“We don’t sell excuses,” says Diego, “We sell good duck hunts.” That’s certainly been the case for the nearly 15 years that Ramsey has offered the Las Flores program that he describes as the definitively best, most fail-proof duck hunt in Argentina. Las Flores means “the flowers,” so named because nobody but nobody owns the rosy-billed pochards like Diego. Nobody. It doesn’t happen by accident, either. The 2 long-time friends and associates catch up during their first hunt together since the pandemic, discussing everything from duck species to local hunting culture, collectable firearms to clown acts to what goes into making this hunt best. Fun conversation that sheds light on this bucket-list destination and the interesting, nomadic personality that makes it happen.
Las Flores, Argentina Duck Hunting with Diego
Where we don’t sell excuses, we sell duck hunts.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere podcast, I am in Las Flores, Argentina, wrapping up a kick butt couple of weeks. I’ve been coming down to Las Flores with my buddy Diego now for 12 years, we tried to figure it out and it’s fail proof. It’s the most fail proof hunt and get this out of all the hunts 20 years into it with getducks.com number 1 hunt, we send more hunters here than anywhere else in the world and for good reason. But you all have heard me say before, it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of work and a lot of behind the scenes and one thing I think you all are going to realize when you hear this podcast, what I love about Las Flores and what I love about our version of Argentina is real duck hunting for real duck hunters. That’s what getducks.com does. We appeal to real duck hunters, they want to leave their backyards and go shoot something else as a real duck hunt for real duck hunters, that’s who we are. Diego?
Diego : Yes, sir, here we are.
Ramsey Russell: Great couple of weeks, I didn’t expect any different after all these years.
Diego : Okay, that’s all we do.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me this, I’m going to lead off for this question for you right now. We’re sitting there eating dinner, you’ve got a client that’s been down here for 20 something years, he’s in mid to late 70s, I love to hunt with him, he’s a hell of a shot, he’s slow, but he’s a hell of a shot. And you all had a conversation and you said, how is duck hunting like sex?
Diego : Well, you don’t have to be good to enjoy it.
Ramsey Russell: You don’t have to be good to enjoy it. And the old man says, well, it is all about me, the whole table was rolling. It’s been nearly 3 years in my world, 2 seasons we missed, we’re now in the 3rd season since the pandemic. And I flew down to Buenos Aires a couple of weeks ago, you and your wife picked me up here at the airport, it was like seeing an old family, I’m so glad to be here. But the first thing I told you, I said, when I think back to that crazy ass sheltered in place pandemic days, one day out of the blue, I’m sitting on the front porch getting a little sunshine, I get a text from you and it’s a link to Kid Rock’s Born Free, I listen to that song, I guarantee you my neighbor 5 houses down heard that song going on the Bluetooth speaker.
Diego : Well, I was sitting in my house in the window like, it was a bar listening to Kid Rock because we were pretty much like house arrest, so we didn’t have to do nothing to do. Believe me, it was the first year in, let’s say 22 years that I’ve been doing this for as a job, that I didn’t spend May 1st in a field watching the sunrise. So guess what I did? I got two of my friends that work with me and we went and got a special permission signed by the mayor to go and work at a house as a painter. We went and I offered the paint job, everything to my friend just because May 1st, I didn’t want to spend May 1st sunrise at the house.
Ramsey Russell: And it was just better just to go and work and just to get the heck out of the house.
Diego : Yes. That morning we slept out of the house in the ranch and we woke up over the roof just watching the sunrise.
Ramsey Russell: How many times did you clean your guns during the pandemic?
Diego : Well, you just clean them once or twice and then you put them back.
Ramsey Russell: Go look at them and clean them again.
Diego : You got plenty of guns you can clean them a couple of times and you start trying to use them, but first year in Argentina was really hard. I mean, we were basically house arrest. We were having time to come in, time to come out, it was kind of hard, it pretty much took two years of our life.
Ramsey Russell: Two years you won’t ever get back.
Diego : Two years that will never get back. On us it’s not so hard but on clients, who were 70, 80 years old, it did really make a difference for them.
Ramsey Russell: That’s something you and I were talking about at dinner the other night is, if you’re 40 years old, 30 years old, 50 years old, that’s a couple of years other than just inconvenience. We’ve got clients –
Diego : It will just take a couple of years more to retire. But for people over 70, 80, I have a very dear client, we call him uncle, it’s a friend that’s been coming for years, he’s around 80. He for 30 to 40 days used to come with us and one morning in between groups, he was the only one at the lodge and it was raining, blowing, snowing the most miserable day you could find to go duck hunting and here he is, wake up, say uncle, do you want to still go hunt, check the weather. He got on his pajamas, came with me to the window, opened the window and he was running wind planes crashing, it was the most miserable morning, dark sun, I mean, it was miserable. He turned around looked at me and said, Diego, I’m 80 years old and I’m not getting any younger, you miss one hunt, you die one short. Let’s go.
