Sonora, Baja, and Baja South. because they are the three main subspecies of the desert bighorn sheep. One in Sonora that is the regular size up in Baja is the biggest of all 7 subspecies, and down in Los Cabos, La Paz, that area is the smallest of the 7 subspecies. The other Cincinnati, Arizona, Nevada, California, and some other people were after the grand slam but also after the seven subspecies of the desert bighorn.
Ramsey Russell: Those bighorns are the holy grail of the Mexican hunt, period. That is the cat’s daddy. I mean, I know we’re flying to Hermosillo; there are a lot of hunters coming through there—a bunch of duck hunters, but a whole lot of sheep hunters and mule deer hunters.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: That’s the main business there. Mule deer and desert bighorn sheep, big prices, and big money.
Ramsey Russell: So you got out of college in communication and ended up working for-
Ivan Romo Povlovich: National Wildlife Council.
Ramsey Russell: Is that like your department of national resources?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah. It was work together with the Game & Fish. But we were the ones who made the survey, and we’re flying out in helicopters and putting out a collar with a radio. So to find out how the numbers were and how the habitat for them was, And then in those days, they really regulated the hunt; we only have like 10 licenses for Sonora and 40 for Baja, and only 8 licenses for south Baja, which we call a different state there. And those prices—in those days, they were about $7,000 to $8,000. But during the finance, the foundation for North American sheep, I took care of one of the guys, whom I think was the owner of the Firestone tire. He paid $300,000 for one of those.
Ramsey Russell: I know some of those tags go for a lot more than $7,000 today.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Usually easily $30,000 and up; that’s what there is now. But now they have a better population and a bigger population because of the high fences.
Ramsey Russell: How did Mazatlán come to be? I know we had a mutual friend that owned this place at one time, but how did the actual duck hunt down here come to be?
What Attracts Ducks to Mazatlán?
After we all shoot our generous 20-bird limits, there’s going to be more ducks as we’re leaving than were there when we got there. It’s very relaxed.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: When I started working for the National Wildlife Council, the president of that group was the owner of the TV guy in Mexico Televisa. And he used to have a big, private place for him down here close to Mazatlán, that place called Simaron. In those days, during the season, I ran that camp and that lodge. Later on in 1994, probably 1994, on the side, I got a business for mule deer hunts, and one of the hunters came to me, and he was a guy from our friend from South Dakota. I showed up hunting a mule deer and talked to him. He was big time in the duck hunt; he was an avid duck hunter. So I showed him that place that belonged to my friend, and he fell in love with it. So he moved; we rented that place for two years, and then another friend used to have a hotel here when we traded in a ranch in Sonora for a mule deer for the hotel, and that was in 2001 or 2002.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s the old Balboa Club that I hear about.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Then, when we were here and the Balboa Club was one of the first guys to start duck hunting in Sinaloa, at least in Mazatlan, And that guy was kind of running out of business, and our friend, to cover that place, bought that place. But before that, that Balboa Club had two partners, one from the state and one from Mexico. They split apart, and our common friend bought two of those, and we started the business for duck hunting in Sinaloa in Mazatlán.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll be darned. And that was a while ago—20 years?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: 20 years, some 20 years.
Ramsey Russell: And I’ve been involved for 12 or 13 years now with this hunt, and it just keeps getting better and better.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Mazatlán, for the few things I know the ducks, isa different hunting place because other places you shoot the ducks in the estuary, through the blinds where they’re flying in through the channels. And here it’s amazing the way they came to drink fresh water that I’ve never seen it, at least not myself, in Morelia, Sonora, or Yucatan in Mexico.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. A lot of Mexico—and it’s so interesting, like back home—so much habitat management goes into feed. planning a corn or milo or wheat or something to attract the ducks to feed, and down here, fresh water is what drives the whole system.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: In those days, in 1987–1990, up north from Mazatlán, they used to have crops of rice, and there used to be a lot of ducks. But because there is not enough water when they build those dams and reservoirs up in the mountains, the water gets less, so there is not enough water for those crops. And now, from Mazatlán south on, we have the concession now, like 36,000 hectares of federal concessions. The main crops are peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes, so no grain for the ducks. But the brackish water is to be, so the ducks rest over there, and they go to drink water in the freshwater ponds.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what they do. It’s like everywhere we’ve hunted since I’ve ever been here, the ducks are off in those vast stretches of brackish water, and they’re feeding on—there’s no vegetation like we think of back home—morsel vegetation; they’re eating the same thing the shore birds are eating. They’re eating invertebrates and maggots, and all kinds of good stuff high in fat and protein. And we go and hunt, sometimes for the tiniest bodies of water. Last year we hunted a ditch that was 10 feet wide—not 10 yards, but 10 feet wide. I had to back off 30 yards just so my pattern would open up to hit them. I’ve gotten to the point where I tell folks if Christian puts a red Solo cup in it and fills it up with water and says load up, get ready because the ducks are coming; they’re coming to drink fresh water.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And it’s strange because, beside the federal concession on the estuary, we have more than 30 different freshwater ponds. Some years, some of them worked really well, and some years didn’t. And even though they’re small areas that we call “the Jacuzzi,” it’s hard to believe they came over there.
