Situated in the Sonora Desert along the Sea of Cortez, the Yaqui Valley is one of Mexico’s most productive breadbaskets, a fertile oasis of irrigation-based wheat production. Frank Ruiz grew up here and has delivered guided hunts since forever. He and Ramsey have now been working exclusively together for a decade. What was it like growing up in this part of Mexico, what are his hunting origins, and how’d he start outfitting? What makes hunting here unique? When did wheat farming come to the Yaqui Valley, how’d it impact waterfowl and other game species? What other hunting opportunities exist? What operational and management activities keep him and his sizable staff busy year-round? How do commercial hunting activities benefit local wildlife and indigenous communities? And will he share his secret margarita recipe? A candid, behind-the-scenes look at one of GetDucks most successful destinations.
Hunting Mexico’s Yaqui Valley
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season! Somewhere, I’m sitting on the back patio at La Nellita Lodge in downtown Obregon, Mexico. This is our 10th year coming to Obregon, Mexico. And I have one of the best outfitting partners in the world as today’s guest; certainly, as much as we’ve had dealings in the past decade, he has become a close friend and associate. My wife and I worked very closely with him, his wife, and his staff to make what I believe is certainly the top Mexico hunt we’ve got possible, Mr. Frank Ruiz. Frank, how are you?
Frank Ruiz: How are you doing, Mr. Ramsey?
Ramsey Russell: I’m good. Now look, 10 years ago we talked on the phone a few times. We were introduced by a mutual client, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll call the guy.” I didn’t have to call; you called me about 30 minutes later. We talked for two hours, and we started swapping numbers and looking and thinking, “Man, this sounds like a great hunt.” Ducks and brants, doves, quail, and bass fishing—ducks and brants really had me at brant. And it was going to be me and an associate showing up and hunting with you for 3 days, and word got out that we were going to do this trip, and the phone started ringing. And so for the first 3 days, I had about 10 people, and for the second 3 days, because it went 3-6, I had another 10 people. And when I walked through the lodge doors, I represented 10 paying clients for two weeks, or about 20–22 paying clients. But even then, did you think that when we first met and shook hands for the first time, did you ever dream that over a decade later, this hunt would blow up like it did and become so popular that we’re selling it out years in advance? I didn’t dream it, did you?
Frank Ruiz: I did not.
Ramsey Russell: But I’m glad it did.
Frank Ruiz: But I’m glad it did.
Ramsey Russell: Frank, I’ve really gotten to know you through our fishing trips. When I started coming down here, I thought I knew about bass fishing. You gave me some good lessons, and then the grasshopper became the master, and I began to outfish you a couple of times. As much as I love duck hunting down here, that day in between groups has become my favorite day of the trip when you and I go out to beautiful Lake Obregon (36,000 acres), which you know about like the back of your hand, and we always catch fish. and that lake is full of big fish.
Frank Ruiz: It is. It’s a wonderful lake, and it’s so convenient for guys that come down and hunt; it’s only a 30-minute drive northeast of here, 19 miles northeast of here. It’s a fishing paradise.
Ramsey Russell: And every time I’m here, there are clients that showed up to waterfowl hunt that decided they’re going to take a day off or an afternoon off and go out there and bass fish. Every time every group decides, “No, I think I want to go bass fishing, probably because their shoulder and trigger fingers are tired.” And Frank, I’ve heard a lot of your stories, and I want to share a lot of your stories with our listeners. You grew up here in Obregon.
Frank Ruiz: I was born and raised in this lodge right here.
Ramsey Russell: And this is your family home.
Frank Ruiz: Family home. This was my neighborhood when I was a kid.
Ramsey Russell: La Nellita, where does the name come from?
Frank Ruiz: Well, my mother’s name is Nellie, so I named her in honor of her.
Ramsey Russell: And I was honored to have met her back then. I got to meet her; we stopped by her house and said hello several times. What did your dad do? When you were growing up, what did your dad do here in Obregon?
Frank Ruiz: My father was a farmer. He farmed in the Yaqui Valley, and back in those years, in the 1960s and 1970s, they would grow a lot of cotton. So cotton was one of the main crops, followed by soy beans and, of course, winter wheat and corn.
Ramsey Russell: So he was a cotton producer.
Frank Ruiz: He was a big cotton producer in his first years of agriculture. But then again, some of the basic crops like corn, winter wheat, and soy beans got stronger too.
Ramsey Russell: How come you didn’t become a farmer? I mean, I’m thinking this is not a small house.
Frank Ruiz: That was a problem.
Ramsey Russell: He was not a little farmer.
Frank Ruiz: That was a problem for my father because I was the closest son to him. I would do more things with him than with any other son. And for him to hear from me out of my mouth to say I didn’t like farming, he didn’t like it.
Ramsey Russell: I bet. Did he also hunt and fish for recreation? Did you all grow up hunting and fishing together?
Frank Ruiz: We always hunted and fished the way he teaches. We crawled in those irrigation canals in those wheat fields, and me and my two older brothers jumped and shot those ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Was it for fun or for food?
Frank Ruiz: For both, but mostly for food. And then the doves, it was a different way; we found a water hole, and then when it was 300, 400 ducks, we shot at the same time. One thing I remember from him is that he said, “You’re going to clean every single duck, you’re going to clean every single dove. We’re going to eat them, or if we have some left, we give them away, but we never leave anything without being clean.”
Ramsey Russell: There really aren’t many Mexican nationals relative to the population of Mexico that hunt down here, is there?
Frank Ruiz: No, there is a very low percentage, and the ones that do are some of the best shooters in the world. shotgun shooters. I mean, I get customers from Mexico City, Monterey, and Guadalajara; they’re all very avid shooters. They do a lot of column bear and live pigeon shooting competitions in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and other states. And they come here for the early highball and white wing up season in September and October, which they believe is the best white wing up hunting, second best after Argentina.
Ramsey Russell: Are the column-bear-type pigeons in Mexico secretive? Are they legal?
Frank Ruiz: No, they’re 100% legal in the states where they’re legal.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever get any interference from, say, anti-hunter types? Do you have to be very secretive to keep the anti-hunter? I know there are shoots back home, but they’re very secretive. You can’t have box or column bear pigeon shoots back home without being top secret because just the public perception, the anti-hunters, and everything else will go nuts. So I’m just curious; I mean, that’s an interesting culture.
Frank Ruiz: Oh, but in the areas where they do those tournaments, they do them almost every weekend, and it’s a big event. So they don’t have that many people talking about the sport?
Ramsey Russell: It’s not negatively advertised.
