5/10/2017

"The mallard of Argentina"


Argentina was love at first sight in 2001.  I've since nurtured that romance, visiting dozens of times for as long as 2 months while scouting for the next great destination, revisiting dependably excellent lodges we've represented for years. Argentina's duck species are an impressive collection of teals, pintails, wigeon, shoveler and more. First-time clients rightfully want to get their hands on each of the dozen or so species available, and at the right place at the right time that's easily enough accomplished.

But for many, the rosy-billed pochard steals the show. Especially from the old salts that have been to Argentina many times, the most commonly asked question about any particular Argentina duck hunting venue is, "When is the best rosy-bill shooting?"  Eventually, the novelty of new, colorful species wears off like the shine on a new nickel. What remains is the pure heartbeat of duck hunting.  Rosy-bills are large, fast, agile, abundant, delicious - and above all, they love to decoy. For those reasons, they're often called "the mallards of Argentina."





Ramsey Russell  is a certified  wildlife biologist.  He owns and operates GetDucks.com, a full-time, full-service agency specializing in world-wide trophy duck species and epic wingshooting adventures.  Exploring the world's wetlands for the best client duck hunting experiences is a life mission, but hunting in Mississippi with family and friends, he says, is top priority when home.  It’s always duck season somewhere.

5/08/2017

My favorite duck? Easy. The next one.

No bird collector, I've managed to scratch off over 100 species and subspecies of worldwide waterfowl.  The hunting experiences, the memories, are all that are personally collected.

In the US, September blue-wings are like a kryptonite. Maybe it's just a timing thing - Fall finally hanging in the air like Spanish moss on live oaks - but I hunt blue-winged teal every morning possible.  Watching many thousands of them come off one of Steve Bigger's roosts one morning near El Campo (see this link Texas duck hunting guides for info ), where they filled the entire morning sky as we set decoys, was truly one of the greatest spectacles I can recall from many worldwide events.  "Don't let his excitement fool you," my buddy Mike Morgan told Steve, "Ramsey likes them all like that."

Wood ducks streaking low over the decoys at the crack of dawn, swarms of green-wings hitting the pocket and springing upwards at the volley, sometimes-finicky gadwalls working through the cypress tops, tight knots of ring-necks tearing low over the blocks with afterburners blowing, elegant pintails, gleaming in the low sun while banking in formation, fattened greenheads backpedaling and buzzing after they've finally committed - all are shown the love with equal opportunity. And since there's always the inevitable mornings that eager trumps pretty, whoa be unto the lowly shovelers. Bless their hearts, there are parts of the world that they're also called Ramzillas.  

A strap of mallards is especially gratifying in my part of the world these days. The opportunity to bag mallards is never missed, no matter what else is on the radar or how far we've traveled to get there.  Mallard on 4 of the 6 continents visited, in 10 countries and counting, you can take the man out of Mississippi, but can't take Mississippi out of the man.




Ramsey Russell  is a certified  wildlife biologist.  He owns and operates GetDucks.com, a full-time, full-service agency specializing in world-wide trophy duck species and epic wingshooting adventures.  Exploring the world's wetlands for the best duck hunting experiences for his clients is a life mission, but hunting in Mississippi with family and friends, he says, is top priority.  It’s always duck season somewhere.


5/05/2017

Is Mexico's liberal pintail limits the reason we're shooting fewer pintail in the US?

Throughout the entire Lower 48 the bag limit for northern pintails will be reduced to 1 daily for the 2017-2018 season, but Mexico duck hunting will continue to entail far more generous pintail limits. Surely it's the over-shooting of pintails south of the border that's causing the pintail limits to be cut in half next year, right? While a number of disenfranchised internet experts will quickly say otherwise, this assumption is untrue.  

Consider this: fewer ducks are shot during an entire season in Mexico than in California or Louisiana, for examples, during a typical opening week.  Consider also that the limit on pintail in Alaska is 8 daily. In the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba the limit is 4 daily.  Pintail populations have been struggling for decades, and equitable hunter-harvest is not the reason the continental population of pintail is slipping.  The thousands of northern pintails harvested throughout the North American continent, from Alaska to central Mexico, are a drop in the bucket compared to cumulative attrition represented by an increasingly inadequate amount of safe nesting habitat.

Pintails are short-grass prairie nesters. The principle culprit for the decline of pintail - and it has been scientifically documented for decades - is the conversions of it's nesting habitat to agriculture, and no-till farming practices are an ecological trap.  Pintail now nest in the preceding year's residual stubble. As the current year's crops are planted, their nests are destroyed, sometimes along with the hen. While surviving hens will often re-nest, they produce smaller clutches that yield slower survival rates. Additionally, the prairie pothole region's proliferation to agriculture makes predators more efficient at finding ducks. 