Ramsey Russell: It’s hard to believe.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It’s really hard to believe in. And I don’t know, sometimes we try to put some grain there, but it doesn’t attract them; they just come to drink water.
Ramsey Russell: And I see it, which brings up an interesting thing. One of the things I tell clients, prospects, or people that are coming to Mazatlán for the first time is, “Now look, it’s very different.” Because back home in America, Ivan, we play for keeps. We take no prisoners; we play for keeps; if you ain’t early, you’re late. And if I’m hunting in public, that means I had to be there yesterday to hunt today. But here, I set my alarm for 4:45, get up, and brush my teeth. I only get here at the lobby at 5 o’clock so I can drink coffee and sweet rolls and BS with the clients because the trucks don’t show up till 5:30. And usually daylight comes up over the mountains while we’re still driving. And we’ll get to the duck hole, what I describe as 30-45 minutes after Mississippi shooting time, and we’re just showing up in daylight; we don’t need headlights, and we walk out, and sometimes you’ll see the ducks already out there; we were all late. I said, “Oh, and he started to get some because the hotter it gets, the more those ducks are pouring in.” And it’s so astounding to me. I’ve been here long enough now to recognize a lot of the different areas we go to, and I don’t care how many ducks are there; when we get there, there’s going to be more. After we all shoot our generous 20-bird limits, there’s going to be more ducks as we’re leaving than were there when we got there. It’s very relaxed.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah. As the sun starts heating up, they start coming. If you show up early, like Mississippi time, you’re going to be there for two hours.
Ramsey Russell: All you’ve got to do is swat a few gnats and drink more coffee out in the field; there’s no sense. It is very relaxed hunting, which opens up Mazatlán to stay up a little bit later, spend some time with your wife, go have a margarita, go eat a nice dinner, relax; the ducks are waiting on us.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: This is a relaxing and gentlemanly hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Yes, it is.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And as we call honeymoon, you bring your wife and your company along. I mean, it’s very easy; you don’t have to use hip boots or anything on the mud.
Ramsey Russell: The other thing is that we send a “what to bring” list to people, and some of them are more involved. Some places in Mexico where we go, you need to bring waiters. Here, you don’t even need to bring rubber boots; if we need rubber boots to get out of a little bit of shallow mud, they’ll have your boots ready. I hunted crocs all week. That’s very different. So get to the duck hole at 7:30 in the morning wearing Crocs. That’s my kind of hunt, Ivan.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Well, probably we don’t have McDonald’s right there, out there at the camp, but we’ve got some burritos that people love.
Why is Duck Hunting So Good in Mazatlán?
You can go freshwater fishing, you can go saltwater fishing right here, you can go golfing, you can go hunting, you can do whatever you want here.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think makes the hunting so great here? Because when you think of Mexico, it’s cacti, it’s deserty, it’s sand, but it’s good duck hunting.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Mazatlán is located right at the Cancer of the Tropic, which makes it some kind of jungle territory, not a cactus, not a desert. It all depends on the year, but there’s a lot of water coming every year. Then the people get surprised because they don’t—for openers, Mazatlán means the land of the deer. There used to be a lot of deer around here, and they’re still there. The Coues deer is a subspecies smaller than the Coues deer, but they’re going to be here forever because the forest’s timber is so thick that it’s hard to wipe them out, even with a lot of hunters. But the people get surprised when you show up in Mazatlán and you see big boats and big hotel chains, and it’s probably been growing in the last 20 years. They opened the road to Durango, and it’s been growing a lot. We’ve got probably 72 hotels at least with 300 rooms each, big hotels and a big airport, all the communication, and a 4-way road. If you cross the border, you can drive it; it’s a long drive, but you won’t have any problem getting here. And then the people are very used to serving; the hospitality of the people is very nice down here.
Ramsey Russell: That’s one thing every single client that’s ever been to Mazatlán comes back saying: the service. And I wouldn’t say it’s just Mazatlán; I’d say Mexico in general is. I think there’s a reason a former president wanted to build a wall because if we allow the service industry to come to the United States, there ain’t going to be a single cocktail waitress in America that’s got a job; you all put them to shame. It’s the best service in the world. Everything you want is here on the fun side of the wall. It’s a service industry.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It is. And add to that, Mazatlán is right on the beach, so it’s a tourist place. And some of the hunters don’t even have a clue what they’re going to find out here; once they’re here, you can go out fishing, golfing, and everything and they had a great time. We didn’t have any complaints at all.
