Anybody who knows me knows I'm a deer nut (Bowhunter Magazine's "Hunting Whitetails" columnist) but few would guess that I've had a big mule deer on my hit list for a long, long time. So, when I met Luis Caballero several years ago at the Pope & Young Club convention in Phoenix, Arizona, we quickly worked out a deal to get me hunting desert mule deer in Old Mexico. A very good bowhunter in his own right, Luis runs Sonora Hunting and Fishing Outfitting.
Before long it was early January and I found myself headed from my home state in Maryland to Luis's outfit near Hermosillo, Mexico. As with all out-of-country travel, safety was a concern. But, as soon as I saw the beaches outside the Hermosillo airport, I relaxed and knew this area was much more than anyone could ever expect. In fact, the area has been recognized as having what is potentially the number one ocean view in the world.
Our hunt started out in blinds over waterholes. But Luis's blinds were not the normal blinds brushed in at ground level. To allow for increased visibility and better shots, Luis had ingeniously raised the blinds on four by four, wooden posts. Although creative, and very promising, I didn't end up spending that much time in the blinds because activity at the water had dropped off and Luis had located some good bucks elsewhere.
However, when Luis suggested that we try our luck at some classic spot-and-stalk hunting, I pointed out that sneaking up on a big muley in the super-thick Sonoran brush country with a guide, hunter, and cameraman just might be impossible. Without missing a beat, and while grinning from ear to hear, Luis said, "Trust me. We can do it!"
Because of the terrain and the fact that the brush in the desert is so dense, not to mention quite tall, spot-and-stalk hunting in this environment often starts with glassing from atop a high-rack truck. With Luis and I looking out on each side of the truck, we set off slowly driving along a desert two-track in search of mule deer. But, there was something different on this arrangement. Luis had a string running from his hand to the arm of the truck driver. By pulling on the string, Luis could signal the driver to stop the truck while minimizing any unintended noise. This technique, although simple, was pure genius! It didn't take long to see that Luis also had exceptional eyes for locating mule deer bucks hidden in the brush.
Though we came up empty on our first couple of stalks, Luis soon found another very good buck. As we carefully climbed down from the high rack and headed off into the brush, I was starting to get very excited. As the chocolate-racked buck eased into view, Luis whispered, "Sixty-two yards. Can you do it?" I nodded yes and carefully came to full draw. But, as I struggled to settle in and squeeze my release, I watched powerlessly as the arrow flew wide left. Cleanly missed, the buck turned and rushed straight away. I didn't know exactly what had transpired, but you've got to have a solid anchor and for whatever reason, I just didn't have it together. Luis helped me get over my embarrassment as we quickly located my arrow, which was no worse for the wear. We then headed back to the truck in search of our next opportunity, both shaking our heads over my miss.
The next day we came upon a group of javelina. To our surprise, as we stopped to get out of the truck, the javelina kept coming in our direction. At 20 yards the largest boar stopped and sensed he'd just made a mistake. The arrow hit his spine and he immediately dropped. Without missing a beat, Luis said, "Get ready; shoot another." But by the time I was anchored and ready to release a second arrow, the remaining javelina had moved on. Then we noticed a little straggler following behind the group of javelinas. The new born had badly swollen front legs which was causing it to have trouble walking. Figuring there was no way he'd keep up with the rest of the group, Luis quickly slipped up and grabbed him. "Having a javelina imprint to humans will make a great guard dog for the rancher!"
As my hunt drew to a close I had one last opportunity in low light. Luis had spotted yet another good muley. As the buck moved slowly through the Sonoran brush, I once again pulled my shot at about 45 yards. Maybe this whitetail hunter just couldn't keep it together on out-sized Mexican muleys? Perhaps I'll never know what I wasn't doing right in the heat of the moment, but the one thing I do know is that Luis Caballero knows a thing or two about finding and stalking big desert mule deer. On this particular hunt I ate more than my fill of humble pie, but it was well worth the effort to visit this remarkable country. The big desert mule deer of Mexico are still in my dreams.
In addition to mule deer, Luis also has some terrific Coues deer ranches. Many of these ranches have very little hunting pressure and the deer herds have terrific age structure. Although we didn't connect on a Coues deer, you do stand a better than average chance at an opportunity. And what more can a bowhunter want? The combo hunt for desert mule deer and Coues deer is a twofer you should seriously consider.
Whether you're interested in a fantastic hunt for desert mule deer, Coues deer, javelina, Gould's turkey, or even a desert bighorn, be sure to contact Luis Cabelllero at Sonora Hunting and Fishing at (520) 841-6187, firstname.lastname@example.org, or e-mail him at www.sonorahuntingandfishing.com.
Author's Notes: My equipment on this hunt included a Hoyt Carbon Matrix RKT set at 73 pounds; Easton Full Metal Jacket arrows fletched with Bohning Blazer vanes and tipped with 125-grain MX-3 Muzzy broadheads; Spot-Hogg sight; Badlands back pack; T.R.U. Ball Pro Diamond Extreme thumb release; QAD's Ultra-rest HDX ; Tight Spot quiver, Zeiss binoculars and rangefinders, and clothing from Cabela's.