As if pre-dawn gaucho horseback rides into the duck hunting marsh, countless black clouds of doves flying back to roost, teal-sized picazuro pigeons charging into decoys, partridges flushing as hunters walk past rock-solid pointers isn’t enough, there’s the cultural immersion, hospitality, field asados, everything-but-the-moo cuts of delicious Argentine meats. But how do guests and staff describe the like-a-box-of-chocolates La Paz experience? What did they enjoy most, what’ll be forever remembered? Why’s it a great hunt for entire families, hunters and non-hunters alike? Whether you are considering a hunt south of the equator or just want to experience it vicariously, you’ll enjoy hearing the diverse perspectives of this great adventure.
The Familiarity of La Paz
…this little town has always reminded me a lot of like Vicksburg or Greenville, Mississippi town of about 35,000 and I’m just connected to this river, the tug boats and traffic and commerce and especially fishing, we always have a good time and also ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, wrapping up a 9 or 10 week, I lose count stretch down here in Argentina. Buddy, you better believe it was good to be back. I went to Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, San Luis and also Entre Rios made a loop and covered all 4 of our outfitters down here. And ending on a great note with a great bunch of guys here at our flagship La Paz right on the west side of Entre Rios on the steep banks of the Paraná River, watching tug boats and everything else go down the river right now and this little town has always reminded me a lot of like Vicksburg or Greenville, Mississippi town of about 35,000 and I’m just connected to this river, the tug boats and traffic and commerce and especially fishing, we always have a good time and also ducks. Came over here this week with some guests and we’ve had a great time and I could talk about this place all day long, but I want you all to hear what these guys have to say about it. Starting with Mr. John, how are you, John?
Ramsey Russell: Man, look you and I connected, we like to bring guests in and go eat there at that restaurant downtown, which is a fine meat house and we hit it off right off the bat, didn’t we? Over some good eats.
John: We did, that’s a beautiful restaurant. They’ve got the big rack of meat cooking on the spit out in front of it and it’s just a really nice, warm, friendly place.
Ramsey Russell: Every time I go in there and I’ve eaten there a bunch of and a bunch over the last 20 years, I always say I’m going to get matambre or I’m going to get the short beef ribs or something good like that. And I always get the dad gum filet mignon with a fried egg on top. But this time I didn’t, this time I ordered something off that in the front window and I ordered goat and if I’ve ever eaten goat before, I don’t remember, but that was pretty darn good. Had you eaten it before?
John: I eat it before, yes. I’ve had it not a lot, but I have eaten it several times and another thing that we had that I thought was really fun too is Ramsey said, do any of you guys want sweet breads? And I absolutely love sweet breads and yeah, if you guys have got sweet breads, we better have some of those for our roads.
Ramsey Russell: Right off the gate, I’m going to order now, I’m going to order something different than that beef with the fried egg on top, I’m going to start to order stuff off the perilla. But I always do get a round of sweet bread and somebody says something about sweet bread, well, it’s a gland, I don’t know what it is. You go, oh, it’s right there, you pointed to my neck and touch my neck, it’s from right there, it’s a gland. And I said, how do you know? You said, because I was a meat cutter. So, what’s your background?
John: Well, my background is when I – I’ve always loved to hunt. So, I did a lot of butchering, especially on deer and elk because I’m a Colorado boy. And when I got back from the army back from Vietnam, I decided, well, what the heck do I really want to do? And one of the guys said, well, why don’t you be a meat cutter? So I said, well, I could do that for a little while. So in those days, we actually had a meat cutting school, so I was in California and went to a meat cutting school and then from there, I went to the packing plants in Vernon and from there I went to the grocery store.
Ramsey Russell: What’s it like being a meat cutter in America down here in Argentina? Because we all know, everybody listening has heard about famous Argentina beef, but down here they eat everything.
Liking the Beef for the Beef: Favorite Argentine Meat Cuts
For example, one of my favorite cuts in Argentina is called matambre, I like the beef.
John: They do. And if you really love meat, that’s a big plus for Argentina because you get to have meat three meals a day if you want to. And when I’m at home, I have meat three meals a day. So it’s really natural, it makes me feel really good.
Ramsey Russell: Why is it that back home, we only cook certain cuts. I mean, my whole life, we got hamburger, we go T bones, filets, New York strip sirloin, I guess people still eat sirloin, that’s really about it.
John: Well, they eat a lot of sirloins. Sirloin is a reasonable good steak, it’s a muscle that’s not used as much as all the other ones and you still get the steak flavor, you don’t have any waste on it. You don’t get the fat on it, you don’t have the fat inside of it. So it’s not as sweet, but it’s the value of it and the quality of it for the dollar is very good.
Ramsey Russell: But both of my granddad’s were in a different era back in the 60s, 70s is best, I could remember, that’s all I ever remember them cooking for steak with a 3 lbs or 4 lbs sirloin, low and slow over the coals.