Frank Ruiz: It’s not negative. No.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. We’ll get back to the subject. When did your dad finally give up on you being a farmer? Because you told me a story one time that he was determined that you were going to be a farmer and that you were going to take over his family business, and you’re a little boy, and he sent you off—I can’t remember the aunt and uncle or some friends—he sent you somewhere to farm, he goes, and they’re going to teach you to work. How’d that work out? Remember that story? You told me the story: they sent you there and they were going to work you, but they went to fix lunch or do something, and you took off. You got your fishing pole and your shotgun, and you took off to go hunt.
Frank Ruiz: My father always took my two older brothers and me to the farm, and I was pretty much forced to go. And if it was a weekend, he says, “I don’t care if it’s a weekend; you’re coming with me.” So we go to the farm; he leaves me at the farm and puts me to work cleaning the horse barns, and he says, “You’re going to stay here because you don’t like farming; you stay here; you’re going to clean those horse barns.” And when I come back with my son, we’re going to go check out the crops and the land. I want to make sure that these horse barns are clean. It wasn’t half a minute when they took off; I was already on the other side of the road fishing in the canal with a Takata can and some line, and he left this guy in charge of me. But the guy can’t do anything against me. He says, “Hey, you’re not good enough for me.” I’m just going to fish and have a good time. And my father comes back; he sees me fishing; he’s very mad at me, and he says, “I guess you’re not going to be a farmer, are you?” No, I’m not. So then he gave up.
White-Wing Dove Hunting Around the World
They recognize and consider our white-wings to be the best white wing dove hunting in North America right here in Obregon.
Ramsey Russell: And how did you get into it—how long have you been a guide operator for? 30 years, 40 years?
Frank Ruiz is 41 years old. This started when I wanted to become a veterinarian, which I am. I’m a doctor in veterinary medicine in my title. And there was a first cousin of mine already studying in Ciudad Victoria, the city-state capital of the state of Tamaulipas, 165 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, on the other side of Texas. And I went there because I wanted to study and get a job. I wanted to learn how to make money to make my own living. I wanted to be independent. So I put a sign in the newspaper asking if anybody needed a tour guide in that Victoria area, and the guy who called happened to be one of the biggest outfitters in the Legaria area. So, we started talking and started working for him during the weekends, and he says it’s not enough; you either work for me full time or can’t work. And I said, “Well, I guess I’m not going to work because I’ve got to study.” So he said, “Let me try to see if I can find you a special plan to study so that you can work for me.” So he did. And my career was 5 years of school, and I did my career 3 months out of the year, times 5 in 15 months, and that way I got to work 9 months out of the year for him. And the dove hunting, the duck hunting, the quail hunting, the goose hunting, and the bass fishing.
Ramsey Russell: That slowed you down. How old were you then? College, 19, 20?
Frank Ruiz: I was 21 when I started.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, I’ve never heard that story.
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, I worked for him. In the fifth and fourth years of my schooling, I graduated in 86, stayed and worked for him for two more years full time, and in 88, I decided to come back home to Obregon to start my own hunting operation.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Frankly, I always heard about the white-wing dove hunting in the San Fernando Valley over on that side. Now that’s like, generations of our granddads went back before Argentina was a thing, and that’s where they went to the San Fernando Valley to shoot doves. And I was here, it’s been a while now, I brought an American writer, we did a story, we came down here and went white-wing dove hunting with you, and I’ll tell you what, 20 boxes in the morning, 20 boxes in the evening, I’m about done after a day and a half of that business, we went bass fishing. But there was a Mexican national here that had done a lot of work at the time in the San Fernando Valley, and he explained to us at dinner one night that the hunting here in the Yaqui Valley was much better than what the San Fernando Valley dove hunting is. Now, he said something about a roost getting converted. How would you compare? What do you know about that story?
Frank Ruiz: Those years, I worked for the outfitter in Tamaulipas; it wasn’t exactly San Fernando; it was 80 miles south of San Fernando in the central part of the state, very famous Abba Solo Jimenez via de Casas back in the early 80s. The state of Tamaulipas was the capital of the milo industry. In other words, there were thousands and thousands of acres of sorghum fields and milo, and that’s when the white wings were by the millions. So a few years later, the price of the sorghum went down so badly that it wasn’t much profit for them. So they switched those sorghum fields to pastures for cattle, so they became more cattle people than farmers, but then that moved the birds; the birds have to migrate.
Ramsey Russell: Those migratory white wings from what I’ve learned are kind of – not migratory necessarily, but they move a lot to find the food sources. Like we’re here in September or October. I mean, I’ve been to Cordoba a bunch of times back in the day, and the first time I was here in between those two first groups, you asked me, you said, “You want to go white-wing dove hunting?” I said I’d been to Cordoba; no, I don’t know. And I woke up and said, “Yeah, I guess I do want to go.” He said, “Well, how many boxes do you want?” I said 4, and you busted out laughing. And I went out there with Herrera, and we’ve had a few mourning doves, and the sun came up, and he tucked my shirt sleeve pointed, and we moved a little bit, and he pointed down at the bottom, and it looked like black smoke buzzing around down in the bottom, and it was white wings. They were coming our way, and I had some car hearts on, and I dumped a whole box in my front pocket, and by the time that first flock flew over, I was out of that first box, and I was glad you sent 10 boxes, not 4. And I said, “Okay, I like this white-wing dove hunting.” And you don’t have to fly all the way across the world overnight to go to Argentina; you can come right here and be drinking cold margaritas at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and shooting plenty of dead gum doves. But one thing I learned is that when we hunt dove back home, we hunt over harvested grain, and this time of year, we hunt over harvested grain here. But at that time of year, when those white wings are thick as flies, the milo is still standing.
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, it’s the time when the Yaqui Valley farmers are harvesting the milo and the sorghum, and the local population of white wings concentrates along with the Arizona white wing migration that comes down here. Both populations concentrate, and it’s incredible numbers swarming into those sorghum fields.
Ramsey Russell: It’s countless doves, and they’re sitting on all those little red milo seed heads eating, and it’s like somebody was telling me that they really like those standing milo fields just before; they’re dry enough to run through the harvest equipment. And they like it when it’s in that doughy stage. and I’ve never seen anything like that. I really haven’t been all around the world. I think of white-wing dove hunting here, and I guess I was around September or October, which I counted as the foremost dove hunting experience in my entire life. It was incredible.
Frank Ruiz: We have hunters that go to Argentina every year and shoot those doves out there, but then they come back here for our early high volume white wing season. They recognize and consider our white-wings to be the best white wing dove hunting in North America right here in Obregon.
