Mexico Duck Hunting for Cinnamon Teal
I have been fortunate in the fact that I have had opportunities to hunt a lot of different places over the years, mostly for ducks and turkeys, but the two trips that have been on the top of my list for a good while have been a late season duck hunt in Mexico and a turkey hunt in New Zealand. When 2004 ends, both of those hunts will have become realities for me, and I must admit that my Mexican waterfowl experience lived up to all my expectations.
My fantasies about duck hunting Mexico had always centered around the famous Laguna Madre on the east coast. As I researched duck hunting south of the border in more recent years, I learned that although there is still good hunting in eastern Mexico, the most consistent shooting is now found along the Pacific coast. I am a stickler for detail when planning a hunt, and I found just the person I was looking for to make a trip to the left coast of Mexico a reality in Dick Kennerknecht, owner of Global Sporting Safaris.
Dick told me he represented the Sinalopato Duck & Dove Club in Los Mochis, Mexico, and it was the place I had been searching for. Dick explained that once in Los Mochis, I would stay at a 4 star hotel (part of the club) and be able to make morning and afternoon hunts in the surrounding countryside. Hunters have a choice of shooting doves or ducks each morning or afternoon, and I told Dick I wanted to hunt ducks the whole time.
At the end of January after most seasons in the U.S. closed, the adventure started. My group consisted of Lamar Underwood (editor of Sports Afield), Neil Dickenson and Anthony Brown (of Knight & Hale Game Calls), and after flying over the Mexican desert and mountains for a couple of hours, we were pleasantly surprised when lush green crop fields and plenty of water covered the landscape as we descended toward Los Mochis. I knew we were in for a treat when I could see numerous flocks of ducks from the plane.
The next morning Lamar, Anthony and I were shuttled by airboat to a small blind situated on the edge of a canal that connected two large lagoons just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. The noise of our ride sent thousands upon thousands of ducks and shorebirds into the air, and our already high expectations grew exponentially. One of my goals for the trip was to bring back a prime drake cinnamon teal to be mounted, and I thought, “surely out of all these birds, there is one drake that will give me a shot.”
When we reached our small blind, our bird boy Miguel set out 9 or 10 Carry-Lite decoys, and Anthony settled into some nearby brush with his video camera. Lamar took the right end of the blind as I stationed myself to his left. The action began immediately with small groups of teal buzzing up the canal just off the deck every couple of minutes. We never had time to fully load our guns until we had 6 greenwings on the water.
When Lamar and I finally got a break and settled our gear, we just looked at each other and smiled. Shortly thereafter, Anthony hissed, “big ducks out front.” I saw a trio of what appeared to be gadwalls cruising by about 200 yards away, and I grabbed my new Knight & Hale Bachelorette call that we were field testing and offered a greeting. The gray ducks turned on a dime and approached quickly. They made one pass, and I made a pleading comeback as Lamar backed me up with a double reed Smooth Talker (another new K&H call we were testing). That was more than the gadwalls could handle, and they cupped and committed. At less than 20 yards, Lamar and I came up in unison and dropped a drake each. “Now that was fun. I didn’t know how much effective calling we would get to do down here”, I said as Miguel waded the canal to retrieve our birds.
We shot more Greenwing teal, wigeon, gadwalls, and even a scaup or two, but I hadn’t seen a cinnamon teal. Dick said the drakes would really stand out in a flock because their bodies would appear black in contrast to the white underside of their wings. I imagined they would look like miniature black ducks at a distance.
About 9AM, flocks of big slow flying ducks that made an odd whistling sound began to fly over. Miguel told us they were “peachy willow”, and upon inspection through binoculars, we saw that they were black-bellied and fulvous tree ducks. When a small flock flew by fairly close, Miguel mocked their whistle, and the group dropped down low. Lamar and I both scored doubles, and to our amazement, the lone survivor banked hard at 100 yards and came right back over the blind. He was up pretty high, but since lead shells are still legal in Mexico, I knew I had the load for the job. When my barrel swung past his beak, I touched the trigger and the big brown duck folded up and almost fell in the blind.
I am by no means a great shooter, but that was one of those rare mornings when I was “on”. The action had slacked off and we were taking a much-needed break, when I saw two small specks approaching from straight down the canal 90 degrees to my left. When they were 150 yards out and barreling toward us at what looked like Mach IV, I recognized the back bird as a cinnamon teal. I quickly told Lamar and Anthony what I saw and to be still. I also said I only planned to shoot the back bird.
The pair stayed their course, and at 25 yards, I rose and took my shot. I completely missed, and the teal launched almost straight up without missing a wing beat. I found the drake again, and the second time my lead was correct, and I dropped my prize. Miguel hurried out and brought in the most beautiful little duck I have ever seen. He was a mature drake in perfect plumage, and my shot hadn’t torn him up at all. It is a good thing I connected on that opportunity, because that was the only prime drake cinnamon teal that any of our group took.
After that I was thoroughly satisfied, and Anthony came over and took my shooting position. I thought I was on with the gun that morning, but Anthony made me look like a novice. With his first 8 shots, Brown knocked down 4 teal and 3 black-bellied tree ducks.
Soon after, the airboat came back to pick us up, and we made the short ride back to the launch. The other groups had fared equally as well, and between the four groups we took about 100 ducks. After the season I had in the States last year, when the morning’s take was hung up on the picture board, it was a mind-boggling site.
