Shooting duck in Argentina is Elysium come early. Try something new and set your sights on South America.
DUCK SHOOTING IN ARGENTINA – THE FIRST DAY
At 3.30pm, having had a couple of hours to unpack and shower, we stumbled into the courtyard and into a patch of talking reed beds. Most of Jacana’s guests are American and our camoed-up cousins regularly came duck shooting in Argentina. Bill from Mississippi had been coming duck shooting in Argentina for seven years. “In the States, you have a daily bag limit on duck [around six a day in Mississippi] and, realistically, you can shoot a whole season’s worth in one trip here. I’ve averaged 70 duck a day every time I’ve been here. My biggest bag was 92 in the morning and 34 in the afternoon.”
Bill could probably have shot more if he’d had more cartridges but at Jacana the duck resource is managed carefully by controlling the number of squibs issued: you’re each given 125 for morning flight, 75 for the evening. The record for two guns is 188 duck in a day, with England’s Phil Burtt holding the individual record with 106 duck for 125 shells. “It was quite a performance,” said Lanusse. “His guide kept blasting over the radio, ‘Come and see this Englishman shoot.’”
With British honour to be upheld, Zoll and I selected some guns from the lodge’s battery. The Americans had selected Beretta semi-autos decked out in a herbaceous finish leaving Zoll and myself with a couple of workhorse over-and-unders to be packed carefully in a pick-up loaded with cartridges, flasks, decoys and the mighty robo-duck, a super-sized, battery-powered, mallard flapper.
Tomas, our designated guide, climbed aboard and within 20 minutes we’d arrived at our flight pond. Pond? It was more a mini-lake. How would we manage to pull in the birds when they had such an acreage of water? But we had underestimated the power of robo-duck and Tomas’s ability with duck calls, a different one for most of the species available. We reckoned he could have quacked and trilled the entire orchestral score of the Ring Cycle. He cooed, he coaxed and at first we struggled with the teal. Like their British cousins, the silvers specialise in ground-hugging approaches and if you’re not on red alert they’ve landed before you can say “plop”.
Nevertheless, we did our jet-lagged best and returned with 28 head made up of silver, speckled and ringed teal, rosy-billed pochard, red shoveller and a fulvous whistling duck. The Southern boys put together similar bags but had added a Brazilian teal with spectacularly blue-iridescent primaries. Having made suitably appreciative noises (we were jealous as hell), it was time to hit the preprandials.
As with most sporting lodges catering mostly for Americans, the David Denies standard of vittles is extremely high. At Jacana, every evening brings a different cocktail with a variety of nibbles (usually featuring the day’s bag) and the lunch and dinner menus revolve around the wonderful Argentinean meat, salad, vegetables and fruit. You can eat like a starved ferret without putting on a pound. There’s also a free bar and since they stock impressive wines and malt whiskies, you could, in theory, drink with the reckless gusto of an undergrad at Freshers’ Week. But fowling has its own discipline and with a 4.30am kick-off, we almost – but not quite – stuck to Ovaltine and a digestive biscuit.