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Argentina II: The Second Time Is Always Sweeter
After making my first trip to Argentina last year, and absolutely falling in love with the hunting, it was not hard to convince myself that I needed to make a return trip this year, to prove the first one was not a fluke. Of course I knew it wasn't, but it was as good an excuse to use up some of my retirement fund as I could come up with. I'm not gonna live forever..
So after a bit of planning, some hand wringing, dealing with some fence sitters, and promising my wife that I would take her somewhere next year, we set a date to leave the USA on August first.. Just like last year.
And for good reason. The area where we hunt is just about the same parallel in the southern hemisphere as we are here in Zapata. And escaping 105° degree heat in Zapata in the middle of their winter is a good idea in my book.. Not like it is cold down there.
Normal temps in Tucuman range from the forties to the seventies this time of year.. Just like south Texas in winter.. So picking a date is easy. It is also their dry season.
This time also coincides with the majority of their corn harvest, and the cutting of the acres and acres of sugar cane right around the city of San Miguel de Tucuman. This area is also home to huge lemon tree orchards, and about this time and into the end of August you will see truck after truck of lemons heading to the plants. I hear that most of the lemons are contracted to Coca-Cola for making several of their soft drinks..
In any case, seven of us were headed down to hunt the wiley doves that fill the sky in Tucuman Province.. I could hardly wait..
There were four of us from Texas, one from Wyoming, and two of our old buddies from Albany, Georgia, who we had the pleasure of hunting with the year before. There were three newbies in the group, two from Texas, and Jerry from Sheridan Wyoming.
And after what seemed an eternity, the day came to head to the airport, and get this party started.. We were all flying out of Atlanta to Buenos Aires on the same flight, so we had a bit of scheduling to do with the airlines.
Jimbo and Brett, who live in Bracketville, met up with me and we went to the San Antonio airport together. We were met there by Wayne from Orange, and we would all fly together to make the connecting flight to Buenos Aires. Jerry flew from Sheridan to Atlanta via Denver.. And Wayne flew to San Antonio from Houston.. All was good. For a while anyway..
So us Texas boys checked in, checked our baggage, checked our excitement, got checked thru security, checked on our gate, and checked into a bar waiting on our flight to board. Christmas had finally arrived..
We were on our third Shiner Bock when Brett excused himself to go make room for one more..
About that time our waitress came up to the table and said we'd have to leave the building, as the airport was being evacuated.. Well, me being me, and me knowing Brett, I said "How much did he pay you to get you to come over here and tell us that?" "Now go get us another round!" She didn't think it was funny.
About that time one of them airport security dudes, shaped like Oprah, came in and said "Gentlemen, we are evacuating the terminal.. Everyone out!"
I knew Brett did not have enough money to bribe a guard, so I started to take it a bit more seriously.. We all did..
We asked what the hell was up, but got the run around.. Finally someone came out and said that they had received a bomb threat.. I asked em where the son of a bitch was, that I would go and disarm it or detonate it, cause I was not missing this flight..
I was wrong... No wait. I was right..
After moving us from one end of the terminal to the other, and back again, they finally made us go outside.. In that 105° stuff I was talking about.. And there were a lot of people that were a lot madder than me..
Like ladies with two kids under five years old.. And old folks in wheelchairs.. Two hours outside.. No bathrooms.. And a bladder full of Shiner.. It was gettin ugly..
I was either about to get arrested, or get some dates cause I was fixin to whip it out over a storm drain.. The natives were getting restless..
Bout that time they let us back in the terminal, and so after a quick bathroom stop. We wedged ourselves as close as we could to the front of the security line.. Again..
And while they might not have been as thorough as the first time through, we got past the bottleneck and headed back to our gate to see if we still had a flight.
Turns out we did. And we left two and a half hours late, with about two thirds of the folks that were supposed to be on the plane. I was ready to leave as soon as we got on.. But we waited about an hour trying to get all the folks on board that they could.. Hurry up and wait..