That afternoon, we hunted a wide open saltwater marsh with spectacular mountains as the backdrop. Lamar, Anthony, Carlos (our new bird boy) and I were dropped of at a small blind in the middle of a huge lagoon. Carlos set out half a dozen brant decoys and about a dozen pintail and wigeon imposters. I was looking forward to shooting some brant, and we had seen quite a few pintails on the ride in as well.
There was a huge raft of brant about a half a mile down the lagoon from us, and when the airboat left, he passed by them just close enough that they took to the air. They broke up into several groups, but none came our way. Most regrouped about 300 yards to our left, and then Carlos began calling. He pointed to the right, and we saw a dozen brant bearing straight down on us. At very close range, I knocked down two of the big birds, and they fell right in the dekes. We shot brant off and on through the warm afternoon. Lamar let Anthony take the shots at brant because he has hunted them so many times on the eastern seaboard. Brown and I knocked 4 out of the next flock, and Carlos came back with a big smile on his face. One of the brant was double banded.
As the warm afternoon (temp.s in the mid-80’s) wore on, the brant action slowed and the ducks worked better. A major concentration of pintails congregated about 200 yards behind us, and we occasionally coaxed in small groups to our decoys. Again, we took wigeon and teal mixed in with the sprigs. As our first day came to an end, we were treated to a spectacular sunset complete with purple mountains and shimmering water.
The next morning we had steady shooting on another freshwater marsh, and had a delicious shore lunch of prawns and smoked chicken. The afternoon really was hot, and I was glad I had worn my Under Armour HeatGear under my TrekLite. The temperatures rose above 90 degrees, the duck hunting was fast and furious and our barrels were just short of turning red.
Next we hunted a different part of the same marsh, and Neil Dickenson joined Anthony and I for the PM shot. We took a great variety of ducks including bluewing, greenwing and cinnamon teal, bluebills, wigeon, pintails, gadwalls, and Mexican mallards (a species much like black and mottled ducks).
While shooting teal, we all kept hearing mallard calls, but we thought we were either imagining things or hearing the guys in another blind calling. The calling continued so we decided to give our Bachelorettes and Smooth Talkers a try. Soon we had a pair of “mallards” circling, and with feet down, we took the brace. We were treated to working the big ducks numerous more times in singles and pairs throughout the afternoon and ended up with 9 of them on the strap.
The action was so heavy that afternoon that we actually ran out of ammunition an hour before we were picked up. We took 8 species of ducks that afternoon in what turned out to be the best hunt of the trip.
The final morning of our hunt Lamar, Dick, Neil, Anthony and I all went to a small inland pond that was a special spot that is normally reserved for Bobby Balderrama, owner of Sinalopato Duck Club. The pond was only about an acre in size, so the shooting was tight. We had some huge flocks of teal come in, and we took our fair share, but again the highlight of the morning was working Mexican mallards.
In the intimate setting, we found the K&H Bachelorette calls really shined. One is able to produce quality duck sounds at very low levels on the Bachelorette. When hunting small water, it is very important to call softly and not blow the ducks out.
That was the first time I had a chance to hunt with Dick Kennerknecht, and he really put on an impressive shooting display. I don’t think a single duck escaped that he shot at all morning.
Our last hunt was back on the marsh where we hunted the first morning. A large and varied bag was again taken, and everyone saw action right up until dark. It had been a long day, and we were all ready to get back to the Plaza Inn for a late dinner, but I for one wished that I had another day or two of hunting left.
In the three days we hunted at Sinalopato, I saw more action than I had all season long at home. It was an experience that lived up to every one of my expectations. Passage in and out of Mexico is a breeze with only a birth certificate and driver’s license, the food was delicious, the guns were top shelf (all Benellis and Berettas), and the hunting really was what dreams are made of. Best of all, U.S. hunters can take this remarkable trip after their seasons close at home. All I can say is that if you are looking for the duck hunt of a lifetime take a trip to Mexico’s Pacific Paradise.
A little more about duck hunting in Mexico…
When traveling to Mexico for a duck hunt, keep a few things in mind. Seasons run into March, so you can go after US seasons close, and the later you go, the better the ducks’ plumage will be. You will most likely hunt in warm weather, so take light clothing. I was thankful to have a light rain jacket for the early morning airboat rides, but within an hour I was sure glad I had on my Under Armour HeatGear and TrekLite. Afternoon conditions are much more like those I am used to dove hunting in rather than waterfowling. Most duck hunts can be combined with dove shoots for those that want a combo hunt. Quality guns and shells are usually available from the outfitter, so the expense and hassle of traveling with them is unnecessary. Logistics are much simpler than you might expect, and using a US Hunting Consultant such as Dick Kennerknecht makes traveling south of the border an absolute breeze. If you go, just be ready for the duck hunt of a lifetime and prepare to have a sore shoulder!
This article was written by an independent outdoor writer Tim Herald for Global Sporting Safaris. Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. is a Full-Service Hunting Booking Agency for Mexico Duck Hunting, Mexico Bird Hunting and Guided Duck Hunting located in Casper, Wyoming and established in 1991. We have a staff of 7 Hunting Consultants and Fishing Travel Agents with a combined 175 years of experience.