John: And it’s hard to beat.
Ramsey Russell: Why is it that we don’t eat a lot of the cuts down here? For example, one of my favorite cuts in Argentina is called matambre, I like the beef. And then there’s another cut that’s got a lot more fat than matambre, but it’s a twitch muscle, it’s like on the outside of the rib cage –
John: It controls the skin. This is actually what it does. It’s a muscle that keeps the skin away from the softer muscles below it and it also allows the animal to move its skin around for circulation.
Ramsey Russell: And it’s delicious. We were talking at the table the other night with another group, somebody said, well, that probably ends up in our hamburger pile back home.
John: It does.
Ramsey Russell: Why, it’s all good? I mean, we’ve eaten belly, we’ve eaten parts of a flank.
John: It’s all good, but we are so spoiled and we’re so set on what we eat that we want burger and we want steak and we want ribs and as far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing else.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about the flavor of their beef down here? The way they prepare it, the way they cook and just the overall flavors. It’s a lot of grass fed beef.
John: Most of it’s grass fed down here, which you lose a little bit of the sweetness because it’s a grass fed, don’t have that real sugar flavor that you get from the grain. But they make up for it by cooking it on live coals with the real smoke and it just adds that extra dementia to that meat.
Ramsey Russell: Another thing I’ve noticed too and I love it. I think it really has a lot to do with giving red meat a great flavor, they basically use core salt, a little pepper, a little garlic, that’s it. But mostly core salt and grill it. No marina, no flavor maskers, no, nothing just meat.
John: It’s just the real deal. To me, I mean, if you don’t really like the flavor of the meat, you can cover it up with whatever. I mean, you can put salsa and ketchup on it and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just saying, if you’re kind of a purist and you love that flavor when you chew into it and it’s in your mouth and you’re really tasting it, you’ve got like the beef for the beef.
Ramsey Russell: I like the beef. Outside the standard American cut, what has been some of your favorite cuts of bait we’ve had down here? The short ribs are tough but they’re hard to beat, the flavor.
John: The short ribs are tough because that’s a muscle that’s used a lot. And usually, if we eat short ribs, we cook them to death, we either cook them for until it falls off the bone and that’s all right. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that but you lose so much flavor by it being cooked and cooked. So down here it’s a little tougher, you’re going to have to take it off the bone and really chew it, but you get more beef.
Ramsey Russell: It’s the most popular cut of beef in Argentina to the fact that, back home when we say barbecue, I mean pork ribs and down here if they say asado, they mean unless stated otherwise beef short ribs, it’s the most popular cut down here. And I asked why? And it’s because of the flavor and the flavor is amazing.
John: It’s amazing. The bone and the fat, it’s dynamite.
Ramsey Russell: Changing subjects. We beat that horse to death.
John: Everybody went to sleep.
Worldwide Duck Hunting Experiences
One memory that you wouldn’t even think of is, we actually took horses and went into the ponds to hunt ducks and I thought that was just absolutely great to be in Argentina to be on horses and going through the grass and out through the swamp to hunt ducks, it just added another dimension to the hunt.
Ramsey Russell: They did. Good food keeps his audience up, what do you think? Had you been to Argentina before you showed up down here?
John: No, this is my very first time in Argentina.
Ramsey Russell: And what did you expect? And what was it like?
John: Well, you talk to other hunters and there’s so much information out there that, you have some ideas of what you think it’s going to be like. And naturally, I’ve been into Brazil so I had kind of a taste of this area. But it’s really, the meat and the hospitality and it’s quite good.
Ramsey Russell: Did you pull the trigger? What about the trigger pulling?
John: Oh, yeah. You get to shoot ducks and they’re absolutely beautiful and it’s a really great experience. There’s a lot more to it than just killing ducks, it’s the whole package is very nice.
Ramsey Russell: I tell people all the time, I’ll tell anybody listening, we specialize in worldwide duck hunting experiences worldwide, heavy emphasis on the experience, and dead ducks are a part of the experience, but we don’t sell dead ducks, we sell experiences, dead ducks are just a part of that.
John: And it’s an important part, that’s what draws you in, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of your memories over the past 4 days? What are some of your favorite surprises, favorite events? What’s one memory that’s going to stand out, besides hunting with me?
John: Well, yeah, that’s way down the list. One memory that you wouldn’t even think of is, we actually took horses and went into the ponds to hunt ducks and I thought that was just absolutely great to be in Argentina to be on horses and going through the grass and out through the swamp to hunt ducks, it just added another dimension to the hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Gaucho saddles, the work.
John: The old gaucho saddles and believe it or not, they’re nothing like ours, but they put a big sheep hide on it and it is very comfortable.