Ramsey Russell: I really think it is. And I’ll say this: I had never, that I recall, shot a white-wing dove until I came here to Yaqui Valley, and they’re bigger, faster, and stronger. They’re more sporty than those little ear doves down in Argentina, and for that matter, mourning doves are the preeminent dove species I’ve ever seen. I mean, like some of the fields in the mornings, you kind of want a full choke because they start coming into the milo fields very high, then they get full, they get as much food in their craw as they can, and they turn around. Well, now you need a little bit more of an open choke because they’re not flying near as high. And before you know it, you’ve got high birds, middle birds, and low birds. You feel like you’ve just been in a blender with doves and shook up, and it’s extremely exciting. You and I are sitting on a patio recording, and all the clients in the lodge went dove hunting, and they were all excited for it even at this time of year. And Frank, let’s talk about the white-wing doves. Let’s talk about the duck hunting. When you came back in the late 1980s, did you start with white-wing doves? Was it just white-wing doves, and then you began to evolve into waterfowl and other birds, or-
Frank Ruiz: No. In the very first year I started, I had already created some areas for duck hunting. So the very first year I started, it was a duck and dove combination.
Ramsey Russell: When your dad was here in the 60s, farming started with cotton, got into wheat, and everything else. Pancho today stopped and showed me something, and I appreciated that he knew I would appreciate seeing this. He showed me a statue of a gringo out of Texas A and M., and I think it was like an agricultural research center we stopped at, and there’s a big old statue with wheat growing under the statue, and this was the guy that back in the 60s and 70s brought wide-scale commercial wheat farming to the Yaqui Valley. Who was that guy?
Frank Ruiz: Mr. Norman Barlow. He started the farming revolution. It’s called the “farming revolution” here in the Yaqui Valley.
Ramsey Russell: Did he also bring, instead of just the grain, the concept of moving the water, the fresh water, and the irrigation?
Frank Ruiz: He was more into the crops. And he started a very important agriculture center and created different varieties of wheat until they found the very best—they want the best. This winter wheat is considered some of the best in the world, and that’s why it gets paid better.
Ramsey Russell: This cultivar brings top dollar.
Frank Ruiz: And a big part of it is sold to Asia. Asia is the number one customer and consumer. And it goes by chip.
Ramsey Russell: As the wheat industry began to expand in the Yaqui Valley, we started off talking about bass fishing up on Lake Obregon. The Yaqui River is dammed up, making this beautiful multipurpose lake for fishing, irrigation, and, I guess, Obregon city water. And then it begins to run, and I’ve seen big canals and little canals and littler canals, and then it’s gravity fed over the slope of this land, then it collects at the bottom, they let it go, it goes into other canals, and eventually it finds its way into the bays that we hunt, and when the tide goes out, these outlets bring fresh water into the bay, and boy, here come the ducks and the brant. It’s a very unique kind of place because we’re in the Sonoran Desert, and in between these wetlands and agriculture are saguaro cactus and cholla, and it’s just desert, but it’s a paradise. It’s like an oasis for waterfowl. And I guess for doves because of the wheat, have you seen in your lifetime, at the time your dad was here, the progression and the changes since that guy from Texas A&M came down and started the wheat and the water? Have you seen more birds now? Do you think there are more birds now than when you were young?
Frank Ruiz: I think so. Yeah. And some of the estuaries, some of the bays, the mangrove swamps, everything along the coast—some of the estuaries never had docks until the farmers were cleaning up more land, making it farming land. And then more ducks started coming into those areas because they had their food nearby and their resting areas, which were these estuaries.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. It’s an amazing habitat. You can’t possibly hunt them all. The duck have places to go to get out of the way of hunters, and in terms of hunting pressure, I’ve been coming down here for 10 years, and you’ve got so many properties, so many UMAs, I mean from here to dead gum Sinaloa. We don’t hunt the base every week; every group doesn’t hunt the same bay; you move around, and the ducks have time to rest. And it creates a quality experience, wouldn’t you agree?
Frank Ruiz: With every group that comes down, what we try to do with all of the areas that we manage, which are many areas, is rest each one of those areas for 6 days before it’s hunted again.
Ramsey Russell: Six days a whole week. And sometimes one might fall out of the line-up; the boys may be out scouting and one may fall out of the line-up, so if you don’t hunt it in six days, maybe go to another one.
Frank Ruiz: Or vice versa. They go back and scout the same area again; the ducks don’t want to leave that area; it’s an area we’ve got to go back to again.
What Attracts Brant?
Those areas, those estuaries, not only have a lot of eelgrass but also have freshwater canals from water coming out of the left or irrigation in the valley coming into those bays.
Ramsey Russell: Strike when the iron is hot, baby. That’s what I say. One of the most exciting things when I came down here was the barbecue. And when we first started promoting this hunt, we didn’t call it a duck hunt; we called it a brant hunt, and it was just incredible brant hunting. And then, about 4 or 5 years ago, it was like, “Where did brant go?” And talking to biologists, they say that a lot of the species began to overwinter further north, like up in Alaska at Eisenbach Lagoon, which is the largest remaining eelgrass bed in the entire world. and that is their principal food source. And this year I just somehow found out or heard that Eisenbach Lagoon froze up for the first time anybody can remember in forever. And I called you and said, “Frank have you seen any brant?” Oh yeah, when you get down here, you’ll see. And for a couple of mornings in the last couple of weeks, we went out to a couple of different bays. And the other day at Lobos, I saw a brant like that forever. I’ve never seen brant like that. All morning, it’s just brant trading back and forth, and in all 3 bays I’ve been on, there is brant; it’s just a lot of brant this year. And it’s like seeing long-lost friends again. I love to hunt them. They remembered, didn’t they? And they came back. They’re out on the Sea of Cortez; these birds live kind of on the shoreline of the Sea of Cortez, but they come into the bay. Why do you think they’re coming in? What attracts them to those bays?
Frank Ruiz: Oh, it’s the food source, the eelgrass. Those areas, those estuaries, not only have a lot of eelgrass but also have freshwater canals from water coming out of the left or irrigation in the valley coming into those bays.
Ramsey Russell: And there’s one spot I like to hunt. I think we’re going to that bay tomorrow, and it’s just a sandbar kind of upfront. I’ve been here a few years, but we’ve never hunted it. And I asked you, “Could I hunt there?” He said, “Really, there?” Yeah, I’d like to hunt there, and I didn’t know why, but I knew it’s a good traffic area. I can see the Sea of Cortez, and there’s an inlet right there. The currents are right, boy; when that tide’s following, you better have a boat because that tide is whooping those brant out. But as I’ve hunted it over low tide, eventually there’s a gravel shoal out in front of you that begins to become exposed, and the brant is too far away to shoot them. But they come in, and I think they like to eat grit right there, like just gravel to digest. and it’s amazing. I’m so excited to finally see Brant. Last year I was with a client. We were hunting a freshwater pond, and we shot some birds—about a dozen, I’m going to say—and about 9 o’clock, Danny came by and honked the horn and asked for us to come over. I figured we were just going to eat lunch, and they said no, we go to the bay. We drove the bay and jumped into an airboat with Ricky and Goya, and the motor’s up, and it may just look like nothing special. And we got situated, and there were pintails; as soon as they left, there were pintails and wigeons kind of buzzing around. But Goya, he said, “La branta aki,” and I said no, because I haven’t seen brant wild down here, and he left, and about an hour later you hear them; it’s like that here they come, and we volleyed, and a little bit later another flock came in, and the tide kept falling, and we were right there right next to us with a little drain, I’m going to say it was 10 feet wide; there was a current coming through; there was all fresh water, and that’s what they were coming to was fresh water. And talk about the quail, because you all have a very unique quail down here in the Sonora Mountains.
