By Svend Aage Buus
Translation of an article in a Danish magazine
HUNTING IN ARGENTINA
Let hunting begin!
Photograph: Lodge in Cordoba for dove hunting
I have realized my dream of going hunting to South America several times. Shooting at a puma in an open course in Argentina has been at the top of my list of wishes, not only because the puma a good trophy but also because it’s one of the local species still allowed to be hunted.
I got in touch with some Argentineans living in Denmark who, apart from being specialists in trips to South America, run a travel agency called EuroAmerican Travel. They, in turn, got in touch with a local outfitter who offered puma, blackbuck and dove hunting, within other animals.
Besides hunting itself, the plan was to travel around the country once we were there. Thus, together with the hunting safari, a sightseeing tour was to be planned. It was arranged by EuroAmerican Travel, which put the whole tour in a superior unit.
In Easter 2005, I set out together with my hunting partner- Ove, the author- and our respective mates on a 3-week experience in Argentina.
After a long 16-hour flight, we landed in Buenos Aires the next morning with nice weather-25 degrees. After all the gun formalities at the airport- which we underwent without problems- we were driven downtown to our hotel, where we had to spend the night before we begin our adventure the following day.
Early the following morning, our outfitter- Jose Luis Grasso- our translator Vanesa and a driver came to pick us up.
After a 2-hour drive, we arrived at the hunting area, where we were to hunt blackbucks. Jose Luis had explained on the road that we had to change hunting areas from the blackbuck’s to the puma’s. He hunts in the best area for each wild species. As opposed to some others outfitters who gather all the species within the same wire netting, to which he categorically opposes. He deals with hunting in the open field.
After lodging in an “estancia” (Argentine kind of ranch), we went to the hunting area. On the road, we picked up a local guide- Raul- a very original “gaucho” (Argentine cowboy) who knew the region. The hunting area has 5000 hectares and, at that same time, there were cows eating. We are talking about plain fields without covering. The animals were extremely attentive and shy. I was going to try first, so, together with Raul, we moved slowly towards the herd. When we were about 300 meters from them, the herd began to feel unquiet and it was time to shoot. Suddenly, there was a free male goat to shoot, so we had to aim quickly upwards, retain it and let the bullet fly.
The fellow was knocked down; it was hit a little in its upper part on its back, but it remained in that place. What a beautiful trophy: black, with strong and rolled up horns! Another hunting dream came true.
Short afterwards, Ove also caught a good blackbuck and everything finished as soon as it began.
Then, it was time for lunch. We ate in the main wing of the “estancia” we were hunting at. Lunch consisted of a true Argentine “asado” (typical Argentine barbecue), which means big amounts of wood charcoal-grilled cow-meat with a good red Argentine wine…delicious!
After sleeping, the next day we were driven to the province of La Pampa, to the south of the city of Santa Rosa, where we would hunt pumas. It was an 8-hour drive, so it took all day. In that way, we got to know a little bit more of the country.
Once again, we lodged in an extremely nice “estancia” with a swimming pool, riding opportunities, etc.
The following day, we would try puma hunting. We would meet again a local guide who knows the area. The night before, Jose Luis had got in touch with the guide; he had a lot of anecdotes to tell. There were many tracks of pumas in the area, so it was promising. We met the guide- Claudio- the following morning; we were finally going to start what we had traveled for from so far away. The hunting was going to begin in a way that Claudio would ride his horse around the area with his undefined breed dogs. When the dogs smell, they would follow the track. When they found something, they howled. It was a pity that what they had smelled was a wildboar. When they spotted it, they frightened and ran away, and we had no dogs. “We started fine,” I thought. But we immediately looked for other dogs and started off again.
Soon after that, the dogs howled again and there they went. This time, there wasn’t one puma; there were two in two different trees. Both of them were good males. Then, it was over. The dogs found two pumas at the same time, which was something exceptional since male pumas do not normally go together. However, as their reproduction season was beginning, they must have been tracking the same female. Lucky us!
Everything was over in less than two hours. A strange feeling spread over us: we had been very lucky but, at the same time, everything finished almost as soon as it had began.