Ramsey Russell: Very comfortable. Well, all those horses, there must have been a dozen horses at the fence when you get back and they’ve all got mud up past the top of their knees and all I could think is I was walking out on them horses is thank God that horse is going through this and not me. Walking a mile through knee deep mud is a ain’t no duck worth that.
John: No. And down here it’s a real rich, dark, thick mud and it’s not an easy thing to walk through.
Ramsey Russell: I know, when we booked this trip, this is a Plan B being here at La Paz is Plan B, cross the river over in Santa Fe at big marsh we usually hunt, it’s very dry this year, the numbers were good, the experiences were good until it wouldn’t. And I called you up and said, hey, we can’t come here, we need to go elsewhere or we need to reschedule and I was really glad you all trusted me to come here for a good Plan B. It’s not a pure duck hunt, we shoot ducks and doves and pigeons and you all got to go pigeon hunting and I know it wasn’t high up on the radar, but I said, I think as much as you all like duck hunting, you’re going to like this pigeon hunt. And I could tell when you stepped out of the truck at lunch out there in the field on that pigeon hunting day, yeah, he liked it. What do you think about that wild pigeon hunt over decoys?
John: Now, that was my very first time to shoot true wild pigeons. And I was very pleased. It wasn’t very high on my list, it was just a nice outing and we’re going to have a little cook out in the field and I thought I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it because I like to shoot, I like to hunt and I was very pleased with it, the pigeons were absolutely sporty and it was a very good hunt.
Ramsey Russell: They decoy like ducks.
John: And they decoy, they come in on the mojo, it’s fun.
Ramsey Russell: You get two kinds of pigeons down here, picazuro which are the great big ones with the purple collar and the white strips and the white stripes on our wings and then the little spot wings. But we shoot them with duck loads because they’re a big, sturdy bird and it’s the closest thing to duck hunting without duck hunting that I can imagine and it’s really much as I love to duck hunt, it is my favorite day of the La Paz week is when you go shoot decoying pigeons. And I just absolutely love it. And I think it’s a lot too on a beautiful day. I think they do a great job of feeding us out there, I kind of like the picnic atmosphere. I kind of like – it’s something about just being in that sunshine all day and socializing midday and shooting pigeon, it’s just a very relaxing day, I’m so relaxed at the end of the day, you could pour me in a shot glass.
John: It is. I mean, I would have to agree with you 100% on that. It’s a very pleasant day and it’s a fun something that you wouldn’t expect and to break up your hunt in the middle of your hunt, it’s very pleasant.
Ramsey Russell: Is there anything you would change about this experience? Is there anything – you’re going to shoot perdiz in here a little bit, I believe.
John: Everything. It’s like most people that you want to do it all.
Ramsey Russell: Is there anything you’d change anything you’d wish were different in the combo?
John: Absolutely. There’s nothing – the area I thought was unbelievable. The food is spectacular. The hospitality is great. The only thing that I would change to make it absolutely perfect and there’s nothing that’s absolutely perfect is I’m a collector too, like a lot of people and for me not to be able to take a couple of birds home for my collection hurts my feelings.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody down here says the same thing and I tell you what, I’m good but I ain’t God and I can’t move up left leaning Venezuela want to be government into doing something like that. For those of you all listening, we get asked all the time. Can you bring birds? Answers is, no. And there ain’t no way to beat the system. You can’t mount them down here, you can’t short of smuggling them, but don’t smuggle stuff into the United States, it’s a felony. About 13 years ago, their political leadership banned the export of indigenous wildlife, not just duck but all indigenous wildlife and with what’s going on, you’ve probably heard some of the conversations, we’ve been very busy, I’m very dismayed to learn that anti-hunting is reared, its very ugly head and it’s just typical, liberal, never mind the fact that they were right here in Entres Rois in my lifetime in our lifetime, they were indiscriminately poisoning ducks by the millions, not the hundreds or the thousands by the millions just to keep them out of crops. Now, they’ve decided, we don’t need rich American hunters and I’ve read that verbatim, wealthy American hunters come to our country and shooting these rare species. They’re not rare. Well, I mean, matter of fact, the government itself doesn’t survey, they don’t know, so the anti-hunters are trying to ban duck hunting and from that, they want to ban the doves and the perdiz. They just want to ban hunting and it’ll get around to the red stag and non-indigenous species if left unchecked. And I actually got called John by 3 or 4 outfitters that I work with closely down here to say, please quit posting duck hunting photos on your social media because a lot of people watch it and the anti will use it to fight us. If you would just, please let us – I mean, you’ve got certain outfitters down here most of whom I work with going elbow deep, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars they’re picking to spend to public relations and most, especially a survey. They’re actually going to hire government officials or government biologists or biologist period to go out and survey these resources and to demonstrate to their government and to the anti that this is – regulated hunting is a sustainable use. And it goes back to, you can see how easy it be when a government 15 years ago just said, no, I don’t, you can’t, it’s all a part of the agenda don’t export it because then it gives it commodity value, that’s what’s going on that, there’s no other explanation for it. But I don’t make the rules in Argentina, I just come down here and paint within the lines and enjoy it for what it is, what it ain’t.