Ramsey Russell: Damn right. One short, that’s the way I look at it, Diego. Speaking of cold and miserable, it really doesn’t get too bad terrible cold, like them boys in north from Michigan and Wisconsin and places like that down here, but I have seen some ice and the coldest I’ve ever been duck hunting in my life was the last time I duck on it with you. And rarely do you get belly button deep water, but we did and I realized I had a hole in the seat of my pants and I’m like, am I wet or is that just cold pressing up against me? And later in the morning you go, I know you were cold because you tried to shoot ducks at 90 yards, get the heck out of there. And I couldn’t hardly get out of water, I don’t know, I’m going to guess there were 50 gallons of water in my wader.
The Art of Duck Hunting: More Than Just a Sport
Well, you don’t have to be good to enjoy it.
Diego : I don’t know, I had to drag you out of the truck while you were crying like a baby because you were cold.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I was hypothermic, I ran to your lodge, out of hot water and –
Diego : That was bad, that day was bad for sure.
Ramsey Russell: I know how else you spent your pandemic locked in since you weren’t hunting. Since I’ve known you, decade and a half, since I’ve known you, you’ve always had a collection of just old cars that sitting up on blocks or just old cars and you sent me some pictures, not too long ago of all these old cars that have been fully restored, you’re like the Jay Leno of Argentina now. Talk about some of these cars because I mean, it ain’t like a 66 mustang, you got some pretty cool stuff in your collection.
Diego : Well, I got some weird cars and every time I go to a ranch, if I see an old car that I like, I’ll buy it and put them in a warehouse. This pandemic gave me enough time through 2 years, we’ve been doing nothing but waiting to rebuild and customize my cars. I drive a 37 Ford convertible coupe, that’s my car.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of car is it that used to be with the American Embassy way back when, before I was –
Diego : The car that I bought is a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville. Everything jacked up the bigger engine than original it and has 24,000 miles in it.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. So, I mean, you’ve got a massive fleet of four by fours and these aren’t your get around cars when the season, this is to your hunting season fleet. You’ve got a private fleet that you drive around town, go to the grocery store, go on dates.
Diego : Well, I keep changing my old cars, we rebuild a 1947 Studebaker wood cabin on a basis and a chassis of reform from suburban with a straight 6 diesel, it runs pretty good. I also have a 59 Studebaker, I got plenty of other cars that we are finishing.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the big truck you got, it’s an old truck, I think it’s green and yellow as I remember kind of jacked up customized a little bit but it’s a pretty bad ass looking truck.
Diego : It’s a 1947 Studebaker.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, that’s the truck, I didn’t know, they made pick up.
Diego : Oh, yeah, I got 3 of them.
Ramsey Russell: Do you do a lot of the auto mechanics yourself?
Diego : We do it with a couple of my employees from the season, we just put together a bigger and nicer place to work and instead of sending to somebody that wouldn’t work, we made of ourselves like Dario and Ricardo.
Best Waders for Waterfowl Hunters
But what’s the difference between the good ones and a bad one?
Ramsey Russell: Where did you learn to repair waders like you did? Because I’m going to tell you the story, those sick waders that you repaired, I’ve now worn for, I’m in my 6th or 7th season and the only time I’ve had been wet is when I tore seat in the pants and you put a patch on them, you did your magic like I’ve never seen, I sent them to Sitka, they looked at that patch and all they did was put a little piece of camo tape over it and send them back to me and it’s still holding. I guess, like you go through waders, you’re in them all day every day for 4 months.
Diego : Well, after almost 25 years of hunting, you go through waders. I got a collection of at least, I’ll say 160 waders.
Ramsey Russell: What makes a good wader, Diego? What makes a good wader, what makes a bad wader? And I don’t want to disenfranchise any name brand by talking about the many bad waders. But what’s the difference between the good ones and a bad one? Other than the fact you get a wet ass in a bad one.
Diego : I haven’t had Sitka tried yet, I’m going to try them now.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, we got you a pair coming.
Diego : We got a pair coming. Besides that, the best wader up to me is the cheaper one because they all last the same, besides some expensive waders that don’t last one day.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your favorite features in waders?
Diego : Favorite features, they don’t leak and they are light, pretty much.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, you don’t wear the neoprene, you like the breathable fabric.
Diego : If I could get a neoprene wader, I would take over any of the waders, the neoprene waders of 1.5 millimeter really thin one, I got a model like that that’s been with me for 20 years.
Ramsey Russell: Why do you like that?
Diego : Because they’re indestructible, easy to patch and they still got the layer of neoprene, that’s easier to patch than breathable.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s what you need is durability.
Diego : Yes, sir. We hunt 120 days in a row and we spend more time on the water watching and moving and walking that I can tell you every failure of each wader that pretty much was made through the years looking at my collection of broken waders.
Favored Firearms for Duck Hunting
I mean, Benelli with the high ribs, some people don’t like them, some people love them.
Ramsey Russell: I tell people all the time, I’m changing the subject just a little bit. I tell people all the time that you’re one of the best gunsmiths I’ve ever met. Is that just born of necessity? I mean, do you all have gunsmiths down here? I mean, you showed me all the parts you’ve got son, you’ve got more parts for all these guns you got than anybody I know and your guns run fluid. Some of them are older than me, but they run fluid, they cycle, boom-boom, they do what you’re supposed to do. Did you just teach yourself that?
