Gould’s Turkeys, Rancho Mababi — WHY?

If you have a travel itch and love pursuing wild turkeys in wild places, then consider a south-of-the-border adventure for Gould’s turkeys.

Gould’s Turkeys, Rancho Mababi — WHY?

Other than the thrill all true hunters feel from any adventure, or the pure beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Mexico, why would anyone head south of the border for a wild turkey? That is a real question. Well, most turkey hunters who would be compelled to go after a Gould’s turkey in Mexico are also on the hunt for a Royal or a World Slam. If that is you or your hunting circle, then you’d have a hard time finding a better place to go, nor a better outfitter, and certainly not a more beautiful ranch than where I found myself in May, 2021. 

Let me first set the stage. Recently I had the good fortune to have traveled nearly 24 hours and 1,600 miles one-way to chase down a Gould’s turkey in Mexico with Linda Powell from Mossberg and some friends. All things considered, this trip seemed a bit crazy on the onset, but it quickly turned into one of the best adventures one could hope for.

Hunters, guides and hosts gather for a group photo.
Hunters, guides and hosts gather for a group photo.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder with hunting buddy and the long-time editor of Guns & Ammo Magazine, Eric Poole, in a well-placed ground blind 2 hours south of Aqua Prieta, Mexico — and further south than I have ever ventured for a hunt — is where our luck would be tested for Gould’s turkey. We had crossed the border in Douglas, Arizona, and traveled to Rancho Mababi, located about 1.5 hours south of the border near the town of Fronteras. We were set up at an elevation somewhere around 5,000 feet and directly in front of a seasoned turkey guide and career first responder out of the Houston area, Joe Williams.

View from the back porch of Rancho Mababi.
View from the back porch of Rancho Mababi.

Eric and I were both poised to get one bird closer to an individual lifetime Royal Slam, which includes all four subspecies of wild turkeys that are in the Grand Slam (Eastern, Merriam's, Rio Grande, and Osceola), plus a Gould's. We both lacked a Gould’s and an Osceola turkey; the Osceola would have to wait until another day, and then if we want to chase a World Slam the last bird is the Oscellated turkey, a strange and colorful bird located down on the Yucatan Peninsula. Who knows if that will ever happen?

My gun of choice is a Mossberg 935 Magnum Turkey 12 gauge shotgun topped with a Weaver Kaspa Turkey 1-4X24 scope, but the buzz in camp is in Eric’s hands, a new prototype Mossberg 940 Pro Field 12 gauge autoloader, which adopts and improves upon many of the features of the company’s popular 940 JM PRO. This prototype should be available this fall. Eric has a GPO SpectraDot sight on his Mossberg 940 Pro Field, and we have a choice of Federal Custom Shop and Federal Grand Slam turkey loads in camp. 

Temperatures are ranging from the high 30s in the morning, rising to around 70 during the day, and with almost constant breezy conditions, the weather is perfect. I brought some Nomad lightweight turkey hunting apparel and the company’s Killin’ Time Turkey Vest, and that is really all I need. It would be an understatement to say I way over-packed for this hunt.

 

Gould’s Goldmine

Having traveled for the better part of the last day and half, and been knocked around on rough mountainous roads for the better part of the last 3 hours, we now found ourselves comfortably seated in a ground blind for our first sit. Let’s just say it is now more difficult to stay awake than anything else. In front of us at 25 yards sits a gobbler decoy with several bedded hen decoys —and our ingenious secret weapon. Our gobbler decoy’s fan not only moves up and down but magically spreads out far and wide at the discretion of our guide. Quite impressive to witness and virtually irresistible to toms in this area, and I would wager gobblers anywhere. I have “fanned” for turkeys a few times and seen the power of the tactic, and this was something that takes hunting out of a blind to a similar level.

So, there we were, sun shining, mountain breeze blowing, high atop a mountain in Mexico rich with anticipation of Gould’s turkeys. About an hour into our sit a faint yelp or two can be heard coming down a slope about 200 yards directly in front of our blind. All of a sudden here comes roughly 20 jakes and hens, but no gobblers, with seemingly no interest from this group in coming our way. This was our view for 45 minutes with the occasional gobble up on the slope, above our guests, and occasionally sounds of some turkeys behind our blind but out of sight. A confident “It is only a matter of time” is what kept popping up in my head. Everything was coming together until, from out of nowhere, that dreaded bright-yellow ATV from hell descended on our position, driving past our blind, traveling up the road around the field directly behind our flock, then midway up the ridge in front of us where we had heard the gobbles.

In hunting and in life you just never know what circumstances will be thrown your way, and in this scenario, it felt like all the wind had been taken out of our sails. “What just happened?” and “there goes our luck!” were now the thoughts popping up in my head, and surely Joe and Eric had similar misgivings as the yellow quad cowboy cuts right between where our birds are milling around and where our gobblers have gobbled. Still no gobblers in sight and with all hope slowly drifting away, it remained dead silent for quite some time.