Per the following Wildlife Bulletin article (1999): "The steady conversion of grasslands to cultivation in the western Canadian PPR since the 1950s and 1970s has markedly reduced the extent of safe upland nesting habitat, thereby reducing pintail productivity to levels below the threshold needed to maintain populations. Grain stubble attracts large numbers of pintails to nest in the early spring, and cultivation destroys virtually all nests. Additionally, Greenwood et al. (1995) and Boyd (1985) showed how nest success of prairie ducks, even those that don’t nest in cropland, declined as the proportion of cropland increased in the land- scape because suitable nest sites in scattered grass- lands and planted cover were rare and predators more efficient. Most wetlands in the PPR have been impacted by agriculture (Boyd 1985,Turner et al. 1987), and more than 85% of the region has been cultivated (Millar 1989)." Source: https://www.werc.usgs.gov/fileHandler.ashx...






Ramsey Russell  is a certified  wildlife biologist.  He owns and operates GetDucks.com, a full-time, full-service agency specializing in world-wide trophy duck species and epic wingshooting adventures.  Exploring the world's wetlands for the best client duck hunting experiences is a life mission, but hunting in Mississippi with family and friends, he says, is top priority when home.  It’s always duck season somewhere.

5/02/2017

Been there done that too

After returning from his fourth Argentina duck hunt is as many consecutive years, a client called to say he'd had a great time but wanted to venture off the beaten path, do some exploring. 

"I want to be Ramsey," he said. "Everyone wants to be Ramsey until it's time to do real Ramsey-type shit," I replied.

This past fall, we explored some never-before duck hunting destinations throughout Eurasia. A couple were real keepers, stay tuned. A couple others were fascinating adventures but offered little more than an interesting passport new stamp in terms of guided duck hunting trips.   

"Most folks have no idea what a professional hunter or guide does to prepare, arrange and facilitate the customer," he stated as we were making our way through a crowded Amsterdam airport after a dozen days of hunting and travel.

A great example of "what we do" happened while scouting Asia recently.  Listen, when Chinese customs officers start posing with your guns and ammo like a major drug bust on the local 6 o'clock news, you're probably not going anywhere soon.  Nine hours spent in an airport dealing with China's in-transit firearm process - all because someone in customs had failed to notify the proper authorities that we had firearms among our baggage - is a small price to pay so that our future clients are spared the hassle.  There's no way to gain that insight without having personally been there, done that too.  And our clients deserve nothing less.




Ramsey Russell is a certified wildlife biologist.  He owns and operates GetDucks.com, a full-time, full-service agency specializing in world-wide trophy duck species and epic wingshooting adventures.  Exploring the world's wetlands for the best client duck hunting experiences his life's mission, but hunting in Mississippi with family and friends, he says, is top priority when home.  It’s always duck season somewhere. 


5/01/2017

Exporting birds from Argentina

"Can birds be brought home from Argentina?" is a question asked often by prospective clients and in social media.  In a single word: No.

Nearly a decade ago, one of Argentina's former presidential administrations passed legislation that prohibited the export of indigenous wildlife. Period. Because Argentina prohibits the export of waterfowl - skinned, unskinned, frozen, taxidermied or otherwise it makes no difference - importing them into the US is illegal and invites the US Fish and Wildlife Service into your life.  For this reason, we tell all of our Argentina duck hunting clients to refrain from bringing birds home, we tell each of our outfitters to not knowingly let clients bring birds home in their baggage, and we have posted in our terms and conditions that it's legally impermissible to do so.

Bummer.

Then the question is usually, "Well, why in the heck would anyone duck hunt in Argentina if you can't bring bird trophies back?!" Because Argentina duck hunting remains one of the very best shotgunning vacations on earth. Because it takes place during our summertime, when there's little else to do but sweat or swat mosquitos.  Because you'll put your hands on about a dozen beautiful new species and that cell phone in your pocket is a terrific camera. Because there are an increasing number of sources for captive-reared Argentina duck species that hunters can legally attain in the US for game room use. And because the memories of time spent enjoying some of the world's best duck hunting in Argentina with family and friends, great food and hospitality, exotic scenery, will last forever - those photos will still look long after trophies would have otherwise collected more dust than a pitcher's mound.

For those reasons, Argentina duck hunting remains among our top-2 destinations worldwide.