So off we went to Atlanta.. I had heard that they were going to delay some departures to wait for late arrivals.. But I was not too optimistic.. And when we hit the runway, I turned my phone on and tried to call Dave, who we were meeting there. And when it went straight to voice mail I knew we were screwed... And to add insult to injury the plane we were supposed to catch took off right across the terminal from where we landed.. I was not a happy camper.. Nor were my buddies..
We spent the next three hours trying to find a way to Buenos Aires.. First they were gonna fly us to Rio de Janero and then over.. And then to Newark, and then a nonstop to BA.. I wasn't crazy about flying three hours the wrong direction.. And then flying thirteen hours nonstop.. But then they couldn't get it done anyway.. And I was not going to hang around Atlanta all day to see if see could get on standby for the flight the next night.. It was sold out as well.
So I said "Get me a motel and a ticket on the first thing smoking back to San Antonio in the morning.."
I got off the shuttle bus at the wrong motel and walked up to the desk and slapped my voucher down on the counter.. Seems I had gotten off at the Grand Marriott instead of the Gardens by Marriott..
But the girl at the counter said not to worry, that she'd take care of me anyway.. After I got in my room, I went back down and tipped her $20.. That was a nice suite..
But that was about the only thing that was nice about the trip..
We flew back to SA the next morning..
After a few weeks of licking our wounds, we decided to reschedule and give it one more shot. So on the 29th of August we actually got on a plane headed south.. A long way south..
I flew out of Laredo, and let me tell you that is the only way to go. No lines at security. No parking hassles and no traffic. Only about ten flights a day out of Laredo and all on small planes. But I got to Houston and met up with Jimbo and Wayne. We pigged out at Pappadeaux, had a few beers, and boarded out flight to Buenos Aires on time. They tried to feed us again but airline food is like getting the last ugly hooker at the whorehouse.. It would do if you are really hungry.. But you have to be really hungry..
I took two Jack and Cokes and a sleeping pill and told em to call me in the morning.. I woke up somewhere over Bolivia with a half a hangover and a full bladder.. And we coasted into Buenos Aires a few minutes ahead of schedule.
And like always, Sandra was there to pick us up and get us across town to the municipal airport. We were scheduled to be on the 5:00 PM flight to Tucuman, but we hauled ass across town and made it to the airport forty minutes before the noon plane was supposed to take flight. We ran to the desk to change flights, but were told that our tickets had not been paid for.. And I knew damn well we were charged.. After fifteen minutes of arguing, I slapped down some plastic and said "Get us on that flight!" I love American Express..
I could get that crap settled later.. There were birds to kill 600 miles away that evening if we could get on that plane.. And on the plane we got..
I did not go into much detail about Buenos Aires because I told you everything you need to know about it last year. But if you go outside and kick a fire ant pile, you'll get the idea of what it looks like. Five million people in the downtown area.. Picture everyone of the ants on a moped, motorcycle, motorized roller-skate, or on foot.. Lots of traffic.. Lots of what they call cars.. I can piss over most of em.. They are small.. And they drive like their ass is on fire.. And stoplights just mean that if you get killed running a red one, it's your fault..
A couple of hours later, we touched down in San Miguel de Tucuman. Dove capital of north central Argentina. Finally..
Of course there to meet us was Gustavo Olsen, owner of Inti Malal Lodge, our home for the next few days. And finer people and accommodations you will not find anywhere. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone wanting to get you something to eat or drink, or take care of ANYTHING you could think of.
More on the food and drink later..
We hauled ass to the lodge, and it is about fifty minutes from the airport, west of the city and the foothills around Tucuman. To the flatlands that are covered by thousands and thousands of acres of corn and bean fields.. And a lot of monte, what we call brush. And it is home to some of the worlds largest dove colonies and nesting grounds. They call it the roosts..
Most all of our hunts would be near or on a cornfield, usually not too far from a roost. Especially in the mornings. When those birds are coming out to the fields from the brush, it is a sight to see. And these crazy bastards fly all day long..
So here I was tripping on my hardon to go, and my two partners decided they would stay at the lodge and rest up for the morrow.. Pussies..
I threw my shit in the truck and off we went..
