With all the duties of home carefully orchestrated, Owen and I went to meet the other 15 men we were going with. At the time I did not know whether their wives were not invited or maybe this was just not their kind of adventure. Whatever the reason, it still meant a vacation for me and I was going come hell or high water!
Hell came first! After checking guns and luggage in at the airport, our party proceeded to the gate, about two hours prior to departure time. We decided to pass the time in the airport bar and then went to board our flight. Several delays later and six hours after our original departure time they had cancelled our flight.
It was now around 12:30 AM and all 17 of us were headed to the airport Hilton with nothing but the clothes on our backs and vouchers for the rooms.
6 AM the next morning, we are back at the airport awaiting an 8:00 am departure to Buenos Aires. Looks like we are finally going to make it this time. Eleven hours later we arrive. 'Welcome to Buenos Aires," they announce. Thank God.
After we cleared customs with our firearms in tow, we all boarded a shuttle bus for what we think is a 30-minute bus ride to the estancia where we will be staying. As it turns out the bus ride is three hours long without the luxury of a restroom. Uh oh!
When we got to the estancia we had already lost an afternoon of dove hunting, the better part of another night's sleep, and a bit of sanity, but we were finally there.
They welcomed us with a drink and politely told us that we would be awakened in three hours for our morning hunt. Three hours? It looked like it was going to be another touch and go with the bed pillow.
Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door, "The vans will be leaving for the dove fields in 10 minutes." We had slept through breakfast and I had missed a golden opportunity to take my first hot shower in two-and-a-half days. I'm OK, I thought. I'm going bird hunting today. My first bird hunt.
Equipped with my trusty Browning, lots of shells, a bucket to sit on and enough adrenaline for everyone, I was ready to shoot.
There were birds too, lots of birds. I shot till I thought my arm was going to fall off. I was having a ball stuffing shells into my gun and pulling the trigger. I just loved hearing the gun go "bang." I missed more birds than I hit, which greatly pleased my bird boy. He was not the least bit happy about getting stuck with the only female "wanna-be" shooter. A couple of hundred shells later, and, surprisingly, some birds in the bag, we were gathered for lunch.
A wonderful meal, coupled with a good Malbec wine made for the perfect afternoon siesta...so I thought.
"Honey, honey, wake up," Owen said. "I have a little afternoon excursion planned." Where were we going? "We're going on an Axis Deer hunt," he said. He had planned this side trip on the recommendation of a friend.
Ok, ok, another adventure I thought. I can do this. After all, we are on a vacation together, right? This is "quality time".
Once again off we go with only the clothes on our back. It should have been a sign when the head man who was taking us had a "toiletries bag." Both of us thought it was an afternoon hunting foray and that we would be back to the estancia for dinner and a shower.
Wrong! By nightfall we are in a deer blind eight feet off the ground with a non-English speaking guide. We had been dropped off there about four hours before by another non-English speaking guide and had no clue when someone was coming back to get us. The temperature had dropped from 75 to about 45 and I was in a shooting shirt and jeans.
I kept asking how much longer we had to sit there, had they forgotten us, were we spending the night in this stupid blind or what? All I got in response was SSHHHHH!!
First of all, I am not the kind person to have on a hunting trip if you have to be quiet. Second, I was now cold, tired, hungry and wondering what was next. No sooner had I thought it than a Jeep pulls up with a big spotlight....yeah, we have been saved and we are going back now......wrong again! We are going spotlighting to look for deer. You have got to be kidding I thought.
Well, around 11:30 pm we pull up to some house on the Uruguay border. Had they not greeted me with a glass of wine I might have released a little tension on my husband. Oh sorry, I forgot, this was still "quality time."
After a good dinner they told us our room was ready. What room? Aren't we going back? "No senora, we stay here tonight and hunt for deer tomorrow."
Once again we have nothing. No toothbrush, no hairbrush, no clean clothes, no cosmetics, nothing, NADA! I'm going to kill someone, I'm going to kill someone...but first I'm taking a shower. I played charades to our non-English speaking hosts to convey I needed shampoo, took my shower and then politely informed my husband that there was no way I was staying for a deer hunt. They were taking me back to the dove fields.
By morning I had prevailed. I went back to the dove fields, Owen shot his Axis deer and the last night in Argentina we actually got to sleep eight whole hours in the bed that we were supposed to be in for four nights.
On the last morning hunt, after a good night sleep and with the help of my good friend Randy Gibbs, I had the pleasure of running my bird boys feet off picking up dead birds. That made the whole ordeal worth it.
Although our mini vacation was filled with misadventures, the great bird shooting made up the difference and we were all laughing about it on the way home.
The quantity of birds really helped hone my shooting, and the adrenaline rush of my first wing shooting adventure ignited a fire in my soul that cannot be extinguished to this day.
One of the men said that had his wife been along for all that, it would have cost him a lot in diamonds.
Well, keep the diamonds and the stupid deer hunt but I can't wait to go back for the wing shooting! I hope I get the same bird boy!
Until next time, keep shooting!
Elizabeth Lanier is an NSCA Level I instructor based in Virginia. Please send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.