John: Well, boy, I can see that there’s no way that you could – I mean, I’m the last person to say that you should definitely have regulations on it. There should have surveys on it but do it for the advantage because it’s a renewable source. You can harvest so many of them and it’s renewable, the country will only hold so many. So if you take the surplus off the top of it, all you’re doing is enhancing the whole thing.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve seen the same modus operandi in countries that are parsley close to having their duck season closed or have had their duck seasons closed around the world. No information is power, information is power, commodity value is power, non-commodity value is – you see what I’m saying? It’s a struggle between that right there to pull that off. But what inflamed me is when some of these anti-hunting groups down here describe this rich evil American hunter is coming down here and they don’t say the word hunter in media, they say poacher or predators. Oh boy, that just infuriates me because me and I know you and the gentleman, I’m sharing camp with you all hunt a lot and we American hunters have created, have funded through our recreational interest in wildlife the most indisputably powerful wildlife conservation ethos on earth, through our model, it worked, pay to play works. And so anyway, I didn’t mean to run down that rabbit trail, but here we are.
John: I should have never talked about the duck there.
Ramsey Russell: John, I really enjoyed sharing camp with you. Thank you very much entrusting us with your hunt for showing up down here
John: You’re darn right. And I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased with the whole thing.
Guys Trip: All About Father’s Day Duck Hunting
It doesn’t matter where you hunt them, but this gives him the opportunity to shoot more ducks than he’s ever shot in his lifetime and it was great.
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Gerald Black Welder, also from Colorado joining us today at La Paz man, the drive up here was Father’s Day and I know you all didn’t look at the calendar, plan the date this way, but we stopped that little cafe and ate more meat, boy was that good, that was a little Tanner your grandson’s idea to not grab a sandwich but to go eat something proper. And it just occurred to me, Father’s Day and you’re here with your son and your grandson, that’s a heck of a trip you all, isn’t it?
Gerald Black Welder: It is. It was something that we were really looking forward to.
Ramsey Russell: How did it turn out? How did it go?
Gerald Black Welder: Well, I think it turned out real well. Tanner, which is my grandson, he really loved it to hunt ducks. It doesn’t matter where you hunt them, but this gives him the opportunity to shoot more ducks than he’s ever shot in his lifetime and it was great.
Ramsey Russell: I know you all want to go shoot just ducks, but it was dry, we kind of run out of ducks we talked about that. But I knew, talking to Ryan, I knew with a 10 year old little boy, they were going to love the doves and the pigeons and I mean, man, little kids are just like grown men love just pull the trigger boy. He pulled the trigger, I watched him yesterday, triple on parakeets out in the field.
Gerald Black Welder: Oh yeah, he’s really coming of strong, he’s doing real well.
Ramsey Russell: What did you enjoy most about it?
Gerald Black Welder: Just a camaraderie with the whole group of people that was here that really catered to Tanner mainly, they catered to him, it was just great. I enjoyed the camaraderie with all the bird guys, the bird boys, they call them, it was just good, everything was good.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite hunt?
Gerald Black Welder: I think this morning.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about it.
Best Argentina Duck Hunt?
I mean, we shot lots of ducks, saw lots of birds and it’s probably the best duck hunt that I’ve been on in Argentina.
Gerald Black Welder: Well, we went to the marsh on the horses, of course and the horses are just amazing. They can walk through that mud and if something would have happened and I stayed there, I couldn’t have got out. It was just so deep you can’t walk in, but it was a typical Argentina marsh where there’s just marsh everywhere and birds everywhere, all kinds of birds. And each one of us had our own individual blind, so you weren’t competing with any of your buddies or anything. And it was just a lot of fun to shoot. I mean, we shot lots of ducks, saw lots of birds and it’s probably the best duck hunt that I’ve been on in Argentina.
Ramsey Russell: Have you been here before?
Gerald Black Welder: Yeah, 2 more times.
Ramsey Russell: When were you here last?
Gerald Black Welder: In 2000. Yeah, it’s been a long time. I brought my son over, I think he was 18 then and I took him to shoot the Magellan geese when you could shoot him.
Ramsey Russell: Man, that is the one thing I miss, I miss shooting old Magellan geese.
Gerald Black Welder: It was fun. We had a ball. He had never done anything like that. One of the things that he was really – he had never been into any kind of an estancia or anything like that. And those estancias were built back at the turn of the century and then they retrofitted with plumbing and electricity and he come up to me and he says, dad, there’s two toilets in here, I said one of them is a bidet, he said, what is that?