Diego : Yes, sir.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your favorite guns?
Diego : I’m a fan of Beretta because of durability and the way they shoot. But if I had to choose one gun for me to choose to go duck hunting for myself, not commercially, I will take a Super X3, Winchester Super X3, I love the way they balance.
Ramsey Russell: I’m a Benelli man, I like my Benelli, I ain’t going to come down here without them. But different folks, different strokes, you’re the ones that work on them all the time.
Diego : I like the Beretta, the way they shoot, the way they hold, gas operated, don’t kick, it’s straighter than most of the guns. I mean, Benelli with the high ribs, some people don’t like them, some people love them.
Maintaining Your Firearm After Waterfowl Hunting
Some of them are older than me, but they run fluid, they cycle, boom-boom, they do what you’re supposed to do.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what I like. Talk about some of the calibers down here because back home we got 10, 12, 16, 20, 28, 410 and down here you all got a whole bunch of flavors.
Diego : Well, the whole bunch of flavors are because of the European influence. Like your 410 is actually a 36 caliber on 3 inch, that will be your 410. Then you got the 32 and the 24, remember with Skip, we made an article about hunting hills with a 24 gauge side by side, a Spanish made that I got out of the box, I shot it, I was the first one to shoot that gun.
Ramsey Russell: Really? How old was it?
Diego : 6 years old. A friend of mine from a big gun shop in Buenos Aires knows that I collect double guns and he called me one day out of the blue said Diego, you want to come over to Buenos Aires? I got yourself a 24 gauge, what is it? You’re going to like it.
Best Gauges for Waterfowl Hunting
I love the 28 and it’s a very versatile caliber for smaller birds, when I go duck hunting, it’s 12 gauge, the bigger the better.
Ramsey Russell: Do you have a favorite gauge? I know we shoot a lot of 12s day in day out down here, but I’ve hunted with you before as you shoot some different stuff. You’ve got a lot of different gauges. Do you always go out with a 12 gauge yourself or do you try to shoot some of these other gauges?
Diego : I shoot other gauges when I go for perdiz hunting or duck hunting, I like 28. I love the 28 and it’s a very versatile caliber for smaller birds, when I go duck hunting, it’s 12 gauge, the bigger the better.
Ramsey Russell: Take no prisoner, that’s Diego.
Diego : That allows you to shoot the close one, the far ones and a lot of options on shells.
How many Argentines hunt, what percent of Argentina hunt and what do they really hunt and focus on?
Ramsey Russell: You said, you’ve been guiding for about 20 years, maybe more. How did you get into the business? Is that what you always wanted to be? How did you start off and how did you get into the guided duck hunting business?
Diego : Well, I always loved to hunt, since I was 5 years old, I started shooting stuff with my grandfather and –
Ramsey Russell: Was he a hunter?
Diego : He was really a guy that enjoyed the outdoors, being out with friends, hunting, fishing, eating a lot and drinking. So every weekend he’ll go out, find a good excuse to go out fishing or drinking or whatever. Well, I was kind of a pet of the group, so since I was 5, I started shooting stuff with them. And it kept going, then we moved to France and when I came back from France in 1993 I was in school, regular school finishing in my 5th year and my dad called me and said, Diego, I got a couple of friends here, doctors that want to come over to Argentina and shoot some birds and want to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: You were in med school?
Ramsey Russell: I wasn’t in med school by that time. The first two groups that came up from France, actually from the French Caribbean Guadeloupe. And we organized that I was 17 years old, I got a couple of friends that used to hunt with me 40, 50 years old and we got a group together with them and we perdiz hunted and pigeon hunted, duck hunted that was 1993, that’s long way, long ways to go. And it kept going and then I got another group and then you got three groups and then I look for the American. I personally, I didn’t find myself with the American way of hunting the way, the gear, the clothing, the guns, the culture in general.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you bring up culture and there’s a lot of questions about you’re getting started hunting. Because a lot of people I talked to, I talked to you, I talked to your cook Facu and the influence was outdoors but not hunting. And there’s really not a huge hunting culture in Argentina, let alone a duck hunting culture. How many Argentines hunt, what percent of Argentina hunt and what do they really hunt and focus on?
Diego : Well, if you go half Argentina down from Santa Fe, down to the south, everybody hunts perdiz which is upland birds like, tinamou, as close as it can be to quail, Argentine quail. So, it just makes upland ducks, going out rabbit hunting, perdiz. Just a few groups out of each town love to hunt ducks, the ones that like to hunt ducks are fanatic, like myself and maybe 7 or other guys. All my other friends were 20 or 30 years older and I was the one pushing to go every day that we could.
Ramsey Russell: Of course, young guys are like that.