After lunch, Ove shot at a good wildboar; this time also with the help of the dogs.
After appropriately celebrating our success that night, the following morning we took a break. We relaxed in the swimming-pool before heading north, dove-hunting in Cordoba.
Millions of doves
We had heard the usually absurd number of shots that one could experience Argentina dove hunting and of course I was to try it.
We stayed at Jose Luis’ own new lodge. Everything was arranged in this Argentina dove hunting experience, from the tango-show that night after dinner to breakfast on the dining-room- one of the most perfect experiences I have had.
We were with a group of Spanish hunters who had been Argentina dove hunting a couple of days before we arrived and with whom we would hunt. The following day, we were driven to a place that could be better described as a big natural wire netting. We were provided with a birdboy, shells and a borrowed shotgun. Then, the episode Argentina dove hunting took place. The birdboy was in charge of checking that the vest pockets were always full of shells, of looking for water and more shells, etc. After 100 shots, no doves had fallen and the shotgun- which was not the one I had taken with me- was aiming worse and worse.
A new semi-automatic, 20-gauge gun was found and things went better. By the end of the day, I had knocked down 289 doves with 825 shots. I did not shoot more because I was aiming at doves flying high to be able to have good shots. Our Spanish friends fired 2,000 shots per person; one of them, 2,500 shots. On the other hand, they shot at random at many doves. Low shots meant no hunting! Everything had to be shot at, and so it was!
There was a constant swarm of doves in the air. Had I not seen it myself, I would not have believed it. Argentina dove hunting has to be experienced.
After two days in Cordoba as tourists, it was time to say goodbye to Jose Luis and his wonderful professional team.
Now, the tourist part of our trip would begin. EuroAmerican Travel offers a tourist program consisting of short 2-3-day-trips that you combine as you wish. We had chosen to go to Patagonia, the Iguazu Falls and a couple of days to Buenos Aires. We wanted to see as much as we could now that we were there.
To World’s End
Our first stop in this trip was Patagonia- Ushuaia, to be more precise, the southest city in the world. It is located at the exactly the same distance from the Equator to the south as Denmark to the north. Ushuaia had all that indescribable atmosphere for being world’s end, and there we were. Next stop, the South Pole.
The weather was cruelly cold. Anyway, we were somehow lucky with the weather- the temperature was between 5 and 15 degrees. If you are looking for fresh air, this is the ideal place. Actually, the air contains 15 % more oxygen than in other places in the world and, as there are no industries down here, there is no pollution.
It was a majestic experience to visit this unique and wonderful city at the end of the world.
Afterwards, we traveled to the north, to the Iguazu Falls, located at the frontier triangle between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Iguazu are the largest waterfalls in the world, with 275 falls- including small and big ones- in a surface of almost 3 kilometers. Its water flows towards the impressive border at 2,000 cubic meters per second.
It was a big change, from the Patagonia weather with penguins and cold temperatures to the jungle with toucans and tropical hot weather. At the same time, this is a clear description of the contrasts Argentina unveils- that wonderful country where you have the chance to experience everything.
Afterwards, went back to Buenos Aires, where we would spend the last days before returning home. Buenos Aires is like other big cities in the world, but is has its own and unique charm; A sleepless city, but one that constantly flows at the rhythm of tango and the waters of the Rio de la Plata, on which coast it lies. The city dwellers are full of life, and when you walk around the colorful neighborhood of La Boca, among all the artists and tango dancers, you find the meaning of life in Buenos Aires.
It was with big melancholy that we said “See you later” to Buenos Aires after three weeks. Not goodbye, but “See you later,” because we will come back.
Information on the argentinda dove hunting trip
The trip was requested to and planned by EuroAmerican Travel in Frederikssund. They are specialists in trips to Argentina and South America.
For more information, visit www.euroamericantravel.dk and www.jjcaceria.com.ar.
We flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt for 5,200 Krones from Billund, round trip.
Flights within Argentina have an extremely reasonable price, as all prices in general in Argentina.