Ramsey Russell: brush your teeth in it?
Gerald Black Welder: I told him and he says, you got to be kidding me. But it was kind of fun, it was really fun.
Ramsey Russell: It’s funny you say that the other day about that bidet because I was down here a few weeks ago and somebody else we got to talking about the paper shortage during COVID in America. And I’m like, well, I stocked up on it and they go, why I go, well, what else you going to wipe your butt with and they go water, they kind of got that figured out, don’t they?
Gerald Black Welder: Yeah, they do.
Ramsey Russell: What were some of your favorite species down here?
Gerald Black Welder: Well, I liked the silver teal, the spotted ring neck, the ringed teal and the Brazilian teal. I’d only shot maybe 6 or seven Brazilian teal on all my trips down here. And so this was just you get to shoot a lot of Brazilian teal, lots of Brazilians and a lot of –
Ramsey Russell: I like shooting the Brazilian ducks and I like shooting the ring teal and they were some of the last Argentine species I encountered until I started coming up here to the marshes up north, where you really get into them like that. And this morning where I was hunting a small little hole out that marsh, there were a few silver teal I decided not to shoot, I said there was enough Brazilians and enough ring teal I was going to stick with them until that one old rosy bill come through and I don’t give them a pass, but it was just a really fun hunt. I just enjoyed, I enjoy the overall experience. How would you describe the food here at La Paz?
Gerald Black Welder: I don’t think it could do any better. I mean, it was great. I love the smoked flavor of the meat and you just have everything, they have the appetizers, you have the desserts, you have the main meal, the drinks, the wine, whatever you want, three times a day. If I stayed here very long I would have to roll back home.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you said at dinner last night while you eat dessert, you made up your mind, you were not going to diet or skimp while you were down, you’re on vacation, you’re going to eat.
Gerald Black Welder: That’s exactly right.
Ramsey Russell: Have you had a favorite meal so far?
Gerald Black Welder: They are all so good, it’s hard to say, what was my favorite. The short ribs are really good, I love them. I love the short ribs. That steak while ago wasn’t too bad.
Ramsey Russell: You can’t beat a rib eye nowhere.
Gerald Black Welder: No.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know about you, Gerald, but I don’t eat rib eyes for lunch back home.
Gerald Black Welder: No, me either.
Ramsey Russell: Especially good ones. Did you try the appetizer for lunch?
Gerald Black Welder: But I prefer the pigeon –
Ramsey Russell: The pigeon and parakeet.
Gerald Black Welder: I preferred the pigeon over the parakeet myself personally, but the parakeet was good.
Ramsey Russell: They just chicken fried them or their version of chicken fry both and I thought they were both just tasty.
Gerald Black Welder: They really, both of them are.
Ramsey Russell: Put a little lemon juice on them and I just thought they were good. People ask about shooting these birds down here and they all get at, these bird boys and the locals take them, they want them, they live on them, they eat them good. How would you describe La Paz as a family destination? Do you think your wife would have liked it? Because I think my wife would love it as a non-hunter.
Gerald Black Welder: She would like it. She’d like the lodge like here that you have here and the river in the front.
Ramsey Russell: What about the chocolate?
Gerald Black Welder: Yeah, she’d like that. She loved the chocolate. I’m taking some home, in fact.
Ramsey Russell: We didn’t even go, nobody in this group brought shorts but they call it a spa but it’s like these little thermic hot pools and it’s a bunch of them, so you can find the one that hits you just right, too cold, too warm or just right.
Gerald Black Welder: Well, too hot, too cold, too whatever, it reminds me of trying to adjust the showers here. It’s a little bit tricky, but once you get it, you got it, but sometimes it takes you a little while to get it right.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, gosh, that’s funny. So you’re going to go out this afternoon, you’re going to wrap up this afternoon watching your son and grandson shoot, you shot out.
Gerald Black Welder: I don’t have to shoot another bird, I have shot all I need to shoot and I want to be with them too and watch them and enjoy the two of them doing it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?
Gerald Black Welder: That’s all, that’s what it’s all about.
Ramsey Russell: Gerald, thank you very much. I have so enjoyed the week with you all, it’s unbelievable. I’m at the end of a long stretch and end on this note was such good, happy, fun to be around folks was just, I had a good time. My favorite, I think my favorite meal was the picnic on a pigeon hunt.
Gerald Black Welder: It was great.
Ramsey Russell: We had something else, but it was just out in that sunshine and we were all laughing and talking, we shot a bunch of birds and it was just a fun day.
Gerald Black Welder: It was a good trip. A good fun outing all day. I mean, we didn’t come back to the lodge, we stayed out all day. It was fun.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you, Gerald.
Gerald Black Welder: You bet.
First Hunting Trip to Argentina!