Frank Ruiz: Well, in the flats—all around us in the valley—in the flats, we got a very strong population of gambel quail everywhere; we got lots of them. But then again, we also have the elegant quail, and the habitat of the elegant quail is a higher elevation area. So you don’t have to go too high, but you have to be higher, and then you start not seeing any gambels, but then you start seeing elegance.
Ramsey Russell: Elegant is the beautiful quail. And it’s the only place in the world where they’re found, and they’ve got that little gold paintbrush tip on the crown. They’re gorgeous birds. Of course all these birds run, and I think you drive an English pointer crazy with these birds, which would rather run into a thicket or a prickly pear flat than fly, but you’ve got that fixed. How do you all hunt them down here? because you’ve got your own set of “Mexican Labradors” down here that they can get in. And Pancho’s lead number one son can find those quail; I think he’s got a nose for it. Talk about how you hunt these birds down here.
Frank Ruiz: Yes, we walk them up; we call it the “walk them up system,” and we work those fences and try to get them out of there, and they fly to both sides, so we have customers on both sides, and it’s a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a lot of walking. And the boys will take sticks and beat the bushes, and if they don’t get up and throw a stick, it will make them fly.
Frank Ruiz: Make as much noise as they can because those Gambel quails are very cowardly birds; in other words, sometimes you’re stepping on them and they still don’t fly, so you’ve got to make a lot of noise to make them fly.
The Best Hunting Combo: Birds and Bass
As an outfitter, I am my own conservationist.
Ramsey Russell: So we’ve talked about ducks and brant, doves and quail, and bass fishing. We’ve got a great bass fish down here. What makes Lake Obregon so good?
Frank Ruiz: Well, there’s no fishing pressure, first of all. We have a good number of fishermen. We have a private bass club, but it’s still a 36,000-acre lake; it’s a big body of water that, for 40 boats, doesn’t represent hardly any fishing pressure.
Ramsey Russell: Every time we go out there, it’s like we have the whole place to ourselves, and it might be 5 or 10 trucks up at the boat ramp, but once you get out there, you don’t see anybody.
Frank Ruiz: And the other reason for being such a good lake is this same private club. Consuelo, which is called the Hook Club, has its own restocking program and its own laboratory. So on the main bass tournaments we do, we keep the reproducers and put them in those tanks. And we also involve a couple of universities that have hatcheries, and they put those reproducers in their tanks, and all those bass they spawn and all those fingerlings we collect and give back to the lake with the reproducers every year.
Ramsey Russell: That must be why those fish are as fat as footballs. I’ve never caught a skinny fish in Lake Obregon except for last year. And you explained she had probably just spawned because of the way her fins were shaped, but that bass was nearly as long as my arm, the biggest fish I’ve ever caught, the biggest bass I’ve ever caught, and that was the best day of bass fishing in my entire life. I just hit it right. You didn’t get to catch any; you were too busy fooling with me. I had you hopping, didn’t I? But gosh, I mean, I’m going to say I caught 5 or 6 fish over 5 or 6 pounds, including one that was literally as long as my arm. And what do you think? Remember that? We weighed that fish at about 9.5 pounds, and she was really skinny in her stomach because she had already spawned. What would you guess that fish would’ve weighed because she was long?
Frank Ruiz: At least 10.5 pounds.
Hunting Limits in Mexico
It’s a misconception that there are no limits in Mexico.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, she was good, boy. We’re talking about all this hunting and fishing, and I want to bring up the topic because you and I have talked a lot about it over the years. There’s a misconception among a lot of people that they do not come to nice lodges like this for quality operations. It’s a misconception that there are no limits in Mexico. Oh no, you’re just killing them all. But there are limits here in Mexico. You adhere to limits.
Frank Ruiz: Of course there are limits.
Ramsey Russell: How does that work?
Frank Ruiz: As an outfitter, I am my own conservationist. In other words, if I don’t conserve, and then if I don’t manage, you lose the golden eggs.
Ramsey Russell: The goose that laid the golden egg—you don’t want to kill it.
Frank Ruiz: And if you lose them, no business. Of course, there’s a hunting calendar for the state of Sonora that includes all the species that you can hunt, and there are limits and positions; there are daily limits as well. And there are many groups working to keep the conservation going in Sonora because the hunting industry there is extremely important. Think about the desert hunting; there’s got to be at least 50 different outfitters in the Hermosillo area that run mule deer hunts, coyote deer hunts, and desert big horn hunts. I mean, that industry brings a lot of money into the state. There’s no telling us guys that run the feather hunts, which are the duck, the dove, the quail, and everything else, that it’s all good for the state’s economy.
Ramsey Russell: We fished yesterday with your biologist, who was explaining to me how a lot of that works. He works for the Sonora Outfitters Association, and he does transsexual sex to get a relative abundance of stuff like Mexican ducks and whistling ducks. He prescribes like a quota on the UMA. Talk about that? That’s a little bit different than America. You’ve got a lot of UMAs; I mean, boy, you are kind of spread out here, but within each UMA, which covers a big geography, there’s a quota. And he suggested, based on his surveys, that he send it to the government in Mexico, they approve it or adjust it to whatever, send it back, and you say okay. It’s kind of like the way I understand it—looking at it and understanding it—it’s kind of like they give me a candy jar. It’s a bunch of little M&Ms in this candy jar, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s my quota. So I can go out and shoot them all, or I can share them. Is that a good description?
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, it’s like, as an outfitter, I just cannot hunt anywhere I want to hunt. In other words, I have my own biologist, and our association has our own biologist, which is Francisco, and what he does is tell them the areas that have potential, we study the areas, and we need to prove to the authorities and the federal government that we have those resources and that the resources exist in the area for them to approve the approach. And then you first have to apply to hunt in those areas and then do the study, and then the federal government has the last word to say, “Okay, we’re going to register that UMA for you,” which UMA is nothing but a hunting unit. and we determine the number of ducks that winter in that area. And because of that, how many ducks can we get out of that UMA and approach?
