Argentina Duck Hunting Report 2009: Dry with HOT barrels

It's true: In 2009 Argentina experienced a horrific drought, maybe the worst in 100 years. And according to the news media, a flu epidemic swept through the streets of Buenos Aires, infecting every man, woman, child, tango dancer and parakeet in the city of over 13 million. I visited pursuant to my twentieth-something Argentina duck hunt, and I really didn't know what to expect. Called the doctor ahead of travel for some flu meds and antibiotics over the holiday after reading the WSJ, hearing first-hand from a group that got sick while hunting in the southern BA province, and hearing from clients with packed bags that had heard likewise, that flu was inevitable. Loaded an extra supply of Sweet Lucy for good measure.

Landed in BA after a near-sleepless night despite plenty of $5 beers and an Ambien. That bum knee only 61 days post surgery wouldn't get comfortable. I almost admitted to myself that the orthopedic surgeon had been right when he advised against duck hunting in Argentina. Almost.  The dry weather had us hunting way north of our usual area. The drive to the estancia took twice the normal time, a brutal 6 hours. The landscape was parched.

After we'd arrived we quickly ate a late lunch of empanadas, changed cloths and caught the last hour of dove hunting a short drive away. It was good to be out of the truck, in mercifully cold air, away from a supposedly flu-ridden city, and under a great flight of birds. Five boxes of shotshells quickly evaporated. It suddenly felt great to be hunting in Argentina again.  And then the trip took an interesting turn.

Duck hunting is duck hunting the world over. I expect the unexpected. Always. But when the wind is at your back on a gorgeously clear, cold morning while standing in a blind in foot-deep water and have only 8 ducks to show after nearly an hour's worth of duck hunting in Argentina, well, you start to seriously ponder what specifically (of the many) of your egregious transgressions have so upset The Man Upstairs. Comments from the long-time client, friend and PT with whom I shared the blind, I can assure you, did nothing to make the situation more bearable!

We soon learned that the blinds in the grass had shot well but that we'd not heard the vollies because of wind direction.  Puck had removed his ear plugs because he thought he misunderstood hearing that another blind had 78 and was out of ammo. Seven or Eight? Nope, you heard right.  Moments like that, you understand that duck hunting really is duck hunting the world over, that location is everything, and that you best get your butts to the better blind. Quickly. Within the scant 30 minutes of moving, we amassed a respectable 43 with a fair amount of white-faced tree ducks to boot. Argentina, baby.

The following morning was pure magic.  A short walk across shallow water in a marsh with a good hard bottom, lead into a wake of duck you could hear but not see - wings beating and slicing the air; quacks, whistles. With the opening in the grass out front, the wind was quartering slightly into our faces from left to right. Despite the low full moon and dark silhouettes of ducks, I refrained from shooting early. I really don't shoot that well in low light anyway. Besides, it was amazing just watching, listening, absorbing such magnitude of ducks.  It never gets old.

Yellow-billed pintail and speckled teal dominated the morning and the entire week, with a good mixture of Chiloe wigeon and white-cheeked pintail and, to a lesser extent, the occasional red shoveler, cinnamon teal and rosy-bill. In fact there were only two rosy-bills my blind scored on the entire trip and no one even saw a silver teal this time, it was just an unusual Argentina duck hunt in the respect.

The shooting started slowly enough with the acute angle from our backs and distance at which the ducks decoyed, but quickly improved. For the most part it was singles and doubles with one shooter or the other defending their respective side of the blind. The two exceptions to this I can remember were a flock of 4 teal and a massive flock of Chiloe wigeon. So steady was the flight that at one time I rested for a cup of coffee and watched my hunting partner work them over alone.

About 2.5 hours later the shooting commenced, we were completely out of the allotted 5 boxes each of shotshells, it was not quite 10 o'clock, and we had accomplished a shooting feat that will be tough for us to repeat, but rest assured we'll try: we missed the all-time lodge record by 4 ducks, and exceeded my Argentina duck hunting personal best by 46.

The remainder of the week-long hunt was anti-climatic, just your typical world-class Argentina duck hunting during mornings. We shot doves during the afternoons near roosts. One roost in particular that I paced at about a quarter-section had what I'd guess to be a good half-million birds using it. A couple of clients got as ambitious as to shoot a couple cases of shells, but most of us shot a case or far fewer shells, worked on percentages or angles, and visited in between shooting spells.

A pleasant surprise happened mid-way through the week during an otherwise typical afternoon dove hunt in Argentina. Right about the time I'd tired of shooting doves the wild pigeons arrived. Icing on the cake. Ended up shooting "just one more box" 3 or 4, maybe 5 times before calling it quits.  Finally left my position in the field nearly intoxicated from the acrid smell of gunpowder. Not that I complained.

Related Links: Argentina Duck Hunts, Argentina Dove Hunts

Ramsey Russell's GetDucks.com