They drove me to a place nearby, probably fifteen minutes from the lodge. Of course I was on the edge of a field with the sun at my back in the shade of a fenceline. The field was full of baled cornstalks.. Oh Yeah.. And full of birds.
I took it easy and shot the 28 gauge, just to get warmed up. I shot twenty boxes of shells and killed 434 birds. I was in such a hurry to get out there that I forgot my shoulder recoil pad.. It didn't hurt too bad that night.. But I knew I forgot it.. And I tucked it into my field bag for the next day when I got back. I even shot a couple of boxes left handed.. Just to spread it out.. Not that those 28's kick much.. But my average was not near as good going southpaw..
I have heard of the pigeons that inhabit the areas around us, but they are not too common mixed in the doves we were targeting. But I did manage to kill one the first evening. They look like our whitewings on steroids. And hard to kill.. Took three shots to finish this one.. And I did three parakeets that afternoon too. They hate em down there. I hear that they are the only bird that will peel the shuck off the growing corn and eat from the ear.. I was just trying to help out.. We killed a bunch more before the trip was through. I call them "Squeekys.." If you heard em coming you would know why..
Typical parakeet nest..
And when I got back, my two compadres were about half lit.. I stayed up with them to help finish getting the job done.. Dinner was awesome as always, and I'll talk a little about the food later..
We hit the sack about about nine.. Thirty hours of travel plus a hunt plus some vino and a full belly made it pretty easy to go to sleep.. I was just glad to be there.. And I was going to get Medieval on their ass in the morning..
It seemed like an hour later they woke us up for breakfast. And of course the breakfast menu was the same every day.. Whatever you wanted and however much of it you wanted and any way you wanted.. Gluttony.. The order of the day. And it was early..
I'm not much on breakfast, cause it will usually send me lookin for a circle of bushes and some corncobs.. So I just had some coffee and a little bacon.. I knew there would be time to make it up later. When there was porcelain close by.
The group that we were supposed to hunt with, on the original trip, told us to be sure and tell Gustavo that we wanted to hunt near a certain feed lot. It was about an hour drive out to where we were going to hunt, and a field lunch was scheduled for the first day. And when we approached a feed lot and started to get out of the trucks, I asked if this was the magic feed lot.. Gustavo informs us that this was just a warm up feed lot and that we would hunt the good one later in the week.. I wasn't worried.. The doves were swarming.
And as luck would have it, I had the cat bird seat that morning. I was tucked in behind a tree I can only describe as something that looked like a Huisache tree at home.. And about twenty yards behind it was a stock tank.. Oh boy.
I shot two cases of shells with the twenty automatic, and I had my bird boy load for me.. He had a skinnier thumb than mine.. And using two guns kept them half as hot as using one.. And after those forty boxes I shot the 28 O/U till we were ready to leave.. I shot 47 boxes of shells and killed 1123 birds, in about three hours time.. It was good.... And I kicked their ass.. It looked like lightning hit an aviary.. There were birds laying everywhere.. That's an average of a bird every 9.6 seconds.. If you like doing math.
We headed to a friend of Gustavo's ranch house for dinner.. (lunch) And they had it going on when we got there. Of course we had a salad.. And Meat.. Lots of it.. Their cuts of the cow are different, but wherever these pieces came from were great. And they know that Jimmie likes it red.. Of course I overindulged which led to a nap in the guest quarters just behind the outdoor kitchen.. Note the table made from a giant tree that I cannot pronounce.. But it was some awesome woodwork..
In the afternoon we headed back about 2:30, and stopped not too far from the place we ate lunch.. We were on the edge of a cornfield, and shot birds on their way out of the field on their way ack to the roost.
I went a little easier in the afternoon and shot the 28 O/U for the rest of the day. I shot thirty two boxes of shells, and whacked 794 birds, giving me a total of 1917 for the day. If I'd of paid attention I would have shot a few more boxes and gotten over the 2K mark.. Guess that will be a goal for next year..
I think I'm gonna need a shell sponsor..
We headed back to the house and ate.. And drank.. And ate and drank some more..
