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Tim Wells: Bowhunting Yucatan Oscillated Turkey
I have no doubt the early Mayans had called Oscillated turkeys in close then shot them with long bows or blowguns. Being a primitive hunter, I consider myself fortunate to have such an encounter myself. My recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula was by far the most rewarding turkey hunt I have yet to experience.
The Mayans were known as some of the greatest hunters to trek Mexico’s vast jungles and the Oscillated turkey played a roll in their long history of surviving in this harsh wilderness. The Mayans are gone now and all that remains are the ruins of their great society that once ruled the Yucatan.
I’ve always considered hunting near the Mayan ruins but avoided the trip up until now. Primarily because the Oscillated turkeys were killed by shooting them off the roost or over bait. I have nothing against these methods but if I were to travel the distance and endure the heat I’d rather do something a bit more challenging.
By luck, I recently learned that these beautiful turkeys could be called within range. Sergio Scarth with Balam Outfitters discovered the sounds that work well and luckily for me he invited me to try and be the first to actually call one in and arrow it on film. So I booked a seven day hunt.
Fast forward to early April, I was now deep in a hot humid jungle.
According to Sergio, “The hotter it gets the more vocal the Oscillated turkeys become.” However, Sergio was sick in camp with food poisoning. Meanwhile his guide Matia showed me the ropes.
On the third day a scout heard an Oscillated turkey ‘sing’ on a distant ridge the night before. So with high hopes Matia and I left long before first light.
After a bumpy ride through dense forest, we finally parked the abused jeep and went on another two mile scratch, climb, crawl and occasional walk. Still dark, Matia slowed the pace to a stop and we sat listening to the strange sounds of the jungle’s many inhabitants. Screams and growls of howler monkeys, bugs and bird songs of every pitch made a chorus of jungle music like no other. The only sound I personally recognized were the mosquitos hammering me from all sides. Adding to the pleasure, I was soaked with sweat and the sun was still yet to rise.
Then, through the inky blackness of the forest we heard a distant drumming noise. Thump thump thump thump thump! Somehow I knew, and my guide verified it by whispering “turkey”, one of the few english words he knew. And so it was, we were on the move after an Oscillated turkey.
The Oscillated tom continued its unique song of a pounding courtship as we snuck nearer to its roost. But as we closed the distance Matia suddenly sidestepped and broke a twig, which was completely uncharacteristic of him. He whispered loudly, “Serpent” I knew that word! I couldn’t see it in the darkness but I could definitely hear it slithering my way through dry leaves.