Duck Hunting in Uruguay and Argentina
The day started before sunrise with a breakfast of eggs cooked to order, country sausage, toast and steaming pots of rich South American coffee. After breakfast, my hunting partner Greg Mensik and 1 jumpedin the vehicle for a 30-minute ride through the countryside near Paysandú, Uruguay. We traveled through a vast patchwork of green winter wheat, harvested soybean fields and tilled lands where gauchos herded cattleand fármers tended fields. A mixture of agricultural and grazing lands, this northwest region of Uruguay supports High densities of dove and perdiz.
Eventually we arrived at an area of rolling hills where farmland bordered brush lands. Turning off the highway onto the washboard road, our driver dodged potholes, doing his test to make the ride tolerable. Ten minutes later, he stopped and said, “Legamos.” —
“We have arrived.” We pushed each other out of the vehicle like anxious kids on a school field trip.Each of the hunters in our group was assigned a bird boy. My assistant Juan hoisted a case of shells on his shoulder and said, “¡ Vámanos!” —”Let’s
go!” I followed him along a fencerow for 200yards. He stopped, put the shells down, set up a shooting stool then ripped open The case of shells and handed me a box.
I dropped two rounds in-my overunder then scanned the sky for targets. Seconds later, a flock of doves appeared at 30 yards. Shouldering the shotgun, caught up with the streaking birds and squeezed the trigger. A bird crashed into the underbrush. I quickly fired at another bird, and it hit the ground.For the first half hour, the doves left the roost bound for feeding fields to the north. But as the morning matured, they began trading back and forth between the roost and those fields. Flocks of 10 to 100 doves were in range constantly. By the end of the morning, the high gun in our party had tallied more than 500 doves.Our hosts here at Black River Outfitters were Juan Pablo and Nacho Portela, identical twins who at 36 years old are among the youngest outfitters in South America. Pablo studied hotel and resort management in Switzerland and runs the hospitality portion of the operation, while Nacho attended a Montevideo business college and is in charge of the hunting. They began outfitting hunts in 2004. After the morning dove hunt, we returned to the estancia for a typical Uruguayan lunch that included grilled beef, fresh baked breads and salads. After lunch, we proceeded to the afternoon shooting venue, one of the massive dove roosts that Black River Outfitters has exclusive access to. We could see birds everywhere — they looked more like a swarm of bees buzzing over a field of flowers than doves over a roost. Eager to get started, we grabbed our gear and followed our bird boys to shooting positial set up near the roost. The six shooters were positioned strategically around a massive grove of trees te intercept the inbound birds that carne in flocks of half a dozen to hundreds.About the time we arrived, a stiff north breeze materialized, which made the shooting challenging. The shots varied from 25 to 40 yards. By the time the flight slowed down just before sunset, the bags ranged from 150 to 250 doves per hunter. It is common to fire 500 roundsin an afternoon with the number of birds bagged dependent upon individuals’ shooting abilities and their spending limits for ammunition. The eared dove, Zenaida auriculata,
is a species first discovered in Colombia and later in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. Endemic to mbst of South America, they are similar in size and appearance to North American mourning doves. The primary difference is that the eared dove has a short, square tail in contrast to the long, pointed tail of mourning doves. Eared doves are prolific. Canals and small reservoirs provide ample water; thickets and wood lots are used for roosts and nesting; and with widespread corn, wheat, oats, sunflower and milo crops, food is plentiful. This combination, coupled with low hunting pressure, provides all the ingredients for enormous dove populations that are measured in the millions. As a result, they are considered pests by farmers, and there is no season or limit. Many of the doves bagged are given to tire local people who welcome.Black River Outfitters
offers a quality mixed bag hunting experience at Estancia El Cangue. Duck Hunting in Uruguay and Argentina.
