Rancho Caracol

‘Cucurrucucu paloma’: Wings of a Mexico hunt

The Laredo Morning Times - Marty Malin

RANCHO CARACOL, Mex. – I was awake and dressed before the anticipated 5 a.m. knock on my door. It was the opening morning of another hunting season. Coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice was waiting on a table outside my door.

Our host, Dean Putegnat, made sure that his 46 guests had plenty to eat and drink last Thursday night, the eve of the opening day of the whitewing dove season in Mexico.

Rancho Caracol, an Orvis endorsed wingshooting destination is located approximately 150 miles south of Brownsville. I met my hunting companions at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen where we transported in new passenger vans to the ranch, three hours into the interior.

I was pleasantly surprised with the effortless border crossing process. All the necessary paperwork was in order thanks to staff members in the Brownsville office of Rancho Caracol.

I have hunted Whitewing dove out of eight different camps in Mexico over the past 30 years. I have had comparable shoots at some of the other camps but when it comes to the total experience, Rancho Caracol in head and shoulders above the rest.

There are only 24 elite wingshooting lodges in the entire world to carry the official endorsement of Orvis. Since 1989, Orvis has had stringent criteria each lodge must live up to in order to be endorsed. That criterion includes resources, hospitality and the facility itself.

The lodge is perched atop the breathtaking Mesa Las Alazanas and overlooks the 11,000-acre ranch. Another 490,000 acres are leased for wingshooting purposes in this area that contains the highest concentration of nesting Whitewing dove in the world. Orvis looks for habitat that provides plenty of varied natural cover and feed, and numerous birds that offer good presentation and rise in a sporting manner.

Orvis finds owners, guides, staff and hosts who are committed to pleasing you and meeting your needs promptly and graciously throughout your stay.

The third criteria to be met by an Orvis endorsed wingshooting lodge is the lodge itself, and its facilities. The lodge must be a place to which you look forward to returning following a long day in the field. The lodge must offer a welcoming blend of exceptional comfort and elegance, and an impressive sportsman’s setting with all the modern amenities.

There are three types of hunts offered, grain field hunts, brush country hunts and water hole hunts. Most of the grain fields in the area had been harvested so our hunts were in the nesting brush country and waterholes.

Ninety percent of the guests choose to use one of the lodge’s new shotguns.

The choices include the Beretta 390 Automatic in 12 or 20 gauge or the Beretta in 686 over and under in 20 gauge.

I chose the 686 O/U to cancel flights and limited myself to 10 boxes of shells on each on the four hunts. 1,000 rounds on a shoulder that has a partially torn rotator cuff was quite enough, thank you.

The food was exceptional. Although the hunt is rather pricey for some, no one complained, and most of the guests left a deposit for next season.

Quality is like buying oats. If you want nice fresh clean oats you have to pay the price. But if you can get buy with oats that have already been through the horse….that comes a little cheaper.

The Rancho Caracol experience is more than an exceptional hunt, fabulous food and beverage, a staff at your beckoned call, and a beautiful lodge and setting.

I had hunted there before but other than a few members of the staff, I didn’t know one of the other guests when I arrived at the Harlingen airport. I enjoyed the company of 44 brothers and 1 sister of the hunt, many of whom are now new friends. That is what the social event called dove hunting is all about. The quality of this experience will be remembered long after the birds taken and the price paid is long forgotten.

(Marty Malin is a Laredo businessman and professional outdoor writer. He writes a column for the Laredo Morning Times. He can be reached at 956-251-2924.)

"During my stay at Rancho Caracol, I missed more dove than most hunters see in a full season."
Mark McDonald, Texas Sporting Journal
Toll free: 888-246-3164 : Outside U.S.: 956-542-3482 : Fax: 956-542-5765
Rancho Caracol : 2424 Village Drive : Brownsville, TX 78521