Ramsey Russell: I bring up the subject of limits in Mexico. I think it’s very misunderstood. It is different here than in the United States and Canada. And the way it’s determined and the way it’s meted out are very different. But I do get phone calls sometimes from prospective clients wanting to know how many I can kill. Man, I like to shoot ducks as well as anybody, Frank, you know that, but I try to explain to them, “Well, I talk so and so,” they say, and they don’t have any limbs. I’m like, “Well, that’s who you need to hunt with then.” Because, buddy, we’ve got limits, we’re running a quality operation, there are laws, and you know what’s most importantly, these are my birds, these are North American birds, and I’m not going to let you go down there and rape them. I’m not going to do that.
Frank Ruiz: First thing, we tell our clients on the first night speech. We like to conserve for you, like we do for the groups coming next. So you have to obey the limits.
Ramsey Russell: And I’m thinking of one particular area I’ve heard about, and it’s like, “It’s all great if you show up, and you’re the guy that gets to fill up a pickup truck full of dead ducks.” It ain’t so good if you’re the guy behind that who gets to shoot 3 because they’re going to go out and just rape the resource. It’s the year 2021, 2022; it’s not the year 2022; I’m still living last year; it’s no place for that man. I feel like that Frank and I know, especially with this hunt here, that we’ve got a lot of clients, a lot of social media, a lot of this podcast, and there’s scrutiny. The world is looking for me and you to mess up. And I’ve always felt like if I can’t hunt, I preach as a hunter that I am a conservationist, and I’ve got to tow that line because if I’m not looking out for the resource, who is? So I feel like we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable. And it was important to me to talk about limits in Mexico.
Frank Ruiz: I’ll tell you one thing, Ramsey: this is the way I see it. Those years of guys calling and saying, “I don’t want to have any limits; I want to kill them all,” are gone. For 10 years and on, people have come down here to enjoy a good hunt, but then again, nowadays, we specialize not in numbers but in species and quality, and so-
Ramsey Russell: Total package experience.
Frank Ruiz: People come down here mostly to collect species and to have a good hunt. They don’t have a problem with respecting the limits, and they loved the idea that if they came for a cinnamon teal, they went home with it; if they came for a brant, they went home with it. I mean, we worked very hard for them, and my guys and all my people, all my staff, work very hard for them when it comes to species. Everybody wants a Mexican mallard; everyone wants the cinnamon teal; everyone wants a brant. So those years of people wanting to slaughter ducks are gone. People who come here have a good time and take birds home for mounting purposes.
Most Requested Duck Hunting Species
Everybody in this lodge wants to put their hands on a cinnamon teal.
Ramsey Russell: And truth be told, a bad day in Mexico is a great day by American standards. The slowest day I’ve ever had hunting and the slowest morning I’ve ever had hunting in Obregon in 10 years is better than hunting in Mississippi on average. and you’ve got to appreciate that. It’s funny, you talk about the species, Frank. I say this all the time. Based on your observation of the clients that come through your lodge, if I asked you what the number one most requested species in the world is, what would you guess?
Frank Ruiz: Cinnamon teal.
Ramsey Russell: Hands down. Everybody wants those little red birds; I kind of feel sorry for them at times. Everybody in this lodge wants to put their hands on a cinnamon teal.
Frank Ruiz: Those guys are just getting out of the car and entering the lodge; they’re already saying cinnamon teal.
Ramsey Russell: And I tried to tell them, “You don’t have to tell anybody there that you want a cinnamon teal; they’re going to assume you do because everybody does.” And we’ve got Mexican mallards, pintails, and wigeons. People ask me what species they’ll shoot down here, and I say practically every diving duck and puddle duck species that you’re likely to encounter in the central and Pacific flyways. I have shot ringnecks, gadwalls, lots of shovelers, blue wings, wigeons, whistling ducks, and not too many fulvous. But I’ve seen a foul shot here.
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, they’re here, but they’re unpredictable. like some species, like the canvas back. We do get canvas backs, which are unpredictable, but we get them sometimes.
Ramsey Russell: I was hunting the other day on one of the bays, and I saw a long finger kind of sticking out in the bay, and I could hear them coming from the bay behind. I looked back just in time to catch a canvas back, and it was bar none the biggest, brightest, and most beautiful bull I’ve ever laid my hands on. And there are a lot of guys out there chasing the 41 red-breasted mergansers, which was a bird I never saw. And one day here, I wasn’t expecting it; that’s where I killed them right here, coming off the Sea of Cortez into a bay like bam, it was a flock of them.
Frank Ruiz: A red-breasted merganser is hard to get anywhere.
Ramsey Russell: I agree. Yes sir.
Frank Ruiz: But in some areas we have them all the time, and yes, 90% of the time it’s hens, but then there is an opportunity to collect a red-breasted merganser here; it’s hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, you kind of answered one of the questions I was going to ask you: “I love to come to lodges like this and meet my clients; I love to interact; I talked to them on the phone, in emails, or in text messages, but to come here and just get to sit down and drink a margarita and just visit them and get to know them, it never ceases to amaze me how subjective the duck hunting experience is.” Because you take a team of four guys from South Carolina or Texas, and if you get to talking to them about their experience here, their interest in why they’re here and what they enjoyed most about it varies, it’s very subjective. They all want to duck hunt, but it’s a different kind of thing, and that’s the great thing about Mexico and Obregon: there’s a little something for everybody. We do have clients here who don’t care about taxidermy; they just want to go out and have a great time. I have clients that come to Mexico because it’s not cold, they’ve got conditions, or they don’t enjoy cold weather.
Frank Ruiz: That’s another big seller of this operation: the weather. Beautiful weather. It’s gorgeous.
Ramsey Russell: Oh boy, you ain’t lying. I grew up thinking that if your teeth weren’t chattering and you didn’t need heavy gloves, you weren’t going to kill any ducks. And I come down here, and the number one thing I tell my clients from northern latitudes to pack is sunscreen. You’re going to enjoy it; bring shorts and sunscreen, and you’re going to love it down here. Am I right?
Frank Ruiz: Right.
Ramsey Russell: Last week was a little chilly; it started off in the 40s, 45 degrees, and that’s cold by Mexican standards, I felt, but then it warmed up to 80. This week, it’s kind of getting off in the 50s to high 80s, and it’s beautiful. I love it out here, man. Frank, you were talking about your UMAs, and those UMAs are covering, like, mangroves, estuaries, and bays, and there are a lot of native communities out there fishing, and you’re the only one because of that UMA and that concession that can hunt it, but it’s owned by the federal government.
Hunting to Help Communities
We think of hunting as benefiting conservation, but you really don’t think about it going beyond that and helping children, mamas, daddies, and these little ones, and they are not wealthy communities.
Frank Ruiz: For the water concessions, we get that permit from the federal government, but the communities have to approve our hunting rights. And that’s when it becomes important for me and them to get together and help each other. So we do a lot of good things. Thanks to hunting, we helped communities in many ways.