Ramsey Russell: No, we’ve never had a single complaint. And you speak about the fishing, and we’re right here where the Sea of Cortez dumps into the Pacific Ocean. And every day from my room, I can look out and see them bringing in Marlin. Bringing in all those—what are all those little fish they had? They had the snapper and the-
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Triggerfish, snapper, groupers It’s a big place for blue marlin, striped marlin, and Mahi-Mahi. Every restaurant you go to has Mahi-Mahi, which is one of the biggest places.
Ramsey Russell: I met somebody at the bar the other day who was showing me a picture of a 4ft Mahi-Mahi caught offshore the other day, and I mean, what more could you want? And then, I’ve actually been here, staying right here, since we got picked up in the morning, if you take a day off or take an extra day and go up to El Salta.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: El Salta for the fresh water.
Ramsey Russell: And catch bass until your arm falls off; it’s unbelievable. It’s paradise down here.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah. We have a privileged location. You can go freshwater fishing, you can go saltwater fishing right here, you can go golfing, you can go hunting, you can do whatever you want here.
Ramsey Russell: Did you grow up hunting?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: As a little boy? I mean, what did you hunt as a young man?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: We used to hunt doves and quail when we were really young, and rabbits.
Ramsey Russell: When you say “we,” was that you and your family or you and your friends?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: As I told you, my dad was a farmer, so we spent a lot of time out in the fields. And then, when I was a teenager, I used to start hunting Coues deer up in the mountains. We got two hours from Mar Maceio mule deer, and we used to do a lot of diving for groupers, lobsters, and scallops.
Ramsey Russell: Spear-wishing-type stuff. That’s what you meant by diving; you didn’t mean jumping off the rock; you meant spear fishing.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And mostly snorkeling. In those days, there was a lot of free diving; we got tanks and everything just for big fish, like getting into the cave or something. But in those days, there were a lot of fish out there; even Jacque Cousteau named it the Sea of Cortez, the estuary of the world, because there were so many animals produced here.
Ramsey Russell: Talk a little bit about some of that free diving out there in the Sea of Cortez. What kind of gear did you have? How far out did you go? What fish were you getting?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Right. The closest place to Mar Marcio Canoe Bay is about 80 miles west of there. And then we got Shark Island, which is the biggest island that belonged to Mexico. And you have to have the idea that all the islands in Mexico are federal, like the water. So we used to go diving over there, free diving, snorkeling, and spear fishing for red snapper and grouper, mainly big grouper. Good eating fish—I mean superb. And also lobster, and we got a lot of big scallops in those days. It was fun.
Ramsey Russell: Just for personal consumption and recreation?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: When I was in the 8th grade, we used to do commercials myself. Just after getting out of school, I went on the weekend and got some fish.
Duck Hunting & Firearm Regulations: U.S. vs Mexico
And any foreigner cannot hunt by himself. They’ve got to go through an outfitter; that’s what the law says.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve lived in the States, and you’ve been to the States a lot. How would you compare hunting culture in Mexico versus hunting culture in America? Did a lot of your neighbors, did a lot of kids you go to school with, also like hunting? Did their families hunt? Was it a big thing down here?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It is big, but it gets more complicated with the rules in Mexico. Probably the most complicated thing is guns; in the state, everybody can own a gun with no problem. Mexico has a lot of paperwork for that one.
Ramsey Russell: All the guns are bought from the military, am I right?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. So you go to the police or the military to actually buy the guns. What about the cartilage or the ammunition?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Same. There’s only one factory or company in Mexico, but it’s controlled by the military. There are civil people working there, but militaries control the administration and the production of the shells, and you have to buy from them; there is no other way at all.
Ramsey Russell: Somebody texted me this morning and said that they had a client that was going to come to Mexico and wanted to bring some ammo, and I assumed from the low boss that they were talking about turkeys, and I said do not bring ammo unless you’ve got a permit because this ain’t like a slap on the wrist; it’s a big deal.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: If you want to bring, let’s say, your own shotgun from the state, you have to come with an outfitter that is licensed to be an outfitter and get a special permit for the Mexican military. And when you get that one, it’s not a big deal, but it’s a process to go through. You’re allowed to bring your shotgun and 100 shells.
Ramsey Russell: Per shotgun?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Per shotgun. And in the case of the rifle for the mule deer hunter, you’re allowed to bring 50 shells. That’s it. But that’s why, in our operation down here, we provide the shotguns. We don’t want to go through that hassle or have a problem with one of our clients, so they can come relax.
