Ducks all colors and sizes, white-winged doves, black brant, unique quail species and chunky large-mouth bass seasonally draw hunters and anglers from throughout the United States to this part of Mexico, but for different reasons. Duck hunting is highly subjective. Hunter expectations vary. Following eventful week-long hunts, Ramsey meets with freshly tanned Obregon guests to hear what they will most remember about their hunting experiences here. Beyond just the trigger-pulling, some of their answers might surprise you.
Obregon, Mexico Duck Hunts: A Bag Full of Trophies
We were really chasing—he put us on teal all week, and we wanted to kill a prime drake blue wing, and man, that guy did everything in his power to get us on birds.
Ramsey Russell: My home away from home, as you all well know, is that I spend as much of February and January down here as I possibly can. I love it down here. You all know what I think about Obregon and about Mexico in general, but I want you to hear from a lot of the clients that come down here what they think about this wonderful place. And first up is B Jones, from Nashville, Tennessee. B, how are you? B, how are you?
Jones: What’s up, Russell? How are you?
Ramsey Russell: How did you enjoy the week? How did you enjoy the week?
Jones: I had a wonderful time. I’m absolutely exhausted. I mean, we hunted for four days very, very hard. I can hardly think straight.
Ramsey Russell: That’s one thing about this hunt: you get your money’s worth and effort. You get up early, like you’re going real duck hunting, and you’re back in time to take a shower and eat dinner. a full-day hunt.
Jones: Absolutely. We left at the crack of dawn, and we were gone pretty much all day hunting. Either in the morning we hunted over decoys, or in the afternoon we did something different. canal hunts or dove hunts, and man, they flat wore me out.
Ramsey Russell: You can sleep on the plane.
Jones: That’s right, or when I’m dead.
Ramsey Russell: Is this your first duck hunting trip to Mexico?
Jones: It is.
Ramsey Russell: First duck hunting trip outside the US?
Ramsey Russell: What was it about Obregon that spoke to you and your buddies?
Jones: We wanted to experience something different. We love traveling around the country and trying and seeing different habitats, environments, and species, and this was just something unique and different that we hadn’t done before. And so we wanted to come down and see all the cinnamon and blue-wing teal. We don’t get prime blue wings in Arkansas or Mississippi. And so it was great to be down here and see everything in prime plumage in late February.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite aspect of this hunt?
Jones: It’s so hard to say. I mean, I truly enjoyed every single day.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got a bag full of trophies.
Jones: We’ve got a bag full of trophies; I think I’m taking home seven birds.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Jones: Quite a few fairly large taxidermy bills.
Ramsey Russell: I heard you say something to the man over there about what those birds mean to you. I heard you say something to man over there about what those birds mean to you?
Jones: Yeah, absolutely. I was explaining that I try to mount birds from all my trips, and I don’t do it to brag, to be macho, or to show how many different animals I’ve killed. It’s really more about taking home a memory of a fun trip. And the trip is so much more than just killing birds; it’s about all the different laughs we’ve had, jokes we’ve made, sites we’ve seen, and people we’ve met.
Ramsey Russell: But how did the reality of what the hunt is compared to your expectations?
Jones: I just trusted you and went based on your name and your recommendation, and it was everything I could have hoped it would be. I mean, from the minute we pulled up, they opened the doors to the van from the airport transfer, and there were 4 or 5 people out there waiting to unload our luggage, welcome us, hand us a margarita—just the hospitality has been absolutely incredible. I mean, from the minute we pulled up they opened the doors to the van from the airport transfer and there were 4 or 5 people out there waiting to unload our luggage, welcome us, hand us a margarita, just the hospitality has been absolutely incredible.
Ramsey Russell: Speaking of the hospitality, who was your driver for the week?
Jones: We had two different people. Pancho for about half the time, and Lamberto. No kidding, Pancho was incredible. I know I mentioned this to you at dinner, but I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as Pancho. We were really chasing—he put us on teal all week, and we wanted to kill a prime drake blue wing, and man, that guy did everything in his power to get us on birds. I mean, daylight to dark, and he did, and he delivered.
Ramsey Russell: The day I was coming down here, I was communicating with the outfitter, and he was telling me it was foggy; the bay was foggy. And that can cut two ways if you happen to be on the right path; ducks just come in blind. But normally, they just can’t see you. So they could be out there flying all over willy-nilly or sitting on the water, but you ain’t shooting; you all didn’t shoot many; it was kind of a slow hunt that morning, as I understand it. And you hit, you got to the boat ramp, and what happened then?
Jones: Yeah, we got to the boat ramp. I mean, we had a great time. Like I said, we’re not down here just to kill birds. I mean, we’re in it for the good time and the experience. But yeah, we had a really slow morning. I think we killed three ducks that morning, and it was terribly slow.
Ramsey Russell: For anywhere, let alone Mexico.
Jones: The fog was extremely thick, and I mean, it didn’t lift until probably 10:30 a.m. The tide was falling, and it wasn’t a good time to kill ducks, so we got back to the ramp, and they welcomed us with a breakfast burrito and a cerveza, and they said, “How was it? How many did you kill?” and we said 3. And I mean, they got beet red in the face angry, and we’re like, “Man, we’ve got to hustle and get these guys on some birds.” And we left the boat ramp and probably went 10 minutes away, and we were in more freshwater ponds. We had two more freshwater ponds on the way home and killed cinnamons and blue wings, shovelers, pintails, mallards, Mexican mallards—incredible.
Ramsey Russell: Kind of like Tennessee but different.
Jones: Very different. It’s like Tennessee except that you can hunt everywhere. There’s not one place that you can’t hunt; it’s incredible.
Pro Tips for Brant Hunting
Ramsey Russell: Have you got a pro tip for brant hunting for anybody listening, if they ever show up? Have you got a pro tip for brant hunting to anybody listening, if they ever show up?
Jones: Oh, my word.
Ramsey Russell: But anyway, what happened?
Jones: Ramsey, that’s not funny. The way it works is, I know, you know, but for the listeners, the brant moves when the tides move. When we got there at sunrise, we hunted ducks because the tide wasn’t moving right, and so we hunted ducks for 2 or 2.5 hours; it was probably 8:30–9:00, and they came and picked us up in the air boat and said, “All right, it’s time to brant hunt,” and so that meant the tide was coming up. So they put us in a brant blind, and we hadn’t been in there for 5 minutes, and we saw brant everywhere. And there were two groups of brants coming in immediately, like within 10 minutes of being in the blind. The first group had about 4 brant in it, and the second group had probably 60 or 70 brant. And based on your advice, Ramsey, we decided to not take long shots and just wait for them to fully commit. And so the small group of four brants buzzed through right over the decoys, but there was a group of 70 right behind them, and we decided no. Ramsey said, “Wait, let’s don’t shoot.” And so we let them pass, and that was it; they were gone. The 4 and the 70 were gone, and that was it for us. So my pro tip would be-
Ramsey Russell: Depending on what mood I am in in the morning, sometimes I say, “A bird in hand.”
Jones: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: But it happens anywhere. One more pass; let them get right. And the thing that gets me about brants is that sometimes they will skirt wide. But if they’re talking to you, you’ve got to say, “Do I take them and knock down one or two, or do I hold my breath and be patient and let them snake back around and kill them all?”
Jones: That’s right. And I will say in our defense that: A. we took your advice on waiting; B. we had been there for 10 minutes and we saw 70 birds within 10 minutes, and so we thought, “Hey, we’re going to have a bunch of opportunities.” And so we twiddled a good opportunity away, missing out. But on that brant hunt, I told all the guys in my crew that that was one of my favorite hunts, and we didn’t pull the trigger. I mean, it was such pretty scenery with that—I don’t know what it’s called, but there’s some algae or something that those brant come in to eat bright green and eel grass, and it’s just beautiful seeing that pretty green algae and all the different scenery, and then seeing the brant and hearing them, seeing them snake around the bay—it was just incredible. The sun was perfect, the weather was perfect, and we had a blast just sitting there taking in the whole experience.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve enjoyed meeting you all and hunting with you and drinking beer with you and everything else and I really appreciate you all coming down.
