My Chachalaca Hunt

This was a hunt I’ve been seeking for 6 years – and it was a whirlwind one!

I’ve often seen chachalacas in the Texas Hunting Regulations and wondered what they were. So, I started internet scouting and only found a few places that described how and where to hunt them. These links were some of my inspiration. The biggest problem was that there aren’t many stories or info about exactly how and where to hunt them.…

I had the chachalaca on my “list” for many years and found myself asking folks if they knew about them when we swapped hunting stories.

Finally, after 6 years I found a friend of a friend of a friend that had them on his property where they were reasonably huntable. See, chachalacas live in the South Texas brush and most men (and dogs) can’t get into that stuff. You’ll see……

I flew Austin to Harlingen on Fri late afternoon.
Stayed at Rancho Viejo Country club – nice place.

Mike picked me up at seven.
We went to one of his farms where the chachalacas come to feed most mornings.

The brush behind the patio is on the edge of a resaca – an old oxbow from the Rio Grande River that has closed off on both ends and is either a lake, swamp of marsh – all with heavy thick brush.

They also come out of the brush to feed to the right of the barn.
I’m sitting on a bench near the other barn quietly waiting for them to come out to feed.
I waited about 15 minutes and then the Green Jays came to feed.
Mike said the chachalacas come just after the Green Jays arrive.
I’ve noticed before that most farmers have a very close understanding of the rhythms around them.
And then the chachalacas came!
I picked the first one out of the brush and shot twice.
I saw her fall but 20 minutes of searching in the brush (look up again at that picture) and three of us couldn’t find her.
After talking with Mike later, I realized that I didn’t wait long enough. I should have let more of them come out of the brush. Oh well.
I was disappointed and resigned to try again next year – no way they’re coming back out of the brush after that hell raisin’. We waited another 30 minutes but no luck.
Mike thought we might see some more chachalacas if we looked around some of the other resacas on his farms.
We drove around 4 or 5 farms – all very cool – most are organic farm vegetables. I’m an agriculture nut so I pestered him constantly with questions.  He was very gracious and answered every one of them!
We didn’t see any chachalacas though.
We even stopped a few times to look deeper into the resacas but no luck.

This was where the brush was thin enough to see and climb through. Most of the brush is much thicker than this with about the first 15” of vegetation growth relatively clear and mostly branches and the rest of it horribly thick and thorny. Perfect if you’re a ground dwelling bird the size of a chachalaca! Tough on predators! More so on humans!
There is just no way you’re going to hunt them in that habitat.
And they are so spooky you’re not going to be able to hunt them like a turkey either.
Sort of like Blue Quail you have to go find them and then confront them in their own home turf.
We decided to check back by the farm where I shot at the first chachalaca.
And, about 100 yards away we saw three of them sitting in a tree on the edge of a resaca.
We drove up a bit and parked and I walked up slowly to about 40 yards
I shot twice at one bird and knocked down two of them.

Happy hunter!

They are much much prettier than I expected from the photos I’ve seen previously. Even these photos don’t do them justice. We were unable to sex them but suspect a male/female pair.

Mike owns the only commercial artichoke farm in Texas. Most of his farms are along resacas, thus the chachalaca hunting opportunity.

We did a little more touring along the border to see the current border wall.

One of Mike’s sugar cane farms is between the current border wall and the Rio Grande river.

Fitting tribute song as we head back.
And then he drop me off at 11 back at Rancho Viejo.
Pigeon John wants to mount the chachalacas.
So I went to Walmart for dry ice in a cooler to FedEx it back to Pigeon John.
But Walmart didn’t have any dry ice so I call John and John called the taxidermist and said as long as I have a hunting license I can carry them on the plane. Who knew? Doubtful!

So, I got a small cooler and I headed back to the airport to see if they let me carry a couple dead birds on the airplane. I’m trying to jump in and catch an earlier flight but it’s going to be tight with all of the wacky shotgun checking dead bird carry-on nonsense.

We’ll see.

The Rio Grande Valley has a pace more like Mexico than the United States.

Got on 1PM fight with a HOU stop and 4p arrival – Yay Southwest Airlines!
No problem having a couple dead birds in a cooler as carry on — who’d a thunk it?
Almost forgot the birds while packing my up backpack.
The TSA guy was curious about the birds when I told him and asked to see the chachas. Just a glimpse and he felt too sad. No issues.
Home by 4p.
For some reason I wanna tell people I have dead birds in my carry on. So proud!
That was a cool whirlwind trip!
Mike does old school dove hunts over sunflower and sesame. Need to go next year.
He also knows MX duck hunt guys.

Update – a friend got them both mounted and kept one. They are so cool!