Then, hope. There was some commotion above our birds and as I glassed, I could faintly see a big bright-red head attached to a fully puffed-out body of feathers, fanning away and letting all know the king has arrived, who also has not yet seen our secret weapon, YET. Joe works the decoy a few times and Mr. Big steps down from his lofty perch and starts his 200-yard march to destroy this punk who dares show his face on his turf! Immediately Eric gets ready and in position to close the deal; we had pre-determined he was up first, and Joe and I are now spotting and staying still.

It takes Mr. Big less than 1 minute to close the 200 yards — he initiates an aggressive attack on our secret weapon and is now jump-flying over the decoy, ramming his spurs on the decoy on the way down, repeatedly. The attack goes on for several minutes, well actually never stops, with more and more feathers from the decoy’s fan circling in the air in an around the decoy.  Eric is just waiting for some separation so he doesn’t obliterate the decoy. Eric’s finger is now on the trigger, safety off, and red dot locked on target. My ears are plugged for the shot, and Joe is verifying this is indeed a mature shooter.

In my peripheral vision at the edge of our field, where Mr. Big arrived, appears another big red head. My plea goes out to Eric with a whisper to hold up, another gobbler is heading our way at light speed while our decoy’s feathers are continuing to float in the air from the ongoing assault. Thankfully, Eric holds up, Joe verifies another shooter coming our way and we reset. I have seen this movie before and most times it ultimately ends in a train wreck.

I ready my gun and in seconds we have two gobblers in full-on attack mode; we are both on target but unable to shoot as the dance is on. Right, left, up, down, swapping sides, and not allowing separation or good angles for both of us to shoot at the same time. An agreement had been made that no 3-2-1 countdown was going to happen, only that I would shoot right, and Eric would shoot left.

What felt like an eternity and included numerous flip-flops, we no longer knew which tom arrived first. Which one is mine, and which is Eric’s? Then, just like that, both gobblers gave separation and good shot angles, and with no signs we fired nearly at the same time and doubled up on beautiful Gould’s gobblers. One weighed just over 19 pounds and the other just over 22 pounds, both first-time trophies, and both beautiful examples of majestic Gould’s turkeys.

Eric Poole (left) and the author get one step closer to completing their Royal Slams with an unexpected day one double. Eric used a prototype Mossberg 940 Pro Field shotgun, while the author carried the popular Mossberg 935 Magnum. Below, the author and his guide, Joe Williams.
Eric Poole (left) and the author get one step closer to completing their Royal Slams with an unexpected day one double. Eric used a prototype Mossberg 940 Pro Field shotgun, while the author carried the popular Mossberg 935 Magnum. Below, the author and his guide, Joe Williams.

Over the course of the next 4 days our group of five was able to connect on four Gould’s turkeys, two of which became the final turkey of two lifetime World Slams for Jeff Johnston and Rick Lambert. Linda Powell of Mossberg was our leader and put all others in front of the line to succeed on this hunt, which unfortunately left her going home empty-handed. The team at Rancho Mababi was first class and put on a once-in-a-lifetime hunt experience.  Thanks to Alice and Roberto Valenzuela for creating such a great place to hunt and enjoy more of the outdoors. Our outfitter Ted Jaycox and his team were exceptional; I recommend them highly.

Jeff Johnston (left) and Rick Lambert used the prototype Mossberg 940 Field Pro shotgun to tag their Rancho Mababi birds.
Jeff Johnston (left) and Rick Lambert used the prototype Mossberg 940 Field Pro shotgun to tag their Rancho Mababi birds.

Sidebar: The Soon to be Released Mossberg 940 Field Pro

When released sometime during fall 2021, the Mossberg 940 Field Pro will come equipped with many features seen in the 940 JM Pro, in addition to these advancements:

  • Improved gas system
  • Adjustable stock for length of pull (13 – 14.25 inches), cast and drop
  • Oversized controls, including the charging handle and bolt release
  • Enlarged loading port
  • Elevator and shell catch designed to eliminate pinch points
  • Internal components are nickel boron coated

Grand View Outdoors will discuss this new shotgun in far greater detail after it's released to the public. Stay tuned!

Sidebar: Tall Tine Outfitters

Owner Ted Jaycox of Tall Tine Outfitters pursues Coues whitetails and Gould’s turkeys on numerous ranches less than 2 hours south of the Arizona border. Therein lies a land of clear running streams lined with ancient Sycamore trees, jagged rocky-strewn mountaintops, oak-studded valleys, and hillsides covered in prickly pear and ocotillo cacti. The rugged Sierra Madre Mountains of Sonora, Mexico, are home to huge flocks of beautifully colored Gould’s turkeys and large numbers of the Grey Ghost of Sonora, the Coues whitetail. Fortunately, both species can be hunted on the more than 60,000 acres that Tall Tine Outfitters has exclusive hunting rights on, providing its hunters a great opportunity to complete their Royal Slam.

For more information, contact Ted Jaycox of Tall Tine Outfitters: phone (352) 895-6736; email ted@talltine.com, or web www.talltine.com.

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