Ramsey Russell: I was personally proud. I mean, I was proud because I don’t know where exactly, but we were somewhere off and we were going through a small little community, and I recognize it because you and I had stopped there before and handed off those great big sport duffel bags full of gloves and catcher’s mittens and baseballs and baseball bats and shin guards, and I’m like a whole little league team worth of equipment, and we gave it to somebody for the children in the community. But we were driving by one day, and you slowed down that big old Ford 2500 and stopped, and right there beside the truck was a soccer field, and surrounding that soccer field were great big telephone poles and great big lights. And this is a little community; there are no street lights, no traffic lights, no stop signs; most roads don’t even have pavement on them, and you stopped, and I was so proud because I didn’t know what was coming; you stopped. You pointed to it, and you told the gentleman of the clients in the truck, “You see those lights that are duck hunting dollars helping this community get duck hunting dollars converted into real community benefit.” Now the children can play soccer.
Frank Ruiz: The children can play soccer at night; they can do baseball games at night. They have nighttime activity when they did not have it before.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s a great benefit. We think of hunting as benefiting conservation, but you really don’t think about it going beyond that and helping children, mamas, daddies, and these little ones, and they are not wealthy communities.
Frank Ruiz: No, they’re not. There are a lot of poor communities in those areas where we hunt, and we feel proud to be able to help them and make their lives better.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve even gone out and told me at times, like when I’ve talked to you, that we talked two or three times a week about client relations and stuff like that. But I call you up, and you’ll be out in the boondocks, going to meet with the fishermen and bringing them. What will you bring some of those guys? I mean, things that I would take for granted, like toilet paper. You go to the grocery store and get supplies and bring them out to a lot of these fishermen and the fishing camps; they’ve got to like seeing you coming, man. How important is that? You got your permits from the federal government. But now that you’re building real working relationships with indigenous communities, they benefit, and you benefit.
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, we help schools, we help churches, and we help medical care. Hell, 10 years ago, we donated an ambulance to one of the biggest communities there, and that’s something they’ll never forget.
Ramsey Russell: How important is it to work with mamas in a community? The mothers of children instead of just a couple of children.
Frank Ruiz: I’ll tell you that the women are a very important part of the relationship because they’re there to participate and
Ramsey Russell: Mama holds the community together; she holds the family together, doesn’t she?
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, they do.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve always been impressed when we drive out to some of these extremely impoverished little communities. They’re nice people, but they’re poor. But what struck me is that, if you look at the houses, they don’t have air conditioning. I know it gets hot as blazes down there in the summer, doesn’t it? and dirt roads, no washers and dryers, or no Maytag. But when you say those little children walking to school, their clothes are as clean as the day they were bought and freshly pressed, and I don’t know, man, it just makes me feel something about that. They take pride in that, and that’s a mama coming at it, isn’t it?
Frank Ruiz: Yes, it is.
Ramsey Russell: Frankly, out here where you’re hunting, let’s say, two dozen bays, hunting brant, hunting ducks, how does that compare to other parts of Mexico like Laguna Madre? Because there seems to be, like, 50 or 60 outfitters hunting north of Hermosillo for mule deer, it seems to me to be just all kinds of wild west going on over there in that part of Mexico. I stay out of that part of Mexico, to be honest with you.
Frank Ruiz: I know Laguna Madre is not exclusive to just one outfitter’s operation.
Ramsey Russell: So there’s no one outfitter that’s got a block of that to himself; it’s just kind of like public land, nothing private at all. So not only may some of them be out there just shooting it up like the wild west, but there are other outfitters on the same part of it shooting it up too, which can’t be good for quality.
Frank Ruiz: Well, the way I build my business, it wouldn’t work for the system that I have and what I like to give and offer the clients, the hunters.
Ramsey Russell: Every time I’m down here, I’ll go around and record different clients’ experiences because I want my listeners to hear what actual clients have to say about their experiences here. I think it’s legitimate. I got my cinnamon teal, I got what I was coming for, I had a great time, I did this, I did that. But it always comes back to being a total package experience. Talk about client services a little bit. because you’ve been doing this a long time. We’ve been working together for 10 years, and 99.9% of my clients that come through their doors leave with a smile on their faces, and the ones that don’t, I can’t make them happy; nobody can. But what do you think? Tell me about what all goes into it, besides just the duck hunts and the dove hunts in the bass fishing. What all goes under this? Your lodge is open 365 days a year, and you’ve got a massive staff here.
Frank Ruiz: It’s only open for the hunting season, but
Ramsey Russell: But the office stays open, I know.
Frank Ruiz: The office stays open year-round. And my best word to my employees all the time is “success.” I tell them all the time, and I repeat that word to them all the time: success. And to be successful, you have to be a team together; you have to work together, and I’d like to have a lot of communication with the different departments that formed my operation, whether it’s the kitchen, whether it’s my office, whether it’s my guys, whether it’s my duck guys, my dove guys, my scouts, the maids, the car watchers, the chief, the bartenders, I mean everybody. And my example to them is very simple: I say to them, “Okay, we are 27 employees when we’re running full time. Okay, 25 employees, you know what we are: an engine with 25, 27 spark plugs.” Every single spark plug is as important as the others. And if one spark plug is not working right, the engine will not function. There’s going to be a missing person. So, I am very fortunate to have people representing me—the people that work for me. They’re happy working, and they’re very honored to be part of my program. And this home, this was my family home; I have lots of memories here, and I turned this home into a lodge. What I see different in my operation from other operations is that I want those clients to feel like they’re moving into their home for the next 5 days. And I love to see guys that are so relaxed. When I see one of those clients coming out of his room to come downstairs for dinner and his pajamas, he’s got to be very relaxed.
Ramsey Russell: He feels at home. Mission accomplished.
Frank Ruiz: Si.
Ramsey Russell: Mission accomplished. One of my favorites is Frank’s quote because it’s Mexico, you all worked very hard, you got a lot of habitat, you scouted, but it’s wild bird hunting. Nature, a full moon, the tide—it’s not like you just go out and shoot a limit guaranteed every day, and sometimes our calls say, “How’s it going?” And one of my favorite Frank quotes is, as you say, “We do the very best we can.” and that’s what it takes. And I mean, it just takes every day, those spark plugs working in unison, and everybody doing the very best they can. Because one thing if you go out and come up showing limits or have a tough hunt and you come back to a crappy lodge experience or a muddy truck or a broken truck but something entirely different, if that’s just one of a little bit of aspects of your total day. And there’s always a plan B because we run this hunt—I tell everybody we run this hunt down here as a morning hunt. Because we may be out on those bays if the tide doesn’t move, I have been out there till noon or 1 o’clock before the tide moved and the birds flew. A lot of times you get done at 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning and eat a sandwich, and then we come back and maybe stop and go dove hunting or canal hunting or something else, and you always have a second chance to catch up.
