“It will be awesome”, I laughed. It was August 3, 2014. Having arrived at Buenos Aires, collected our bags and slogged through the laborious gun licensing department, we had traveled by road for three hours to the elegant estancia in the Entre Rios Province of Argentina. The group consisted of me, my son Lee Baskerville along with four other great friends from Virginia – Rod Satterwhite, Dick Luck, John Thornton and Bill Wilson. All were skilled wingshooters.
The author, his son, Lee Baskerville, and a well-trained Labrador retriever contentedly pose over the morning limit of ducks.
We were hunting with South Parana Outfitters, owned and directed by Juan Pujana and Tomas Dobie. Roger Anderson, the Director of Mobjack Sportsman, LLC, served as my liaison with South Parana Outfitters. Roger assured me that this year’s hunting was going to be as good as last year’s adventure with a good chance that it might be even better. He was correct.
Even though we were a tad late in arriving at the hunting area on the first afternoon, thousands of doves were returning to their roost, flying frantically over our transport vehicles. These vehicles delivered us to our individual shooting positions, already organized and spaced well apart for safety. At each position, a personal field guide was awaiting his individual shooter with the shooter’s seat and his shotgun shells.
In numbers that astounded us, doves screamed over us at lightning speed, augmented by a terrific tail wind. Fortunately, there were quite a few doves trying to battle the angry wind by obligingly flying in the opposing direction. Those were the doves to which we initially directed our attention. The head wind slowed them down considerably, allowing shooters more time to mount their shotguns in order to acquire their targets. Doves started falling at the reports of the shotguns and they kept on falling.
Dick Luck (left) and John Thornton (right) work as a team to bring down doves as the flocks fly overhead with a strong tail wind.
I noticed that John Thornton, one of our more talented shots, attempted a few shots at the tail wind assisted doves. After he crushed a few by incorporating an exaggerated lead, he rarely went back to shooting the slower birds. The rest of the shooters quickly followed suit, screaming with delight when a fast dove would hit the ground, accompanied by the enthusiastic cheers of their field guides. There were so many doves flying that John, a southpaw, noticed that his left shoulder began to hurt. Being innovative and adaptive, he began shooting from his right shoulder. He was still able to down a pile of doves while mounting his shotgun on his non-dominant shoulder. Now, that’s a lot of doves - and a lot of skill.
The field guides were most helpful. They brought us drinks and poured fresh shells into our shell bags; however, for me, the old man of the group, my field guide, Ramon, performed an extraordinary service. As the area was under the influence of an unusual heat wave, reptiles had begun to move out of hibernation. As I was starting to move closer toward a brushy area for a better position, Ramon suddenly grabbed my arm, refusing to allow me to proceed. He then pointed to a spot about two feet in front of my shoe where a sluggish Yarara snake was starting to move. After I shot it, he informed me that it was poisonous. It looked very similar to our Cotton Mouth snake. Rescuing me from the poisonous bite of the Yarara snake, Ramon acted as if it were no big deal. To me, it was a very big deal.
After we concluded the dove shoot, we piled into the vehicles for the thirty-minute ride back to the estancia. Disembarking while enthusiastically chatting about our hits and lamenting our misses, we crowded into the bar where hors d’oeuvres and a superb array of drinks were awaiting us. This bar rests in a dramatic room with a magnificent high ceiling above walls decorated by superb artwork dating from the early 19th century. The fireplace was presenting a toasty flaming welcome. We gathered close to its warmth to brush off the evening chill experienced in the field. We agreed that such old world elegance was very pleasant.
Our elegant Argentine home away from home.
After cocktails and a shower, we reconvened in the dining room at about 7:30 pm. We gazed in awe at the enormous and attractively set dining room table. It was a beautiful room, complete with another roaring fireplace covering us with warmth, a charming atmosphere and a slight wood smoke scent. Dinner transported us back to the time when the world moved at a slower pace. It was a very special place where fine wines, marvelous beef, freshly cooked bread, delicious desserts and engaging conversation mixed simultaneously with the anticipation of tomorrow’s hunts to make us forget the stresses of our lives left back in Virginia.