Diego : Yeah. Well, north of Argentina, if you go north of Santa Fe from Santa Fe and the North Santa Fe, the people there, it’s got a big old culture of duck hunting. They have the rice field used to be a depredation season for the rice fields, you got more options, you got water all the time, you got the big rivers. There’s a bigger duck hunting culture over Santa Fe and Entre Rios on the Argentinian side, although they don’t decoy, they just get on roads and pass shoot ducks, most of the time from one field to the other. But there’s more people duck hunting than perdiz hunting in Santa Fe also because there’s less perdiz over there. But you’ll find people trying to buy decoys, trying to call for camo clothing. Upland is more related to our European influence. The way they dress, the way they go perdiz hunting, the dogs, well, all kinds of different of –
Ramsey Russell: The Spanish and the Italians, brought that hunting, brought that upland that perdiz, those pointers, those waders over with them.
Diego : And the French. They said that the Argentinian is an Italian that thinks in French and speaks Spanish.
Ramsey Russell: I didn’t know, I never heard that one.
Diego : Well, I got my grandmother’s side was French, my grandfather’s side is Spanish. Then I got on my mom’s side, which is Italian and my dad is also Spanish, so we are a mixed, European mixed.
Ramsey Russell: Is that where you learn to speak all those languages? You speak 4 languages.
Diego : Yes. But we live in different countries with my dad. My dad being a doctor, he was an accomplished doctor in 1986, all though he decided to go and live something different and we moved to Paris out of the blue and started going there to public schools and he was started work in a clinic and he was the first one to get out with a machine for kidney stone treatment in 1986 he was one of the 3 or 4 doctors that were working together to put that machine on the market. And after that, he kept going to one place to train doctors, training doctors here, sell the machine there, train doctors, that’s how we ended up in California, 1989 if recall.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s where you learn to speak English so good before you got in this business with all the American clients?
Diego : That’s with a span of a year, plus almost a year and a half in Fountain Valley, California, LA.
Ramsey Russell: You were telling me how you got into this business. You took some of your dad’s associates, some doctors, some people out, started hunting, when did it click and you go, that’s what I’m going to do? Because I know you like to hunt, I know you son. And you’re not just a duck hunter or perdiz hunter or dove hunter, you’re just a killer, I mean, you hunt everything.
Diego : Everything that I can play a game with.
Ramsey Russell: I have shot guinea pigs, I have shot viscacha, I have caught them predators, black buck, a lot of stuff where you’re kind of an expert at all of it, Diego.
Diego : Anything that can. I mean, hunting is called a game, big game, small game, shooting animals is not a game, everything’s got to have a game to play with it. Give the animal a chance to win against you to, if it’s fun to play the game, I’ll be into it. How it ended up on doing this full time, well, after school, I went to med school for 5 years and keep increasing the groups of hunters that I have, at one point, med school is not a game so I couldn’t keep up with it. It takes all of your time and I used to go out with 2 or 3 groups, come back to med school and believe me, you lose 3 weeks in med school and I wouldn’t say the word, but you’re pretty much screwed.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like, starting over again.
Diego : Oh God, you don’t know if it’s day or night or if you’re tired or not, just to catch up it takes you forever. So, at one point I decided I talked to my dad, my dad is a doctor, I know he would love to have me as a doctor on his side, but well, sometimes it just don’t do it. I talk to him and dad, this is what I want to do, this is what I think this is my passion and he looked at me and said, well, it’s no big deal, whatever you’re going to do, just try to do it right, you’ll do it right. So, that’s what we did.
Ramsey Russell: The first time I hunted with you, it didn’t take me long and it didn’t take me long to figure out that you’re croc wearing, camo Argentine from Mississippi, it seems like, brother from a different mother –
Diego : I remember somebody called me a refined Argentinian redneck just because I speak 4 languages I was refined.
Ramsey Russell: Little culture in that respect. We went out hunting the first time and I came down here, I’ve been somewhere else for a few weeks never went back to that place and I thought the hunting was good all that more. And after you shoot for a period of time, consecutive days, you just can’t help but just kind of get the misses out and shoot a little bit better. And we climbed in a blind, typical Las Flores blind, kind of a panel blind with fast grass and overlooking the marsh backed up against some grass and right at daylight here come the Rosy Bills, nothing else, Rosy Bills. And I shot half a box of shells and didn’t cut a feather, he said, whoa, Mr. Russell, let me pour you a cup of coffee and I had kidded you that morning and said, where the heck are the sit? And you go, hey, you ain’t going to have time to sit down and I drank a little bit of coffee and you said –
The Rosy Bill: A Stunning Species of Waterfowl
And right at daylight here come the Rosy Bills, nothing else but Rosy Bills.
Diego : I didn’t say you’re not going to have time to sit down, I said, you don’t need the seat, you don’t going to have enough time to load your gun.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right, you’re right. But half a box shell didn’t cut a feather and you said something to me, I’ve never forgotten Diego, you said, where have you been hunting? And I told you, you said, you’ve been pass shooting, I said, no, we’ve been hunting out of blind, you said, yeah, but I think you’ve been shooting 60 or 70 yards and I can prove it. I said, well, I might have shot some that far and you go, normally when clients get off the plane and come down here and show up my camp, they’re missing, they miss on the first day, but you’re missing a foot and a half behind a bird, you said, you just shot half a box and you shot a foot and a half in front of every one of them that tells me and these birds are right here in your face, you’ve been shooting way further than this. And sure enough, once we dialed in, you just put it on a pull the trigger and we strapped up all those two limits of birds and had to wait on the sun to come up over the sunrise, to come up over the horizon so we could take a picture.