It’s All About Canal Hunting & Conservation
We saw a drop in the Mexican mallard population when the farmers were cleaning those irrigation canals at the time when the Mexican mallards were nesting.
Frank Ruiz: That’s another big success I see in my operation: the program we have created gives a lot of different opportunities for customers. And you may ask yourself why Frank doesn’t run a big band that can hold all the customers, because we don’t think that’s classy. We think classy is four people in a suburban car with a driver, where in the afternoons we can go in four different directions. One car goes quail hunting, one car goes blue bill hunting, one car goes canal, the other guy can go dove hunting, and maybe there’s a fifth car that goes bass fishing; who knows? and it’s a hunting paradise. People can come and hunt ducks, brants, gambel quail, elegant quail, bass fishing, canal hunts, and bluebills. I don’t know where else people can enjoy that.
Ramsey Russell: How did the canal hunt start? I mean, I have never seen that anywhere else in the world that I’ve duck hunted, and a few clients’ prospects have never been here and are now saying, “What is canal hunting?” And I’m like, “Well, probably the most fun you’ve had since she was 15.” I’ve got clients that would come down here and do nothing but canal hunt all day, every day. One of my favorite stories is the story of Mr. John. I had old Cooper down here at the time, an old yellow dog, and I was just riding the back of the truck, and here’s what you do: you put down the roads, idle down the roads, and jump shoot Mexican ducks out of canals. And I wasn’t shooting; I was just sitting back there with Cooper, letting her run down and pick up the ducks. And one of my clients, Mr. John, looked back and said, “Ramsey we’re going to hell for this, don’t you?” I said, “John, we can quit anytime you want.” He said, “Oh no, I’ll take it up with St. Peter at the pearly gates; let’s just keep going.” He said, “Let’s just keep going.” They love that. It’s fun, though, isn’t it? It’s relaxing, it’s fun, and there’s no pressure. And I’ve also said I’ve shot a lot of cinnamon teal; I’ve shot some on the bays, I’ve shot some in the freshwater ponds; cinnamon teal, blue wings, green wings—but cinnamon teal are not just everywhere. They’re not everywhere all the time. They’re very different than blue wings, green wings, and pintails; they’re very specific. And because everybody wants those cinnamon teals, Pancho and Danny especially, but all your staff know they said no problem. So in the afternoons, you all can go out, and once I’ve done it, they’ll orchestrate a jump. Those birds aren’t going to sit there and let a truck stop. So you get out and hide in the shade of a bush, and they’ll go out, and when they fly, they come right down the canal. Boom, you’ve got your cinnamon teal.
Frank Ruiz: The cinnamon teal and the blue-wing teal hunt in the afternoon, mostly in canals that bring the water left out of the irrigation, and all of that fertilizer and all of that mix of water build wild grass. Some of that wild grass is seed that dries and floats as a food source for them, and for some reason they like to remain there. And we know where they are, so we set blinds at the edge of the canal and wait for them to pass, and we know it’s an area where they concentrate.
Ramsey Russell: Speaking of working with communities and these Mexican ducks, these canals, it reminded me that your biologist Pancho was telling us yesterday that the Mexican duck population, he’s been tracking them for 20 years and he doesn’t count them; he looks at percent increase or decrease, and he said they’re continuing to increase every year for 20 years, they’re at an all-time high, but they could be vulnerable because of those canals. If the farmers were to go and sweep out the ditches during their nesting season, it could really put a dent in it. And outfitters like yourself and the outfitters’ association have done what? I mean, you all are working with these farmers to cooperate on conservation and everything else for Mexican ducks.
Frank Ruiz: We saw a drop in the Mexican mallard population when the farmers were cleaning those irrigation canals at the time when the Mexican mallards were nesting. And so we got close to them and talked to them, and they said, “It’s a good thing that you explained; we don’t have a problem cleaning those canals after the ducks finish nesting.” So that was a great thing that we were able to do.
Ramsey Russell: That’s good. I mean, that’s conservation at work. That is hunting as conservation at work. Hey, don’t sweep those ditches, because we need a bunch of ducks. We can go kill them, but we ain’t killing them all, so there’s more duck. That’s conservation, man.
Frank Ruiz: Farmers here see the hunting in this area with good eyes. Let me tell you, like going back to Pancho or the biologist again every year, he comes and checks the dove census. We do the dove census, and the best way to do it is to count the nest, the eggs, and the little baby doves. It’s a whole process. He has to come and visit four different times of the year. And we notice that doves love nesting on citrus trees, so we have a big citrus industry here, and it’s growing every year. And because of that, the more citrus, the more doves. And so we ask the director of the citrus association to give us entry to some of those citrus orchards, and they give us their approval, and we go and study those nests.
Ramsey Russell: Frank, 10 years I’ve been coming here with the three best shots I’ve ever met in this world. I met you right here in this lodge. One got a great client from up in Utah, Mr. Dan Spencer; he doesn’t miss And I went hunting with him in Canada one day, and where he hunts, it is pass shooting, and at times he can be very tall. He’s been hunting there for 25 or 30 years, and I sat at times and watched him shoot, and I realized why he was a very good shot. He is one of the best shots I’ve ever seen. The second guy was a guy named Jay Moon. Jay passed away a few years ago. God rest his soul. He was a funny guy, and I loved to share a camp with him. He was a big man, but larger than life. And when you go get in—the first time I ever got in a blind with him, I said, which side do you want to go on? It doesn’t matter. I said, “Well, you’re right hand, left hand?” He goes; it doesn’t matter. So I got on my side; I’m a right-handed shooter. I want to be on the left side of the blind as you’re walking in from behind. What I learned that day, aside from the fact that he did not miss a bird, He did not miss a bird with either his right shoulder or his left; he could shoot from both sides like a switch hitter. I’ve never seen that before. And I have tried countless times to just hold my gun on my left shoulder and pretend I’m going to shoot, but I can’t do it. I can’t get it right. And I asked him, “Jay, how did you learn to do that?” He said, “I was the youngest of four sons; my dad had four sons and I was the baby.” By the time I got to go duck hunting with my three older brothers, I got to the front of the boat, and if I didn’t know how to shoot off my left shoulder, I didn’t get a shot. And so he learned as a child. And then one of those three shooters I’ve ever seen is yourself; you’re a great, tremendous shot. And you said earlier in the podcast that some of the shotgunners down here in Mexico that do shoot and that do hunt are good shots, and I believe you’re a shining example of that. I have sat in a white-wing dove field and watched you shoot. I’ve seen you shoot out on the bay; sometimes you might go out and shoot for 10 or 15 minutes when the tide’s right and come back. You’re a very good shot. And you’re the number two pigeon shooter in Mexico. How is it possible that you’re not number 1?
