Dove hunting Baja Sur again

It was well over 50 years ago when this hunting editor last hunted dove down in Baja Sur. My first dove hunt was by way of an invitation from Chuck Walters, owner of Rancho Buena Vista, to fly down to La Paz, take a taxi to his resort located on the Sea of Cortez (East Cape), write a feature story for Western Outdoor News on the great fishery and enjoy an evening or two of dove and duck hunting.

Back in those late 1960 years it WAS still legal to hunt birds in Baja Sur. In those olden days, Cabo San Lucas was still just a fishing village with a cannery, there was no international airport and it was just a dirt/gravel road from Los Barriles to Cabo (which was often washed out). Finally, Walters could no longer purchase ammo in La Paz for his hunting friends and resort clients, but reloading of shotgun shells was still allowed. As I recall, during that same era, Bud Parr, owner of the Cabo San Lucas Resort, also offered dove hunting as part of a package.

THE OLDEN DAYS OF BAJA SUR DOVE HUNTING — This photo is of Chuck Walters, who owned Rancho Buena Vista for many years. This dove hunt took place in the early 1970s before the governor of Baja Sur shut down the sales of shotguns and ammo. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Walters suggested we bring our own ammo to hunt. We crossed the Tijuana border with a full case (20 boxes) of Remington #8 dove ammo and checked into the airport for a direct flight to La Paz. The ticket agent tagged the ammo as part of our luggage and we headed up to the bar prior to departure. A few minutes afterwards, an agent announced that Mr. Niemiec should return to the ticket counter…oh boy! The agent was very friendly and spoke good English, “Mr. Niemiec I am sorry but we cannot fly that ammunition down to La Paz. You need to take it back across the border.” It was almost departure time and taking it back into the United States was not an option if we were to make the flight to La Paz with our wives. The agent then offered an option…

“Just leave it here with me and I will store it in the office and you can pick it up and take it back to the States upon your return. I will make sure it is safely secured for you.” While we didn’t get to do much hunting that trip, the marlin fishing was outstanding and yes, the ammo was waiting for me upon our return to the old Tijuana airport.

On one of our subsequent trips to hunt with Chuck, my hunting partner (Tommy Forbes of the Grant Boys) and I loaded up a suit case with 12 ga. wads, #8 shot, primers, some extra spent shells and powder to make sure we would have ammo available for hunting. That was our last dove hunt in Baja Sur, as the governor closed down all hunting and the ownership of firearms was greatly regulated and strictly enforced.


Now let’s fast forward to last week, when the Niemiec family headed down to the East Cape to spend Thanksgiving at Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort,, to check on the late fall fishery for pelagics and billfish.

Co-owner and General Manager Axel Valdez met us upon arrival and we talked about fishing and other activities.

“Jim, I know you love to fish, but also I read your weekly hunting columns in Western Outdoor News. Esaul (Axel’s brother and food and beverage manager for Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort), has just started offering guided dove hunts on private ranch properties close to the resort. Winds are expected to blow soon and I’ll talk with Esaul about taking you and couple of other resort guests out on a morning dove hunt. Would that work for you and your son Brook?”

BAJA SUR DOVE HUNTING SUCCESS — Outfitter Esaul Valdez, co-owner of Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, shows off a handful of white winged dove harvested during a hunt over Thanksgiving. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Everything was set for the dove hunt after a couple of good days fishing for dorado and striped marlin, and Esaul would pick us up at 6 a.m. for the drive to one of his permitted rancheros.

In the dark, the crew-cab pickup arrived with Esaul and we headed north on Mexican Hwy. 1 toward the old gold mining town of San Antonio. During the drive, I had a chance to talk with Esaul about his new outfitting business.

“We offer very good white winged dove hunting on at least three private ranches here in Baja Sur. Hunting clients will stay at the resort and be able to mix fishing with dove hunting. It’s a long dove season here in Baja Sur and there is great fishing in the Sea of Cortez during the late summer and early fall months. For duck season we will also offer hunt packages”

Hunt package(s) offered by Esaul, on his Facebook page valdez@outfitter or by calling (624) 129-6526, are pretty much semi-inclusive. Dove hunters have two choices when opting to hunt with ValdezOutfitters.

The basic hunt package includes the following: Transportation from Buena Vista Beach Resort to private ranches, dove hunting license, shotgun use (Beretta or Remington 870), refreshments during the hunt, cleaning of dove accompanied by a professional and licensed guide. This price of this package is only $300 per hunter. The second option includes: 1-night accommodations at Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, dinner and breakfast and two dove hunts, one in the morning and the evening hunt. Shotguns shells are priced at $15 per box and are available in both 12 and 20 gauges.

There was no reason to be at the watering hole at daylight, as white winged dove fly much later in the morning than do mourning dove. The private ranch we were hunting consisted of 5,000 acres of cactus and Baja timber. The sun was just starting to crest a nearby mountain range when we set out for the morning hunt. Heavy rains had pounded Baja Sur for a couple of weeks and everything was a lush green. Heavy dew dripped from nearby cactus and the grass was calf-high. Dove began to move pretty slow on this particular hunt, but many birds just winged overhead well out of shotgun range. We did harvest some white winged dove, but Valdez apologized for the less than “hot barrel” action he expected.

“When it’s dry here in Baja Sur, dove flock to watering holes on our ranches. It is just too bad that those heavy rains dumped so much rain, as it really dispersed the dove. Upon your next trip to Los Barriles we’ll do little more scouting before your arrival,” said Valdez.

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