By Drummond Lindsey, Worldwide Adventures, January 2015
Sonora, Mexico! Just the thought of the Sonoran Desert brings to mind visions of giant desert Mule deer, Coues deer, and Desert sheep as well as friendly people, great culture, and fantastic food. It is a place where dreams can come true. Unfortunately, nightmares are dreams too. If you want to find success stories and envision yourself in the place of the lucky hunter, that’s fine. There are a lot of articles out there that you can read, but understand that a lot of the guys who are successful, and are successful on a consistent basis, aren’t just lucky. These guys create their own luck by finding and hunting with the right people at the right times on the right ranches.
One of the most common questions I am asked about hunting south of the border is whether or not it’s safe. “Safe from what?” is the question I respond with. If you are wondering about violence, I would say that you have very little to worry about, especially if you hunt with the right outfitter. If you are asking if you are safe from being sold something that is borderline fraudulent, then I would say it’s not the “safest” place to hunt. One of the most interesting things I’ve seen over my years of hunting Mexico is seeing guys who are some of the shrewdest businessmen you could ever meet falling for an outrageous sales job where the outfitter, guide, or consultant has grossly overpromised and is sure to under deliver. From being told about multiple 200" plus bucks and 180" plus rams to trying to save a few dollars on a hunt that has been “reduced at the last minute,” guys fall for these shady deals all the time.
It has been said that there is “a sucker born every minute,” but standing in the airport in Hermosillo seeing hunters come and go, I would say that the author of that quote was conservative in his estimation. The saddest thing is that it is easy to spot if you know what to look for. Just this past season I was picking up a few hunters and they were amazed at how many hunters one particular “outfitter” had on the plane. I immediately knew who it was and asked if I was correct and they said yes. I told my hunters to take a good long look at the dozen or so hunters who were shaking hands with their guides and getting ready to embark on one of the worst weeks of their hunting lives. I told them that this is what “hopes and dreams” looked like and in another week I would show them what “victims of a robbery” looked like. Sadly, I was right, and my hunters were stunned at the horror stories those hunters were telling on the plane ride home. From outfitters not having working equipment like vehicles or generators to outfitters selling three times the amount of hunts they had tags for, I have seen and heard it all. It’s really simple, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
These experiences are not unique to Mexico, but for some reason it seems that prospective clients are more apt to believe what they want to believe on some of these international hunts. I don’t know if it’s due to a lack of experience to rely on or if bad news moves like everything moves in Mexico, at an extremely slow pace, but I see more people being taken advantage of on these hunts than I do anywhere else.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom and there is hope if you decide to embark on a Sonoran Desert dream hunt. It starts with knowing who to call and what questions to ask. For starters, go with a reputable agent or outfitter, and if you don’t know who’s reputable and who’s not, call us at Huntin’ Fool® and we can assist you. There are a few key questions to ask, such as how long they have been in business in Mexico and how long they have been hunting the ranch you will be hunting. You will also want to know how many people will hunt the ranch that year. A list of references of clients who have killed and have not killed helps, as does a reference of clients who have only hunted with the outfitter once. It’s easy for an outfitter to provide references of repeat clientele who they have an established relationship with, so a referral from somebody who doesn’t have anything to lose or gain helps with the decision-making process. I would not make a determination of which outfitter to hunt with based on nationality. I know some incredible outfitters who are Mexican nationals, and I know some horrible outfitters who are Americans operating in Mexico. It helps if the outfitter you are working with speaks fluent English, and if you are corresponding with them before a hunt, make sure to have everything in writing as it is simply too easy for them to claim that there was a misinterpretation due to a language barrier. If you have your emails printed out and with you, it makes life a little easier.
I would also ask about high fences and breeding pens. I am seeing a lot of operations advertising deer but not disclosing that these deer were shot in an enclosure. I am not passing judgment on that type of hunting as it’s not my place to do so, but you will want to know how they do on their free-range hunts if that’s the hunt you are after. I know of multiple big deer that were shot or raised in enclosures that have been killed and advertised without full disclosure, and that type of behavior is inexcusable, in my opinion.
Hunting the giant desert Mule deer in Sonora can be a dream hunt, and by taking your time and asking the right questions, you can make sure it’s a good dream and not a nightmare. As always, we are available to answer any questions and will do everything we can to help ensure you are making the right decision. Bueno suerte!