Shooting can be fast and furious while teal hunting the lagoons and swamps of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
"Patos, Patos, Patos," my Mayan Indian guide whispered in my ear. I had seen the streaking blue-winged teal. They darted and screamed through the mangrove swamps from every direction. The only reason I wasn't shooting was because two other Mayan guides were still tossing out decoys.
I've had a lifelong dream of duck hunting in the Yucatan of Mexico. Stories of bountiful ducks and fabulous shooting opportunities graced the pages of major outdoor magazines and teased my adventurous senses for decades.
After surfing the Internet for weeks, I settled on Yucatan's Adventour Sisal Lodge. Owner Pedro Peon quickly invited me down to sample the teal hunting action. Every few days he e-mailed photos of his hunting adventures, tempting me to come down. I quickly made reservations.
Aramando Perez, the Public Relations Director, and Pedro met me at the airport in Merida, Mexico at 9 p.m. We had hearty introductions and Aramando whisked me off in the lodge van to the fishing village of Sisal an hour away. Aramando proved to be an encyclopedia of information, filling me in on the history and culture of the area as well as providing up-to-date duck hunting information.
We bounced through the tiny village of Sisal, broke out of the edge of town and turned down a dirt lane lined with palm trees. A quarter mile down the lane we broke into the open. There sat the charming Sisal lodge among the trees and flowering shrubs. I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach just behind the lodge.
Aramando helped me with my bags. I immediately fell in love with a charming bedroom. Just outside the window lay an inviting pool with jungles just beyond it. Out my back door an inviting veranda complete with a hammock framed a beautiful view of the ocean. Sisal lodge had to be a piece of heaven.
My bags had no more than hit the floor when a tall, dark, handsome gentleman in a white coat came out of the kitchen with a martini and a fresh platter of prepared seafood. Aramando and I feasted and made plans for the next morning's teal hunt.
Voices softly called my name. The big red numbers on the clock read 3:30 a.m. I immediately thought everyone was anxious to talk some more. Indeed, we chatted, laughed and became closer friends over a quick breakfast of fresh fruits and coffee.
The sun rises over the lagoons of the Yucatan near Sisal, Mexico. Teal begin flying just before first light.
Aramando and two local Mayan guides hustled around a mountain of duck hunting equipment. The trio had the gear stashed in a four wheel drive pickup in short order. They chattered in Spanish and seemed to be discussing which spot we would hunt that morning. A wildlife area, much like our conservation areas, lay just outside the edge of town. It consisted of many thousands of acres of vast mangrove swamps and lagoons. My trio of guides finally settled on a very good hunting spot 27 miles down the beach and through the jungles. The ride to the area became an adventure in and of itself. Four wheeling enthusiasts would love the fast drive down the beach and over the sand dunes and out through the jungles.
On arrival to our destination the guides unloaded two 10-foot john boats. No motors are allowed in the wildlife area. I immediately thought we would be hunting very close to the truck. However, the guides sported long mangrove poles which they used to propel the boats. The experienced boatmen poled the small boats about two miles into the jungle. The ride was incredible. Bird life abounded and I truly felt that I was on a great adventure.
My guide and I quickly shoved our boat into a clump of mangroves while the other two tossed out decoys. Teal were already flying. "Patos, patos, patos," my guide kept repeating. "Twelve or twenty?" he asked. I nodded and he handed me a 12-gauge camouflaged Benelli, every duck hunters dream.
As I stuffed shells into the magazine, the order came, "Senor, shoot the patos!" And the fun began.
I have hunted waterfowl for 40 years and I have never witnessed anything like what I experienced that morning. Thousands of teal buzzed and darted and dived through the lagoons. Shots came too quickly to respond to most of them. But, there was no shortage of shooting opportunities.
"Tuk,tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk", the guide called on a wooden call. The calls sounded very different from the whistles we use in the U.S. for teal, but worked very well as teal continued to steam into our decoy set. The shooting continued to be phenomenal, satisfying my grandest dreams about duck hunting in the Yucatan.
Thousands of flamingos coursed their way across the lagoons headed to feeding grounds. One of the guides indicated he knew where many of the flamingos liked to feed just a few hundred yards away. He generously poled the boat near that location to allow me to photograph the gorgeous birds. Watching the bird life in the jungles provided as much enjoyment as the duck hunting.
Blue-winged teal are abundant in the Yucatan, which offers liberal daily limits.
We returned to the lodge for a sumptuous lunch and a much needed siesta. Aramando and I toured the fishing village and surrounding area during the afternoon and returned to the lodge for dinner. The cook had prepared our teal by taking the marinated breasts, placing a hot pepper and cream cheese inside, wrapping them in bacon and grilling them slowly over an open fire. That teal recipe is the finest I have ever eaten.
I spent the next morning hunting with Pedro Peon and his two sons. We laughed and enjoyed one another's company. Duck hunters seem to be the same everywhere.
Pedro had made arrangements for me to present a duck hunting seminar for the Mexican government during my visit to Sisal. They were hosting their first ever "Fins and Feathers Fair" to raise awareness about conservation issues among the general public. Pedro served as my interpreter. The program was very well received with lots of questions after the presentation.
The Mayan people are very warm and friendly and my duck hunting adventure to the Yucatan far exceeded my expectations. Pedro Peon and his staff at Sisal Lodge are superb. And they know how to get the ducks. You can find them on the web at www.yucatanadventour.com
Teal hunting across the Yucatan is at its best in March as the birds are migrating back north. I hunted in February and had more shooting opportunity than at any other time in my life.
A light set of camo heavy with green colors works well in the mangrove jungles. An extra shirt or light jacket will keep you comfortable in the early morning hours. Temperatures feel to the low sixties during my hunt. It felt great to me, but the locals were freezing.
The guides worked hard to keep me dry, pushing the boat all the way to the shore each time we landed. They stripped to their bare feet for the process. I wore a pair of RedHead, waterproof, calf-high work boots, which worked perfectly for the shallow water areas.
Some type of insect repellent is necessary to keep mosquitoes at bay. Your guide may provide spray, but bringing your own is a sure preventative.
Lodges will provide guns and ammo. You may bring your own shotgun into Mexico for a $150 fee. And you are only allowed to bring two boxes of shotgun shells across the border. Do not break that rule. It can be very expensive.
If you are a fanatic teal hunter in the United States, you owe it to yourself to visit the Yucatan during teal season. It is a teal hunter's dream come true.
There are several duck hunting lodges in the Yucatan. Simply Google "teal hunting in the Yucatan" and you will find several listed.
Last tip -- shoot a lot of sporting clays before you hunt teal in the Yucatan, Senor!
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