Diego : Ye, sir. We just finished before sun sunrise.
What Makes for a Top Rated Guided Duck Hunt in Argentina?
This year we drove with gaucho doing everything and looking for the perfect location, 4700 kilometers – that will be around 3000 miles.
Ramsey Russell: I know what I think and it goes back to that real duck hunt and that real duck hunter. But why don’t other Argentine outfitters manage their hunting as well? Because I don’t think they do. I’ve been here for 12 years and I put this operation in terms of consistent duck hunting, I’d put it up against most, if not all of the outfitters, most of them combined, is what I’m trying to say. Why don’t they do that? I know what I think and I’ll tell you mine, but you tell me your first.
Diego : Well, I knew that we were not going to have a season 2021, 2020. Anyway, January, I was here with gaucho, driving, looking at every pothole talking to all the gauchos and just watching the ducks see what they were going to do. 2021, I did the same stuff, drove around for 20 days, looking at every pothole, every marsh, I knew we were not going to have a season, but I had to do it anyway. Telling you this, I would not set up on an area that I don’t know or I didn’t drive for 4000 kilometers watching everything around 100 kilometers from where I’m going to lodge. This year we drove with gaucho doing everything and looking for the perfect location, 4700 kilometers that will be around 3000 miles.
Ramsey Russell: And this is a very dynamic, this is not always wet, this is not a swamp, this is like a prairie pothole that it’s wet, it’s dry, it moves, the water moves and the hardest thing of working with you initially, way back when was becoming accustomed to the fact that Diego is a nomad.
Diego : But we’re not nomads, the ducks are nomads.
Ramsey Russell: You go where the ducks are, that’s right, you go where they are. You don’t just come up here and say, well, I’m going to take the client 2.5 hours down the road where the water is, no, you go where the ducks are.
Diego : You’re hunting animals that are nomads. The ducks, it rains more than one area, they’re going to move with the water. Well, I’m not going to stay at the house and well, there’s not enough water, there’s too much water, I don’t know where the ducks are, I would like to spend more money and I don’t care, spending more money than anybody in the country because I can’t stand – let’s say this, we don’t sell excuses, we sell duck hunts.
Ramsey Russell: Amen.
Diego : The house might change, might be a little bigger, a little smaller, the service, the people, the food is going to be first class. The house might be a little older, we will rebuild them. We got a great team that if they have to paint and help, they got to build houses, we will do that, no problem. But first of all, the most important of all is getting closer than nomad duck hunters.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve seen you go up, I’ve seen areas go dry and you get in helicopters and send me footage where you’ve flown those thousands of miles finding the resource.
Diego : Well, sometimes you need more than the truck to cover miles.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a level of commitment, Diego, I don’t see anywhere else. And I think my theory is, because most of the other operators that you see advertised in a lot of places besides Argentina, but in Argentina especially, they’re not duck hunters, they’re not hunters.
Diego : I don’t know if you heard, I drive my truck, I don’t send nobody to watch the ducks. I sleep in the car if necessary as well gaucho, one of my main hands of Federico, we do what we got to do, we do it. I do it.
Ramsey Russell: You do it. And I’m going to interject this to say to you do that, you’re the general, you’ve got a very capable partner like I do in your wife. And I was sitting around the other day working instead of afternoon duck hunting and I realize she’s exactly like you in one respect, as the boss, she doesn’t order, she leads, she leads and the help follows. You lead, you don’t boss, hey, go do this, Diego leads and everybody else follows, that’s how a general goes into battle, a general leads the charge and the soldiers come with him.
Diego : Yesterday afternoon, we had the discussion with my crew because two of them finished before the rest and they just grab their stuff and pick up the ducks, give clients coffee and went back to the house. So, I came back and said, great hunt, perfect. Have you seen that every morning, I stay with 3 blinds, build 3 blinds, put the decoys out for 3, make sure everybody, especially the new guys are doing good. And then I go put my blind in place and start hunting and if I finish first, you got to go back, help the other guys to get out of the blind fast, especially with older people, you don’t go back to the house, you got to help, you got to do, if I do it, you do it.
Ramsey Russell: I said something to Cody the other day about the staff around here, I said, Cody thank you very much, it’s wonderful and she goes, no, we are a team.
Diego : That’s one of the major reasons why I would fire one of my employees.
Ramsey Russell: Not being a team player.
Diego : If they’re not a team player, if they don’t work with the flow, they’re not a crew like Bill says, a well trained swat team, he’s out, no matter if he speaks Spanish, English, French, whatever.
