Argentina Part One: Getting Our Bearings

The shotgun went off well before the butt of the stock reached my shoulder. I’d missed the safety. Frantically searching I finally hit it and simultaneously hit the trigger. The decoying ducks flew away unharmed. My new friends tried to hold back laughter. It was an embarrassing start to the trip.

Forty-eight hours of travel landed us in a remote corner of Argentina, bleary eyed but eager to hunt. We stashed our passports and hopped into boats with our Argentine hosts and guides. With the 90 horse Yamaha at full throttle we careened across a massive expanse of wetlands unlike I have ever seen. A mix of bays, channels, and islands whizzed by as we covered ground. Forty-five minutes later we cut the engines.

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In the quiet we began to take in our surroundings. Birds appeared to number in the millions. Cranes, Cormorants, Flamingos, Ibis, and a host of avian species I could not identify swirled around us.  We settled into our makeshift blind of reeds and waited. Amongst the cacophony of birds we began to see the ducks.

Shouldering a shotgun I had never fired, with an unfamiliar safety, was not a recipe for success. My excitement likely contributed to my clumsiness. Fortunately, the opportunities were abundant and I soon settled in. The birds were flying high and fast, in a sunlit sky. We managed to scratch down a few, but were all humbled by the challenging shooting conditions.

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As the sun set we picked up our birds. Our hosts patted us on the back and assured us it would get better. Our shooting would improve, the ducks would decoy better. Three of us killed twenty-six birds that night, forty-nine shy of a limit. I had never experienced anything like it. Shaking our heads with disbelief we called it a night.

Darkness enveloped us and the throttle was once again wide open. I couldn’t see a thing. Spray hit my cheeks as the boat was expertly guided through an intricate maze. Deftly avoiding every obstacle and making precision turns to avoid sandbars, root wads, and buoys we bolted toward home.

Breaking open bottles of Malbec we felt the air temperature drop. A cold front was moving in. Clouds covered the moon and a gentle mist began to fall. It was starting to feel like duck hunting weather.

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