You hunted ducks, you hunted doves, you hunted pigeons, but the parakeets, what do you like most about shooting them?
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Tanner Black Welder whopping age of 10 years old going on 22. Tanner, how did you like your first trip to Argentina shooting stuff?
Tanner Black Welder: Loved it.
Ramsey Russell: What do you like most about it?
Tanner Black Welder: Probably killing the parakeets.
Ramsey Russell: Parakeets. That was your number one?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You hunted ducks, you hunted doves, you hunted pigeons, but the parakeets, what do you like most about shooting them?
Tanner Black Welder: Just how they come in and they’re just fun to shoot.
Ramsey Russell: I was sitting across the feed lot from it the other day and it looked to me like your daddy shoots better when you all shoot at the same birds. Is there any truth to that?
Tanner Black Welder: I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: You don’t know, you ain’t going to go for that one?
Tanner Black Welder: No.
Ramsey Russell: Because he’s sitting here. But I did see you triple on parakeets. Boom, that was a very good shoot. Do you feel like your shooting has improved since you’ve been here?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Because you just get to shoot a lot.
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about the overall duck hunting experience here?
Tanner Black Welder: It was fun.
Ramsey Russell: That’s it. It was just fun? What was fun about it?
Tanner Black Welder: Just seeing all the different birds and killing them. Like at home, we don’t see any of these birds.
Ramsey Russell: How does Argentina compare to hunting back home other than just the species? What’s the habitat like down here?
Tanner Black Welder: Marshy, wet, but at home it’s all dry and just kind of ugly.
Ramsey Russell: How long have you been hunting?
Tanner Black Welder: I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: As long as you can remember?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: What’s it like to a 10 year old kid to be down here? Because I can’t remember when I was 10 years old, Tanner. What’s it like to a 10 year old kid to be down here with your dad and granddad? Has it dawn on you what a big deal it is being here with those two men who love you more than anybody else.
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Did they teach you to hunt?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: What’s your favorite memory of hunting with your granddad, this morning? Yesterday? You hunted with your dad this morning? You hunted with your granddad yesterday, you all had a good hunt yesterday, didn’t you?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah, probably that one.
Ramsey Russell: Was that the best hunt you’ve ever had with your granddad?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: What did you all shoot?
Tanner Black Welder: Lots of Brazilian teal.
Ramsey Russell: Which one’s your favorite species down here? You got a favorite species?
Tanner Black Welder: No.
Ramsey Russell: Just like the next one in the decoys, that’s my man. I told you I like you, Tanner. Today for appetizer, we had a couple of unique appetizers that you and your dad ordered up because you all want to try them. What do you think about them?
Tanner Black Welder: Very good.
Ramsey Russell: What’s your favorite?
Tanner Black Welder: Parakeet.
Ramsey Russell: Really? So, you like to shoot them and eat them?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Do you remember your favorite meal you’ve had so far? Because I know you got too hot a leg, I’ve never seen a 10 year old little boy eat so much beef in his life. I’m expecting to go home moving, have you got a favorite meal you’ve had so far?
Tanner Black Welder: Probably the day we went and shot and we stayed out all day.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. That was a fun day, wasn’t it?
Tanner Black Welder: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Did you shoot a bunch of pigeons?
Tanner Black Welder: Few.
Ramsey Russell: That’s because you were stuck with the parakeets. Tanner, I’ve enjoyed sharing camp with you, I really appreciate you being here with us. And bringing up the rear of the Black Welder Clan is Ryan, Tanner’s daddy. And Ryan, what was it like? What was La Paz like? Tell me about your week down here.
Ryan Black Welder: Lots and lots of shooting, lots and lots of eating, lots and lots of good company from people that we’ve never met, including yourself. And yeah, we had a really fantastic trip.
Ramsey Russell: You spent a lot of time, I’ve learned this week in hunting camps around the world. I mean, boy everything from Elk to argali to all kinds of critters, we talked about. Have you ever noticed that birds of a feather kind of flock together? You get into a camp and almost always, you could get along with the folks at the table, whether you know them or not, I’ve known you for 4 days and I feel like we’re family now.
Ryan Black Welder: Exactly. Yes, sir. Everybody, I would say hunters in general for the most part get into a camp and they’re all exactly the same, all want to do the same thing, they get along, the camaraderie is about the same, everybody knows stories, everybody has stories, everybody talks the same, it’s pretty cool.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. And it’s an endless supply of hunting stories and laughter here around the table. I’ve never seen, I can’t describe it any other way that, it’s something magical that happens here at hunting camp anywhere in the world.
Ryan Black Welder: You’re exactly right.
Ramsey Russell: Every once in a blue moon you get some asshole that don’t belong –
Ryan Black Welder: We didn’t have any here though, not this week.