Ramsey Russell: What I was going to say is, I think this goes back to what I love about Las Flores, I love about the hunts that I go on worldwide, Diego is that I like to be among hunters. I think that a hunter, a real duck hunter sells duck hunts, not excuses. I think that a former driver, a former hotel manager, somebody in the tourist industry that has no winkling whatsoever about hunting sells excuses that’s m theory.
Diego : No, they don’t sell excuses. It doesn’t depend on them either, they just buy hunts from different people. Like you will know in the north of Argentina, 80% or 90% of the people just hunt with the same people, subcontract every hunt, they don’t even know what they’re going to hunt the next morning.
The Best Decoying Bird in Argentina
The Rosy bill is the king of Argentina.
Ramsey Russell: One thing I want to ask you about now, since we’re talking about duck hunting and getting into the root of things. I tell people with a lot of guys that come here for the first time, they want to put their hands on the pretties, they want to see the species that they’ve seen in pictures and they’ve seen on the internet and done things, I thought, oh, yeah, all the usual suspects are down here but the distinction between a first timer and the next time they come back or the 50th time they come back, let me finish. The first time I wants to see the little pretty birds, us repeat guys, I don’t want but one bird, what do you think that is?
Diego : Well, if you don’t want a Rosy bill, you haven’t been here, maybe a pintail once in a while for the change.
Ramsey Russell: But the Rosy Bill steal the show, man, why is that?
Diego : Because I would say it is the best decoying bird of Argentina, when it come in, it’s just so beautiful to watch them. And they act really good just like a mallard.
Ramsey Russell: There were times today that a flock of Rosy bill was spinning trying to – I mean, we were in a freaking little killing hole and the Rosy bill fly over it. But they got kind of – they’re going so fast, they got spin wide to come in and then we let little freaking birds go by, I mean, just don’t shoot wait on the Rosy bills. We let other little species flip across the hole, we’re waiting on the real deal.
Diego : That’s when you get into the real deal. The big birds, the Rosy bills, you close your eyes, you see them attacking you.
Ramsey Russell: That’s it. The Rosy bill is the king of Argentina. And what do you think about the second morning we hunt. The first morning, I was shooting a foot and half in front of them, second morning, I got dialed in, we go out to some tiny about the side of a backyard swimming pool holes you had fixed up and we both got soaking ass wet the minute we shot a single bird, we both tried to run out and get them at the same time.
Diego : Well, you remember there was a second flock that was coming in and I see this weird bird coming in, I told you Mr. Russell, that bird there is either a seagull or an albino Rosy bill, I knew it was albino Rosy bill because there’s no seagulls landing with Rosy bills.
Ramsey Russell: Not blonde, albino, wings and everything.
Diego : Pink albino. We shot, both of us empty our guns on the duck, we ran, we step on something, it was on the front line, we both got wet, we picked up that duck, not a broken bone, not a broken eye, nothing. We shot the bird at 10 yards –
Ramsey Russell: I think, he died of a heart attack.
Diego : We shot the bird at 10 yards over the decoys and we didn’t scratch nothing, that bird was beautiful and perfect.
What Does Hunting Do for Local Economies?
The house might change, might be a little bigger, a little smaller, the service, the people, the food is going to be first class.
Ramsey Russell: We talked about the hunting culture, the Spaniards, the French yada, yada bringing the pointers, the perdiz and there’s a lot of politics around the world, good Lord. But we just laid off talking about COVID. But here in Argentina, it’s politics, there’s anti-hunting, the geese, there’s anti-hunting sentiment because so much of your population lives in a big city like Gotham called Buenos Aires instead of out here. Diego, what I’m trying to ask you though is, what does hunting do for these local economies out here? I mean, you’ve got, I’m going to say 25 or 30 employees and then you’re working on different farms with different landowners. But beyond that, what does it do? What does hunting do for these local economies out here? How does it benefit Argentina?
Diego : Well, every one of my boys has a family, so we would say 30 families live out of our operation straight. And besides that, there’s fuel, there’s food, there’s car parts, mechanics, tire sellers, you name it, clothing, gas, propane –
Ramsey Russell: Food, groceries.
Diego : Whatever. I mean, the way we split the money that comes into the country like 3 or 4 operations, good or bad hunters, but lodging and the whole logistics, it’s better than straight money coming out of their pockets than any other thing that can be done in the winter, especially in Argentina is the low end of the tourism besides skiing. And province of Buenos Aires is one of the richest province of Argentina, but north part of Argentina, you’ve been there, Santa Fe, North Entre Rios, it’s really poor and they’re waiting for the people to come over and get them clothes, get them to hunt with them and make a living out of what is our passion.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to follow up with that with a lot of these ducks, I get asked all the time, what do you do with all them ducks? Number one, we eat a bunch right here. It’s like Forrest Gump duck and it’s all good, it’s unbelievable. Fried and meatballs and meat loaf and lasagna and piñatas and people say, oh, I don’t like duck, I’m like, well, you’ve been eating it for 4 days, how can you not? Because I’ve been seeing those plate size, heap portions on your plate.