Ramsey Russell: That makes it very simple because the firearms are included, and they are very nice Benelli firearms. I mean, when you come, when you show up, I tell the clients, you show up, go through your passport, pick up your bags, exit, look for the bright orange shirt, boom, jump in the van, and go have fun. The guns, the ammo, the beverages—everything is waiting in the truck in the morning. Just go enjoy yourself. It’s vacation. It ain’t got to be difficult. Just get here. You bring up a good point; you’re talking about the regulations and controls, and I get asked quite a bit. Because a lot of American hunters hunt themselves, They don’t go on guided hunts. It’s a can-do sport, and they say, “Well, I want to go down freelance in Mexico.” Well, I’m like, “Well, good luck with that.” It’s really like the areas you’re hunting; you bought the concession from the UMA. Can you explain that a little bit?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: There are two separate things, UMA. You made a UMA, which is a management unit. It’s like in the state, if you have a ranch, a private property, and then you want to become an outfitter, you have to have a study from the Game & Fish Department with a biologist. And they’re going to come out after the survey with how many licenses they’re going to issue to you. Usually they go to the 8% of mature males talking about deer or sheep; that’s a dumb rule. But that one thing is the UMA, which is a federal property. I mean, it’s a private property, and all the waters in the Mexico Estuary, rivers, and ponds are federal and belong to the federal government. And then you have to pay for your concession. You have to make a study every year.
Ramsey Russell: The outfitter pays the biologists to come out and survey those federal waters.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: The Game and Fish Biology.
Ramsey Russell: They come out and look at it.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And there are different ways to get there. One is like a train farm; you have to pay big money to have a train farm. And then, if you’re going to use it for plants, grass irrigation is another—that’s a different subject to get into. And we got the concession; we have to renew every year, and the condition is that you are responsible for anything that causes pollution; they can take it out of your place. So we have to be really aware of what’s going on there.
Ramsey Russell: It makes you the steward of that resource.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yes. In some areas, we even have to buy fresh water for the water reservoir because the water in the estuary is saltier than the ocean. That’s why mangrove trees live there. So sometimes, now that there’s an ecological problem with the train farm, they throw in the water. Let’s talk about using water with all the food and drink. In some areas, they’ve been killing the native snails and stuff plants that live in the estuary. So we have to keep track of the health of our water every year because if we don’t do that, we can get our federal government to cancel it. So every year we have to make twice the study of our habitat, water, plants, flora, and fauna, what we call them.
Ramsey Russell: And the Game and Fish biologists make those surveys. But as the concession holder yourself, you compensate them to go make those studies. That’s very interesting. How does that tie into bag limits? Because—and I’m asking this question—I want to go there because there seems to be a misconception in America that there are no bag limits in Mexico. Shoot what you want. And I know for a fact that there are a couple of nefarious outfitters that let clients shoot what they want. But there are limits.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: There are limits.
Ramsey Russell: These are North American species for which there are limits in Mexico, and I know they’re strictly abided by here and elsewhere.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It’s very simple. Ramsey, it’s Mexico, we’re talking about not my concession or all around Mexico. Mexico’s numbers of duck tags are related to the survey between Canada and the United States. Let’s say, just for the sake of using a number, there are 10,000 tags for Canada and 10,000 for the United States, and from there, we’ve got three main flyways: the Pacific, Central, and East Coasts. And from there, it says whatever they say about how many we’re going to hunt, we depend on what you guys make the survey up there. So they claim, “Okay, we’re going to issue,” because the money that came from Mexico for the Game and Fish to protect the duck came from that study for the international bank that supports the Game and Fish. So we cannot dream up our number; that number is handed to the Game and Fish, and it says, “Okay, they give us, let’s say, 1,000 tags, then they have to divide it by the outfitters or the federal.” But then to get my case to get your ducks, I have to make the study, and I have so many hectares of water. I have to check my water and my ducks too; every year I have to send ducks to be studied to see if they have any diseases at all. So then, from there, I get my license.
Ramsey Russell: I see; they make a prescription. So is the number, like it’s been explained to me, and I don’t know what I’m asking, that within this management unit, based on what you just explained, you can shoot X number of ducks, and it doesn’t matter if one person shoots it or all the clients shoot it; it’s like an escrow account you can draw from?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Let’s say, to make the numbers easier, he says “I’m going to get 100 tags for myself,” and I say, “Okay, I’m allowed to shoot 40 ducks per tag.” That was the number.
Ramsey Russell: That keeps it simple.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Just to keep it simple. But it’s not that simple.