Jones: Thank you, Ramsey, very much.
The World Epicenter of Duck Hunting
Quality and quantity.
Ramsey Russell: What part of Georgia are you from?
Ramsey Russell: Augusta, Georgia, that’s right.
Hock: Home of the Masters.
Ramsey Russell: Home of the Masters and the World Epicenter of Duck Hunting.
Hock: Maybe for wood ducks. That’s about it.
Ramsey Russell: How does Obregon, Mexico, duck hunting compare to Georgia?
Hock: It’s a different world.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, not United States anywhere you’ve hunted up there?
Hock: Well, I’ve hunted in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and up in Canada, and it’s just a whole different world here. The variety, the ducks that are in full plumage, the atmosphere of Mexico, and the Mexican people—everything’s great. It’s been a bucket list item that I wanted to check off, and it’s been something I’ll remember forever.
Ramsey Russell: I think Mexico is duck hunting on the fun side of the wall. I’m just telling you, it’s fun down here. Duck hunting is fun. It’s fun again.
Hock: I love it.
Ramsey Russell: You’re not freezing your cojones off waiting on two or three ducks to come in; it’s just fun. Wouldn’t you agree?
Hock: There’s no doubt about it. The first day—I’ve never hunted being brought out to the blind on a fan boat, so that was pretty unique. And just getting out to the blind, and it was a clear day the first morning, we were able to pick out a buddy of mine, Robbie Miller, who came down here; he’s my hunting buddy. And we’ve been down to Bolivia and different states to hunt waterfowl. And when we were down here the first morning, it was a clear day, so we were able to pick out all the drakes. We ended up shooting about 13 or 14 pintail drakes, just bulls. I’m not much of a duck caller; I’m more of a big game hunter. So being able to come down and not even have to call and then still be able to come down here and hunt ducks and have them come in and volume We had numbers at times of 30 to 40 pintails. A lot of times, they’d come in close enough.
Ramsey Russell: They would make a racket after whistling to you.
Hock: Exactly. And we shot pintail, we shot wigeon, and like I said, being that the conditions were that way that day, we were able to just shoot all drakes, and it was awesome.
Ramsey Russell: Quality and quantity.
Hock: Exactly. And we shot 34 pintails and wigeons that day.
Ramsey Russell: I saw the picture, and it’s beautiful too. Great picture.
Hock: Yes, sir.
Duck Hunting is Fun Again
But even the second day we shot Mexican mallards, shovelers, wigeons, blue-wing teal, cinnamon teal…
Ramsey Russell: What was it about Mexico? What was it about this hunt?
Hock: Well, I’ve heard from other people that book with you in Georgia and also in North Carolina, and they just couldn’t say enough about how great it was down here, and it was just something that I was eager to get a taste of and experience.
Ramsey Russell: Favorite memory? Or both?
Hock: It’s hard to say; the whole time was great. The first day was spectacular. But even the second day we shot Mexican mallards, shovelers, wigeons, blue-wing teal, cinnamon teal—I don’t know, other than the first day, to me, the canal hunts were spectacular.
Ramsey Russell: Isn’t it amazing because you hunt in the south, you hunt down the Deep South, you hunt down there in the Arkansas, but isn’t it crazy how much more colored up these birds are now than just 3 or 4 weeks ago?
Hock: There’s no question. I mean, that’s why you come down to Mexico to be able to witness what potential the duck has to be as pretty as it can actually be. Because the guys that are shooting them in Canada early in the season are in the molting stage, they’re ugly, and as the season progresses even into the end of December, they’re getting to that potential point. But once it reaches the point where you’re hunting ducks in February and you can’t hunt them in the States, I mean, Mexico, you’re able to really shoot ducks that are the highest quality they’ll ever be during that season, and that’s awesome.
Ramsey Russell: This business is duck hunting, but it’s in the hospitality industry, and you’re from Augusta. And I mean, that brings in some pretty high-brow, high-expectations folks for wining and dining and hotels and the hospitality there; how do you think the personal service and hospitality here at this lodge compare to what you would experience day in and day out there at home?
Ramsey Russell: And then Frank, who runs the whole operation down here, and all of his team, you have a lot of respect for what he does down here because there are a lot of moving parts, and he streams lines as well as you can. He has a lot of professionalism about it, along with everyone that works here, and they’re there for you 100% on anything you need. Danny handled us the entire time, and I know that Danny is family to Frank, and one thing that I really like about it is that there are a lot of people that work here that are family. And it’s a family environment, and everyone is very close; it’s a close circle. When I first thought about coming to Mexico with what people say about it being dangerous, I felt that pretty strongly coming down here, and once I arrived, all of that just went out the window. I feel as safe as if I were in America right now, and that means a lot to a lot of people that are sort of on the fence. When I first thought about coming to Mexico with what people say of it being dangerous, I felt that pretty strongly coming down here and once I arrived all of that just went out the window and I feel as safe as if I was in America right now and that means a lot for a lot of people that are sort of on the fence.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I feel much safer here than I do in Jackson, Mississippi, or Memphis, Tennessee. I can tell you that for a fact.
Hock: There’s no question.
Ramsey Russell: I feel entirely safe, but anyway. John, thank you very much.
Hock: Yes, sir.
Ramsey Russell: I’m glad you had a good time and I was glad to get to meet you and share some time with you.
Hock: Yes, sir, likewise.
Enduring Memories of Duck Hunting in Obregon
So I didn’t come with a target, but seeing all the species and being able to have such diversity even in one hunt, I think we killed 8 or 9 species in one hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Hollis, originally from Jackson, Mississippi, is now in Nashville, Tennessee. What was your favorite part of Obregon, Mexico?
Hollis: I think hunting in a different culture, in a different habitat, with a lot of the same buddies that I hunt with all the time But experiencing new things together was a real joy, and being able to meet some new people as well and just see the hospitality of a place like this that does it all day, every day, was a real treat.
Ramsey Russell: Did you get all the species that you wanted?
Hollis: Yes. I didn’t really come here with a big objective, unlike a few of my buddies. I don’t mount a lot of birds and don’t really have the space to hang them on the wall. So I didn’t come with a target, but seeing all the species and being able to have such diversity even in one hunt, I think we killed 8 or 9 species in one hunt. It was really exciting, and I’m actually going to take a few birds back to mount.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a nice memory. Nice token memory. What day, what event, or what hunt, like down here, is most defined as the most enduring memory you’ll have from being in Obregon duck hunting?
Hollis: That’s a great question because there are different things about each one.
Ramsey Russell: You’re lying in bed 10 years from now and you think back that’s going to be – what do you think it would be?
Hollis: Well, my friend Jones, I think we even talked about this earlier this evening, when we came out of off the bay and had not had a very good hunt and then watching the team work so hard to put us on birds, and I think that became – it was all six of us, our whole group together.
Ramsey Russell: That made it personal.
Hollis: Absolutely. And it was guerrilla warfare. I mean, we were climbing through brush and getting thorns, and one guy pulled a thorn out of his croc that just about went through his foot, and getting on those birds and seeing them work and having Pancho out there calling with his hand instead of a call and getting the birds moving was just a real special event, something I think we’ll all remember.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite meal?
Hollis: Oh, that pork chop was unbelievable.
Ramsey Russell: I had a lot of people say that.
Hollis: I don’t know how they did it, but I’d like to figure out what they did because it was as good as I’ve ever had.
Ramsey Russell: They smoke it for one thing, and that’s good. And it’s thick, like a big, old, thick American rib eye steak, for another.
Hollis: Yeah, we also had an unbelievable bass today for lunch that was kind of blackened on one side and had kind of a pico de gallo over the top, and it was fantastic as well.
Ramsey Russell: Plentiful, cold beer?
Hollis: Oh yeah, more than I wanted to drink sometimes.
Ramsey Russell: You all did some afternoon dove hunting?
Hollis: We did. The first day, we did an afternoon dove hunt, and I mean, the birds just didn’t stop. I mean, it’s humbling trying to hit all those birds as they’re zigzagging, and I hadn’t done a dove hunt in a little while.