As an illustration of the gourmet quality of the meals, the chef served us Perdiz (Argentine partridge) prepared with a fabulous orange sauce — as an appetizer, no less. Marvelous rare beef followed as the main course with a delicious custard graced with caramel sauce to finish.
Every evening a blazing fire in a cozy living room greets us when we return for the dove hunts.
Juan informed us that breakfast would be served at 6:00 am with a wakeup call at 5:00 am. We would leave the estancia promptly at 6:30 am for the drive to the duck ponds. He and Tomas maintain about 32 such ponds where they feed the ducks three times each week. They never over shoot these sanctuaries because they want to maintain the gorgeous natural waterfowl resources of Argentina. They enforce a government imposed limit of 22 ducks per day per shooter. They also allow no shooting after 9:30 am. That system allows them to feed many more ducks than they kill. It is a system that works reliably. I admit that my friends are excellent shots so they limited out nearly every day without any great effort, often securing their limits by 8:30 am. They marveled at the multiple opportunities for passing shots combined with the frequent beauty of ducks which fell to the lure of the decoys, approaching as pairs and as singles. These were the sorts of images which created lasting memories.
Morning sun and early remnants of a slight fog frame a fantastic display of ducks starting to move to their feeding areas.
Of interest to specie collectors, Rod Satterwhite and Bill Wilson distinguished themselves by shooting an amazing array of duck species on their last morning. They secured Rosybill, Brazilian Teal, Speckled Teal, Spoonbill, Ringed Teal and Silver Teal. That was an enviable accomplishment which I have yet to equal.
During our four full days of shooting, we amassed over 3,000 doves and about 520 ducks. South Parana Outfitters has a well-established system for the distribution of the meat from the collected waterfowl and doves. The excess not used as delicacies for the dinner table falls to the mouths of those who need this succulent protein. It is a very practical system showing a sensible use of renewable consumables.
Sometimes the ducks fall so quickly that Ramon, the field guide, has to help his white Labrador.
Lunches in the field were a blast (forgive the pun). While we were shooting the morning ducks, the staff was organizing a sumptuous asado (Argentine barbecue) of multiple meats, ranging from fine cuts of beef to spicy sausage to chicken with grilled vegetables. Occasionally, they even included doves and ducks on the menu. The wind was still raging, so they erected a huge tarpaulin wind break to protect the hot coals and to give us a sanctuary in which to eat without being buffeted. They prepared all of the food in a seemingly effortless manner over an open fire of seriously hot coals. It was very picturesque - hot red coals, choices of excellent red or white wines in our glasses, stories of great shots and near misses, droves of doves flying overhead and food of all description bathing our pallets.
As a special treat, Juan and Tomas organized two midday Perdiz (partridge) hunts. Perdiz fly like quail on steroids. Usually they flush in singles or, occasionally, in pairs. Aggressive walking and even more aggressive shooting are necessary for success. The hunter must keep up with the dogs, mount the shotgun quickly and adroitly execute the shot if he hopes to secure a few of these evasive birds. The daily limit on Perdiz is eight per shooter.
John Thornton (left) and his field guide can easily hide from decoying ducks in the portable duck blinds made of bamboo cuttings.
On the last morning after having shot our limit of ducks, my son turned to me while marveling at a pair of teal silhouetted by a beautiful sunrise as they decoyed to our blind. After a few moments of sacred silence, he volunteered, “This shooting holiday was fantastic. Thank you, Dad. Actually, as you promised on the first afternoon, it was awesome, absolutely awesome.”
“Yes, my wonderful son, absolutely awesome! That’s Argentina.”
Henry Baskerville is a Professional Hunter and life member of International Professional Hunters’ Association and certified instructor by NRA and NSCA. He is the Director of Safaris Unlimited, LLC and the Chief Instructor and Director of Cavalier Sporting Clays in Montpelier, Virginia. As an acclaimed international instructor, he has instructed shotgun shooting worldwide to include the Granddaughter of the Queen of Spain along with members of her family. He regularly guides photo and hunting safaris to Africa and writes articles for many magazines. In his spare time as a qualified concert pianist, he gives regular performances for various functions. He lives in Montpelier.
Phones: (804) 694-6110 cell, (804) 693-3774 office