Ramsey Russell: But for an individual, for an American to just drive down to San Dola He can’t just set up shop and go hunting because all the water is federal, and the outfitters on the concessions are paying for the UMAs and the biological studies. So there really aren’t a lot of public freelance opportunities here in Mexico. Highly regulated. That’s the point I’m trying to make here. There’s a reason services such as yours exist.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And any foreigner cannot hunt by himself. They’ve got to go through an outfitter; that’s what the law says.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what the law says and that’s not unique to Mexico. I know that to hunt in Canada for big game, you must go through an outfitter.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And then it’s harder for a Mexican to have a gun for a foreign guy, and it’s also harder to own a gun in Mexico. And to bring his own gun, he has to go through the outfitter to get the military permit.
Ramsey Russell: Right. That’s all very interesting; that’s the kind of stuff I’ve been wanting to have explained. I get a lot of emails, a lot of inboxes, and guys want to come freelancing or—no, that ain’t the way it works. It’s very regulated down here, and that’s a good point.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It is. And also, there are so many—let’s talk about the ducks. There are just a few spots of water, and there won’t be more of the same. So you have to take care of whatever you get now. I’m making the studies because I don’t want to get my concession canceled. But every year it’s getting tougher—not tougher, but you have to do more things to keep it clear. Let’s say if anything happened to me—some people spill oil—I’m responsible for it, and I get cancelled even if it wasn’t me. So I have to be aware all year round when patrolling the area.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility, Ivan.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It is. It’s a full-time job.
Ramsey Russell: It’s just very interesting the way the Mexican government does that. And I think it puts the burden of environmental stewardship on the outfitters and hunters that are using it. I mean, it’s admirable, really.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It is. I mean, it is good; it is the only way to protect the animals too. They keep coming here.
Waterfowl Species of Mexico
The whistling duck—we got the two species here.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about species a little bit. Have you seen any species and habitat changes? In the last 20 or so years, have you seen major changes in Mexico in terms of populations, species transitions, or anything like that in that part of Mexico?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: As I told you, in this area, at least since the rice crop ended, it has changed completely.
Ramsey Russell: Not as many pintails.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Exactly. Because our biggest trophy, if you want to call it that, was the pintails, and now we’ve got mostly teals. I don’t know; you know better than me.
Ramsey Russell: I know. Down here, I tell the clients shovelers, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit, ought to be the national bird of Mexico because they’re everywhere; it’s their habitat. Green wings, blue wings galore, and cinnamon teal are very rare. Most of my clients want to talk about trophies. Most of the clients that come to Mexico don’t have one bird they want to shoot; it’s a cinnamon teal. And I’m not going to say 100% of everybody gets a big, beautiful cinnamon teal, but I’ve never been here where we didn’t shoot cinnamon teal; that’s just what the clients want. But like yesterday, we shot pintail, American wigeon, cinnamon teal, blue-wing teal, green-wing teal gadwall, and black-bellied whistling duck.
Ramsey Russell: And recently, it was a few years ago that they changed something, and I have to tell everybody now, but they changed some rules. Apparently the birds are endangered or rare down in Guatemala, and we no longer have them. I tell everybody you can’t bring the bird back because you’ve got to have one of these permits.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And I don’t know why, but we got a good population down in Mexico, but cites are worldwide, so they included it in the endangered species.
Ramsey Russell: And it’s not endangered in Mexico at all. You all have thriving populations here; I’ve seen thousands of them. But that’s the way the federal government wants it: when you bring them back into the States and we can get the permit, it’s just going to take 60 days, in which case you’ll be home. You forgot all about Mazatlán and how we’re going to get the bird to you. because there are other roads that we’ve got to jump through.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It takes time to get, okay, you say 60 days, and I can get the citation.
Ramsey Russell: Here’s the funny thing: I just got to bring this up because I started getting texts, and just when you think the world can’t possibly get any crazier, I started getting text messages from Mazatlán saying they can’t bring the shovelers back because they’re cited. You can’t bring the shovelers back. What? No, you can bring shovels back. No. And I’m like, “Wait a minute, the shoveler may do a lot of things, but endanger it ain’t.” What kind of miscommunication do we have there, Ivan?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Last year they put it in the cites because some guy from Africa, whom we have nothing to do with, they included in the Mexican government.
Ramsey Russell: The accident, the oversight-
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Oversight. But then we got a phone call from Mexico City saying, “Yes, it is protected.” How come? Well, finally, they told us nothing. You can take them to the state.
Ramsey Russell: You can shoot them, you can take them, wrong shovelers.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Hollywood mallard.
Ramsey Russell: Hollywood Mallard, Spoonzilla, Ramzilla Just when you think the world can’t get any crazier, it does.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Besides COVID.
