Mule Deer hunting in Mexico

I have hunted Mule deer in Mexico four times over the past 12 years.  I can tell you this, every single time it is completely different.  I have been in great hunting areas but with the worse lodge and food imaginable.  The hunting was good, so you overlooked the faults.  Whether it be the weather conditions, tough area, or lack of game a hunter will deal with it all the best way they can.  Nothing, however, compared to my last Mule trip in Sonora, Mexico.  This trip was so bad it took me almost a year to write about it.  I have been with some bad outfitter’s in my time, as much as I hunt out of the country it is bound to happen.  I usually do not write about the outfitter in a negative way, I just don’t mention their true name to give them advertising per say.  I feel like in this case, it is my duty to say something because this outfitter is seriously bad news for the hunting world.  I even wrote to Safari Club International a very nice letter explaining everything that happened leading up to the hunt, as well as the hunt (if you would call it that) itself.  We bought this hunt at the SCI convention in Las Vegas so I thought they would want some feedback on the outfitters they are accepting free donations from since SCI is endorsing them.  I never got a reply email from SCI, and I doubt that I will support them in the future.  So this is how it works, an outfitter or vendor donates a hunt or product for the auction.  The auction gives points to how much the actual donation went for back to the vendor or outfitter, and points determine where your booth is going to be.  The more money you raise for the auction, the better position your booth will have as a result of it.  Bottom line, SCI really doesn’t care about the product they are representing, they care only about the money they raise.  This is a BIG machine, with a huge corporate overhead for payroll.  This is my opinion based off my experience and their lack of communication on the subject.  I was told at the auction that they did receive the email, and that is the last I heard about it.

So here is the story.  My buddy Dave wanted to hunt in Sonora, Mexico and I said I would join him.  We have bought trips at the SCI convention for Africa, Canada, Argentina, Patagonia, and United States in the past and for the most part had good experiences.   I wasn’t able to attend the auction because I had to go with a friend to drive some prototype Baja vehicle outside of Vegas.  Upon my return, Dave said he successfully bid on the Mule deer hunt and got it as well as the Coues deer hunt, he then added two more slots for both hunts.  I thought the outfitter should be happy about that.  I met Carlos at the show for a brief 10 minutes, and asked him about the lodging and the land he was guiding.  He assured me that the lodge was great and really comfortable, and that the property was 100 percent private.  That was the first two lies in the first five minutes of conversation I would later find out.  I then asked Carlos what the best dates would be for the rut to come down and hunt.  He assured us that Jan 3-10 was the best.  I said “Are you sure, because in my experience the later we are in January the better odds of the bucks being in rut.”  He replied “I have been doing this a long time, trust me.” So I trusted him, and that was my biggest mistake.  Three lies in 10 minutes I would later find out.

When I returned home from Vegas I was contacted fairly quickly about paying the deposit for the hunts.  I thought to myself “Wow that was fast.”  We were already pot committed on the SCI hunts, and he wanted 50% down immediately.  I googled his outfitter name and nothing really came up, with exception to http://www.huntmexico.com.  There is hardly any information on Big Game Outfitters (Mexico).  His website had photos of bucks dating from the 1970s to who knows when.  There are no photos or information on the lodge, and I could only find one review from years ago that was not positive to say the least.  He also sent over a four page contract.  Trust me, read the damn thing.  Carlos will use his contract to protect himself and take advantage of every hunting scenario.  Also, a word to the wise when or if you purchase one of his hunts via SCI or any other auction READ THE FINE PRINT!!

This was from this year’s SCI Auction in Las Vegas: Donation number: 34285 MULE DEER HUNT FOR TWO.

Donated by :Big Game Outfitters (Mexico) Carlos G. Hermosillo Valued at $23,000.00

Here is what you have to read closely.  “Not included are landowner permit ($4500.00), GST (16% on Final Auction price, license and landowner permit) and gratuities.”  What in fact is a GST? No other auction for any hunt had that listed, and wouldn’t you think if he was leasing some property the landowner permit would be apart of the $23,000.00?  Then he adds 16 percent to the final auction price?  Where does this money go to? Then another cost for additional landowner permit?  Does this sound confusing?

Donation number 34286 COUES DEER HUNT FOR TWO.

Donated by: Big Game Outfitters (Mexico) Carlos G Hermosillo Valued at $17,000.00

First off, is there a Coues Deer hunt anywhere in the world that cost $8500.00 per person?  Typically a Coues deer hunt in Mexico runs anywhere from $3500-$5000.00 being on the high end for trophy hunting.  Again, read the fine print “Not included are landowner permits ($3500.00/hunter), GST (16% on final auction price, license and landowner permit), any before/after hunt expenses and gratuities.”