More Info: Argentina Duck Hunts




Ramsey Russell  is a certified  wildlife biologist.  He owns and operates GetDucks.com, a full-time, full-service agency specializing in world-wide trophy duck species and epic wingshooting adventures.  Exploring the world's wetlands for the best client duck hunting experiences is a life mission, but hunting in Mississippi with family and friends, he says, is top priority when home.  It’s always duck season somewhere. 



5/11/2016

Argentina Goose Hunting Updates

Update: Argentina Goose Hunting Prohibition

April 2009.  Many hunters still request information about Argentina's fabled goose hunting.  Some hunters are even told that goose hunting is as good as ever.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Much of this malicious information comes from agents or outfitters that dismiss regulations for personal profits.

We wish to inform hunters that a wide-reaching prohibition on Argentina goose hunting remains firmly in affect.  Most of the old hot-spot areas are included in these conservation regulations.  The prohibition is declared on the provinces of Rio Negro, Buenos Aires, Chubut and Santa Cruz.  These provinces encompass the migrational corridor extending from the mountainous through the Atlantic zones.  There is no forseeable ending date due to the prohibition's origin.

There are four species of geese endemic to South America inlands.  One of these species, the "red cauquen", or Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps), is endangered, and its population is estimated at only about 1,000 individuals. The Ruddy-headed Goose is protected by national and provincial laws.  However, the difficulty in distinguishing Ruddy-headed Geese from the female of the other goose species with which it becomes intermingled during migration, poses serious threat to its continued existence.

Many long-time Argentine operators say that the goose hunts of yesteryear are over, at least for now.  Hunters that hear of Argentina goose hunts that rival the good old days are advised to excerice care in booking their hunts.  Ask questions: specific hunt areas, commuting times, specific legalities including licensing and transportation, estimated bag limits.  Most, if not all, of the professional operators that historically delivered these magnificent Argentina goose hunts no longer offer them.  Recent promotions come from non-reliable sources.

The geese of Argentina are doubtlessly the best decoying waterfowl on the face of earth, and to experience it first-hand is certainly among a waterfowl hunter's most memorable achievements.  We at GetDucks.com hope that an adequate regulatory framework to ensure the sustainable use of the Argentina's migratory geese is forthcoming and that we travelling sportsmen are soon able to experience these thrilling hunts again.  We we'll be sure to keep you posted of further developments in these regards.

Note: the justification for Argentina's goose hunting prohibition is further described in the following report entitled Harvest of migratory geese Chloephaga spp. in Argentina: an overview of the present situation (2006)

Update.  July 2010.  Argentina goose hunting is still closed.  There are a number of outfitters that continue to hunt guests "under the radar", but it remains illegal throughout the majority of areas historically hunted.  An interesting story told by a group that was goose hunting east of Colonel Pringle in 2009: about mid-morning, a squadron of crop dusters "stretched from horizon to the next" swept the wheat fields clean of geese and herded them offshore until they became exhausted.  Once the geese landed on the water they drank salt water and perished and later washed ashore in the thousands.  No way to verify this story, but it was again repeated by an Argentine outfitter this year.  We receive several inquiries regarding Argentina goose hunting.  If it were legal, our outfitting affiliates would again be hunting the tradition areas and, rest assured, we'd be right there with them.

Update August 2012.  The Buenos Aires Province declared magellan goose a nuisance species and issued licenses to outfitter - but only during about a 6-8 week period that with was being contested with the federal government that insisted it remained closed.

Update August 2014.  Argentina goose hunting remains closed.  So insistent on the federal government that farmers are unable to protect their fragile crops by hazing or even chasing off geese. If the rumor mill is to be believed, it appears that the Queen of Netherlands, an Argentine, is friends with Christina, the president of Argentina, and has "gifted" significant sums of money to ensue that the Argentina goose hunting season remains closed.  This would be absurd were it not for the fact that Netherlands goose hunting, much to their derision, has remained close for a decade due to fervent anti-hunting sentiment in that country.

Update April 2016.  Argentina has elected a new president and we are hopeful that the unjustified closure of the Argentina Goose Hunting season will be repealed in upcoming years.

Ramsey Russell's GetDucks.com

4/10/2014

The Best Was Last

Mallards and pintail galore.  Within days of Mississippi duck season’s closure  there were lots of ducks at Willow Break.  Mississippi’s post-season Youth Day provided a solid crack at them.

Not that duck season was uneventful.  It was a great season – a record-setter for Willow Break – but weird.  In the year they started naming winter’s cold fronts, repeated clippers brought ducks but not the massive waves of ducks expected; not mallards and pintails.  Not this far south. It was the day after Christmas that I saw my first flock of shovelers, colloquially referred to as “Ramzillas” for good reason, or even the first sizeable flock of green-wings.   But where there's duck hunting, there's always hope.