The best period is from mid March to mid April, when temperatures are nice and fall to 20-25 degrees. Before this period, the weather may be very hot.
Guns can be rented in Argentina. Anyway, we took our own rifles with us. The Argentine Consulate in Copenhague issues the gun license and provides help with all procedures.
Danish Translation bySvend Aage Buus
English Translation by Ea
Note: Last week, we reported on Argentina’s fantastic waterfowl hunting. Today, we look at perdiz hunting, an often secondary component of a South American doubleheader, and offer a few suggestions for making a trip.
ARGENTINA IS NO secret when it comes to fabulous wingshooting. Thousands of North American and European gunners travel there annually for Argentina dove hunting that can number in the thousands of birds daily.
According to Martin Azar, our English-speaking host from J.J. Cacerias Hunting, Argentina dove hunting is as close to a sure thing in Argentina. Combination hunts for ducks and geese or ducks and perdiz, though, offer a diversity of grand gunning opportunities.
Our morning duck hunts were exciting, usually wrapping up by 9:30. Following a little relaxation, some lunch and a nap, guides Lali Lopez and Orlando Zarate would arrive at the estancia promptly at 3:30 p.m. to take us on afternoon hunts for perdiz.
The scrubby pastures of the Esquina area abound with perdiz, a bird looking somewhat like an oversized quail.
Perdiz tend to flush in singles or, at most, with two birds close together. They fly fast and launch into various trajectories, making for sporting shooting.
Afternoon highs pushed 80 degrees and mosquitoes were relentless as we pushed through the thick fields. Cattle often followed our movements, watching us with wary curiosity.
Tia, the English pointer Zarate and Lopez use to locate and flush perdiz, is a dog that lives for the hunt. I looked forward to greeting her every afternoon, although she probably didn’t understand much out of me except “Bueno Tia.”
Half the fun of perdiz hunting was watching Tia maneuver through the cover. With a unique style, she picked up a bird’s scent and locked on point, looking back for us to make sure we saw that she was on to something. As winds shifted or the bird moved, she got down low and slowly crawled through the brush to better pinpoint the perdiz’s location.
We flushed anywhere from a dozen to 20 perdiz over the course of a 90-minute hunt each afternoon. Some birds would flush ahead of the dog before we could get a shot. Other times, Tia would be on point and as we advanced toward her flanks, a second, unseen bird would unexpectedly flush almost at our feet. That tends to get your attention.
Finding a downed bird in thick, scrubby cover can be challenging and Tia’s incredible nose was invaluable in recovering the perdiz.
“Parakeetas” and pigeons were common sights flying over the pastures. Various wading birds, some exceptionally large, were usually seen whenever creeks ran through the fields or portions of the pastures were flooded. We also flushed one large bird that the guides called a “martinetta.”
Ducks at daybreak with perdiz until sunset–and after a day of exciting shooting action, you unwind with cold cerveza or Argentinean wine. You can buy handmade Cuban cigars in Argentina and I sampled a Montecristo along with a delicious vino tinto (red wine) as the sun slipped down over the ponds of the estancia on the last evening of the stay.
Lopez sipped warm herbal mate while Zarate joined me in a glass or two on the patio. The century-old timbers framing the porch warmed in the setting sun and in the courtyard area, Pancho, the estancia’s pet monkey, was climbing a tree to grab a another mouthful of succulent buds.
I looked out over the water, warning myself that trip like these could be addicting.
Buenos Aires: If you plan a hunt, try spending a couple days experiencing Buenos Aires, Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital. With tree-lined avenues, spacious parks, and balconied apartments and high-rises, it’s comparable to many European capitals.
One U.S. dollar trades for about three Argentine pesos. Five years ago, it was a 1:1 ratio. Exchange only a few dollars at the airport before departing and then use credit cards or an ATM in Argentina to get the best exchange rates.
The country is a meat eater’s dream. In one mainstream restaurant, roasted Patagonia lamb for two with a tasty beef carpaccio appetizer, dessert and bottle of good Argentinean red wine barely cost $27–after tip! Steak dinners are a few bucks. The locals are proud of their beef. Fine leather jackets (I bought a bomber jacket for $150), cashmere and angora sweaters, and many other products are real bargains.