Ramsey Russell: Talk a little bit about the staff because you administer all this, and your daughters Abeth and Anita work together administratively. But the stars of the show down here are Christian and the boys. And they are the most professional field staff I’ve ever been around. I mean, they absolutely don’t miss a beat. How long have they been here?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Christian is the main guy for operations here. He’s been with us since he was a kid, probably. I don’t know how old he is now; probably he is 37 or something. He got at least with me 25 years. And he grew up in that area, and he loves it; he’s a real good hunter himself. But what I like most is that he’s a very responsible guy and very honest. And when we took over this place a long time ago, I put him in school so he could learn some English.
Ramsey Russell: He speaks good English.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Because he didn’t go to school.
Ramsey Russell: You sent him to jail for a week like you did too.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yes. We were made to do it for a couple of weeks online. No, but that guy, to tell you the truth, is in charge of picking it up with his team. Because sometimes he calls me and says, “Hey Ivan, I’ve got a problem with you,” and “Hey Christian, it’s your decision, not mine.” You can change it or keep it. And the guy is as straight as an arrow. I never had any problems with or complaints about the hunters with him. And I trust full blind.
Ramsey Russell: He runs like clockwork. He’s never late; he’s always early; he never forgets anything we need, every little detail. And one of my favorite things is that we shoot plenty of ducks, but I think it’s the perfect touch after the hunt. He breaks out a Mexican microwave, breaks a few sticks, lights the fire, heats up some burritos that his wife makes every night, grills Serrano peppers, and heats the berries. And we sit there and eat it, drink a few cold beers, and watch the ducks fly back in, and it just runs like clockwork. And he drops us off between 11:30 and 12:30 every day. It just runs like a schedule. We’ve got our ducks; don’t worry, here they come.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: He has everything together right now.
Managing Hunting Pressure in Mexico
It may be two weeks before that pond gets shot again – a long time.
Ramsey Russell: How do you think they manage hunting pressure down here? There really isn’t a lot of water; is it that Mexico’s dry? There’s a bunch of water out there to the west in the ocean, but there’s not a lot of water in here, a lot of fresh water anyway. So he’s got to scout and find it. But how does he manage hunting pressure? Because of that, we’ve had a lot of conversations this week with clients. To me, the decisive factor that differentiates Mexico versus Mississippi and Arkansas is that these ducks are unpressured. We shoot more of them than we do back home on a daily basis, but they’re unpressured. How do you manage that?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: The big concession we got on the estuaries beside that one is too bad, but I can show you the list, but you won’t see it on the radio. We got fresh water ponds, and beside the concession, where the waterline finishes 20 meters up, that’s federal. But we go through the colonies too in Mexico to get a concession; you have to be on a property next to the concession via your neighbor. But because our concession is so big, we got like a different number—I’m just going to give a round number of 15 colonies—that’s around our federal concession. So we have to make a deal with every colony that has a pond on it. In every colony, like, one guy owned the pond inside the colony, so we have to pay him too.
Ramsey Russell: There are a lot of well-degreed people in Mexico.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: But that guy has to take care of that pond so we can go hunt. So every day we will make a phone call during the season to those pond neighbors or pond watchers. And when you guys, like today, went out hunting one pond, I got two other vehicles scouting more ponds and talking to different people. So the next day you can go to a different one because we don’t have to put all the pressure on you.
Ramsey Russell: It may be two weeks before that pond gets shot again – a long time.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Exactly. And also, we got so many because we don’t know some seasons, some ponds don’t work, and next year is going to be the best. And two years ago, we had to move the pond to make it shallow, so we had to dry out, get a tractor, move everything out, make it deeper, and use the same soil we took off and put back because they got the seeds for the same plant that ducks eat. And it’s a little job with a lot of work to do.
Ramsey Russell: It didn’t just happen back then?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: No. And a lot of jobs for – a lot of work for Christian.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I noticed coming into this season that we had a great season. Everybody loves this hunt to go home; they tell their friends everybody wants to come back down here because it’s just, and the wives love it as much as the hunters. And the hunters are happy because the wives are happy, so it’s just all-around goodness. But I did start panicking because last year was a drought. We booked a lot of hunts, and man, it was dry for a while, and I was thinking, “Oh boy, it’s going to be too dry; we’ve got to lay hunters off; we’ve got to cancel.” And then we got a bunch of rain.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And then we were scared too because, with too much rain, a lot of fresh water goes through the estuaries, and the ducks don’t fly to drink water.
