It was no easy chore getting to where I was standings in knee-deep water among the bulrushes. At the truck that dropped us off, Lucho handed me a walking stick – long and thick enough that I would have no trouble warding off bandits with it. Two steps behind Lucho I was already sinking into the muck. Two hundred steps later we hadn’t made much progress.
Lucho spreading decoys.
Lucho was shining his light right, left and ahead. Obviously, he was searching for something in the dark that wasn’t readily apparent. Such light searching went on a couple more times before he surged ahead now knowing where he wanted to go. At 77 years young I definitely could not keep up. Fearing a fall into the water and mud I was treading slowly and carefully forward. I also worried about the MX8 Perazzi I had in one hand as I didn’t want to subject it to a dunking. The water was over my knees. The mud was over my ankles. It was still zero-dark-thirty when Lucho urged me into a stand of bulrushes that would be my blind. There was no seat for comfort. How was I supposed to shoot effectively with my boots so well mired? After all I’m a shotgun writer. I am supposed to shoot well. Where was a shooting mentor like Gil Ash or Will Fennell when I needed them?
But the Eastern sky was brightening. Soon it would be time to put that Perazzi to work, and I had to bury my negative shooting thoughts – at least to the depth my feet were mired. Duck guides everywhere see birds when it’s still impossible to see them for us normal shooters. So I hear Lucho’s “shoot, shoot, shoot,” a number of times when I have trouble seeing the end of my Perazzi barrels let a lone a duck at 30 yards.
These southern ducks responded to calling just as they do in the USA. Here guide Lucho puts his call to work.
But typical of every duck morning – the sun does eventually rise and I start seeing the first ducks. It isn’t until later that I discover they are all Rosy-Billed Pouchards – one of Argentina’s most prized species. First there’s a bird within 20 yards that swings to my right. Feet stuck – I’m stuck – can’t turn. So a super-close-in shot opportunity is lost. Lucho mutters something somewhat under his breath, but I know he’s swearing in Spanish about me being an imbecile.
A flock of six ducks swing in front from right to left. Though mired I can move a bit in that direction. The safety slides off as I start the swing immediately followed by the mount. The gun goes off as the stock touches my cheek, and the trailing pouchard folds.
“At least we didn’t get skunked,” I offer to Lucho. He doesn’t understand a word of it, but points to a flock of three coming straight in for an overhead shot. But I can’t bend far enough back since I saw them too late. So the safety comes back on without a shot being fired at that trio.
It goes on the rest of the morning like that – feet stuck in the mud – no swing a possibility on so many of the ducks – but I persevere. It’s 9:10 am when Lucho points at the clicker around his neck. From this I understand I’ve shot the limit. Time to unload and pick up the birds. Oh yes − there is the difficulty of getting out of this watery muddy marsh so loaded with ducks. Once I get to the truck I’m glad for the shooting but also glad to be out of the muck. “I’m getting too old for this,” I mutter to anyone within earshot, but these Argentineans don’t understand what I’m saying.
The author admires a few of the teal he shot at the slough off a small river.
I’m shooting in the Province of Santa Fe – where the city of Santa Fe is the capital. Veracruz, the lodge where I’m staying, is an hour’s drive north. More than 100 miles north of that lodge water is cascading for famous Iguaçu Falls. Not far below the Parana River starts spreading out into marshes that are many miles wide – marshes that extend hundreds of miles to the south. This is the enormous area southern ducks migrate north to spend their winter – sort of as North American ducks fly south to the Mississippi Delta to spend our winter. This is a vast area – the Parana marshes – which produce an endless supply of aquatic vegetation that keeps the duck’s bellies fully until the end of their winter when the birds fly south to start their breeding cycle.
But let me get back to the same marsh – for the second morning’s hunt. The guys have taken pity on this forsaken old timer they call “Neek” with that Spanish flare. I only have to walk a short distance in the muck as there’s a boat/canoe waiting. I get in. With maximum effort three guys push the boat into water deep enough that Lucho can climb aboard with his push pole to navigate me to a certain set of bulrushes. He gets out of the boat and with great effort he wedges the little boat tightly into this bulrush stand.
He gets in the boat and encourages me to stand. Surprisingly, it is a pretty stable platform. It’s not like a sporting clays stand, but I can shuffle my feet right and left a bit without the boat tipping completely over. It’s still dark. Lucho is smiling about his effort, and, of course, he starts seeing ducks in the gloom, which I never see. But just like every other morning the world has ever known the sky does brighten, I start seeing ducks, and the Perazzi moves into telling action.