Ramsey Russell: We didn’t have none this week. But I kind of feel sorry for them people. If they’re miserable here, what must it be like in the real world?
Ryan Black Welder: Yeah, awful. Yeah, you’re exactly right every now and then you’ll get one, but for the most part we’re all one at the same.
Ramsey Russell: You all brought your guns down here, it wasn’t too bad getting through custom a little bit, it takes a little time, but you’re probably used to it bringing guns elsewhere.
Ryan Black Welder: Exactly. Right. Yeah, it was not hard. The beginning legs of the trip, getting all the paperwork lined up before we ever started, that’s where all the work was.
A Box of Chocolates Hunt
And I tell people that have never been to Argentina or that have young Tanners type with them, it’s a great place to go because it’s diverse, it’s like a little chocolate sampling box, you can try it all and then come back another time and choose your favorite or eat your favorite flavor, so to speak.
Ramsey Russell: Where you at a little bit, if you ain’t careful. I tell people just paperwork and protocol and patience, plan a day early and come down here and do it. What was your favorite hunt down here? What was your favorite hunt?
Ryan Black Welder: It’s a toss up, there’s two. Yesterday, shooting feedlots, because we wore the parakeets out yesterday. And then this morning, Tanner and I sat on that hole, it was a legit teal hole, there was nothing else going to come in there. I mean, nothing. And we shot the teal this morning and watching him from day one to now, he shot not real good on day one, shot a little bit better on day two, but by now he’s got it dialed in.
Ramsey Russell: There was an old hunter southern hunter named Nash Buckingham and I read a lot of his books back in the day, he was reportedly a very good shot back Pre-Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a lot of his hunting was and he described later in his years that modern day hunters would likely not ever shoot as good as his generation because we didn’t have the opportunity to pull the trigger and you come down here, but he didn’t count on folks coming down to Argentina. I mean, literally any given week in Argentina, you’re going to pull the trigger on birds more then maybe a duck season or five back home.
Ryan Black Welder: At least 2 to 3 for us from Colorado. For sure. We’ve shot more in this 4 days, than we would shoot 2 or 3 years over there duck hunting in Colorado.
Ramsey Russell: When you say a legit teal hole, was it about the side of a golf green, surrounded by trees?
Ryan Black Welder: Yeah, it was no further than 60 yards to the furthest bank and we’re shooting, the closest bank was at 5. And it was just a pothole, just a pothole out in the middle of the swamp or out in the middle of the woods and ankle deep.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, perfect teal habitat. Did you manage to shoot any rosy bills?
Ryan Black Welder: I shot one yesterday on that marsh where you guys went out this morning.
Ramsey Russell: It’s got to be deeper. They like deeper water, they like fresher water and it is a little dry in here, but there is a lot of ducks. And I tell you, we’re supposed to go over that wild marsh and I told you, I said Ryan, you all are welcome to come, but we’ll shoot way more ducks on that combo hunt right now because they got some water than we will over here. We were doing good, it just come to a screeching halt, so we Plan B it over here and I’m really glad you did because I love this. It’s one of our flagship hunt, it’s one of the hunts that really kind of made getducks.com 15 years ago and I guess, you kind of see why. And I tell people that have never been to Argentina or that have young Tanners type with them, it’s a great place to go because it’s diverse, it’s like a little chocolate sampling box, you can try it all and then come back another time and choose your favorite or eat your favorite flavor, so to speak. But the duck hunting is good, the dove hunting, the pigeon hunting, the parakeets you all are not going to do perdiz.
Ryan Black Welder: No, sir. John’s going to run perdiz this afternoon, he wants to do it, Tanner wants to go back to the feedlot, so we’re going to go back to the feedlot.
Ramsey Russell: Did you hunt with your dad Gerald growing up like you hunt with Tanner?
Ryan Black Welder: I did. Yes, sir. Yeah, first trip to Argentina was in 2000, our only trip to Argentina, my trip 2000, he had hunted a couple of years before that. But yes, it was always duck hunting from as far back as I can remember. I mean, from shooting the Blunt Nose A5 because he was holding the stock under my arm, not ready and I pulled the trigger and ended up getting a shiner under my right eye and my dad goes, oh boy, we are in so much trouble with your mother and we were. But yeah, growing up all through the years, waterfowl hunting, he’s a big waterfowl hunter, always has been. And then I kind of later, after I got to where I could hunt big game that kind of took me, that way. I still shoot a lot of ducks and a lot of geese, but I’m a big game hunter.
Ramsey Russell: What’s it like being here in Argentina with your dad who raised you hunting and your son who you’re raising to hunt? That’s got to be an incredible experience, 3 generations of Black Welders right here having fun, having a trip of lifetime.