Ramsey Russell: They don’t. That’s right. The salinity decreases, so the ducks can sit out on the big water; they don’t have to come to the little pond. But thank goodness you could see the transitional client reports; it was all good. But it just keeps getting better and better. And Christian was telling me that because the season typically runs until late February and a little bit into March, But Christian keeps telling me that March is the very best. And he says, “Not only are there more ducks, but the drives are shorter; they’re closer here to the resort.” So I’ll have you back at the hotel sooner.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah, exactly. And according to the people who know, some ducks are flying back, so they are staging a get-together here.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, they stage here before they fly back.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: But they’re coming from the south, so stay in here. And March is a very good time for shooting ducks. It’s a little bit warmer.
Ramsey Russell: But the ducks are colored up incredible.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Full colors.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. and that’s a big thing.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah, I mean, for cinnamon, it’s full plumage.
Ramsey Russell: We’re going to be here; our next year’s hosted hunt is going to be the first week of March, and I’m excited for it. Just the way the conventions are being followed, it’s going to really work out well. And there are a lot of people excited to join us. I think it may already be full or be getting close to it.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah, we’ve got some clients that have been coming for 20 years or so, coming twice during the season, in January and then in March.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. But we’ve actually had some clients come down around Christmas, and they love it when the duck shows up.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And also, Christmas is very nice weather here.
Ramsey Russell: Is that a big tourist area down here? Is that a popular time for the resorts around Christmas and New Years?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: It’s the busiest week for hotels, beside the holy week. What is the spring break for you guys and the carnival, the Mardi Gras?
Ramsey Russell: When is Carnival down here?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: The Catholic deal is after the length of April.
Ramsey Russell: April. at the same time as Mardi Gras, like in New Orleans. So I guess I never really thought about it. It’s not independent; it’s religious; it’s like Christmas Day; it’s the world over, and I did not even realize that.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Well, the length is 40 days; yeah, it’s in April.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a big deal down here.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Yeah, it is. Mazatlán is getting crowded. No rooms; all the hotels are full. That one, I think, is where most people come for spring break in the 52 weeks between December and New Year’s Eve.
Ramsey Russell: Do you watch Netflix?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Some.
Ramsey Russell: Because I still get questions, I got one yesterday.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Okay, I’ve got my daughter.
Ramsey Russell: I still get questions; it’s like I got a question yesterday. The guy says I’ve been watching Narcos on Netflix, and it’s got me nervous about that area. I’m like, “Where do you live?” because I’m more scared of Jackson, Mississippi, than anywhere I’ve ever been in Mexico.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: You can tell them. It’s a program about tacos. And Netflix it is. And the taco in Mexico that is a pork taco that is number one in the world. So it’s usually worth taking a look at that program. Narcotics are a problem, like in Chicago.
Ramsey Russell: Name a city or a town in America.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: San Diego, but here we are in a tourist town; we’ve never been affected, the golden zone. And the people here in Mazatlán are very used to the service, and even the government is worried about having any problems here. Because also beside the hunting and the fishing is a tourist and it’s big money for the government too. It’s one of the – besides the oil and beside the mining what is number one produce money in Mexico is the mining now is a tourist. There’s a lot of money from tourism.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a big industry.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: So they have to take care of that one too.
Ramsey Russell: But Ivan and I brought up a serious subject. Because Mazatlán is light, fun, a resort, and touristy, I’ve been coming to Mexico since 1990, and I’ve never had any issues. There was nothing that made me as nervous as walking in Jackson, Mississippi, at 9:30 at night. Nothing. No problemo. But there’s this stigma, and I’m like, “I’m trying to say—let me make this point because I was texting to a lot of my Mexican outfitters throughout last year when the entire world watched Minneapolis burn while the police and the politicians, Democrats, sat with their hands in their pockets.” And all of my good friends like yourself were saying, “Where in the hell are your police and your military taking care of your communities?” And what I try to impress upon people is that we all know what I’m talking about would never exist in this country. It would be a foot race between the police, the military, and the Narcos to put down Antifa. They’re not going to let these communities be destroyed by Antifa.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And also the bad news; they show it more than the good news, which doesn’t count.
Ramsey Russell: Well, bad news, sales.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Sales, that’s what it is. We call Marie Gizmo. Yellow journalists make money out of those.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, that’s it. Bad news for sales now. Talk about the good news. I’m going to talk about the good news in Mazatlán because the restaurants and the food are unbelievable. It’s like people start talking about the restaurants down here, and I’m like, “Pick one.” Some are better than others, but pick one because they’re all good. And every year I’m down here for the last 15 years, I try new ones, and I ain’t never found a bad one yet. I’ve got some favorite ones down here. It’s funny, one of the restaurants that you took me to, Ivan, because you said it was our friend’s favorite restaurant, has now become mine. The only problem is that it closed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and by the time I take a shower and lollygag around, it’s closed. I love El Bigoates’ goat-tasting tacos. I’m going to talk about that. The best taco on earth is all pork. There’s not one English word in the whole restaurant, so break out your Google phone and just point to something; it’s all good. Am I right?