Okay, so you get shelled for an additional $3500.00 and $2720.00 (16% of $17000.00 which the hunt didn’t go for that but I am showing you as an example.  Adding $6,220.00 to the auction price.  SCI should be ashamed for allowing this to happen.

This is the funny part, and really makes me look even dumber.  HE SUBBED IT OUT TO ANOTHER OUTFITTER, and if you looked at his web page (which I had to find out later after I hunted there).  He charges $3500-$4500.00 per hunter.  Shifty Carlos Hermosillo is making 100 percent profit on a donation.  Keep in mind, we added two hunters to each hunt.  I know….I know…I asked for this.  However, I give you this story for others not to repeat.  I didn’t ask SCI for money back, all I wanted to do is educate them so the next guy who saved 10 years to go on a special Sonora mule deer hunt doesn’t get ripped off.  I did watch the guy who bought this hunt at this years auction and I felt really bad for him.  Chances are he will google Carlos and read this, if you are, I am sorry dude.

Okay, now that we got all the logistics out of the way, and all the airline tickets booked.  Lets get to the meat and potatoes, the actual hunt itself.

We arrived in Hermosillo, Mexico on Jan. 3rd.  If you have never gone to Mexico hunting, keep in mind that traveling inside Mexico with a weapon is a chore.  They speak little English, and if your paperwork doesn’t match exactly to what you brought in, they confiscate it.  In my case, the paperwork from the guide was incorrect so they took all my ammo but 20 rounds.  Okay, I can deal with it.  We came out to the lobby after 1.5 hours of weapon procession, which is the norm by the way.  While in line, I met this old boy who asked me who I was hunting with, and he rolled his eyes and gasped.  I said “Do you know of him?”  He replied “Yes, everyone knows of him unfortunately.”  Then they called my name so I didn’t get to finish the conversation, but my gut was telling me I was in for a two week ride.  Carlos met us at the airport in a Durango for six of us and a small wooden trailer, uncovered, with our sleeping bags, weapons, and gear.  We drove for almost two hours before coming to a dirt road that started our 1 hour dirt road trip to the private ranch.  When we were about 2 miles from the ranch house he mentioned that it was  a working cattle ranch.  I replied something to the effect that he had not mentioned that when we booked.  When we arrived to the small ranch house, it was located 40 yards away from a cattle feed lot for small steers.  That means you would be smelling them and dealing with flies constantly.

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The house was dirty, with no place to sit because Carlos added two bunk beds in the living room that was connected to kitchen.  It had one bathroom and our bedroom still had the rancher clothes laying all over the place.  It was by far the dirtiest hunting lodge I have attended in all of Mexico.  This was also off the grid, so Carlos brought a large generator that he conveniently placed right by the door so we couldn’t even speak to each other.  “Man, I hope the hunting is good.” I thought to myself.  The next morning, Carlos asked me for the additional 600 dollars that they made a mistake on billing me incorrectly.  I said I had a company check, but he wanted cash.  Probably to pay his guides for actually coming to camp, I am not sure.  I only know he wanted it before we began hunting.

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We ate some food that the cooks had made.  My Spanish was good enough to understand that they were frustrated with the little amount of food they had to feed 18 people for a week.  Later I learn he spent 350 dollars on food, for 18 people for a week.  I know that because the guide that was with him, who refuses to ever work for him again, told me that.  He was the one who later got sick from drinking water that was not safe.  Carlos didn’t want to spend money for bottled water so he brought empty bottles to refill them from a water source.  Did I mention that we were off the grid, and one bathroom for 18 people?  The toilet only works when the generator is on, so you can imagine what the bathroom looked like on the second day.  Prison has better looking bathrooms.

The next morning we awoke to warm weather, you need really cold weather in Mexico to make those bucks go into rut.  They made us tortillas with potatoes and a little meat (very little meat)  and sent us on our way.  The vehicles were very old, and not very many things worked on them.  We climbed up into the racks and headed out.  The first thing I noticed was that the grass everywhere was over grazed by the numerous amounts of cattle.  There was cattle everywhere you turned a corner.  I remembered thinking to myself that this was going to be a waste of time, but consciously trying to remain optimistic because I had clients with me as well.  We drove around “high racking” and only saw a doe.  At around 11:15 the vehicle stopped and the three men climbed out and asked me in Spanish if we were hungry.  We sat up in the rack in the sun for three hours while they took their lunch and siesta.  Later I find out that Carlos does not want us to come back for lunch because he didn’t want to feed everyone a warm lunch, it would cost more.  We did this for two days, and then instructed our drivers to take us back to headquarters if we were just gonna sit in the sun for 3 hours.  We spent 2.5 days high racking in our vehicle and never saw one animal (besides a beef cow).  We finally all went on foot and the four of us racked up mile upon mile hunting and there was no sign, no tracks, no deer poop, no rubs and NO deer.   The guides knew it too, you could tell by their frustration they did not even try to remain quiet walking they just cruised thru the desert on a mission to return to camp.