While the property was built in the 1830s, it was remodeled in 2014 and is modem in every detall yet retains its original country charm. The atmosphere is relaxed and with no more than eight guests, the estancia offers an intimate and elegant experience. It has seven double bedrooms, each with a private bath; a lounge with a fireplace; inside and outside dining areas and a spacious patio with a fire pit. Each client is provided a single room. The food and regional wines are exceptional and often include perdiz or duck
hors d’oeuvres cooked over an open fire. El Cangue is located on a 4,b00-acre farming and cattle operation. In addition to the area immediately surrounding the estancia, Black River Outfitters has access to an additional 100,000 acres. Therefore, seldom is the same area hunted more than once or twice during a season.Perdiz can be hunted from May 1 to July 31 with a daily limit of 10 birds. The duck season
is May 1 to Sept. 15, and the limit is 20 birds daily. There is no season or limit on doves. Therefore, book hunts in May, June or July for a true mixed bag hunt.Typically clients fly to Buenos Aires. Then it’s a 4 1/2-hour vehicle transfer to the estancia. Because most flights from the United States to Bue—
nos Aires arrive in the morning, it’s possible to arrive at El Cangue for a late lunch and then be in the field for the afternoon shoot. Alternatively, guests can arrive in Montevideo followed by a fourhour vehicle transfer. Air charters can be arranged to the Paysandú airport. Then it’s a 30-minute drive.We started the next day at 6 a.m. with a hearty breakfast that
included a kettle of dark roast coffee. Afterwards, we loaded up the dogs and headed out just as the sun was beginning to peek over the low hills to the east. Mensik and 1 were paired withWhile we were putting on our shooting vests, the dog began exploring the lame pasture. Less than a hundred yards from the vehicle, the Brittany went on point. We each grabbed a box of shells and headed toward the dog. It was Mensik’s first experience with perdiz, so 1 told him to take the first shot. As he approached, the dog crept forward then assumed the classic pose — head forward, back rigid and tail held high. The moment Mensik reached the dog, a singl brown bombshell exploded from the grassy hillside. He responded, and the first perdiz of the trip was on the ground.We continued the hunt with the Brittany covering the countryside like a vacuum cleaner on legs. We hunted the hillsides, shallow draws and field borders and flushed more than\ three doten birds. Most held tight while a few flushed wild. Overall, it was an exceptional moming of perdiz hunting over a well-trained dog.The grating land and scattered agriculture areas support excellent perdiz populations. We were hunting in Paysandti province, and along with Rio Negro, San Jose, Colonia and Soriano provinces, this region of Uruguay arguably supports the highest perdiz densities in all of South America. Perdiz are the only game birds pursued by the Uruguayan people, with the shooting of doves and ducks a pastime of visiting American and European hunters.Perdiz are spotted tinamou, Nothura inaculosa
—widespread South American game birds that reach their greatest abundance in the grasslands of Uruguay and Argentina. On the pampas, they occupy an ecological niche similar to the prairie grouse of North America. Like their cousins, they feed heavily on seeds and green shoots, making them excellent table fare. They are fast fliers, but in contrast to prairie grouse or partridge that form coveys, tinamou travel as singles and only occasionally in pairs. After the morning shoot, we returned to El Cangue and sat down to a wonderful midday meal of roasted duck, mixed salads, pasta and fresh breads. Over lunch, Mensik commented that this was his first trip to Uruguay. Pablo explained that Uruguay has a land area the size of the state of Washington. About 10 percent of the land is farmed while the remainder is used for grating. Fruits, vegetables and rice are grown in the south and east; wheat, corn, milo and vineyards in the west. Cattle and sheep graze throughout the country.Uruguay’s climate is temperate. In–
the southern hemisphere’s winter (June through August), nighttime temperatures can clip finto the 20s with daytime highs ranging from 55 to 65 degrees. In summer (December to February), daytime highs average 85. Average annual precipitation is up to 60 inches in the northeast and 40 inches in Montevideo, the capital and primary population center located at the southern most point of the nation on the Rio de la Plata.Ah roads and railroads lead to or from Montevideo; it has the nation’s largest university and about half the newspapers, doctors and radio stations. With half of the nation’s 3.1 million people living in this city, much of the countryside remains sparsely. We also enjoyed a bit of duck hunting, and our best duck action carne one cloudy moming when the birds were moving between a marsh and a small reservoir. A blind was set up along a fence line that bisected the marsh, and we put out two &ven decoys. I was still sleepy-eyed from the 4:45 a.m. wake-upcal! when Mensik spotted a distant flock of ducks. The sight of the incoming ducks sparked an adrenaline rush that sharpened my senses, and I was suddenly vide awake. The yellow-billed pintails made one pass then settled in with wings cupped only 25 yards aboye the spread. I said, “Now,” and we rose together. I snapped the auto to my shoulder, caught up with a target and pulled the trigger. Mensik’s shot followed, and two birds hit the water almost.More information on Duck hunting in Argentina and Uruguay
Argentina, Duck Hunting, Uruguay