Date published: 8/31/2006
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