Ramsey Russell: Dove hunting anywhere can be sporty, but down here, going through those mesquite trees, that’s expert-level shooting there.
Hollis: No question. And it was fun shooting that much, and there’s just no stopping it; after a little while, your shoulder starts hurting. I tried to hand the gun to Alejandro and get him to shoot some for me. But we kept shooting and had a great time.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Hollis: Ramsey, it was a terrific time, and we appreciate all your hard work and just finding this place for us.
Solving the World’s Problems in the Blind
How safe did you feel here in Mexico, and how would it compare to parts of Detroit?
Ramsey Russell: Michael Minnesota Howell from Detroit. Mike, I had a good time hunting with you today.
Michael: I had a fantastic time with you.
Ramsey Russell: We solved a few world problems there in the blind.
Michael: Yes, we did. We just have to get it out to other people.
Ramsey Russell: Why did you choose to come to Obregon? Because you’re an engineer by training, you’re very thorough and detailed, and you do a lot of due diligence and research. So I know you looked at a lot of different hunts. Why did you choose this one? Why did you choose this one?
Michael: Well, it came down to the opportunities of different species.
Ramsey Russell: And I saw you looking through the freezer tonight, getting your birds sorted, getting your paperwork right, and what species did you want to get? And what species did you get?
Michael: Well, cinnamon teal, green wing teal, blue wing teal, northern shoveler has been on my list for a long while where I’m at.
Ramsey Russell: That was great. Spooning crockets—that’s what I call them. Spooning crocket that’s what I call them.
Michael: They were teasing us all day long because they were coming in from the back, and they were on us before we even knew it. Mexican mallard, and so those were the goals, but-
Ramsey Russell: And a heck of a canvas back.
Michael: There we go. I live near the kingdom of the divers in Lake St. Clair, and I come 2000 miles and take the best trip I have ever taken in my life. So yeah, we’re going to get that on the wall as a beautiful reminder.
Ramsey Russell: I want to ask you this question because lots of people ask how safe Mexico is. I watched Narcos on Netflix. Now that you live in Detroit, which scares the devil out of me, I’m going to tell you right now. How safe did you feel here in Mexico, and how would it compare to parts of Detroit?
Michael: I felt very safe and comfortable, and in all the surrounding atmosphere that we saw in the city and the surrounding town, people were very accommodating. They were very considerate in their driving and other interactions with other people, crossing the street, and dealings with them; we could see some people walking up and down the street and being very friendly. I mean, we saw a person right there in traffic, noticed that I was apparently in camo, and wanted to know if I was a hunter and where I was from.
Ramsey Russell: How are you doing? How’s it going? You kill anything? Did you use decoys?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, he was interested. So, I don’t think that you’d be rolling the window down in downtown Detroit. I mean, there are some people who like that it reenergizes the city downtown to some extent. But it’s still a tough place to live. But no, I felt comfortable, and I came back to Obregon. I’m going to come back, and I’m going to experience more of the town. So, we passed a lot of little places; those are little places where I want to come and experience how the people here live.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, absolutely. I do that. I go eat lunch in between clients; when I’m not out in the field all day, I eat hot dogs, tacos, and seafood. I love the hospitality. I went to a barber shop, and he put a straight razor on it and never looked back. I mean, right here, a $4 haircut I mean, right here, $4 haircut.
Michael: So, you maybe suggesting that I do that too.
Ramsey Russell: How did the reality of this hunt compare to your expectations? That makes sense. How the reality compared to -?
Michael: and more than what I expected. I mean, in hunting other places, I know we’re going to go in, and we all like to dream about what we’re going to get, but as a hunter, in reality, I’m going to go in, and I’m going to love the place that I hunted and take some mementos home. But this exceeded the quality of the opportunities and their wide range. And so exceedingly a little bit more maybe the difference in the distances that we travelled and the modes of –
Ramsey Russell: It’s a big country; it’s a desert, and you’ve got to go where the water and the ducks are.
Michael: Yeah. So, as long as you can adapt and feel comfortable in that, I feel this is really easy to move forward. So, as long as you can adapt and feel comfortable in that I feel this was real easy to move forward.
Ramsey Russell: And of course we shot a bunch of ducks, but then you get back to the boat ramp; there’s a little fish camp there, and it’s the indigenous people that are out on that water 365 days a year. And the piles of clams, the piles of oysters, the wheel barrels full of fish—they were netting out there this morning. Their whole life spins around there 365 days a year. Just seeing that kind of hits home to me in a good way. How cool is that?
Michael: Yes. Being in that bay, it’s a spiritual type of emotion that we’re back in, maybe where we belong, away from the city and away from the noise, and that’s very beautiful.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you very much Michael, I enjoyed it.
Michael: Thank you for having me.
A First Class Hunting Team
I think the brant shooting this morning was very unique because those birds wanted to stay together in big flocks.
Joe France: Well, we had been friends with Big Ben for a long time, and now Ben’s moving on. So we’re looking for a great draft choice.
Ramsey Russell: Joe, I’m glad you finally made it down here to Obregon. The whole time you’ve been here, since the time you walked in the front door, I’ve seen a smile increase on your face. Was it fun, I can assume?
Joe France: We have hunted in Argentina, we have hunted in Nicaragua, all through the United States, and this experience has been over the top, so we really appreciate you setting this up for us. And of course, Frank and the team here are first-class all the way around. And of course Frank and the team here is first class all the way around.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about some of the guys you hunted with. The other night at dinner, you were telling me you knew some of these guys for decades.
Joe France: Yeah, I’ve got a good buddy, Dennis Snow, out of Colorado, and Dennis and I worked together when we started back in 1982 at Getty Oil in Bakersfield. And then Steve Slaughter Beck; he and I worked together for over 30 years at two different companies in Pittsburgh. And so this whole team has been around for a long time.
Ramsey Russell: You can tell when people have really spent some time in the blind and having fun together by the dynamic. Well, and we want to see everybody get shots.
Joe France: Sometimes you get into group shoots, but we’re respectful to each other, and nobody is a shot hog by any means. And so it’s just a lot of fun. And we do have the respect for the birds and the situation that we’re in out there in the field and safety always is number one. We talk about safety every time we go into the blind.
Ramsey Russell: When you come down here, this is a wild bird and duck hunt. You’ve got tides, you’ve got weather, you’ve got habitat, you’ve got shooting prowlers, you’ve got luck of the draw—a million different things can confound the total bag of a wild bird hunt. And so mileage varies among hunters; some are better than others, but none of them are bad if you have the right attitude. And you said something along those lines the other night that you all aren’t really driven just by sheer numbers; it seems to me from visiting with you and hearing that conversation, you’re kind of into the whole experience; just have fun.
Joe France: And for us, we’ve killed a lot of birds over the years, and we’re big deer hunters. In Pennsylvania, you can kill a doe in our county for $6.90 with unlimited doe tags. My buddy and I kill a lot of deer every year and donate the meat to share the harvest. But everywhere you go, it’s so different. Argentina is different from Nicaragua, Louisiana, and Mexico. So this was our first experience down here. The sheer volume of agriculture is staggering. And so you get to study the terrain, the people, and how they’re living. And it’s as much about the culture for us as meeting people. So just to go and shoot ducks would be—I don’t know, you’re missing the point.
Ramsey Russell: If you remove everything else, what was your favorite aspect of this Obregon hunt?
Joe France: Boy, that’s a tough one because-
Ramsey Russell: Because it’s very diverse-
Joe France: It is.
Ramsey Russell: We shot bays, we shot freshwater ponds, we shot brant, we’ve shot ducks, we’ve shot doves, and we’ve done the famous canal hunts.
Joe France: I think the brant shooting this morning was very unique because those birds wanted to stay together in big flocks. They wanted to go to certain spots in the water to feed, and they would come in and mass, just to see them. I mean, we just sat in the blind after we shot our limit, and we just videoed them as they were coming in. They just wanted this one spot that was 30 yards in front of us, and they would come in 30 and then another 50 would come in, and then once they hit the water, those big numbers would attract them everywhere. So that was probably my favorite this morning.
Different Species to Hunt in Mexico
But the bufflehead—we shot a beautiful bufflehead; we shot some beautiful pintail; we shot some beautiful teal; and it was a great variety down here.
