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Rancho Caracol
A Premier Bird Hunting Hacienda

The three-hour drive from the Brownsville, Texas airport passed quickly as we drove through interesting countryside and a few small towns. As we started the upward drive in the hill country to the ranch proper, Dean Putegnat, the owner and General Manager made a radio call the ranch headquarters in Spanish. He then asked each of us what we'd like to have as a refreshing drink when we arrived. There was a beer, a Margarita and a diet coke. As we approached the huge compound we could see it below us as the road twisted and turned in the verdant hill country. The ranch is located in the best wild quail country in all of Mexico. The large wooden gates appeared around another corner and an elderly gentleman, who greeted us warmly, opened them. As we pulled up to the main lodge building another one of the staff greeted us and handed us the drinks we had ordered. What service I thought, and weíve just arrived.

After we checked into our large comfortable rooms and had a hearty lunch we headed over to the shotgun shooting facility to try out the Beretta O/U and automatic shotguns weíd be using over the next few days. Dean had a nice modified five-stand set up for guests to try out their own guns or the guns he supplied at no extra charge. Since he had 20 gauge O/Uís I thought Iíd just use his rather than bring my own down and save the couple of hundred dollars the Mexican government now requires to bring a shotgun into the country. The gun fit me well and I smoked most of the targets.

While we were shooting clays, Dean had the hunting guides and the dog handlers ready one of the vehicles for us and we headed out for our first of eight great hunts during our stay. On our first hunt we hunted on the 11,000-acre ranch proper for the native and wild Bobwhite Quail, and we were hunting in a few minutes. It was a matter of minutes before one of the pointers was on point less than twenty yards in front of us. As we approached to within ten yards, the covey of more than twenty birds broke and angled off to our left. I fired twice and two birds fell. Other shots were taken and another two birds went down as well. One of the guides saw where they landed and we went after the same covey again. They broke from their cover a little farther away this time and went straight away from us this time. Four more birds went into the bag. We decided to go after a different covey next time and in less than ten minutes we were knocking down more Bobwhite Quail with our twenty gauges. We located several more coveys, and in less than three hours we had several brace of birds between us. I had never experienced such fast and furious shooting of quail before. Iíve hunted quite a few of the premier hunting facilities in the United States and the action here was totally different. I was already looking forward to our other hunts.

I think this is what hunting was like back in America during the middle eighteen hundreds. I had never seen so many large coveys of 20 plus birds in such a short time before. All these birds are wild; no pens raised birds that are released six months earlier, etc. And are they fast. If you hesitate for even a fraction of a second, youíre going to miss your bird, and they just disappear. This is where instinctive shooting really comes into play. These wild birds are much faster than any Iíve shot at in the U.S. and they are tougher to bring down.

I can see why Rancho Caracol is one of the few Orvis endorsed hunting lodges and why itís the only one in all of Mexico. The excitement and quality of hunting and service is far superior to anything Iíve experienced in the past in America or Mexico. The next few days were just more of the same. On the all day Bobwhite hunt the two of us brought back plenty of quail, which is typical. I have never seen so many coveys of quail in my life. You can expect to flush ten to twenty-five coveys a day.

Each half day or all day hunt ended with us returning to the lodge and being greeted by one of the staff handing us our favorite cooling refreshment as they opened the vehicle door for us. When I returned from the morning hunt on the second day, I noticed all my dirty laundry had been done at no extra charge. And it was done by lunch every day, it was just part of the great service that you received while at Rancho Caracol. It also means you can travel lighter than you normally would.

On one day we hunted Bobwhite in the morning and Morning Dove in the afternoon. I ended up with a brace of Bobwhite in the morning after hunting them in knee high grass. Some of the other areas we had hunted earlier the grasses were very low, only an inch or two high. Every day brought different terrain and different hunting environments. It was interesting, beautiful scenery and challenging hunting.

After another delicious lunch we headed back out for the dove. We each had our bird boy, comfortable chair and a cooler with refreshments. Within about twenty minutes the dove started coming in. They seemed to have their own pre arranged routes to the fields and at first most of them were coming in just a little to far to my right, so I moved in that direction about fifteen yards and ended up being right in the center of their flight path. The shooting was fast and furious. There were quite a few that got away as well. It might have been better to have an automatic that held more rounds than an over and under.

Every evening started out by meeting with some of the other hunters that were at the hacienda and relating our hunting experiences of the day over drinks. It was the third time at the lodge for the other group; they obviously enjoyed it. There is a very nice bar area between the main dinning room and the lounge area where everyone meets. All your drinks at the lodge are included in the package price. What I found interesting is the nice collection of Tequilas that was available for sipping before or after dinner. Fine Tequilas are as grand as fine Cognacs.

Dinner was always an exciting adventure with a fine array of foods that are offered every evening. The menu varied from fine U.S. steaks, and real Mexican dishes to a wild bird game dinner that included dove, quail and goose all on the same plate prepared in delightful ways. The chief also produces some outstanding deserts that will have you asking for seconds.

Rancho Caracol is an outstanding and unique experience in bird hunting. They offer so many other little services that are included in the package that arenít found at other facilities. Their staff are always making sure your glasses are full and are attending to whatever your needs are. They donít miss a thing.

There are many other activities such as fishing and sight seeing, photography, etc, that there is always something to do in case someone isnít interested in hunting. The accommodations are very comfortable with a variety of lodging available depending on what your groupís requirements are. There are lodge rooms that can accommodate two to six people along with Casitas that are around the main lodge building. The facility can accommodate groups as large as 36 people. They offer Whitewing Dove shooting August through October and Quail and Morning Dove hunts November through February.

For a really great experience in bird hunting contact Rancho Caracol at 888-246-3164 and tell them Jerry sent you. For first hand information on the experience, actual hunting videos or with questions call 208-523-1545.

Bio on the author:
Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel writer/photographer who writes for over 35 different publications nationally and internationally. He is now the shooting and travel editor for Outdoors Now. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School now headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been teaching for the last nine years in New Mexico and has been endorsed by Browning in Utah. He teaches in all the western states as well as Albuquerque, NM. In spring of 2004 he will be operating two schools in the Idaho Falls, ID area as well as Sun Valley, ID. and Jackson Hole, WY. His address in Idaho is: I. T. I. Shotgun Shooting School, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83406.

Author:
Jerry Sinkovec
photojournalistjerry@juno.com