Frank Ruiz: No.
Ramsey Russell: because you’re a very good shot. I hate to give the man credit, but I’ll give credit where it’s due.
Frank Ruiz: Maybe that’s the real story, when I got invited to hunt or be part of a dove hunting competition in the state of Tamaulipas at the state governor’s ranch. And so yeah, I got second place because you can’t beat the state governor.
Ramsey Russell: You can’t take a Mexican governor’s trophy.
Frank Ruiz: The only way for me to leave Tamaulipas in one piece was to give him the place.
Ramsey Russell: But seriously, you have won some competition shooting down here.
Frank Ruiz: Yeah, when Sonora had the column bear and the live pigeon shoots, where we could do them here, I won three state championships in the state of Sonora that I don’t remember anybody else being able to do.
Ramsey Russell: Consecutively? Three years in a row. How long ago was that?
Frank Ruiz: Consecutively. 20 years ago.
We got some of the best seafood in the world.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, that’s impressive. I’ve seen you shoot your very good shot, and I really enjoy watching good shots shoot. We’re going to go eat lunch, and I always love to go around town and eat lunch down here. It cracks me up a lot because everybody loves the food down here. You’ve got barbecue chicken and fish; I love the milanesa, blue cheese milanesa, and steak night mariachi. But it always cracks me up somewhere in the food cycle on Mexican night. And I’m like hell; I’m in Mexico every night. Mexican night, isn’t it? No.
Frank Ruiz: You can’t beat the tortilla soup as an entry, and then you get the Mexican plate that involves the tenderloin, filet, chile relleno, tamale, guacamole, and refried beans. You can’t beat that.
Ramsey Russell: I love it. absolutely love it. And I love the night with the mariachi; we eat the steaks, and that’s good. But the first time I ever met you, I guess that’s why I went white-wing dove hunting between clients because it’s about lunchtime at this time of day, and you go, you like hot dogs? Yeah, I like hot dogs. And what kind of question is that? Of course I like hot dogs. Hehe, we’ve got the very best hot dog in the world right here in Obregon. And you drove by about five little corner kiosks to get to a certain one. How long has that place been there? Oh, forever.
Frank Ruiz: Oh yeah, forever. It’s actually a family of 11 brothers, and they all have a hot dog stand in different parts of Obregon, and they’re all successful. But my number one is Pedro, the one I took you to.
Ramsey Russell: I just thought I’d eaten hot dogs before. I just thought I had eaten good hot dogs; these are all beef franks wrapped with bacon and grilled, and I’ve never seen anything like a tomato relish. And so I put mayo and tomato relish on it, and I can eat. You just think you’ve seen me eat tacos before. And speaking of that, just the other day, those tacos were unbelievable. You thought I was crazy when I said to order a kilogram of meat, didn’t you?
Frank Ruiz: My God. Looking at your size, to me you’re a small guy, and I don’t know where all those 10 tacos you ate went, Jesus Christ. I’m a big guy, and I ate 7. I should have eaten 5, and I was full.
Ramsey Russell: One thing I love about western Mexico out here is the seafood. When you get off of central Mexico, they’ve got their own style and their own food, and that’s good. I love Mexican food. I love it from the Caribbean out to the Pacific Ocean. I love Mexican food. But out here, seafood, because you got the Sea of Cortez, man.
Frank Ruiz: We got some of the best seafood in the world.
Ramsey Russell: Yesterday we stopped and had bask clams; I think of it as ceviche. Yeah, brine and lime topped with serrano peppers. What’d you tell me we were going to eat today? What are we going to eat for lunch here in a minute?
Frank Ruiz: Well, since I’m in charge of the roadkill today, we’re going to eat cabrito.
Ramsey Russell: All right. Is it taco-style or what?
Frank Ruiz: No, it’s in the grill.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, any parting shots? I’ve got one more note here, margarita. What’s your all-time margarita recipe? You make a very good margarita, and I know it’s been the same margarita since forever. You all do something slightly different.
Frank Ruiz: But I never get to convince those bartenders to give me the secret recipe. It’s like my chief; you come to him and say, “Can you give me the recipe for whatever?” He will start talking and make you believe he’s giving you the recipe, but he’ll never give you the recipe.
Ramsey Russell: Jorje, I love him to death; I really do. I wish I could speak more Spanish because he’s very accommodating and takes very good care of your client, doesn’t he?
Frank Ruiz: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Very good care. Any parting shots or anything you want to say to anybody listening?
The Best Hunting Outfitter in Mexico
Frank Ruiz: No, I just want to say I’m proud of my operation and very proud that I have my wife involved.
Ramsey Russell: She’s the brains of the operation.
Frank Ruiz: I’m proud of all my employees, and Danny, Pancho, Ricky, Goyo, Alejandro—all of them—are all great; they’re all first-class.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’ll say this very seriously, Frank. I traveled around and saw a lot of operations, a lot of hunting operations, and whether you’re talking about a hunting operation or any business, when you come into a business for 10 years, you see a lot of the same staff, like Jorge, Danny, Pancho, Goyo, Ricky, the other airboat driver Alejandro, Jose, they’re all the same. Horado. I mean, it’s the same staff.
Frank Ruiz: Albeta, my assistant, everybody, all of them.
Ramsey Russell: It’s incredible. That’s a sign.
Frank Ruiz: Lamberto, if you-
Ramsey Russell: Lamberto. Well, I mean, Lamberto was in high school when I met him, and now that he’s here driving with a law degree, he’s done well for himself. I am very proud of you, Frank, and I really appreciate you.
Frank Ruiz: And also to let you know that in my 34 years of owning this operation and running it myself, I’m very proud to be working with you and Anita. You’ve been my best promoter in 34 years. Thank you so much for making me a part of Get Ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it is our pleasure and the pleasure of our clients. And Frank, we really do appreciate all the hard work that you and your staff put into client services and taking care of our clients down here. I look forward to it. I look forward to coming here every year. I’ve hunted in December, January, February, and early March, and the hunting is always good. The species changed a little bit, and the hunting habitat changed a little bit, but it’s always good. Thank you very much for having me, and thank you very much for coming on to the podcast and explaining. Folks, you all have been listening to my partner Frank Ruiz down in Obregon, Mexico. Details are online at GetDucks.com. But let me tell you, don’t think you’re coming next year; just literally split; don’t call me at the last minute. This thing sells out years in advance. We’ve got clients; they’ll make deposits 3 or 4 years in advance and hold my dates. But there’s a reason it’s so good. I hope you all learned a little bit about why this hunt is so successful. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. I’m fixing to go eat cabrito. See you next time.