By Pat Hendrixson
On the last leg of my World Turkey Slam, I'd be pursuing the Ocellated Turkey, or Pavo Ocellata, in the jungles of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
This turkey hunt would be vastly different from any I'd experienced, including my Rio Grande, Merriam, Osceola, Eastern and even the Gould I'd taken in Mexico.
There are two major differences in the Ocellated Turkey from North American birds: the males don't gobble, but rather, sing, and the males don't have beards. This makes the toms difficult to distinguish from the hens and jakes, as I'd soon find out the hard way.
My home for the week was in a small village in Tixmucuy, Mexico. My translator would be Luis, son of Ramon Menendez, the outfitter.
It did not take long to realize the language barrier between the guides and myself would be reduced to crude sign language.
The heat was another obstacle. Temperatures here average 105 degrees, so staying hydrated was important. I also had to be careful not to step into the huge cracks in the ground, caused by heat.
The good news was hunting by waterholes in the extreme temps can be very effective. We decided to give it a try on Day Two.
My guide also served as a gun bearer and didn't give my shotgun to me until after we'd set up behind a bush near the water hole. He sat to my right and behind me, then passed me the gun once I was seated.
Eventually, several gorgeous Ocellated turkeys began to gather around the water hole. I picked out a big male, aimed and pulled the trigger. SNAP. I looked desperately back at my guide and passed the gun to him. He'd forgotten to load it!
He popped in a shell and passed the shotgun back to me.
After a while the birds returned, and I had my sights set on another big tom. SNAP. Not again!
I looked back at the guide, even more unhappily than before. This time he'd left the breech slightly open, which means the firing pin did not engage.
Luckily, the birds weren't too spooked and soon gathered around the water hole again for round three. Although I was shaken, I was finally able to shoot this time. It was a relief to have the gun actually fire.
The wounded bird flew over a bank, and the guide held up his hand for me to stay put while he looked. He found it still alive, hiding under a bush and motioned me to come.
I gestured to him that the shotgun was empty and I needed a shell. Would you believe he didn't have one with him! He'd left them back at his seat by the water hole, so ran back and grabbed some ammo. Finally, I finished off the bird and anxiously had the guide retrieve it.
Much to my disappointment, I found out the bird I'd shot was a jake.
I cried with disgust and frustration. I'd traveled thousands of miles to shoot a mature gobbler, not an immature bird.
That evening, I told Luis about the problems. He and his father graciously agreed for me to continue hunting for a mature Pavo.
Ramon told me, as translated through Luis, that they were going to send a couple of scouts out to locate a roosted bird for the next morning hunt.
Ramon communicated to the guides that the roosted bird was to sing before they told me to shoot it, just to make sure it was a mature male.
I might mention that this method of hunting roosted turkeys in the jungle is legal and a perfectly acceptable way to hunt them in this part of the world. Remember, they're not like North American turkeys.
The scouts located a bird that evening, and by 5:45 a.m. the next day, we arrived beneath the base of the tree where it was roosted.
As soon as day began to break, the guide motioned for me to shoot a turkey roosted overhead. This bird had not made a peep, so I questioned him with sign language. Again he indicated for me to shoot.
I did as the guide said and shot the turkey. It dropped down to the ground like a sack of wet flour. Much to my surprise and disbelief, it turned out to be a hen.
By then, I thought the entire hunt was going to be one gigantic bust. On the hike back to camp, I figured this guide was going to be in big trouble for this mistake. Wrong. We were praised for shooting a trophy hen!
But, the outfitter and I were able to work out a way for me to continue hunting for a mature Ocellated gobbler in order to complete my World Slam.
They roosted yet another bird and plans were set for the next day. There was a downpour that night and Ramon said it would be good for hunting the next morning.
While waiting for dawn to arrive, I found myself standing in the dark jungle, at the base of yet another tree. Then, I heard the magical sound of an Ocellated gobbler singing. I was elated!
Moments later, I was able to collect my 9 1/2 pound, mature Pavo which sported 1 3/4 inch spurs. Its body length was 39 inches long - an absolutely beautiful specimen!
The third time really was a charm.
Admiring my breathtakingly beautiful jungle bird was something I will never forget, especially since it officially closed the door on my World Turkey Slam.
Note: Pat Hendrixson's World Slam is registered with the National Wild Turkey Federation. All records indicate she is the only woman from Indiana to have completed the World Slam. There are only 20 women in the world to have done so.