After the third day, the guides took us to another property on the other side of the mountain thru a very small Mexican town I forgot the name of.  We got two flat tires and had to stop in town for a few hours while they repaired them.  I got to talking to some of the locals that told me that we are hunting what is called “Community land.”  As he explained it to me is that the town has tags for most of the acreage and Carlos bought them from the town for a cheaper price than leasing property from a rancher.  He also said that anyone in the community can run their cows on the property and some can also hunt.  It was all making sense to me, this outfitter was so cheap that he would purchase tags for cheap and sell the hunt as if it was actually on 70,000 acres of private land, because most Americans would not know the difference.  The guides all realized as well that they were wasting their time looking for Bucks, they all knew the program and were very frustrated, almost all of them said they would never come back and work for this outfitter.  I also think that Carlos doesn’t specialize in repeat hunters, I think after a week they all realize that they had been sold Ocean Front Property in Arizona.  However, there are little or no reviews on line that evaluate all the Mexican outfitters, or give feed back on hunters experience.

We came back to the cowboys cutting the nuts off the young bulls.  They didn’t even clean them, just threw them on the bbq.  The guides were ecstatic and grabbed tortillas and hot sauce and went to work eating.

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Just so you know, I have eaten a lot of Rocky Mt. Oysters in my time, but you actually clean them before grilling.  These are cut right off and just tossed on the grill.  It smelled horrible, but the guides were starving so I understood.

We decided to leave a day early, but the boys thought they would go out for a morning hunt and low and behold they found a 25 inch buck on the farthest corner of the property that actually was not grazed yet. A little 40 acre parcel.  The buck had just came off the neighbor property and was 2 feet inside our fence.  That was the only buck we saw for 45k of investment for flights, accommodations in Hermosillo, and the expensive lack luster hunt we went on.

We had new hunters arriving in Hermosillo for the coues deer hunt.  The mule deer hunters were heading home.  We were all in the hotel when Carlos came back with another Mexican outfitter, Erwin.  He said “This is who you are hunting with, have a great time.”  We all went to a steak dinner, and the next morning we left with Erwin to go to his ranch.  This time we went to Costco and filled up with a cooler full of meat and food before heading off to the next “lodge”.  There was no way we were gonna do what we just did at Carlos Camp.  The ladies did their best cooking what they had at Carlos Camp, I bet if they actually had the staples to cook with they would have produced some great food.  We tipped them well because they really worked their butts off trying to pull a rabbit out of Carlos cheap hat.  At any rate, Erwin looked perplexed and strange when he saw us loading all the food into the cooler.  We got to his camp and it was clean, and his chef was there with excellent food.  Erwin said to me “You know…we do have meat here.”  We had also bought chairs to sit on.  I replied “Erwin, other than a cheap flat flap steak (we had twice) we haven’t seen meat in five days, and haven’t had a place to sit either. So we brought some great steaks for everyone (staff and all) to eat and some chairs you can have after we are done hunting.”  Erwin had good vehicles, comfortable lodge, great chef, great hunting, and guides that worked hard.  We really enjoyed it and would return to hunt with him anytime.  He valued his customers and really wanted to work hard to make sure people returned.  He was proud of his operation and it really showed.  http://www.erwinoutdoors.com.  I would endorse his operation, but he will be the first one to tell you that $8500.00 is way to much for a coues buck, even a trophy.  We did pretty good with Erwin, saw lots of bucks and really enjoyed our experience.  Ole Carlos pulled one over on us, he later even called the guide to get our chairs back and told him that we gave them to him.  Which was another lie, I think that Carlos has a hard time determining what is the truth and what is not the truth.  I think he feels comfortable with the later.

I guess in retrospect, I learned a lot from this.  It is too bad that SCI never responded to my email.  I guess it does not surprise me, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and I doubt we will ever purchase anything more at their auction or even attend their events.  I am sure they do not care, someone else will replace me.  I also learned that though trust is an important attribute, you should always verify and do your research before purchasing or paying a deposit.  I also believe that you should be able to research a good outfitter, if you do not find anything or good references then do not book them, that is why I am writing this.  I am just telling you my honest experience that happened to me and clients, I feel like I owe that to the hunting community.  Hopefully, someone doesn’t save for years to go on an epic hunt and get ripped off, heck you couldn’t have paid me to go on that mule deer hunt, that’s a week I will never get back.  If I wrote this piece for one person that googled Big Game Outfitters, it was worth the time to write it all down and share it.

A humbled (but wiser),

Hunting Chef

 

 

 

 

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