Memories Of Mexico
November 20, 2018
Editorial Staff (267 articles)
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Memories Of Mexico

TTHA’s founder reminisces

By Jerry Johnston

I was wondering what to share from my memories of our past hunting heritage when I got a call from Horace Gore, our editor. Horace urged, “Why don’t you write about those early days when you hunted in Mexico?”

He got me to thinking—that was a neat time back in the ’70s! Back in those days, it was getting pretty hard to find a deer lease a guy like me—a blue collar worker who lived and died by the time clock at the shop—could afford.

I remember a day deer lease in the Hill Country was about $20 a day. A South Texas deer lease could cost up to $3 dollars an acre for a pretty good place. It was a time when deer hunters who killed a 160-class deer had their photos plastered all over the newspapers.

There were very few high fences back then when TTHA started publishing articles written by legends like Al Brothers and Murphy Ray on how to manage your deer herd for bigger antlers. High fences sprang up because landowners wanted to see the potential of a white-tailed deer herd, something that had never occurred before.

The cost of hunting also went up in the mid ’70s. Hunters I knew were shocked when the Welder Dobie Ranch started asking $8 to $10 an acre.

Giving Mexico a try

Jerry Johnston with a mountain lion he shot near Sabinas, Mexico, on the La Bojita Ranch.

Like any hunter, I wanted to kill a big deer. But it seemed like all the best places had no openings, almost like someone had to die for a lease opening to exist. Way back then, we had a few TTHA members in most every town and city in Texas. I kept getting calls from members on the Texas-Mexico border.

Some of the guys I recall were Mando Villarreal, Greg Agular, Olegario Gomez, among many others. They told me I should come hunt in Mexico. “More cheaper; bigger deer,” they said.

I have several old friends who still hunt in Mexico, which has its own wildlife association, called ANGADI (Asociacion Nacional de Ganaderos Diversificados Criadores de Fauna). You can even join the association and have a very good chance of finding the better ranches if want to give Mexico a try.

My early days in the late ’70s were wonderful. Hunting in Mexico wasn’t easy, and I guarantee it was like going back 100 years in Texas.

I took one mountain lion and several bucks that would score 160 to 170 through the years. By the ’90s, the deer lease era in Texas was all but gone. A few still exist in Texas, but there are probably more in Mexico.

Ranchers began to realize that a trophy-class whitetail was, in some cases, worth more than a registered bull or show horse. Back in the day, most of us had as many pictures of our bucks as we did our kids. Today, deer management in Mexico is on par with what we do in Texas: high fences and high protein, you name it.

Phone call about a living legend

I have one unusual memory to share before I close this chapter. I was in the TTHA office one morning when Jennie Crowder paged me and said a lady from the Texas Aviation Association was on the phone.

Puzzled, I answered the call. She said their annual convention was coming up and they had invited Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot, to be their keynote speaker.

L-R: Bud Anderson, Chuck Yeager, Rodolfo de los Santos, and Tex Hill.

He had only one request. He and his buddies wanted to hunt quail for a few days. That was a simple request, but with one minor problem: quail season in Texas had closed.

I told the lady about the problem and said I would see if the Mexico quail season was still open. I called my good friend Rodolfo de los Santos in Piedras Negras, right across the river from Eagle Pass, and explained that Chuck Yeager needed a quail hunt.

Rodolfo exclaimed, “Chuck Yeager? Are you kidding me?”

“No,” I said. “He has two friends: his wingman Bud Anderson, and Tex Hill.”

All three were legendary ace aviators in World War II.

“Special” quail season

My nickname in Mexico is “Coyote,” and Rodolfo’s is “Yoo Poo.” Excitedly, Yoo Poo said, “Coyote, the quail season is closed here also, but let me call our governor and see if we can open a special season! We can hunt at my place, Rio Grande Rancho!”

After hanging up, I didn’t give the prospect much hope. Sure enough, in about about two hours, the phone rang again. Rodolfo had done the impossible.

The authorities in Mexico paved the way for three American World War II heroes to have the best quail hunt they had ever experienced. I weaseled my way into the hunt, and spent the whole time making sure these honored guests were comfortable. Needless to say, my friendship and respect for Rodolfo was elevated to a place few others occupy in my heart.

Things like this only happen in Mexico!

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