Sunday afternoons feature street fairs with tango demonstrations in the historic San Telmo district, somewhat reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter, or near Recolata Cemetery, a fascinating place with elaborate tombs of many presidents and wealthy leaders of Argentine society. Evening tango shows with meals are popular and the show at the El Viejo Almacen was entertaining.
Unless you’re conversant in Spanish, seek a hotel with some English-speaking staff members. We stayed at the El Conquistador and found the place comfortable and the staff most hospitable.
Gear: Daytime temps in Northern Argentina can get warm. Don’t pack for a January Eastern Shore duck hunt. South of Buenos Aires, mornings can be brisk. Check long-range forecasts for hunt areas and bring clothing you can layer.
If you want birds for taxidermy, get about a 50-quart cooler and put a duffle bag in it on the trip down. Fill the duffle with hunting gear and the cooler with frozen birds for the trip home. Get a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service form 3-177 to log all ducks you’re bringing back. You will get inspected at U.S. customs. The USDA takes your cooler, seals it and sends it (billing your credit card) to a taxidermist approved for receiving foreign ducks.
Line up taxidermy details before the trip. Any birds brought back to eat must be thoroughly cleaned with one wing left on. Bring bug spray or lotion. Mosquitoes can be bad if the weather warms.
Expenses: A three-to-four day waterfowl and perdiz hunt typically ranges from $1,200 to $2,400, usually depending on how many frills you desire in camp. A bar with single malt scotches is a priority to some; it’s not to me. Roundtrip airfare to Buenos Aires and in-country airfare to Santa Fe was about $950. After the flights, we had another 220-mile drive to the estancia. Some ground transfers can cost $50-75.
Shells are $9-$10 a box. Shotgun rented for $40/day. Bringing and registering your own costs $70, plus any excess baggage charges. In-country flights have low weight limits for luggage. Plan on about $75 daily in tips for guides, cooks, housekeepers.
KEN PERROTTE can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; by fax at 373-8455 ; or e-mail at Email: email@example.com
By Ken Perrotte
IF VIRGINIA’S SWELTERING summer heat and humidity tend to get you down, cool down by heading south–way south. It is winter in Argentina, and while temperatures may be cooler, the wingshooting in this large South American country heats up any morning.
Three things drove me to punch this ticket: 20-plus years of reading about Argentina’s incredible waterfowl, dove and perdiz (partridge) hunting; last year’s unbelievably lousy Virginia waterfowl hunting season; and wondering what a ballyhooed bird flu pandemic might do to opportunities to travel to wingshooting destinations.
Many Virginians, including some from the greater Fredericksburg region make frequent pilgrimages to the southern hemisphere for Argentina dove hunting. I have never had an inclination to shoot up to 1,000 birds a day, nor do my shoulder or wallet desire the pounding they would take from firing and buying about 50-100 boxes of shot shells a day. However, the opportunity to take up to 30 ducks in a morning’s hunt followed by an afternoon of perdiz hunting over pointers seemed action aplenty for a three-day adventure.
The overnight flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires took about nine hours. We arrived in Argentina wondering if the country was deserted. It turns out Argentina was playing the Netherlands in the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany that day and, with minimal exceptions, not much moves when futbol is on a television screen.
Late-June temperatures were unseasonably high for the Argentine winter, with morning lows around 60 degrees and afternoon highs pushing 80.
“Blue-birdy” days like this in Virginia almost guarantee you’re better off grabbing a fishing pole instead of duck hunting. To Martin Azar, our English-speaking host from J.J. Cacerias Hunting, the conditions were, indeed, less than favorable, and he seemed worried hunting could be a little slow. His ideal Argentina winter morning has temperatures in the low 40s with a little overcast and slight breeze.
We were based out of La Morena Lodge, near Esquina in the Corrientes Province of Argentina. Esquina’s southern latitude almost mirrors the northern positions of Houston or Austin, albeit considerably more easterly. The area does resemble south Texas or what I would imagine Southwest Louisiana would look like if extended another hundred miles or so into the Gulf of Mexico.