Diego : Today is the 6th or the 7th, I don’t know, today is the 7th tomorrow there’s a bunch of our friends that are ranch owners that they’re putting together a – how do you call it an auction?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, a flea market.
Diego : It’s kind of a flea market, like an auction and a lot of the farmers are going to go there just for the help, this is made to help the school of a little town of maybe 600 inhabitants. What I’m going to do at that time besides go there because I like old furniture too and I don’t care about putting more money on top of what it’s worth, I’m going to bring, I’m going to get to cook at least 3 dozens of duck and piñatas and maybe some meatballs enough for them to the people, so they get into the culture of eating the ducks. Because we take all the breasts out and we fill coolers and freezer full of meat, we eat them, we cook them, we do lasagnas.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve gifted a bunch of them over the years.
Diego : Yeah, we’ve been giving them way, but after the season we do little hams, we do sausages, we do a bunch of stuff, but it’ll be great and helpful for us because it takes a lot of time to clean these birds if we could get people to get into the culture of eating them and teaching them how to eat them, not just poor people, regular people who like to eat ducks.
What Has Influenced the Culture of Argentina Duck Hunting?
And I’m assuming – to follow up real quick about the American influence on camo, waders, decoys, mojos, calls.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You alluded to this earlier, how is US duck hunting culture – because we’ve got a culture there. How has it influenced the way you all duck hunt down here?
Diego : 100%.
Ramsey Russell: How?
Diego : The way you hunt. Argentinians that duck hunt, they don’t really have access to a gear and some of them don’t care, they just want to sit down in a chair and pass your ducks, I don’t want hunt the duck, if it’s not over decoys, I use layout blinds, which nobody else does. If I see a field with ducks feeding on dry field, which is very weird in Argentina in north part of the region, that’s where I’m going.
Diego : Yeah, but the ones that I usually find on dry fields are pintail, but mostly Rosy bills. Which is different than yours, a Rosy bills is going to –
Ramsey Russell: It’s a pochard, but our pochards don’t land on dry field.
Diego : They can’t, it’s more closer to a canvas back. But our Rosy bills can dive like a canvasback, fly like a canvasback and land on dry field.
Ramsey Russell: Diego, a couple of funny stories. And I’m assuming – to follow up real quick about the American influence on camo, waders, decoys, mojos, calls.
Diego : We’ve been around Terry –
Ramsey Russell: I mean, all the calls when your lander, you blow like an Argentine bird, but they’re American calls.
Diego : They’re all American calls customized for Argentina. I had my set of calls since 1999.
Ramsey Russell: You like Mojo decoys?
Diego : I like Mojo decoys because they changed the world of duck hunting. I might have some of the old Mojo decoys, they used to have caterpillar engines in them.
Ramsey Russell: I think you’ve got some of the earliest I’ve ever seen.
Diego : And robo ducks, do you remember them robo ducks?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I do.
Diego : Well, I have some robo ducks and the old Mojos.
Ramsey Russell: And they have seen use that, a lot of the ones you still use have got BBs holes all in them from being Rosy bills decoying on top of them.
Diego : I don’t think I don’t have one that don’t have holes.
Ramsey Russell: Except for the ones I brought you.
Diego : Well, they already have holes.
Ramsey Russell: Last time, I was here with my son came back here for a senior trip, you like those decoying birds. But I had a video and I’m sure it’s on my computer somewhere, you took him and one of his classmates out and were video and you taught them to shoot from the hip, they were tripling from the hip, the ducks were so close.
Diego : Yeah, but then you got to know how to shoot them. And if I tell you how, I have to kill you. I can only tell your kids because I like them. Yeah, we were close to a limit, so I said, okay, it’s early, it’s not even sunrise, wait in a minute and then we’re going to start shooting from the hip. Your son looked at me and said, okay, how do we do it? So, put this, do this, imagine this, do that, he started shooting from the hip in no time.
Ramsey Russell: He did, he’s a good shot. I’m running through this, because I know we got clients waiting on us to get the heck back up to the airport. But there’s just some funny stories I’ve heard along the way, I’ve heard so many stories over 12 years, because we may spend 15, 20 minutes, we sit around, eat dinner together and 12 years worth of stories is hard to cover in an episode, I’m going to have to come back. But sometimes in this business dealing with clients, some people just wake up have a bad day or some people just need to get settled in and my wife got it, she was all upset one day, this was years and years ago because a client, you know my wife she is detail oriented –
Diego : I remember the call, Anita called me and said, Diego, here’s this client, he’s hard, he’s been with this, he’s specific with this and this and I said, Anita don’t worry, we’ll get him out.
Ramsey Russell: He said, what kind of circus are you running?
Diego : No. Well, this was the way – I think this client was putting pressure just in case to get a better hunt. So at one point, Anita was freaking out.
Ramsey Russell: She don’t freak out.
Diego : No, but she called me like 7 times until I told Anita, don’t worry about it, we’ll get it done.
Ramsey Russell: So how did you take care of it, Diego? How do you fix a guy like that, without hurting his feelings or disenfranchised?