Ramsey Russell: Are you one of those guys who wanted to learn about different species?
Joe France: Not at all. I learned a long time ago that I didn’t want to get into mounting and taxidermy on ducks because there are so many, and frankly, I had a beautiful mallard back when I lived in Bakersfield, and I had a boxer dog, and that dog knocked that duck off the wall and chewed it up, and I said, “Okay, I’m not going to spend money on any more ducks because my dog’s going to take them all.” But no, I really didn’t. When we go away, we don’t do all the research because I want things to be fresh. I want to experience it. We don’t ask all that many questions; we want a nice lodge, and we don’t want to be driving 5 hours to go hunt. But no, we’re just not into the species and then bringing anything back to the US like that. But the bufflehead—we shot a beautiful bufflehead; we shot some beautiful pintail; we shot some beautiful teal; and it was a great variety down here.
Ramsey Russell: How would you describe the hospitality?
Joe France: I mean, from the minute you walk into the cabin, there are people to greet you. I’ve got your drinks if you want them. There are snacks laid out right away. I got to know Frank, the owner here, really well. We went bass fishing last night. He took me and another fellow and we just had a fantastic experience. The hospitality is clean, the food is good, you can eat anything you want down here, and you can drink the water. Any country you go to, you’re always worried about the water, but this has been over the top, and you just don’t know until you experience a place you really don’t know. You can talk to other people about it, but I’ve had some pleasant surprises over the years, and then I’ve had a few that were unpleasant surprises.
Ramsey Russell: Were there any similar hunts? Were there any hunt similar?
Joe France: There were. And we used to hunt big flocks of pintail; they come down in winter in that valley, and you could have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pintails, and that was really special. Down here, I think that there are a lot of local ducks that are here all year round, and there are some that are flying down from as far away as Alaska. We shot some of those brants that were banded today that came from Alaska.
Ramsey Russell: Isn’t that crazy?
Joe France: It is. And I just like to see the different varieties and species, even if you’re just seeing them flying through the air and they’re too far away to shoot at you. I know my ducks pretty well, and the guys I’m with may not know them as well, and I’m like, “Well, that’s drake pony, that’s this, and that’s just the fun of being together and trying to teach people about ducks.”
Ramsey Russell: I’m relieved to see brant like we saw out on the bay this morning because that reminds me of 5 or 6-7 years ago down here, and then they got really thin; they just got to where they weren’t migrating. And I think that’s why they were banding so many to figure out which populations or which cohorts were continuing to migrate. And this year, Eisenbach Lagoon up in Alaska froze solid, I heard, and here they come. And I have not seen that many brant maybe in forever. I mean, there was a lot of bragging out there this morning. And of course, we abide by strict limits and all that good stuff, but that’s okay; it’s a quality experience. You brought up a good point earlier about agriculture. The outfitter told me one time we first met, “If you’ve ever eaten a tortilla in Mexico, the wheat came from Yaqui Valley.” This is the Sonora desert, and when you get outside that agricultural belt or those fields where they’re irrigating and the water is coming from that lake you all fished in 36,000 acres, you get outside and it’s desert, with cacti and thorns and not much ground vegetation, but you get off of that fertile valley and agriculture everywhere, and all that fresh water has created just this paradise in terms of waterfowl hunting. The outfitter told me one time we first met, he said, if you’ve ever eaten a tortilla in Mexico, the wheat came from Yaqui Valley. This is the Sonora desert and you get outside that agricultural belt or those fields where they’re irrigating and the water is coming from that lake you all fished in 36,000 acres, you get outside and it’s desert, it’s cacti and thorns and not much ground vegetation, but you get off of that fertile valley and agriculture everywhere and all that fresh water had created just this paradise in terms of waterfowl hunting.
Joe France: Well, it reminds me a lot of the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield, and the north, where before they put in the aqueduct, that was a desert. And so there are lots of big farms for cotton for any type of fruits and vegetables, almond trees and pistachios here, wheat, alfalfa, corn, and a variety of other crops that go on and on. I think there’s 1.2 million hectares—I don’t know what that conversion to acres is—but it’s a huge growing valley, and those reservoirs up there where I fished last night with Frank—all that water comes down, as I understand, through aqueducts and feeds for miles and miles.
Ramsey Russell: Big canals, little canals, little ditches, and little levees are gravity fed back into the canals and eventually find their way into those freshwater inlets that come into the bay at low tide, where the birds come off the Sea of Cortez to drink. It’s amazing to see this ecosystem down here.
Joe France: So it’s interesting to see that some crops are still this brilliant bright green, and others are just kind of dry and going to dry out; they’re just kind of changing color. So it’s interesting to see, some crops are still this brilliant bright green and others are just kind of the water’s gone from it and it’s going to dry out, it’s just kind of changing its color.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of the little dirt road villages we were in were just native communities; of course we’re right here in a pretty big city for Mexico’s safety. You’re from Pittsburgh, and I’m from Jackson, Mississippi; how did you feel in terms of safety? You’re from Pittsburgh, I’m from Jackson, Mississippi, how did you feel in terms of safety?
Joe France: We walked around where we are in the lodge here, in the town. It’s like I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to China, India, and Sumatra all over. And personally, I’ve never felt unsafe. There was a time when I went to Columbia, South America, back when there was a lot of bad stuff going on in the 80s and they were kidnapping Americans, but we had our own bulletproof Mercedes and our guards were outside our hotel rooms at night, and we still didn’t feel unsafe. But no, I think people are people. You can run into bad situations, but 99.99% of the time, they’re just people. They’re out doing their lives; you want to come and visit as a tourist and see the sights, and they are generally there to help you out. They’re out doing their lives, you want to come and visit as a tourist and see the sights and they are, there generally to help you out.
Ramsey Russell: Having traveled the world and been in some scary places like Pakistan, near Iran, I believe that 95% of all humanity is just people doing the best they can. There are a few bad apples out there on the fringes, but I think everybody’s just good people. And here in Latin America, they’re hardworking, hospitality-oriented, and family-oriented. And you see them smile; they’re friendly; they opened. I mean, I love it down here. I’ve never, in decades, felt the least bit threatened or unsafe. But I’d like to hear other people say that.
Joe France: I don’t care if you’re going to go to China and be Buddhist or you’re going to the Middle East, which I’ve been to, and you have Islam, but I think most people generally treat each other pretty well. You’ve got to go to work; I want to earn some money; I want to have fun outside of work. I want my kids to be safe, and I want them to get an education—all those basics. So, I think we’re both on the same exact page there.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you for entrusting us with your trip, and I’m very glad you had a good time. Thank you for entrusting us with your trip and I’m very glad you had a good time.
Joe France: We did. I appreciate Ramsey. Thanks, and we will be hunting with you again sometimes.
Team Texas on Waterfowl Hunting in Mexico
It blew my expectations away.
Ramsey Russell: You were part of Team Texas down here this week.
Ryan Chapman: That is correct, sir, down here from Texas. Central Texas, around the Austin area.
Ramsey Russell: It’s your first duck hunting trip to Mexico?
Ryan Chapman: Absolutely. It was my first time down here, and I had a great time. I grew up duck hunting in Central Texas, around that area down in the lagoon in south Texas.
Ramsey Russell: How did duck hunting here compare to that? because we hunted bays here.
Ryan Chapman: Absolutely. very similar in the bays. very similar ducks other than a couple.
Ramsey Russell: You get the tide. You all understand all that.
Ryan Chapman: Exactly. a lot of similar ducks. Where we hunt in Texas back home, there are a lot of pintails, redheads, a lot of teals, and shovelers. A couple of ducks down here that we came down here kind of looking for trophy hunting
Ramsey Russell: What species brought you to trophy hunt down here in Obregon Mexico?
Ryan Chapman: I would say number one, probably like everybody else, is cinnamon teal.
Ramsey Russell: Cinnamon teal, you got some.
Ryan Chapman: Yeah, we’ve got some. I think we’re walking away here tomorrow; we’re going home with seven of them. We’re going home with four Mexican mallards, mottled ducks that we do have in Texas, but they’re long gone before we get to our normal season, which gets a little too cold for them. And then Pacific Brant got into them and tore them up this morning.