So a little about this pizza gun as some refer to them. While the receiver is an MX8 it is stamped DB81 – acronym for trap shooting star Dan Bonillas and the year 1981 when this over and under model was introduced. The barrels are 28 1/2-inch Live Pigeon barrels with no side panels. The gun was put together for me by Giacomo Arrighini – the original gunsmith Daniel Perazzi sent to the USA to work on Perazzi service. A lover of both garlic and red wine Giacomo stayed. He’s still here.
The final morning’s hunt mostly of fast-flying teal that were downed with my Perazzi.
The barrels were originally choked - screw chokes in the bottom – Full in the top. Why? The barrels were for live pigeon shooting. In time I had Briley in Houston fit the top barrel with their thin-wall screw chokes with the strong square threads, plus they made me some more open Perazzi chokes for the bottom barrel. I also had Briley fit this MX8 with their full-length sub-gauge tubes. The result is a Perazzi that can shine in most any shotgunning venue. Actually this gun has gone with me to South America many times. Further, it’s one of the main guns I use gunning pest pigeons at home – as well as all manner of clay targets.
The gun has famous Perazzi leaf-spring drop-out triggers. I bought a spare trigger set, but I’ve never replaced the original – knock on wood. The stock is fairly high, I think a Perazzi #5 or #6 with that step down at the very rear of the top of the stock. It’s pretty much a level comb, which I favor as the recoil goes past the face rather than up into it. On many trips to Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, as well as at home, I’ve shot this gun thousands and thousands of times – never had a sore shoulder or bothered with recoil – though I am a recoil pussy cat and do admit to flinching from time to time (but flinching occurs no matter what gun I’m shooting). This Perazzi set up is a good one for many of you to consider.
Back to Veracruz Lodge. It has recently been leased by Tomas Frontera, who also has two dove lodges, a pigeon lodge and most recently a big game operation – all in Cordoba Province in Argentina – save Veracruz Lodge in Santa Fe province. The lodge has five large rooms so that two hunters will have room for all their duck gear. These five private rooms have all the amenities including private bath and shower.
A very nice bag of ducks, and Nick shows off his MX8 Perazzi.
Meals are taken in the main dining room, and the food is excellent. Wake up calls for duck hunters are at five. Breakfast can be a repast or you can eat minimally. Eggs fixed as you like along with bacon or ham. Juice, yogurt, coffee, tea, bread, rolls, fruit, cold cereal and more are sitting on the breakfast table. Just help yourself.
Departures are at six. Depending upon the number in your party’s shooters will be well scattered. You may or may not hear other shooting. Shooting light comes about 7:30 so there’s plenty of time to drive to your hunting spot. Shooting normally lasts until about 10. Back to the lodge for lunch and a long rest. Afternoon departures are not until about four. Shoot until dark. An afternoon option can be perdiz (spotted tinamou) over a pointing dog where departures are about three pm. These birds are relatively plentiful and shot in open pasture fields. But don’t get too cocky about your shooting. Despite the open terrain these birds make quick escape moves. The walking is pretty easy, even for this 77 year old.
Proper footwork is always key to consistent shotgun shooting, but on this trip I sometimes could not move my feet. You have to figure out ways to improvise. The shooting mistake I see made more often than any other is starting the gun to the shoulder – and then starting the move toward the bird’s flight path. So one piece of advice that could help anyone’s shooting is to move the gun’s muzzle along the bird’s flight path – and then blend in the gun mount. Don’t do the opposite.
The last morning’s shooting typified this move, which it is easy to practice at home with an unloaded gun. Lucho had taken me to a slough off a small river. In the truck was a tied bundle of smallish tree branches that still had their leaves. These he stuck in the mud in a circle for my blind adjacent to the slough. He topped this off with a round seat with pointed base that he stuck in the mud. Lucho then put a dozen decoys in ankle-deep water out front. I didn’t have to walk 20 yards from the truck, which of course, drove off.
The ducks started flying (mostly teal) with many of the shots crossing. In either case it was the perfect time to put what I just suggested into play. The ducks were low and moving fast so getting the Perazzi muzzle moving along the flight path first was important – and then blending in the gun mount – quickly of course since the ducks were really moving. If I had started the gun to my shoulder first – and then started the swing – it’s easy to imagine what would have happened. I would have been well behind and in most cases the muzzle never would have caught up with these speedy flyers.
I shot well that morning. Lucho halted my shooting at 8:30 – limit filled – time for photos and back slapping and breathing deeply to smell the figurative roses. While I’ve shot in South America about 50 times – starting in 1972 in Colombia – at 77 who knows how many times I’ll get back – if ever. It’s something to contemplate carefully by all. The best wing gunning in the world is down there. Many of you have already been, and, I’m sure, can’t wait to get back. For those of you who haven’t sampled what Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay have to offer shotgunners – you just don’t know what you’re missing.
(The shooting at Veracruz Lodge is booked by Jeri Booth at The Detail Company – phone 877-243-3459 and 832-473-1474.)