Diego : Well, let’s put it this way. We went duck hunting, he showed up at the airport, we had brand new Toyota Hilux cab for two people on the way down, Anita called me and say Diego, what kind of car you send? He just told me the car is small, what kind of circus is this? Anita called me and said, he told me it’s a circus. So that afternoon, knowing what was going to happen after the first afternoon hunt and he was already a little bit more relaxed, I went to town, buy the groceries with my wife and on the way, I bought a bunch of stuff.
Ramsey Russell: What did you buy?
Diego : Well, let’s leave the people for a minute, let’s put it this way. We went the next morning duck hunting and on the way back to the lodge, I told my guides to wait to be the last one in there. We had a crew from Louisiana, crazy cool ass bunch, fun people to be around and a couple of guys from North Dakota, I gave to each one of the clients, my staff, my guides, my wife, the chef and everybody at the house, which is like 30 guys dressed as clowns with the hats, the noses, the hair and everything needed for the circus. So he stands out of the car and the chef comes to say hello, here’s what we are going to have for dinner, dressed as a clown, the rest of the clients were just walking around in the park, dressed as clowns, I say, how was your hunt this morning? Welcome to our circus. 10 minutes after that, he was dressed as a clown and taking pictures out of it.
Ramsey Russell: He left a very happy client, like everybody else here does. At the end of the day, it’s an experience, it’s fun but it’s a very high quality experience, it’s like, it’s numbers way more than we shoot in the United States, but it ain’t about numbers, it’s the quality that the opportunity to shoot a quantity represents. And it’s like the good old days.
Diego : What did you like this morning?
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I like a lot of birds, a lot of opportunities coming in.
Diego : But also when I choose a hole, I want to have a hole that looks good, has the tools around and I figure in my head how the ducks are going to come in there. When we used to goose hunt back in the days when it was legal, we used to shoot ducks out of lagoons that had nothing but rocks because that’s the area where the goose are, just put a layer of blinds on the side of the lagoon, but that was not nice. It was, you get your duck but it wasn’t beautiful. Here, we got the option to pick up the potholes we want to hunt and we choose them the way to make it nice, not only effective but nice.
Wild Game: Permits & Customs Agents
Ramsey Russell: So you said, you had some coonass hunters here, you ever had any coonass hunters, a house full of them? Well, because I’ve never been around real coonass from out tent that don’t like to cook. You ever had anybody try to bring something through customs? Tell that story, Diego.
Diego : I got a couple of clients that showed up at the airport with 4 coolers –
Ramsey Russell: Full of 4 big white ice chest.
Diego : Full of frog legs and blue catfish, all kinds of different gumbos and when they got to the house after work in all the permits to try to get that food past customs, they got into the house, they got into the kitchen and one of them said, all right, you’re out of kitchen, kitchen is our now. So they kicked out the chef to help everybody out of the kitchen and took over the kitchen for a week. My wife, after seeing what these guys could do at the house, she said for this week, I’m going home, she left the house and they coonass cover the house. And if they know they’re listening to this, they’ll find out who they are.
Ramsey Russell: What those customs agents say, when they showed up with 4 ice chests full of fresh seafood from America? Did they freak out?
Diego : They couldn’t speak the language. The first thing they tried to do, some stuff couldn’t get together with the permits and when one of the custom agents tried to take away a bag with gumbo or something and throw it in a hole. One of the biggest coon-asses, a friend of ours said, you ain’t touching that thing or I’ll kill you.
Ramsey Russell: I guess they just were such friendly people, the customer just shrugged and said we’re going to give this back.
Diego : They had some permits and they were cooked and they were closing, like, under pressure with all the licenses for the frogs and we made it, they had the permission but they couldn’t speak the language. So when somebody opens the cooler like that, it’s just crazy. But who in the hell would bring 4 bags of coolers full of food when you come in here to eat?
Ramsey Russell: Diego, you’re a hunter of epic proportion, you love to duck hunt, I’ve seen you shoot, you’re a great shot, you’re a gunsmith, you’re a way to repair, but above all else, you’re a people person, you really truly are the everybody – I mean, just around a crowd, around a camp, you’re a people person. You get to know every one of these clients, you sit down and eat dinner with them, you drive with different ones, you guide different ones throughout the week, because it’s a people business and you speak great English and not only do you speak English, you understand the context of a lot of the little idioms that we Americans have. You get perfect context, you tell jokes and things like that, but I’m going to ask you this question. What do you like most about this business? Because you obviously like what you do, what do you like most about this duck hunting?
Diego : The thing that I like the most about this business? Me and most of my crew that we would do it for free.
Ramsey Russell: Because you just love it.
Diego : Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, you all been listening to my buddy Diego at Las Flores where we don’t sell excuses, we sell duck hunts and I mean duck hunts of every proportion you can go to getducks.com/lasflores for more details or call me to discuss, the season runs May through August every year. Thank you all for listening to episode of Duck Season Somewhere and Diego, thank you for a great couple of weeks.
Diego : Thank you, sir. Thank you for being here.
Ramsey Russell: Adios.