Ramsey Russell: And I got a text from you this morning; tell me about that.
Ryan Chapman: Well, we got into the brant, like I said. I think maybe the second volley, we dropped 16 brants in one volley. There were four guys sitting there, and before the bird boys came out of there, I actually waited out there and started picking them up. And one of the guys, James, that was with me, as I was handing him the first one over the brush, we both saw the bands, and I didn’t even look at their legs yet; I was just gathering birds just by the neck. I probably had nine or ten in my hands, and I was handing them one at a time. And as I was flipping that one over, boom, first band green double banded, we both went screaming like hell; it was awesome. And then, I think Ricky and Jose showed up on their boat and started helping me pick them up out there in the bay. And yeah, so we had two more double bands. And then, when we got back to the ramp after getting our limit Pancho, our main guide was looking through our birds and found another band. We had four. Yeah, so we had three double-banded birds in one single.
Ramsey Russell: How did you all decide who got what?
Ryan Chapman: The one bird I know 100% that James shot because of where it was placed with the tide and how it was blowing He was on one end of the group, and I was on the other. As soon as we shot these, the way the current was taking the birds, they were taking them off to our left about 30 to 40 yards, and you could see the pattern of the dead birds out there past the decoys of whose birds were shooting as they were drifting, if that makes sense. Growing up as a duck hunter, we have our zones tended to, right? You’re not going to shoot your buddy at yourself. And tended two was here; I knew I’d hit these three birds down on this one side, and James had the first band on the far right, and the three birds that I shot had gone off to my right around us; we’re kind of hunting on this little point, and they were the only three birds, and one of those had the bands on.
Ramsey Russell: You picked up some new bands.
Ryan Chapman: Like I told you the other night, I don’t know how many ducks I’ve killed in my life. I’ve been hunting ducks for 41 years. I’ve been hunting them since I was 15. One band probably.
Ramsey Russell: How did it meet your expectations?
Ryan Chapman: It blew my expectations away. Well, we knew we were coming down here to shoot a lot of birds, right? I think the expectation of coming down here with some guys that I brought that aren’t duck hunters is that they’re newbies, rookies, or probably not ever going to be duck hunters, but they like shooting guns. And customers of mine and James, my business partner, it blew their minds; it blew my mind; it blew James’s mind.
Ramsey Russell: Make them duck hunters now.
Ryan Chapman: And one of the guys that I brought doesn’t even have a duck call. I’m the only one out of the group who bought duck calls. And I loaned him a whistle; I had an extra one in my bird bag, and sh*t he was blowing on it. How do you do this? How do you do that? What’s this duck? How do you make a teal sound? How do you make a wigeon sound? And he was doing that the second morning, right at shooting light, when the birds—the teal and stuff—were crashing the decoys, and I finally did. I grabbed it. I grabbed his hand and said, “Stop; we’ll do this later.” You can kill birds right now. We don’t need calls right now. And really, on this whole trip, all the early birds decode. You don’t need to call. The very first morning, Charbel and I were out there in the main bay; I forget the name. A lot of pintails—that was the most comparable to Texas hunting in the bay that I’ve probably had the whole time we were here. A lot of pintails are working—I don’t know how many volleys—30–40 of them, cherry picking drakes one after another. Charbel not being a duck hunter, I was able to tell him, “Hey, we got five coming on the left; let them go; don’t shoot; don’t sky blast; let them come over work around here; hit them; they’d come back around lower lock up, and as they were locking up, I would tell him 2, 5, and 6—those are the drakes.” Don’t shoot the first one that’s a hen. and we were just cherry-picking. I think we shot 18–20 drakes that first morning.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think of the people? The help? The help?
Ryan Chapman: Outstanding. That’s the first word I think: outstanding. Above and beyond. Starting off at the airport, Pancho, our main guide that was driving us around all week, was a character.
Ramsey Russell: He’s shy.
Ryan Chapman: Yeah. Character, I mean, out of the gate, he was just messing with us and cutting up and having a good time. Everybody here at the lodge—the cooks, the guys that maintain and keep up with the bar— Every time your beer gets low, they ask you for another one. Every time you need another margarita and get down to where you’re about to finish it, they ask you if you need another. You’ve got a guy waiting at the door to open the door for you every day and help you unload all your stuff. And another thing I’ve noticed is that after the guys are here at the lodge and having a great time inside, if you happen to walk out on the patio and look outside, the guys are still working. Hours after we’re eating dinner and having a good time, they’re washing the trucks inside and out, I mean making every night. And I happen to have a bedroom that’s located over the garage where all the trucks are parked, and my window is always open. I can hear them down there, and they’re just working nonstop down there. Pressure washers, washing your waders I mean, it’s nuts.
Ramsey Russell: I mean some of these bays are pretty muddy nasty and I step into brand new clean waiters every morning.
Ryan Chapman: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: It makes a difference, doesn’t it?
Ryan Chapman: Absolutely. Guys went beyond my expectations.
The Mexican Labrador
The bird boys went from one end to another and kept pushing up these rafts of blue bills, one after another, flock after flock of 40 to 60 at a time, all on perfect shooting range. We shot the heck out of them.
Ramsey Russell: First, how would you describe it, because I’ve never seen it anywhere else until I came down here to Yaqui Valley? How would you describe canal hunting? Somebody once asked me, “What is the canal hunt?” How would you describe that to them? How would you describe that to them?
Ryan Chapman: I don’t know how to describe it.
Ramsey Russell: Like duck hunting outside of Austin.
Ryan Chapman: No, nothing like that. I would call it—well, we went on two different kinds. We went on a blue-bill canal hunt; that was awesome. We absolutely murdered them. Basically, we sat on the side of a bank that was dug out; we were paired up in twos and threes. The bird boys went from one end to another and kept pushing up these rafts of blue bills, one after another, flock after flock of 40 to 60 at a time, all on perfect shooting range. We shot the heck out of them.
Ramsey Russell: The one we called after that you all shot was tall. Charbel asked me, “How far are you leading those birds?” I said, about a Silverado with an extra cab.
Ryan Chapman: James and I think we were in the right position that day. Yeah, we were able to get some easy, clean shots anywhere from 2 feet off top of the water. 40 of them doing Mach 7 actually only shooting down to, like you said, probably the third volley; they lifted probably 30–40 feet in the air.
Ramsey Russell: And I have got clients, plural, many of whom would come here and do nothing but canal hunt for Mexican ducks. How would you describe that to people? How would you describe that to folks?
Ryan Chapman: Oh man, that was fun. Awesome. Just driving around—so one thing about duck hunting, right?—you don’t have to be quiet when your buddies are in between the volleys; you can sit there and cut up and bullshit, but everybody sees the ducks lock up or you see ducks on the horizon, hey, everybody stop, stop moving, stop looking, stop doing this, everyone hold tight. You don’t do any of that sh*t when you’re going after Mexican mallards in these canals; you’re all cutting up, having a good time in the back of the pickup, driving around.
Ramsey Russell: And I know a lot of these guys that are just absolute purists who paddle down in the decoys or don’t shoot. I’m like, yeah, this probably ain’t for you; it’s way too much fun for that.
Ryan Chapman: Yes, I would say that was one of the best experiences I’ve had hunting out of the back of a pickup with bird boys sitting there, opening beers for you and handing them to you one at a time and just shooting as many as you could and tell you felt like you didn’t want to anymore.
Ramsey Russell: You all had a little Jorge, like these are the drainage canals to catch tail water and just over the bank on top of the bank, a wheat field. Wheat field out to the horizon—that’s where all the fresh water irrigation is coming from, and you all knock some down that fell off of that lush green wheat. Did you find them or bet on them?
Ryan Chapman: It started about, I guess, the evening before last when we did our first canal hunt, and we quickly learned that if you happen to wound any of these ducks and they get in that wheat, they’re gone. They hightailed it.
Ramsey Russell: Unless you got a Char dawg.
