An Ar­gentina wa­ter­fowl trip packs a full sea­son’s worth of lessons into a week of lights-out hunt­ing

Field and Stream - - CONTENTS - By Will Brant­ley

Lessons on duck shoot­ing, learned in Ar­gentina. By Will Brant­ley

IN AR­GENTINA, there’s plenty of time for duck em­panadas be­fore lunch, a siesta af­ter­ward, and one more cerveza be­fore bed. There’s just never enough time to reload. I know ducks are com­ing, and I fran­ti­cally fish 23⁄4-inch lead shells out of my wader pocket.

“Rosy­bills,” says Terry Den­mon, owner of Mojo Out­doors, from a few yards down the line. I don’t want to look over the shoul­der-high grass and be “that guy” caught pie-fac­ing the ducks—but I can’t stand it. I peek, and there’s a whole flock of backpedal­ing rosy-billed pochards 20 yards away. If not for the lead shot, un­plugged shot­guns, and our guide Diego Munoz’s heavy ac­cent, you could mis­take the scene for a Louisiana duck marsh.

The fa­mil­iar­ity of it all may be the most sur­pris­ing thing about duck hunt­ing here. Af­ter an overnight flight, clear­ing cus­toms in Buenos Aires, and mak­ing do with what­ever bro­ken Span­ish I could re­mem­ber from high school, I wasn’t sure what to ex­pect when I got to camp. But I was pleased to find waders dry­ing by a fire, hun­ters chew­ing tobacco, a plate full of fried and grilled duck ap­pe­tiz­ers, and a whiff of Break Free in the air.

Out in the marsh, the birds are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but not enough to no­tice when they’re work­ing in and your palms are get­ting sweaty. The show­stop­pers—the mal­lards of Ar­gentina—are rosy­bills. They’re big and noisy and work into de­coys just like green­heads, even though they’re divers, closely re­lated to blue­bills and can­vas­backs. The mul­ti­ple species of teal here still spring sky­ward when you shoot into them. Chilean wigeon whis­tle and laugh and com­mit from out of the clouds like their Amer­i­can cousins; yel­low-billed pin­tails cir­cle and tan­ta­lize, just like a flock of north­ern sprigs.

I had en­vi­sioned pushovers, ducks that we could kill with ten­nis rack­ets while stand­ing in the de­coys. Nope. They’re eas­ier than pub­lic-land birds at home to be sure—and the high lim­its mean I get to shoot more of them in four days than I’m legally al­lowed in a month at home. But Ar­gen­tine ducks are still won­der­fully wild and wary, and all that op­por­tu­nity only re­in­forces the core fun­da­men­tals that I know sep­a­rate the bona fide duck killers from the sun­rise watch­ers back in the States.


Once the first-day jit­ters wear off, I re­al­ize that even with lead shot—which is in­deed a bet­ter duck killer than steel—the shots from 30 yards and in have an over­whelm­ingly higher per­cent­age of dead-on-the­wa­ter birds than the longer shots. So I wait for them, and I can’t tell that I miss out on much other than burn­ing ex­tra ammo to fin­ish off wounded birds.

Like seem­ingly ev­ery­thing else in the Amer­i­can hunt­ing scene, there is a con­stant quest in the wa­ter­fowl world to find the gun, load, and choke that’ll help you shoot a lit­tle far­ther. Yet, the point of all the scout­ing, de­coys, and call­ing is to get birds close. Yes, you’ll watch some ducks leave by pass­ing on the long shots. I all but guar­an­tee, though, that you’ll kill more ducks per box of shells by hold­ing out for the best op­por­tu­ni­ties.


At the end of each duck sea­son at home, I’ve re­learned the les­son of de­lib­er­a­tion when shoot­ing at de­coy­ing wa­ter­fowl. Shoot­ing big num­bers of birds in Ar­gentina re­in­forces that in spades. Most peo­ple know to pick a duck from an in­com­ing flock, but re­ally: You need to pick a duck’s head, same as you’d pick the lead­ing edge of a clay tar­get. Diego does a lit­tle shoot­ing with us, and he is among the most tal­ented wing­shoot­ers I’ve ever seen—drop­ping more than a few birds from the hip. His only ad­vice? “Put it on their heads.”

By the last morn­ing, I’m tak­ing the close shots and star­ing at beaks be­fore I pull the trig­ger—and I’m killing ducks like my job de­pends on it.


Part of the rea­son I’m here is to test Mojo’s new­est spin­ning-wing de­coy, the King Mal­lard. Like the orig­i­nal Mojo Mal­lard, this de­coy cre­ates flash that is sim­ply a game changer for at­tract­ing dis­tant ducks. But just like in the States, it’s not mo­tor­ized magic for fin­ish­ing birds. On days when the birds seem wary, we in­ter­rupt the hunt to ad­just the spread, widen the land­ing zone, and move the spin­ner in an ef­fort to get ducks to fin­ish right in front of our gun bar­rels. Usu­ally, the tac­tics work.

“A spin­ner is a long-range at­trac­tant,” Den­mon tells me. “Use it to get ducks within 100 or 200 yards, where they can see your de­coys. But if they don’t want to fin­ish over the top of it, move it. Get it 50 yards out of the spread or tuck it up next to the brush if you need to.”


Ducks have eye­sight that ri­vals a turkey’s, and many hun­ters don’t give them due credit when build­ing blinds. Even in Ar­gentina—where you can get away with a whole lot more than in the States—ducks

that see you will flare in­stantly. All of our hunt­ing is done stand­ing in kneeto waist-deep wa­ter and squat­ting in marsh grass or be­hind sim­ple panel blinds. Time and again, when birds won’t fin­ish, Diego steps out into the spread, looks back at the hide, and tells us to tuck deeper into the brush. Same as the guys who go the ex­tra mile cut­ting brush, dig­ging de­pres­sions for lay­out blinds, and paint­ing their faces at home, that added care al­most al­ways makes a dif­fer­ence in get­ting those close shots we like so much.

Book a duck hunt with Diego Munoz in Las Flores at get­

Triple Team A rosy-billed pochard (top), yel­low-billed pin­tail, and sil­ver teal.

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