At the onset of my turkey hunting addiction, I can honestly say I had no idea about the existence of a blue-headed turkey. So, the idea of heading south of the border to chase Ocellated turkeys was nowhere on my radar. After a recent trip to the Mexican state of Campeche with World Slam Adventures and TanKab Outfitters to chase these jungle turkeys, I truly believe the trip is something all turkey hunters should plan to do during their lifetime.
Whether you are trying to complete a World Slam or simply wanting a unique adventure, know you’ll also be smack in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula, have the opportunity to see Mayan ruins, enjoy incredible local cuisine and possibly check out other local tourist attractions. It might take time to save up the coin to do the trip the way you want, but my opinion is a hunt in the jungle offers far more of an adventure than most hunts back in the states.
Here are three tips to consider when planning your hunt:
Choose the outfit that suits you best
While there are several outfits in the region, all offering quality Ocellated hunts, World Slam Adventures’ hunt with TanKab appealed to me simply because of the wall tent, safari-style camp in the jungle. This camp might not be for everyone, but don’t let the rustic accommodations fool you. We still had access to running water in the outdoor showers and bathrooms, dined on Mayan cuisine and the staff kicked on generators twice a day to power the AC units in the tents. Oh, and we still had Wi-Fi access.
(TanKab's wall-tent jungle camp)
Decide ahead of time what amenities you desire, and then seek the outfit that best fits your needs.
Choose the game
For me, Ocellated turkeys were the main draw for hunting in the Yucatan, but I’d be lying if there weren’t other local species that piqued my interest. The other primary game animal targeted by the outfit was brocket deer, but the list of wildlife we might have seen on our hunt included javelina, great curassow, coatimundi and several smaller rodents.
(Tony Caggiano, World Slam Adventures owner, and head guide Juan pose with Tony's mature gray brocket deer)
The majority of our turkey hunting took place on field edges or just inside the jungle, but those chasing other game had blinds or stands deeper in the jungle and most often were nearer to water or native food sources. If you are going to target more than just Ocellated turkeys on your hunt, make sure the outfitter knows so he can set you up accordingly.
Remember, you are the “tourist”
Now, don’t take this the wrong way; you are paying for a trip of a lifetime, and your outfit should provide a quality experience. But, making the extra effort to prepare yourself for the adventure will equal a more memorable experience.
In the case of TanKab, our guides were from the local Mayan village, and primarily spoke Yucatec Maya. But, they also could communicate in Spanish and some knew bits of English. You could go in hoping everything you learned in high school or college Spanish courses will magically come back to you — “arroz” — or you could brush up on or learn phrases and words that will help you better communicate with the locals. I remembered enough to ask my guide questions about his family and inquire about animals we spotted in the jungle. And, more importantly, I was able to tell him I wanted to strike off through the jungle after a singing tom late one afternoon when that bird wouldn’t commit. We both reveled in that hunt after the bird was on the ground.
(dinner prep for a traditional Mayan meal, using turkey meat)
You also could take advantage of translator apps on your phone; just know beforehand if you’ll need internet access for things to operate properly.
Maybe your trip will be just fine without taking any of these tips in to account, but many hunters consider a trip to hunt Ocellateds as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. So, it surely can’t hurt to do a little bit of planning and preparation to ensure your lasting memories are favorable ones.