Ryan Chapman: So yesterday, young buck bird boy, and by the way, these bird boys are phenomenal. They kick asses; they will do whatever they have to do to go get these birds; they will strip down their underwear and dive into a 30-foot lake that’s freezing. But yet, today we were out there canal hunting, and we kind of decided our pattern and our plan today was that we all wanted to kind of trophy hunt teal and actually stay away from the Mexican mallards. We passed hundreds that we could have shot.
Ramsey Russell: Got to feel sorry for them, didn’t you?
Ryan Chapman: We were more worried about there being a cinnamon in the group; we’re close by, 50 yards down the stream. We’re busting him up and taking that opportunity away from us. So, today we did something a little bit different. We split up in twos; James and Ron went with two other guys. We stayed with Pancho, Charbel, and I. And basically, we would spot them downstream in these canals, and we could see them way off and identify that they were definitely teal. We know what kind of teal they are; we just knew they were teal. We set out to make a little makeshift blind with some brush, and Pancho would drive around and come back and push them to us, and we’d just sit there and melee them.
Ramsey Russell: I tell people, “We shoot cinnamon teal; you all shot cinnamon teal some of these bays and potholes.” Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and it’s hard to come by. But those boys know where in the canal these birds are; that’s a good plan B, to come home with a cinnamon teal.
Ryan Chapman: 7 teals came in; it was a mixture of cinnamon and blue wing. They were together; I think it was 3 and 4, but they just happened to be in the same area. came buzzing by, dropped them all, but all but two went in that wheat; the wind hit them, and it just took them. And one of these young boys, old Jorge, said, “Hey, I’m going to get those ducks.” And I said, “If you find one of those ducks over there in that wheat, I’ll give you 20 bucks.” He goes, “Oh, I’ll find four.” And I said, “Okay.” And he goes, “You’ve got to do something for me; what do you want to do?” He said, “Well, I have no money.” I was like, “All right, well, you’re going to take Pancho; he’s been sweating his ass off all day.” I said, “We’re going to put him on the hood of this pickup, we’re going to take his shirt off, and you’re going to do a body shot off of him.” And he goes, okay.
Ramsey Russell: Probably still out there looking for those ducks.
Ryan Chapman: He goes; they call me the Mexican Labrador. And I said, “All right, sir.” And he jumped in that channel up to his chest and swam across him, Mario, and us. They go over there and get that wheat, and Mario found one. I ended up walking around and going over, and I found one, and that was it in that wheat. But yeah, we learned quickly a couple of days ago that if you don’t knock them dead or give them that confidence shot as soon as they hit before that wheat, you’re not finding them. But the thing is, we killed so many in the wheat. It was phenomenal.
Ramsey Russell: What was your absolute favorite part of this trip?
Ryan Chapman: I guess.
Ramsey Russell: The brant?
Ryan Chapman: This is hard. I would say, “Man, this is hard.” This is really hard.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, we’ve been here for 4 days, morning and afternoon. Afternoons are doves and canals; mornings are bay, but every single hunt is a standalone adventure.
Ryan Chapman: It is. It’s really hard. And me and the three guys that I brought down here were talking about that earlier, and every one of us had something different to say. One of them was brant; it was probably a ball. God damn, it’s hard. Day number one is number one for me. Day number one in that pintail bay was the best. Because I’m from Texas, we see a lot of those pintails, and we hunt the bays down there, but we can’t shoot one. And to see millions of pintails in Texas and see the amount down here that you don’t get, I’ve never made them do that. And from a true guy who duck hunts a lot, to come here and get to do that is unreal.
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of fun for me to come down here, and it’s not cold or miserable.
Ryan Chapman: Yes, absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: It’s warm; it’s beautiful.
Ryan Chapman: You and I are sitting outside right now. I’ve got shorts on, and I don’t know how cold it is out here, but I’m comfortable. It’s not hot, no bugs, no mosquitoes gets up, 80-85 degrees every day. It’s about time we go out for an afternoon hunt, and it starts cooling off again. About time we go out for afternoon hunt and it starts cooling off again.
Ramsey Russell: I appreciate you coming down. I sure have enjoyed hunting with you. It was wonderful sharing camp with you all. It was wonderful sharing camp with you all.
Ryan Chapman: Absolutely. And I’ll definitely be back.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you.
Ryan Chapman: Yes, sir.
The Best Obregon Vacation
Man, I think I might need a vacation after this vacation.
John Sellers: Remember, when news breaks out, we break in. I’m John Sellers on Houston’s news, weather, and traffic station, 740 KTRH.
Ramsey Russell: John Sellers, you’ve done this before.
John Sellers: A few times.
Ramsey Russell: Did you tell me you were in the radio business at one time?
John Sellers: I was. It was a great business to be in until you got your paycheck and realized that you made about a quarter of what all your friends did who worked nowhere near as hard as you did.
Ramsey Russell: And now you’re an accountant.
John Sellers: Kind of. Well, yeah, I’ve been several things—accountant being one of them. Now, I’m working for a guy who was gracious enough to have me as one of his guests up here with you, and we do all kinds of things. We’ve got a real estate development company, and we’ve got an oil field services company. We have a plumbing company. We’ve got a man. Now I can’t think. Homebuilding company: we’ve got an oil and gas, water, and sewer utility there, just north of Houston. So I got my hands full kind of on the management side of those businesses from a real high level, managing those types of things for the boss man.
Ramsey Russell: And here you are in Obregon on vacation.
John Sellers: Man, I think I might need a vacation after this vacation.
Ramsey Russell: What did you want to get out of this Oregon duck hunting combo?
John Sellers: I mean, mainly, I saw the YouTube videos, and everybody was just having a good time. I saw the variety of species that are available down here, where I’m from. I mean, you’re pretty much getting green-headed mallards and wood ducks, maybe some gadwalls and wigeons. And that’s about all that we’re seeing in my neck of the woods and the piney woods of east Texas. So, I mean, it’s the variety of species that we’re seeing here that really caught my attention. And Mike, I told you earlier that this was kind of like my bonus from a couple of years ago because that’s what we were wanting to come up with originally, and then COVID got postponed just a little bit, but we finally made it up here, and man, I’m glad we did.
Ramsey Russell: Because you all kind of did it all. You dove hunted, you duck hunted, and you canal hunted. Oh my gosh, you all did the whole gamut.
John Sellers: To tell you the truth, it was the camaraderie and spending time with people up here that, getting to know you, getting to know some of the other guys that flew in from Florida, and then getting to know two of the guys that we flew in with as part of our group, I didn’t really know them that well.
Ramsey Russell: I wouldn’t have guessed. I thought you all knew each other for years.
John Sellers: No. I mean, me and Mike knew each other, and then Van was kind of new to our little inner circle, and then he brought his friend Danny from Arkansas, who is also a little bit of an outfitter. And no, we really have gotten close just this week. I mean, our friendship is, I’d say, out of 5 now; we’re at about a 9.5.
Ramsey Russell: A memorable moment for the last four days? Because I know when I look back, it’s all a blur until I get home. I mean, because it’s just gone. Because I know when I look back, it’s all a blur until I get home. I mean, because it’s just go.
John Sellers: Well. I mean, it has to be this. I talked about the variety of species, and I’ve killed a lot of ducks in a lot of different places, but I’ve never even seen a cinnamon teal in the wild. And the very first day, I thought I had killed one, and we got back and were looking at the birds, and it wasn’t anywhere to be found. And I was just kind of heartbroken, and ever since then I’ve been looking for that cinnamon teal, just trying to get that cinnamon teal. And we were out today doing a canal shoot with Marco, Alex, and Danny. And literally, we were battling the last hour of the hunt on the last day of the trip, and hell, the season is almost done with this week. And so, I mean, my chances of it happening this year were just shrinking by the moment. And we drove up on, say, a 5 or 6 teal, and I spotted a drake. The hens all broke right, and the drake broke left, and I put about three shells into that drake, and it just didn’t bother it at all. And I said, “Well, I missed my chance; maybe next year.” And just by luck, Danny, who’s one of the main guides up here, was kind of back behind us a little bit from where we were situated on the canal, and he noticed a little wounded cinnamon teal just kind of creeping along, and it slipped into the canal and went up on the other side of a bank. And he wasn’t sure if it were wounded or if it was just, kind of, sometimes those teal just kind of flutter along, and he wasn’t sure, and so he called us, he called us back, and we came running up, and sure enough, we got Alex. He jumped in the canal, and he just grabbed onto that teal, and I mean, it was still alive, but it had too little BBs; I mean, they were just barely alive.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely immaculate. That’s the downside of hunting with a shotgun. Have you just dead-centered him like a clay target? He’s liable to bust into 1,000 pieces. He’s liable to bust into 1000 pieces.
