The trip was organized by Kent Cartridge Company, which was introducing their new non-toxic shotshell load - Tungsten Matrix. The ducks in Uruguay were the perfect venue to put the new shells to the acid test. Sometimes folks here in North America figure it's easy to get through red tape - like getting those shells into Uruguay, but doing that was anything but easy. To their credit Kent pulled it off - at the last figurative minute.
It was a wonderful partial week of shooting - with four morning duck hunts and four afternoons of dove, pigeon or partridge gunning. The Tungsten Matrix shells lived up to their advance billing, and I got to see some great Brittany spaniels do their thing on the native partridge - called perdiz in Uruguay - which is simply the Spanish word for partridge. In English this bird's proper name is the spotted tinamou.
There are many different species of tinamou in South America, but this is the one most commonly hunted over pointing dogs - commonly over pampas-like pasture fields where the walking is easy. The only South American partridge I had shot previously had been those in the high Andes of Ecuador - at over 10,000 feet - so those birds were breathtaking in more ways than one.
Since 1997 I've had the opportunity to hunt these perdiz many times. The spotted tinamou flushes out of grass that tends to be three or four inches high - up to maybe about 10 or 12-inches high. There's no surrounding brush, so the shooting is not that difficult. Most often only one bird flushes, but a two-bird rise is not uncommon. Perdiz do run but usually not far. Often they will run for 10 or 20 yards, sit for the pointing dog, only to run again. However, these birds eventually do sit tight to the point. If the dog will hold, and most of them do, there's time to walk in for a close-range shot. What I love so much about perdiz is that there are so many of them. After taking one shot it does not take very long before the dog starts working another bird. The dogs learn to handle the running birds properly in a short time - simply because there are so many perdiz - so the dogs can learn the bird's habits repeatedly.
Open-choke, 12-gauge upland guns work well, as do the 20 bores. Once I carried a 28-gauge with open chokes, but I started doing a lot better after I switched out to tighter chokes with that small gauge. In Uruguay it's easy to get very high quality 12, 20 and 28 gauge shells these days - which was not always the case.
Eduardo Gonzales was the outfitter. Since 1997 I have hunted with Eduardo several more times. We were based in the town of Triente Tres that first trip, but of late Gonzales is based even farther to the east. He has learned so much about luring ducks to his blinds that he has traveled to South Africa - to show outfitters there how to do it.
The duck shooting I've enjoyed in Uruguay ranks with some of my most memorable trips/shoots. There are at least five different teal species, each more beautiful than the other, plus the regal and great eating rosy-billed pouchard, a species of widgeon, plus a smattering of others.
None of the ducks in Uruguay are native to North America, so shooting the birds down there has no effect on North American populations. Limits are liberal, but you have to keep in mind that, relatively speaking, nobody hunts ducks in Uruguay - save for the few Americans and others who fly there - so hunter numbers are very small. Still - ducks are ducks - they are wary - under too much gunning pressure they simply move out.
Twelve and 20-gauge guns are best. Tighter chokes always seem to work best on a duck, but you don't have to go overboard with choking. Most shots are well within 35 yards, though, of course, you can shoot at ducks a lot farther than that if you so desire. With Eduardo Gonzales you simply don't have to do that.
Since I have shot in South America so often - with the high volume of birds there - it's important to consider recoil. I've been there with shooters who were finished after the first day, their shoulders a black and blue mess, and/or their cheeks red - even bleeding. When you get pounded this hard you don't want to pull the trigger any more.
I've developed a couple of guns for this type of shooting. Both are Krieghoff model 32s. One has a JS Air Cushion stock, while the other has a Soft Touch stock. The latter cushions recoil with a strong spring inside the stock, while the former relies on a pumped-up air cylinder. The only change you might have to make with a gun of either type is to hold it more loosely. Doing so allows the spring and air cylinder to do their recoil-eliminating jobs. Hold these guns too tightly and you receive the recoil in your hands and elbows. I can't emphasize recoil reduction enough for anyone considering a high-volume shoot.
The gunning was so high volume during that 1997 Gonzales trip that no other members of our party (there were 16 of us) wanted to shoot the final morning - except me. I took my Krieghoff with the JS Air Cushion stock, and the morning started off in spectacular fashion. I killed the first duck with a single shot. Two more teal buzzed the just-made blind, and I knocked both down with my over and under. Another single came from left to right, speeding along at a darn good pace, and I killed it. At the same time an unlucky duck flew from right to left - and flew right into my shot pattern. It wasn't the end of the morning by any stretch, but I had five ducks and had only fired four Tungsten Matrix rounds. Pretty special.
I highly recommend a hunt with Eduardo Gonzales, as well as the shooting in Uruguay - and you will love the people. All of Eduardo's bookings go through Trek International Safaris in Florida. Call them toll free for more information - 800-654-9915.