Day two dawned and we were hunting about fifteen minutes from the lodge. We were told that this spot was a place where the birds flew all day long.. And I don't doubt it.. We were on the edge of a brush line that lined a field, with a big roost behind us. The field was not planted, but it did not matter. When the birds started coming off the brush it was awesome. Lots of low flyers, from every direction it seemed.
And I have to hand it to the bird boys.. If they had a hammer and nails that could build a two story house in thirty minutes. And they can build you a custom bird blind out of brush and stalks that will always keep you in the shade quicker than a cat can lick his ass.. With only a machete..
I was already starting to think about my shell bill, so I went a little bit easier than I did the morning before. I shot the 28 exclusively, and burned thirty four boxes of shells, killing 824 birds. I love that thing..
We headed back to the lodge for lunch and a nap.. I was getting used to this nap stuff..
We went out early in the afternoon, as we were planning a trip into town to the casino that night. And we went back to the same field that we hunted that morning, but just down the fenceline a mile or so.. These fields are huge.. I took my time and only shot a case of shells. (20 boxes ) And shot an awesome 478 out of 500. These birds were dripping with gravy as they headed into the brush line.. And I dropped plenty of meat for the pot..
And just to set the record straight, let me tell you that they count a bird if you knock feathers out of them.. Don't want you thinking I'm no Annie Oakley.. But I hit that many of them.. The vast majority were dead on contact.. Just like Raid.. But like the bird boys say.. Some of them are "Muerte Manana.."
My bird boy loved to say "Hamburgesa!" when I really smoked em at close range.. I figure you can figure out what that means.. My bird boy, Jose Luis, is in his fourteenth year of working for Gustavo.. Says a lot about the people there and these guys are a family.
Juan, Gustavo's right hand man, has been working with him since he started, 26 years ago. Juan don't fetch no birds..
But he can get you anything you might want..
We headed in for a light supper and cleaned up as best we could, and headed in to Tucuman to the Casino. And we could have shot as long as we wanted as we found out that on Saturday night the table games didn't open till 9:30.. So we waited.. And we probably had a few drinks..
There was almost no one in the place when we arrived. Argentineans don't get in a hurry for nothin', and they don't eat till nine or ten.. When we left around 11:30 the place was packed and the restaurant was full. It was Saturday..
This ain't exactly Vegas, but the cards had the same numbers on em.. And they treated me about like the ones in Vegas.. Jimbo did pretty well, so we made him buy the drinks.
We had an entourage with us, and I felt like Mike Tyson in a strip joint.. Some of the bird boys are big fellows, and where we went, they went.. Good to have at the money exchange windows.. But I had to break em of escorting me to the pisser..
They don't get out of the country much, and they wanted to go to town.. The least we could do was to bring them along. So we took the big van that usually goes to the airport and back. One of them we dropped of at his house for a conjugal visit, and the rest had their button up shirts on and were looking good, flirting with the girls and encouraging us to loose more money.. It was a fun time.. Worth the hundie I dropped on the tables..
And after leaving the casino, we toured the red light district in downtown Tucuman.. Plenty on the street, and the bird boys did more whistling than a replacement ref in a football game.. I heard that you can get a Lewensky on the street for $12.50 US.. I took their word for it.. But it sure sounds like a bargain..
Day three dawned a few hours earlier than I would have liked, but we were on our way to the infamous feed lot we were told about. Anticipation was high.. And so were the birds where I was hunting.. But I still shot the hell out of em. I took it kind of easy, just shooting thirty boxes of shells and killing 664 birds. Of course by now I am addicted to the 28 gage.. And that is all I shot the rest of the trip..
I spent the last hour watching Jimbo put the smackdown on em and drinking beer. He was in the "spot" that morning with lots of low flyers and just lots of birds.. He shot em good. There were a lot of birds around the feed pen..
Here's a common mode of transportation out in the country..
On the way back to the lodge, we drove by the goat heard again, and we got to talking about how good some fresh cabrito would be.. Juan locked the brakes and ten minutes later we had a good one hog tied.. We paid for it of course.. And that was the last time I saw that goat with hair on it..