John Sellers: I mean, shoot teal at close range; sometimes they’re not even recognizable when you get them in. And so yeah, this one was—I mean, I don’t think the plumage could have been any better. And again, going back to one of the reasons you came here, that’s one of the reasons it’s so late in the season. These birds have had so much time to develop their feathers, and they’re ready to go back up, and man, they’re just in pristine primo condition. You can’t get that anywhere else that I’m aware of.
Ramsey Russell: I get some good birds in January, but the later you get into the breeding season, the more these birds are growing and developing and just looking better and better. What about this morning’s brant hunt, because we kind of talked you into it? And to me, I guess it’s just like when you get something you take for granted and then you don’t have it, and then all of a sudden you get that one more chance, and the brant came back this year. And Sam and I—I told Sam when he got here, boy, and he got excited like I did because we love him. What do you think? And we got out this morning, and the tide was coming in. You wanted to go out, and we saw a lot of traffic. It was offshore, but we did manage to shoot about a dozen birds. What do you think about that?
John Sellers: I mean, it was one of those things about you that you kind of got to put the time in. I mean, we had to earn it. The first set of decoys that we set up, we thought it was a good spot, but it wasn’t right. I think we got 4 in that first little spot, and then we decided to reorganize and maybe move down a little bit. So it got all the decoys up and moved to another blind. And sure enough, we did get the right group that came in, and man, we were able to nail the hammer. We had a nice group.
Ramsey Russell: You’re talking about how you four guys didn’t know each other till you got here. We four guys in the blind, Sam and Phil, knew each other. I knew Sam, but we all—I mean, the way the conversation was going and the hunt was going, you just thought we’d known each other and hunted together a whole life.
John Sellers: I mean, I know tons of people who have lifelong friends that they’ve met just hunting and sharing that camaraderie of a common goal of taking a nice trophy or just having a good time being away from your everyday routine and job and getting to enjoy a little recreation with your I mean, I know tons of people who have lifelong friends that they’ve met just hunting and sharing that camaraderie of a common goal of taking a nice trophy or just having a good time being away from your everyday routine and job and getting to enjoy a little recreation with your –
Ramsey Russell: “Absolute vacation.” Just like I tell everybody, it is a vacation. The staff down here works harder and is more organized than hardly anybody else in the world I’ve met, and to that point we did move blind today, but all we had to do was case our guns and step in their boat.
John Sellers: I made it sound like we did all the work and we were I made it sounds like we did all the work and we were –
Ramsey Russell: And I mean, they are so bent over backwards willing to accommodate, it’s a massive staff. It’s like I have literally gotten up in the mornings and heard conversation and looked outside, and there were 3 or 4 guys on staff washing the truck or loading up the gun boxes. There are 24 hour folks around here making it happen. You know what I’m saying? It’s like I have literally gotten up in the mornings and heard conversation and looked outside and there’s 3 or 4 guys staff washing the truck or loading up the gun boxes, 24 hours folks around here making it happen.
John Sellers: And that’s part of it, and I’ve done a little guiding before, and I mean, talking about brant, I’ve done geese, and man, if you’ve ever messed with rag blinds in Eagle Lake, Texas, it’s heartbreaking to put out 200 decoys and then just have absolutely nothing happen. And that’s happened to me so many times that I really don’t even want to fool geese anymore. But I was here this week and I saw a few of them, just out on the blinds duck hunting, and I just thought, “My other buddies that came up here, we’re going white wing hunting, and nothing against dove hunting; I love to hunt dove, but it’s something that’s available to me in Texas and not very hard to come by, but kill a brant in Texas.” I never heard of that, and I don’t know if you have.
Ramsey Russell: There’s no fence in the sky, so I’m sure it will happen. But that ain’t the place to go to shoot brant. And I have heard them shooting cinnamon teal down in coastal Texas; it happens, but you can’t go there to target them like you can here.
John Sellers: Man, I was losing faith. I have to be honest, and it just all worked out; it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was almost like the way a movie ends; I didn’t think it was going to happen, and it was just negative thoughts coming, and I had kind of accepted that it wasn’t going to happen, and then just bam, literally out of nowhere.
Ramsey Russell: It ain’t over till it’s over, John.
John Sellers: It ain’t over until it’s over.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve enjoyed sharing a week with you here in Oregon. I’ve enjoyed sharing a week with you here at Oregon.
John Sellers: Oh, same here.
Oldest And Longest Hunting Buddies
So I can come down here and catch up on friendships, and as I make new friends, I can see some beautiful land and beautiful birds and just have a good time.
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Sam Bandhook is one of my oldest and longest hunting buddies, as it turns out. We figured out today that maybe we’ve been hunting together for a quarter century. Sam, what is it about Obregon that you keep coming down here for? Because you’ve been here, how many times? 6,7,8,9,10? 6,7,8,9,10?
Sam Bandhook: I don’t know, 7 or 8 maybe.
Ramsey Russell: You brought your kids the first time I’ve seen them since they were little boys. I can remember being as tall as this table, and now they’re 30-year-old grown men with families of their own. And you brought your best friend down here. I enjoyed hunting him too. And what is it that keeps luring you back down here to Obregon? And what is it that keep luring you back down here to Obregon?
Sam Bandhook: It’s a good vacation from the real world, back in Florida. I can take a break, and the only way you can take a break around the house is to get away and take a break. So I can come down here and catch up on friendships, and as I make new friends, I can see some beautiful land and beautiful birds and just have a good time.
Ramsey Russell: And when you’re in this hunting camp, you generally tend to find people you get along with in a duck blind. Would you say that?
Sam Bandhook: Every time I’ve met some beautiful, great friends down here from all over the United States, it’s just been a good time. Every time I come down here, I’ve never had a bad time.
Ramsey Russell: And we go out and shoot ducks. Man, we were talking about this the other day in a duck blind; some of the pintail hunts we’ve had were pretty darn incredible. Man, we’re talking about this the other day in a duck blind, some of the pintail hunts we’ve had were pretty darn incredible.
Sam Bandhook: We’ve had some good, beautiful birds down here.
Ramsey Russell: We’re down here the first week of March, and we were down here with our buddies, John and Chris Girris, not too long ago. I remember that day, and there were 150 years of duck hunting in that duck blind. But it’s kind of slow; we had to work hard to get three dozen ducks, but somewhere along the way, and you’ve been duck hunting since you were a young man, hadn’t you? But it’s kind of slow, we had to work hard to get three dozen ducks, but somewhere along the way and you been duck hunt since you was a young man hadn’t you?
Sam Bandhook: Oh yeah, ever since before college and stuff like that.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And now, you know, man, no offense.
Sam Bandhook: Real old is about to end.
Ramsey Russell: Sam, that’s a bad thing.
Sam Bandhook: I hope you don’t catch up to me.
Ramsey Russell: And there, directly, two long-tail sprigs started circling the wagon; we all just stood down, and you doubled on them. Do you remember that?
Sam Bandhook: Very vividly.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, bam bam, two big, beautiful bull sprigs.
Sam Bandhook: They’re on my office wall right now, mounted together.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve shot a few cents then down here, hadn’t you?
Sam Bandhook: Oh yeah, I missed one years and years ago on Lake Kissimmee. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one, and I had nightmares for, I don’t know, how damn long.
What Is It About Brant?
I mean, I like duck hunting, but taking a couple of days out of the hunt to shoot brant is just pure joy.