The communities and countryside seem akin to many parts of Mexico. Cattle and horses are everywhere, seemingly roaming free along dirt roads or in flooded pastures and drainages, often nuzzling beneath the watery pastures for juicy food.
Guides Orlando Zarate and Lali Lopez spoke little English and I little Spanish, but we seemed to get by. Both men enjoyed drinking warm herbal “mate” through a metal straw with a strainer at the end. They said the drink, similar to a tea, gave them an energy boost.
They load duck decoys, all the morning’s shotgun shells, a machete and fresh greenery limbs for the day’s blind on their body for the pre-dawn walk in chest-waders toward the lagoon or lake where the hunt will occur. Blinds are often constructed daily.
Up to 11 different species of ducks were available. We bagged a mix of birds the first day as we hunted near Arroyo Sarandicito. We took teal–primarily beautiful silver and ringed teal (locally called cappuchino and Franciscano, respectively)–and Brazilian ducks with bright red legs and bills and brilliant, iridescent green atop their wings.
Rosy-billed pochards, big ducks related to the canvasback family and about the size of mallards, provided most daily shooting opportunities. Prized for their table quality, this species’ drakes are mostly black and white with a prominent rose-colored bill. Hens are a sandy brown.
We hunted a different area each day. Besides teal and rosy-bills, I took one pair of a beautiful bird called a white-faced tree duck, a unique-looking bird with shimmering hues of rust, bronze and copper in its feathers and a unique band of white around its head.
Both Lopez and Zarate carry several calls, including a teal whistle and a call similar to one used for mallards. To reach out to rosy-bills, though, they use their mouth, executing a loud, tongue-vibrating deep sound like a “gggrrrrr, ggrrrrr” or “llllrrrr” against the back of their teeth. By day three, I was trying the call myself.
Dozens of empty red shot shells bobbed in the water at our feet while downed birds floated all around us outside our tight blind of freshly cut greenery. The guides don’t use dogs; there’d be no time and the water is typically very shallow.
For a usually frustrated North American Atlantic Flyway duck hunter, the target-rich environment spurred a near constant adrenaline high. I recall Orlando dumping 12-gauge shells into my jacket while telling me, “Tranquilo. Tranquilo, amigo.”
“Relax. Be patient,” he was saying. Prudent advice, but relaxing came difficult when more patos (Spanish for ducks) than I’d ever seen were pouring into the small, shallow lake where we were hiding.
Azar said we saw an average number of birds on the hunt. We rated collecting 25-30 ducks each morning as a tad higher than average. Rarely did more than a few minutes pass without seeing ducks and there were at least two 30-minute windows during the typical two-hour hunt where shooting opportunities were phenomenal. Azar noted he annually hosted some professional shooters from Italy who often limit out within 30 minutes.
The ducks are put to good use. Late in each morning’s duck hunt, it wasn’t unusual to see a gaucho (the Argentine term for a cowboy) arrive on horseback to watch the action. Usually a few birds were left with these ranch hands. Lopez also stopped at various dwellings near the ranches, sharing the day’s bounty with families of meager means.
Along with great memories of a fantastic hunt, we brought several ducks home–some destined for the smoker, some for the taxidermist.
Next week: Perdiz hunting and Argentina trip tips.
KEN PERROTTE can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; by fax at 373-8455 ; or e-mail at
Date published: 8/24/2006
By Jose Luis Grasso.
Before referring to Dove hunting in Argentina, I’d like to explain why millions of eared doves live on a permanent basis in the province of Cordoba.
