Shooting duck in Argentina is Elysium come early. Try something new and set your sights on South America.
THE FOWLING JUST GETS BETTER
Jacana has five double bedrooms, making it ideal for a home team to take the lot. That way you could probably ensure that either your partner did not snore or was so irresistibly attractive you didn’t care. Zoll has neither quality and nor, apparently, do I and by the time we’d finished hurling pillows at the offender and jamming plugs into our ears it was time for the fox’s breakfast (a coffee, a fag and a quick look around) and morning flight.
As dawn purpled the sky it was obvious that the rain would not return for some days. Sun and balminess would be our lot and being contrary duckhunters, we moaned “no wind”. Tomas said nothing but continued leading us to our reed hides in what seemed to be a not-so-distant cousin of Lake Superior.
“Don’t worry, they’ll come,” he said as he fired up robo-duck and Zoll, at that instant, pulled off a showy shot at a silver teal, crossing from behind at a good 55yd. “Fluke,” I hissed, but then he pulled off four similar shots in a row. We’d found the house Berettas very low in the comb but he had adapted far too quickly to be a comfortable shooting companion. (It was a problem we encountered with most of the guns throughout our stay. It’s too much hassle to take your own but I would recommend packing a rubber comb-raiser and some gaffer tape.) Then, when he was mentally lining up on a bomber-wing of cormorants crossing our stern, a rosy-billed pochard drake, high and extremely handsome, somehow managed to fly into my pattern. Tomas was so impressed he almost removed his fag from his mouth.
We had three days of superlative fowling at Jacana, though Zoll thought it the worst he’d ever experienced there. He’s the David Denies’ UK representative and normally, he says, we’d be running out of shells on every flight. The freak weather conditions had spread the duck throughout the country whereas usually they’d have one option – the flight ponds.
When organising our expedition, we’d planned to vary the menu with a stay at Los Crestones Lodge. Just a couple of hours’ drive from Buenos Aires airport, it’s a great choice for those who wish to shoot a mixed bag with minimal travel. Overlooking the Salado river, it offers good duck-shooting, gallons of doves and extremely good perdix-hunting.
It’s a pretty, oak-panelled place built in 1812. With its log fires and snooker table, it might be mistaken for a Scottish lodge were it not for the caterwauling of the resident parakeets. The rain was certainly Caledonian. The threatening front had caught up with us, turning the trip out to the marsh into an adventure as the pick-up slithered over the slick dirt roads.
We’d split up for the first flight, Zoll heading off with Murdoch, a Scottish chum, while I went solo, setting up on a lochan about 300yd long and 100yd wide and accompanied by Charlie Stewart-Wood. Having moaned earlier about butterfly weather we now paid the price with screaming wind, driving rain and a day reluctant to abandon the night. The light was so poor that several times I mounted on one of the hundreds of coots tootling around before I realised one was especially fast and managed to clatter down a silver teal.
A minute later, a small squadron of yellow-billed pintail came straight into the decoys, straight into, not 25yd out. And I missed them clean. “Don’t overlead, you prat,” I cursed, before making amends a few second later with a high, downwind southern wigeon. Not much time for self-applause though as I then missed two pintail on the trot, dropping into decoys, before connecting with the next four. And so it continued for the rest of the flight. Soaking rain, damp cigs and chilly inaction before a flurry of birds from all directions.
We collected the fallen, shared a flask of tepid coffee and headed back to the lodge to dry out before Zoll and Murdoch returned looking smugger than a cat that’s inherited a dairy. “We set up shop on a recently created flash that had been fed,” said Zoll. “It was only 200yd by 60, with two sets of 10 decoys set out in middle and robo-duck fixed upwind, in the gap. The pintail came steaming in really low because of the wind, like grouse with webbed feet. We had 65 between us and would have shot more if the light had been better.”