Ramsey Russell: When the brant kind of quit migrating like they used to, and they did for about a 4 or 5 year period, they stuck up there to Eisenbach lagoon, which froze this year, driving them back down. A lot of guys, unless they wanted to go out and collect a brant for their wall, just throttled back on the ducks; they just transitioned with the ducks. But man, when you got here, I told you the brant came back; we hunted brant three out of four days this time. And I knew that some of the boys here in camp didn’t give a damn—they didn’t care for brant hunting. You all ain’t got brant in Florida; I ain’t got a Mississippi. What do you think it is about brant?
Sam Bandhook: It’s just a different bird, and it’s like they’re not the smartest animals in the world.
Ramsey Russell: I like a dumb duck.
Sam Bandhook: And when they come in, it’s like shooting a stop sign, you know what I mean? Your guns are empty at the end, and excitement starts there when you just start picking them up and seeing if they have bands or whatever, but it’s just fun to watch.
Ramsey Russell: And the other day we had a great hunt; it wasn’t just big, huge flocks of them, but they trickled in enough for us to get a limit, and what a great bird that is. I don’t know what it is about those brats. It just hooked me like that. It just hooked me like that.
Sam Bandhook: It’s fun. I mean, I like duck hunting, but taking a couple of days out of the hunt to shoot brant is just pure joy.
Ramsey Russell: What would you tell him about this hunt?
Sam Bandhook: We were eating breakfast one morning in Lake Wales. And he mentioned, “Hey, don’t you ever go away?” And I said, “Yeah, well, I want to go.” So no problem. That’s when I called Anita and you, and he had a couple open slots, and sure enough,
Ramsey Russell: He seemed to have a good time down here.
Sam Bandhook: He’s had a ball. He’s had a black ball.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think was your favorite hunt that we did? Brant?
Sam Bandhook: I’d rather duck hunt than dove hunt; it doesn’t really excite me anymore after we’ve been to Cordoba one time. But it’s a social event, and all four hunts we’ve had are just good. I hate to say this, but I’m just hanging around you again. I hate to say this, but just hanging around you again.
Ramsey Russell: I know you hate to say that.
Sam Bandhook: I just enjoy listening to you and all your malarkey kind of stuff.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve been to Argentina, you’ve been to Argentina, you’ve been to Rio Salado, you’ve been to Las Flores, you’ve been to some other lodges we’ve worked with you, you’ve been to the Netherlands and Canada when we were up there, and I never will forget telling the story to Phil the other day in the blind. We’re walking through somewhere; we were somewhere in downtown Amsterdam, and you started laughing. You were kind of walking a step or two behind me, and you just said, “You’ve seen something funny?” And I stopped. I said, “What’s up?” and you said, “I can’t believe how much world I’m seeing and the stuff I’m seeing by chasing you around with a shotgun.”
Sam Bandhook: No, we’ve hunted around the world.
Ramsey Russell: But it’s beyond the birds; you just see and experience things.
Sam Bandhook: It’s like coming down here; you like seeing the country again. The Mexican folks are just as nice as they can be.
Ramsey Russell: They are and you work with a lot of them back home.
Sam Bandhook: We work with a lot of Latin American people, and they’re the most humble, grateful, and hardworking people there are. And I try to bend over backwards every chance I get to help them out.
Ramsey Russell: Like myself, I love to go out there and shoot the birds on those bays, but my favorite part, the ride out or the ride in when it’s daylight, is the amount of bird life you see on those mudflats.
Sam Bandhook: I mean, I might go to hell sometime for shooting tweety birds when I was little. But just the bird life, like you say, the shorebirds and just the pink roses and spoonbills, I try to add to my bird list every year, the world bird list. Today, I think I saw a burrowing owl down here for the first time in my life. I don’t know if they’re here—we got them in Florida, but I’ve never seen them down here. I’ve got to go back and look at my hawk book because there are some of the biggest hawks I’ve ever seen down here, and I don’t know what the heck they are. But just the bird life—different kinds of kingfishers—is amazing.
Ramsey Russell: American curlew – –
Sam Bandhook: I made a lot of that stuff up when you asked me.
Ramsey Russell: No wonder I’m confused. but it’s crazy. You see that. I mean, some of those flocks numbering in the thousands, the way they rock and roll across the water and just flash and turn white and dark, is just spellbinding to me.
We’ve seen a lot of the world together; we’ve shared a lot of time in the blind together, and it’s fun. Those trigger-pulling parts are always fun.
Sam Bandhook: And we didn’t see the birds this time, but the tides weren’t right. I mean, tides are mudflats and stuff; they’re just thousands and millions of birds. It’s just something that makes you glad you’re alive.
Ramsey Russell: You know, a lot of them on a personal basis now, as many times as you’ve been here. But every time I’m here, we go through some of these little villages, and they’re just… I mean, like that little boy we bought oranges from—how would you say he was 6, 7?
Sam Bandhook: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: Sitting on the side of a dirt road selling oranges that he probably climbed a tree and picked that morning, they’re the best oranges I’ve ever had. But I don’t know why Kroger back home doesn’t sell them that well, but those good oranges cost just a few pesos. And a nice kid has been working his whole life, and man, he’s lucky he might end up on one of your tree plant cruises one day. I mean, you’re always going to grow up wanting to do that.
Sam Bandhook: It’s amazing. They always want to live a better life, just like we do. And the only way you can make a better life is to get out there and work; unless you were born with it, you’ve got a deal.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about the staff here?
Sam Bandhook: The staff is so accommodating; they want to make sure everybody’s happy. If you make a request, it’s always followed up. Today, we threw him a monkey ranch this afternoon by Bill and I going hunting when we told him we’d probably take a nap, and Danny accommodated to the fullest. All I did was ride and just enjoy them shooting today, and I met a new friend today.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever felt unsafe down here?
Sam Bandhook: Not hardly. It’s like, when I have my guys up from Guatemala or Mexico, I like to open the gate for them, and I like to close the gate. If I’m in a foreign country, I want somebody to take care of me. If they’re in a foreign country, I’m going to take care of them. I don’t speak their language very well, and they don’t speak my language very well. So, it’s always good to watch out for each other.
Ramsey Russell: The first day we were hunting together in San Jose Bay, the tide wasn’t great, but we limited ourselves to brant. You’re taking home a double-banded brat. But that ain’t your first one; you’ve killed several over the years.
Sam Bandhook: I’ve got some on my wall right there underneath my pintails. There are some bands there that I was going to take a brant home sooner or later and then get mounted on a dead bird and put them on whatever bird I had. But I’ll just wait until the right birds come along.
Ramsey Russell: A quarter century is a long time. We’ve seen a lot of the world together; we’ve shared a lot of time in the blind together, and it’s fun. Those trigger-pulling parts are always fun. And I’m going to get back to the bar. You see them a mile off across the bay, and they’re just undulating and getting closer and closer. We’re flagging to them. You remember to bring a flag every time I never do, calling to them, and then they get so close, you kind of hold your breath, Lord, and let them come in. And we shoot, but it’s in the lulls between the volleys that we get to visit, get to know each other, and catch up on our families. You’ve known my kids since they were babies; I’ve known yours since, man, they were toddlers. I remember you carrying Zach piggyback into some of those duck holes when we hunted back in the day. I remember you carrying Zach piggyback into some of them duck holes, we hunted back in the day.
Sam Bandhook: Shooting the birds is fun, but just having a good time all day long
Ramsey Russell: How does the weather compare over here to hunting in Florida?
Sam Bandhook: It’s about the same. Other than sometimes in Florida, if it’s 40° or 50°, it might be too cold for me to go.
Ramsey Russell: It’s an old wives tale that you’ve got to be cold and miserable to shoot lots of ducks, isn’t it?
Sam Bandhook: Somebody else can do that. I’m not.
Ramsey Russell: And folks, thank you all for this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from Obregon. You can all check it out at getducks.com. I like to meet with a lot of these guests down here because, as you’ve heard, duck hunting is so subjective. Why people come here, what they enjoy about it, and what they look forward to next time vary, but it’s all good. and a hunt like this accommodates If you’re a trigger puller, if you’re a species collector, or if you just want to come out and enjoy the sunshine and work on your facial tan while you’re out there shooting some cool birds, it’s a great experience. See you next time, Duck Season Somewhere.