Peru Duck Hunting Is Breathtaking

It’s a fact we learned in kindergarten: water runs down hill.  It collects in low-lying areas, forming wetlands.  Generally speaking, it is there that waterfowl – and waterfowl hunters alike – spend much of their lives.  But generally speaking, there are exceptions to every rule.  The rugged Andes Mountains in which Peru duck hunting takes place is one such exception.
Leaving a small highland village well after daylight, we drove daily through the mountains, along rock-studded roads.  Past endless miles of stacked-stones walls that doubtlessly took
centuries of tireless, ant-like labor to build, that delineate the terraced, panoramic landscape into cropped patches of traditional grains and tubers; or that at higher elevations contain long-since domesticated herds of mostly indigenous alpacas and llamas that render time-honored staples of fleece and flesh.  Past a local populace with the sartorial inclination of traditional Andes herdsmen, that continues to cultivate crops with benign indifference to modern device. 
I saw neither a horse nor a hand tool longer than a claw hammer.   
The Rio de Colca originates at Lake Jayuchaca, which is situated 14,850 feet above sea level and derives water from an array of tributaries and low gradient marshlands of the Peruvian altiplano that receive snowmelt from adjacent peaks.  It was there, in the headwaters basin that my Peru duck hunting adventure began with a successful spot-and-stalk for a handsome pair of Huallata, or Andean Geese.  Further up slope, on a small lake at nearly 16,000 feet, another stalk brought an Andean Ruddy Duck to bag.  Another hunt nearby produced what is the rarest of the Peru trophy waterfowl collection, the Pato Puna.  Puna teal are an Andes-sized version of silver teal that are easily recognizable among ardent South American duck hunters. 
Puna refers perfectly to the high-altitude grasslands plateau where Peru duck hunts unfold.
The Piricho, or Sharp-winged Duck, is a lighter-color, larger-sized variant of Speckled Teal, or Yellow-billed Teal as they are sometimes referred.  They, along with the Cancana, or Crested Duck, seem the most prevalent of Peru’s mountain waterfowl species and were taken easily.  In hand, the Giant Coot has the sizable heft of a Ross’ goose gander.  I secretly wished for a practical way to slip one into the pirogue in Louisiana just to see the reaction on everyone’s face when it was brought to the boat ramp on a duck tote.
Peru duck hunting in the Andes is neither about the art of seducing wild ducks to decoys, nor about the thrill of high-volume trigger pulling.  It is about collecting specific trophy waterfowl that can be found nowhere else on earth than the Andes Mountains.  The allowable limit is 1 pair per species, except for the Torrent Duck which is limited to 1 drake only.
Binoculars are as necessary as shotguns.  Patience, as well as fortitude for full-days bouncing along unimproved mountain roads, is an asset.  For those lacking altitude acclimatization, oxygen is made available.  The locals swear by mate de coca to alleviate altitude sickness.
Breakfasts and lunches were light to mitigate altitude induced sickness - bread and tea for breakfast; ham sandwiches, chocolate bars and soft drinks for lunch.  Dinners consisted of regional favorites served in hearty portions at local restaurants.  My favorites were Alpaca de lo pobre, alpaca steak and fried egg topping rice and fried potatoes, alongside fresh avocado and grilled banana, and antichucos, grilled slices of beef heart that were marinated in fajita-like seasonings.
The month of April preceding my hunt was unusually rainy.  Engorged with runoff, the Colca River was much wider than usual and unhuntable.  We hunted aptly-named Torrent Ducks in its tributaries.  Torrent ducks inhabit fast flowing waters where, aided by spur protuberances on the wings, they swim and dive with ease even in white water. Male Torrent Ducks have a striking black and white head and neck pattern, a red bill, and bright green speculum. With binoculars, we glassed streams from top bank high above the water where we scrambled over stacked-stone fences and through hand-cultivated crops as we navigated ourselves to vantage points. 
The stretch of stream we hunted will be bone dry by June, but during this Peru hunting trip we glassed 4 drakes and 1 hen Torrent duck.  That was the easy part.  As a male Torrent Duck made its way up the stream, diving under to feed and then subsequently resurfacing further upstream, we descended over one-thousand near-vertical feet to the stream’s edge.  Using large boulders and stream-side vegetation for cover, we carefully stalked upstream until we were in position.  A single shot completed the mountain species portion of my Peru duck hunting adventure. 
At the midpoint of its length, the Colca River dramatically defaces Andean rock into one of the deepest canyons in the world.  But about 300 miles downstream from its beginning, it emerges as the Majes River onto a large alluvial floodplain and quietly empties into the Pacific Ocean.  As viewed from above, in the shade of Incan colcas, ancient granaries chiseled into the hillside from which the river garners its name:  local fishermen wading waist deep into the currents, plying their trades in its quiet, shallow water; fertile farmland pinched between mountains and beach in a valley that is Peru’s foremost producer of rice. 
And home to the world’s largest concentration of Cinnamon Teal.
Peru duck hunting the Pacific Coast is entirely about drawing flocks of eager, fast-flying ducks into the decoys, nearer to waiting guns.  It’s entirely about volume trigger pulling.  Cinnamon Teal, mostly, and the largest of the world’s 5 known races of cinnamons, too, but White-cheeked and Brown Pintail are also commonly bagged.
After several days of spot-and-stalking Peru’s trophy species in the Andes Mountains, collecting them with only 1 or 2 frugal shots per play, it was a welcomed change of pace.  There was no hurry to beat sunrise, the teal were thirsty after foraging in brackish water and swarmed to fresh water after the sun came up.  We were waiting. Walking easily to shooting stations on wide rice dikes, feeding low-brass ammo into unplugged guns and witnessing first-hand – while looking down a shotgun barrel: hundreds of red streaks and flickering blue-winged flashes rocketing low over bobbing decoys.  At only 19 feet above sea level, it was yet another breathtaking Peru duck hunting experience.  The liberal limit of 25 ducks per hunter passed too quickly.
Local restaurants featured fresh seafood, which is always readily available.  The afternoon activity was volume shooting for white-winged and mourning doves over grain fields, with 40-50 birds per gun experienced.   That’s a story for another time.  After I’ve caught my breath.
Want to duck hunt in Peru?  Learn more about Peru Duck Hunting trips

Note: some mountain species may no longer be imported. Your trip of a lifetime deserves - and gets - our full attention: Ramsey Russell 's GetDucks.com is a full-time, full-service travel agency specializing in wingshooting with major emphasis on trophy duck species and trophy duck hunting experiences. Our expert travel assistance includes not only the best wingshooting location at the right time, but also customized itineraries, airline schedules, customs assistance, hunting licenses and permits, hotels, dining, car rentals, travel insurance, and trophy bird importation to our taxidermist or yours. Ramsey Russell and staff carefully review each and every destination.

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