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And you are never wrong, whatever you point at.
Ramsey Russell: What I warn people about is that when you dip into that sauce, taste it just a little bit before you go whole hog into it because it ain’t Pace Picante sauce. Orange Flex gets a little heat from them sometimes.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: They used to call criminals like a crime salsa.
Ramsey Russell: Really? What are some of your favorite restaurants in town?
Best Restaurants in Mazatlán
You’ve had a good meal, you go out and have fun, and Mazatlán is the perfect get-away.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: I agree with you, El Bigoates, on the tacos and pork tacos. For a nice place, it’s either the Presidio or El Mosto, with Pedro and Lola right at the historic place and Plaza Machado all around that area. I love it. You want to eat seafood at noon? I’ll go to La Sarcos.
Ramsey Russell: I love it; I eat there every time I’m here.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: But if you want to eat seafood, listen to a mariachi band, and have some beer, go to La Costa Marinara.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. And folks, La Costa Marinara, let me just warn you that Cadillac margaritas are like drinking four in one glass, but definitely try them. You showed Anita and me El Presidio several years ago, and we don’t come to Mazatlán without going there at least once. It’s beautiful. The ambience is incredible. It’s an open courtyard; it’s nice; they’ve got the plants and trees nicely lit; and the service is first-class. And the thing I like is that it’s one of those restaurants where they’ve got a chef and every year the menu changes whatever that chef does—maybe every week it changes, but they keep it; it’s always good. And I’ve tasted practically everything on there at different times, and it’s always just delicious.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: In fact, we were there yesterday night, my daughter and I, and we got a lot of French people around.
Ramsey Russell: And then at Machado’s Plaza, a lot of people come; they want the resort experience. We’ve all got the all-inclusive now, and I tell everybody that buys the all-inclusive You’ve got all these resorts, you’ve got all the drinks, you’ve got all the food, and if you’re here, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, get one of those little fun red trucks for 7.5 bucks later. They’re going to drop you off at Machado’s Plaza, and that is one of the coolest things in town. I just love it.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: If you want some of the—like you say, you’re searching for a resort mostly American way, but you want some historic Mexican. But the name of the plaza came in the old days when Mexico started from Spain, when it was conquered by Spanish people. They were the church on one side; you got a plaza on this side, but it’s a backyard or whatever front yard because they got the three powers: shore, legislation, and police. So the governor, the president, or the king, if you want to put that away, lives in this building. But it is La Plaza where they hold the horses and the guns. And once I was the police, and then once I was the legislature, that’s why most of the cities in Mexico planned it that way. If you go to the church here, you get a plaza and the kiosk in the middle, where the president of the head guy used to announce everything. And that is a small plaza with no church; the church is one block away because that belonged to one guy who used to keep his horses there, which he donated to the city later on.
Ramsey Russell: To me, it’s an old Spanish colonial Mazatlán; it’s beautiful. And how I describe it is, it’s a square, and we’ll just walk and say, “Okay, there’s an empty chair; let’s sit there,” and we’ll order coffee or drinks or beer and watch people. And on Friday and Saturday nights, all the artisans come out. And the only thing I’ve got as a base of references is Jackson Square in New Orleans. But going to Machado Plaza is like putting Bourbon Street, New Orleans, in the middle of Mayberry RFD. It’s families, it’s children; there’s no craziness, there’s no puking, there’s no weirdness; it’s just family fun, safe, and fun.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And this is the music school in one corner and the theater in the other, so that’s why on the weekends they play, the musicians come out.
Ramsey Russell: They just go table to table, all the different mariachis.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: And it’s the artist, painting and-
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s wonderful. To me, it’s the highlight of my trip down here. When we go to Machado’s Plaza and just relax at night after dinner, it’s beautiful. You’ve had a good meal, you go out and have fun, and Mazatlán is the perfect get-away.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: These people watch there, having their coffee or drink, and just relax. Forget about the bill collectors up in the state.
Ramsey Russell: Exactly. Come have fun on this side of the wall. That’s right. Ivan, I sure appreciate you, man. I appreciate all the hard work that you, Abeth, and Christian put into this hunt. The clients appreciate that, and they love this hunt. And we just need more; we need room for more hunters. It fills up too darn quick anymore.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Well, I will leave that up to you.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you. No pressure, or nothing. Thank you very much for being here.
Ivan Romo Povlovich: Thanks for being here; it’s a pleasure, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from Mazatlán, Mexico. See you next time.