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BORDER, BUT NO BLUES: Safe transport to an awesome bird hunting Mecca


MEXICALI, MX - Upland game bird hunters have known about the great wing shooting in the farming areas south of Mexicali for decades. The native wild pheasant population is equal to or better than that of South Dakota, dove numbers continue to explode and Gambel's quail have the right habitat to sustain very huntable coveys of birds.

    There are concerns among many American hunters about crossing the Mexican border to tap this vast resource, but much of the hassle has now been taken out the trip and hunters can sit back and enjoy the warmth of Mexico, while being transported to some of the finest bird hunting available within a 3 hour drive of Southern California.

    WON was invited down to hunt Baja Norte by Arturo Malo, outfitter for Baja Hunting over the Thanksgiving holidays and joining in on the combo bird hunt was my son, Brook.

    "Jim, we have made all the arrangements for your transfer from Calexico to the hunting lodge. You will be met on the U.S. side of the border, park your vehicle in a secured parking area and be transferred across the border by our state-side representative. I will meet you just across the border, continue on with a short 45-minute drive to the hacienda and then head out for an afternoon of hunting on your arrival day," said Malo.

    Baja Hunting leases prime farm lands that hold good numbers of wild pheasant, there are plenty of fields for dove shooting and the many ditches hold coveys of quail. We opted to hunt quail that afternoon. The drive to the first quail spot was less than 5-minutes from the hunt lodge and that covey exploded in small groups from thick cover, which provided excellent wing shooting with the light-weight Beretta 20-ga. that I chose to be my shotgun for the three days of hunting.

    With 5-quail in my game vest and flocks of dove winging overhead, the shoot became a mix of flushing quail and pass shooting mourning dove for the rest of the afternoon. Although son Brook was a little off on quail that evening, he more than made up for it with some very good shots on dove. The pile of birds in back of the outfitter's SUV and empty shell boxes was a pretty good indication of the kind of shooting that we enjoyed.

    With just two hunters in camp on Thanksgiving day we enjoyed appetizers of stuffed pheasant and dove breasts that were filled with cheese and a tasty green chili, wrapped in bacon and cooked over mesquite charcoal and the chef served up a great traditional carne asada dinner, which we topped off with a bottle of white wine from the San Vicente vineyards south of Ensenada.

    The morning hunt started off with pheasant in a nearby un-harvested milo field and after bagging limits of prime roosters we finished off the morning with a few walks through quail country, bagging a dove or two along the short pushes through knee high quail cover.

    Baja Hunting is a first class hunting operation that has taken all the hassle out for bird hunters to enjoy fine wing shooting without worrying about details.

    "We make sure that our hunters have everything that they need. From the time we pick them up, either in Calexico or San Diego, we make sure that everything is arranged ahead of time. Our hunt package is all inclusive of transportation, lodging, meals, hunting licenses, bird tags and the use of our high quality Beretta semi-autos. Each group of hunters is set out to the field with one of Baja Hunting's top guides, who knows our leased fields and also is responsible for making sure the paperwork matches the shotguns, there is plenty of ammo, cold drinks are in coolers and that there will be enough bird boys to ensure a successful time spent hunting. The only items that a hunter will pay for is the shells he shoots, alcohol and gratuities to the staff," says Malo.

    The daily bag limit on roosters is 4-birds and a license allows a hunter to have 8-birds in possession when crossing the border. Upon return to the hacienda, birds are cleaned, frozen and packaged to be sent home with the hunter. With a liberal bag limit on mourning dove and Gambel's quail a guest can fill up a ice chest with plenty of wild game.

    While hunting a pheasant field with just two hunters makes it more difficult to get the birds to flush, as they often run off to the side under the cover of thick un-harvested milo or flush wildly out of shotgun range, as they wing to an adjacent field. Fortunately, even for small groups, there are enough ringnecks in the valley that bagging a daily limit is not a problem.

    The following day we joined other hunters to make huge sweeps in the fields, which often saw as many as 25 pheasant in the sky at one time, as the bird boys pushed closer to the end of a field. Hunters have the option of being blockers or walkers on any push through a field, both of which can offer up good shots.

    There are still a few more weeks remaining in the pheasant season, the mourning dove season will continue through the end of January and outfitters are asking the Mexican government to extend the quail hunting season due to the good populations of birds this season. Baja Hunting also books hunts for California Valley Quail along the coast and black Brant hunts in San Quintin Bay, both of which are all inclusive hunts with pick-up and return from San Diego.

    There is no shortage of game birds just across the border and perhaps those who have opted to pass on hunting in Mexico for a variety of reasons, may want to reconsider this year and enjoy great wing shooting and wonderful Mexican hospitality. To check on hunting in Baja Norte check out the web site at bajahunting.com.
 


Top: GOOD HUNTING BUDDIES - WON's Jim Niemiec bagged his 4-bird limit of native wild ringneck pheasant on a hunt over Thanksgiving with outfitter Arturo Malo of Baja Hunting, based in Mexicali. Doing a good job on retrieving the roosters was Malo's yellow Lab Chavo. WON PHOTO BY BROOK NIEMIEC

Bottom: MIX IN A GAMBEL'S QUAIL HUNT - Upland game bird shooting south of Mexicali offers a mixed bag of pheasant, dove and quail. Dr. Brook Niemiec of San Diego enjoyed a good quail hunt with Baja Hunting and shows off a game strap of Gambel's quail, which topped off a couple of days of prime pheasant hunting. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

     
     
   




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