Two hours later it was about done being roasted over an open fire, and an hour later it was being digested.. And it was fabulous.. Best I ever ate.. And I have eaten some growing up in South Texas.. Maybe it was the wine..
Lunch... Baaaaa... He was good...
Time for a quick nap and back out to the field..
That evening we hunted a place we all hated the year before. Because there were these invisible bugs.. You could not see their bodies but you could see their fangs.. And they left whelps all over me the year before, and they itched like a case of Vietnamese crabs..
But this year I was prepared and I was covered in DEET and them bastards did not bother me. The birds were high as a kite, but I got adjusted and started wearing em out with that 28.. Jimbo and Wayne did not like the shoot, and they watched me shoot em for a while.. We didn't stay too late and I shot twenty boxes and downed 423.. Not too shabby for some birds that were higher than Charlie Sheen..
The final day rolled around, and we were hunting in the brush, with a lot of trees all around. It was some fast and furious shooting, with birds right on top of you, and hauling ass most of the time. If you like snap shooting, this was your kind of shit.. And I dig it.. I made "Hamburgesa" out a lot of these bastards, and killed dozens with out the gun being on my shoulder.. It was a point and shoot hunt.. And you had to be quick most of the time..
I stopped shooting at thirty boxes, and took some pics of the other guys shooting. I killed an even 600 in the morning.
We liked the hunting so well there that we asked to go back that evening, and no request goes denied.
Before we went out I started to add up my shell bill, and it was quite evident that I had shot a bit more than I had planned. So I went real easy that afternoon, just shooting sixteen boxes, although there were targets aplenty. I did not shoot particularly well, as the wind was blowing about thirty, and these SOB's were hauling ass.. And in the middle of those trees it was pretty challenging. I killed 291 and put the gun in the sock.. And drank some beer..
Overall I shot 254 boxes of shells. That's 6,350 times. I killed 5,583 birds, for an 88% hit average.. Up from 82% last year.. Always looking for improvement..
We headed in for the last supper, and they had some great grilled meat again. These folks know how to cook over coals.
On the second day we were there. They had a particularly fantastic desert after supper. It is called pancakee de Dulce Leche. And let me tell you that this is the best tasting thing I have ever eaten. To say it was rich would be the understatement of the year. I loved it. And I don't eat sweets.. And I had two that day.. And one after every meal the rest of the time we were there.
It starts out with a super thin Crepe.. Then it has vanilla and chocolate leche dulce inside.. Then they roll it up and cover it with a couple kinds of sugar and then blast it with a propane torch, caramelizing the sugars, and heating the insides.. Oh My God.. It was fabulous.. All five times.. I'm Jonesing for one now..
If you like wine.. They got it.. All kinds.. I like the Argentinean Malbek.. It's a dark red.. Just a little fruity and pretty dry.. Excellent with a lot of carne.. And they ain't gonna run out..
There is food around the clock around this place. And it is all good.. Even between meals there is always something setting out to munch on.. And every time you come out of the field there is a huge spread of horderves on the bar.. I gained eight pounds..
The morning we were headed out, we had a huge breakfast. We took care of our bills and chilled out waiting to go to the airport. We probably had time for a morning hunt, but we opted to sleep in and get ready for the twenty four hour trip back home. But before we left the chef made us bunch of Empenadas for brunch and to carry along.. They are awesome and we had them last year as well.
Just a light snack..
Traveling back went without a hitch.. But we had two hours to kill in BA before we had to be in the airport. So naturally we went to the casino.. I had about the same luck as the first go round.. But it was an interesting place..
No drinking or hollering at the tables.. Seemed weird..
We made our flights just right and other than the BA to Houston flight being longer than a bad labor, it was all good. I got off the plane in Laredo and was home in forty five minutes.. With only minimal liver damage.
If you ever thought about going dove hunting in Argentina, and have any questions, give me a call. It is expensive and probably unjustifiable.. But it is something republicans love..
I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have. Here's a link to Inti Malal Lodges website.. They will take care of you..
© James Bendele-Falcon Lake Tackle 2012
Argentina Story from 2011