Shooting duck in Argentina is Elysium come early. Try something new and set your sights on South America.
TIME TO TAKE ON THE PERDIX
After a hot bath and a mountain of eggs and ham, we thought the rain had eased. At least it was no longer drumming on the windows with manic, Ginger Baker-like enthusiasm. Sebastian, the lodge manager, was worried that the water would have made the farm tracks impassable but he knew a place near metal roads where we could find perdix. And he knew the man to take us.
Half-an-hour later, Ariel pitched up with Charlie, his two-year-old Brittany spaniel, and after a bumpy, 30-minute journey he stopped at some rough pasture, perhaps 40 acres all told. The Argentinean partridge is actually a tinamou, a gamebird halfway between a grey partridge and a common quail. So I knew what to expect when Ariel unsleeved a couple of 28-bores, gave us each a box of squibs and let Charlie out of his box.
We lined up, Charlie working the brush like a demented clockwork mouse 20yd out –and then stopping dead. We’d only been out seven minutes. Urged on by his handler, the spaniel nosed a tussock and a bird burst forwards in front of me. I was about to confirm ID before shooting when bang, Zoll folded it, the dog
collected neatly and we had the first in the bag.
Experiences with pointing breeds vary but most of those I’ve seen give you a fair indication that something’s close. Often it’s not quite what you were expecting (meadow pipits must smell very grousy) and the bird might
be anywhere within a radius of 15yd of the dog’s snout. Charlie, however, was pretty much spot on every time. When he braked, the perdix was there.
The shooting itself was testing – the odds would be even on an Argentinean perdix versus English grey speed trial – but with the Brittany’s faultless performance we soon had 13 in the bag, enough for supper that evening.
The following day the weather had eased sufficiently for an expedition for the doves. Argentina is famed for its abundance of eared doves, especially in Cordoba province where 23 million of these game little birds provide year-round sport. But Buenos Aires province also has its share and after an hour’s drive from Los Crestones Lodge we arrived at a scene that would have made Major Archie Coats, the father of British pigeon-shooting, think he’d arrived at Valhalla. “Traffic!” he’d say, “Traffic! That’s what makes a bag.” Well, this was traffic on an August Bank Holiday scale.
Hides were rapidly assembled and a slab of 250 28-bore cartridges left with each gun, together with a couple of thin Cokes. They remained unpopped for the next hour as doves streamed off some soya stubble to roost in the small belt of dusty trees behind us.
All of us had shot Argentinean doves before and were confident we’d shoot pretty straight but we should have remembered Proverbs 16: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” The beastly birds would simply not fall out of the sky, at least not for Zoll and me, although Murdoch seemed to be scoring faster than Brad Pitt at a Newcastle night club.
George Digweed once observed that in order to shoot a pigeon you need it to be in level flight for 10yd. I doubt that these doves managed 10ft before jinking and twisting as they swerved into the roost. It was a reminder that no quarry species should ever be underestimated: there are “easy” grouse and November ones and these doves were definitely a variation on the latter. But Murdoch, with a cobra’s patience, committed only to the doves in level flight and the results were impressive.
That completed our Argentinean foray and, as ever, it was hard to say farewell. It’s a land of charming, humorous people who take pride in their country’s abundance of wildlife. And for the shooting man who loves wild game, it’s Elysium come rather early.
DUCK SHOOTING IN ARGENTINA: DETAILS
The price per gun per night is $1,250 at both Jacana and Los Crestones. This includes accommodation, food, drink and the shooting. Minimum reservation is for two guns and for two nights. Jacana has five double bedrooms, Crestones has 10 single bedrooms.
Season: 1 May to 31 July at both lodges.
Cartridges cost $16.50 per box; gun rental $70 per day.
Both lodges are run by the David Denies company. The UK office of David Denies and Nervous Waters is run by Nick Zoll, Choseley Farm, Docking, Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE318PQ. Call 01485 512046 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Prices correct February 2015