About 25 years ago, 80% of Cordoba land was covered with woodlands full of native trees from the area such as quebracho, carob, tala, piquillin and chañar trees, to name a few. This was an area where agriculture was not the main countryside industry. The main business in those years was cattle raising, developed in two ways: cattle raising in the north and dairy farming in the east, Arroyito area. At that time, farmers grew corn or sorghum in reduced spaces, simply to feed the cattle. Over the years, agricultural activities were encouraged in the area, due mainly to the richness of the soil, good rainfall and a temperate climate. As a result, these large woodland extensions were cleared and once the land was cleared and small grains were planted the dove population exploded, as it still does. At that moment, farmers and landowners did not realize they were creating the perfect habitat for Argentina dove hunting and, more specifically, eared doves to reproduce massively. In a short time, doves also became a serious problem for farmers. The huge grey clouds of doves covered the fields in such a way that they created great damage to the crops and were considered a nuisance. They were fought against in several ways, with no great results. Instead, year after year, they increased their volume in inestimable proportions. In addition, the clearance continued and formed two big areas which eared doves chose for their breeding: one area in the north of Cordoba province, covering a straight line between Jesus Maria and Rio Seco (the former is a city and the latter is a department of the province), and the other in the east of the province, in the city of Arroyito. The high dove population became such a problem to the harvesters that hunting them then became a necessity.
Arroyito, in the east of Cordoba province, is a beautiful city blessed with two remarkable industries. On the one hand, there is the most important factory of Argentina, second most important in the candy industry, and on the other, the doves that flap their wings over Arroyito in perfect harmony with clouds. This reduced roosting woodland of about 900 acres holds more than 20,000,000 doves. It is also worth mentioning that our eared doves are a non-migratory species, they rather migrate from field to field within the same area looking for food or water. There are also smaller roosting areas nearby which are used by eared doves in certain periods of the year, depending on the harvest. But, when it comes to breeding, the two areas previously mentioned are the ones they choose for their nests. Doves hatch five times a year, from September to March. I have never been fond of Maths but, 10 million couples of doves having five hatches a year, bearing in mind that the ones born in September are able to reproduce themselves by January, equals an awesome number. A significant fact is that although hunters shoot about 2 million doves a year, this number is not representative in this area and doesn’t even make a dent on the dove population. There is little doubt too that the grain fields surrounding Cordoba hold more doves than anywhere else in the world.
A very important dove-related aspect for countrymen is that doves used to represent economic trouble because they meant a decrease in the harvest, but today Argentina dove hunting has become a profitable business. This is due to the great number of foreigners who visit Cordoba, Argentina, for dove hunting. Landowners lease their fields for dove shooting and this results in a new source of income.
As regards hunting as such, eared doves are non-migratory birds, they are custom birds. Every morning, they look for food around the very same flyways. They stay in the area where they find food and in the first hours of the afternoon they head back to the roost, but they invariably need to drink water before getting into the roost. Because we know dove behavior, we organizeArgentina dove hunting in many different ways to satisfy all dove hunters, their different needs and shooting styles.
In the morning, we hunt in dove feeding spots, shots may vary from about 15 to 20 meters/yards since we make the blinds in the different fields. At sunrise, as soon as the sun comes out, shots are really exciting and filled with adrenalin, cross shooting. Cross shooting is from 25 to 30 meters/yards and it is specially preferred by sporting clay shots. It demands a lot of concentration as the doves leave the roost in a zigzag flight. In the afternoon, we propose two ways of shooting: near the water spots or by the roosts before they go back to their nests. Even though this shooting is similar to the one in the morning, dove flight is more uniform in the afternoon and this gives a better shooting average.
The “estancia” (typical Argentine ranch) is a beautiful farmhouse of eleven double bedrooms with in-suite bathrooms, heating and air conditioning at only one hour from Cordoba airport and only 15 minutes from Arroyito city. My brother, my wife and I are in charge of making lots of hunting friends who visit us mostly from the US but also from the most remote places all over the world. Hunting and my love for the outdoors is in my blood. My grandfather, Pino, was the one who transmitted me this hunting passion and his joy and spark to my brother, which are his main characteristics. He spends the whole day in the field scouting for new fields for more exciting hunts. Finally, the other person who I owe the whole business to, is my wife. Both started the company from scratch and she made her dream come true: a big restaurant with typical Argentinian food. Today, she has the satisfaction of running the whole lodge operation putting her own unique touch in every single detail.