Ryan Black Welder: It really is. It’s hard to explain because I do have my mentor and I’m trying to be a mentor for him as well and all out there shooting the same birds, ribbing each other, giving each other a hard time, it’s hard to explain, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Ramsey Russell: We went for pigeon hunting the other day, everybody seemed to enjoy it and you asked me, you said, are we going to shoot any parakeets? I said, I don’t know, I hadn’t seen where we’re going sometimes they’re around and it was a cut milo field and boy were they plentiful. And you all didn’t shoot many pigeons that day because to get the pigeons in, they’re skittish, you got to shoot at nothing else and be hidden and sit down and wait on them and you all beat the brakes off those parakeets that day.
Ryan Black Welder: 2 days in a row.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And I heard a bunch of banging across the field after lunch and I said, hey, I know, who that is and what they’re shooting.
Ryan Black Welder: Yes, sir. We did good.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about them as table fair?
Ryan Black Welder: Very good. Surprisingly good.
Ramsey Russell: You got to figure they’d be good because they eat nothing but grain.
Ryan Black Welder: They’re eating the same thing that the doves are eating and we all love dove, it’s not just bird feed that they’re feeding on.
Ramsey Russell: Have you seen some of the big parakeet nest? Because they like to colonize, it’ll be just generations of them. I mean, big as a house sometimes, big as a trailer park just wrapped up around a windmill or something.
Ryan Black Welder: We hunted one this morning that had a windmill and it was the biggest parakeet nest I’ve seen anywhere so far and it was huge.
Ramsey Russell: How did you keep Tanner from shooting parakeets this morning?
Ryan Black Welder: I don’t know and I don’t know how he kept me from not shooting them too.
Ramsey Russell: He’s too busy shooting ducks.
Ryan Black Welder: We were wrapped up in on the duck hunt. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: I read somewhere that in this province, Entres Rios where it’s kind of the bread basket of Argentine, they grow a tremendous amount of grain that back in the late 70s or 80s parakeets accounted for 70% crop degradation in this province, that’s a lot of dead gum parakeets. So you all got a mission cut out for today to feedlot. Just remember that you all got to save the province.
Ryan Black Welder: Martha said, driving down here, she says they are a nuisance, we want you guys to shoot as many as you can possibly shoot.
Ramsey Russell: Have you had a favorite meal here?
Ryan Black Welder: The fish last night was pretty, it was pretty good, but I got to go with everybody else. Like the short ribs on the picnic that we had the other day, I don’t think you can beat it.
Ramsey Russell: I wonder how come we don’t eat that back home? I mean, I talked to John earlier, it’s just like we just go for the like these choice cuts and grind up the rest of the cow, it makes no sense at all because it’s all so good to eat.
Ryan Black Welder: Yeah. And Tanner would say, it’s tough but it’s good and I think that toughness back in the States, we just don’t eat it because it’s tough.
Ramsey Russell: Somebody told me years ago that they grade beef in Argentina for flavor and we grade beef back home for tenderness, that makes a lot of sense. It does makes a lot of sense. Ryan, I’ve enjoyed being here, what would you tell anybody listening about bringing their family? And one last question, would you have brought your spouse here? Would your spouse have enjoyed the non-hunting activities and what not?
Ryan Black Welder: Well, and like I told you, my wife is a hunter, she loves to hunt. But she would have absolutely enjoyed this, especially the horseback part because she’s a horse person just like Allison is. And Allison, I guarantee you she liked riding the horses as much as she did shooting the ducks, well, almost. But yeah, my wife would love this place, any female, non-hunter spouse come down here, sit back in the lodge, enjoy the food, enjoy the camaraderie at dinner table.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of the places that we hunt in Argentina are stuck out in the middle of nowhere and people said, well, can I bring my wife and I’m like, well, if she likes to curl up by a fire and read a book all day, for sure. But if she wants to do something, have any fun whatsoever, she probably not, except for here. Because obviously we’re in a community, there’s museums, there’s gaucho stores, there’s a spa, there’s shopping, there’s stuff to do besides just sit by the fire and read a book. And then in the times in the past, we’ve had clients bring their spouses, they’ll sleep in the morning, but then days like when we go out pigeon hunting, Martha will stay here with them and they get them a ride and they’ll all come out and join us for lunch and then hang around, watch their kids shoot or whatever in the afternoons and just have a big old family time.
Ryan Black Welder: Yes, sir. Yeah, she would definitely be into this, no question.
Ramsey Russell: So, how would you sum it up? What would you tell anybody listening about La Paz Argentina combo? Thumbs up?
Ryan Black Welder: Thumps up, get ready for a sore shoulder and get ready to gain more weight when you get here.
Ramsey Russell: That’s one thing about big game hunting versus duck hunting. Big game, one trigger pull, you’re done. I like this boom, boom, all the time. Thank you, Ryan.
Ryan Black Welder: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Finally, Mr. Jim Crews in La Paz Argentina
This has been an extraordinary experience in every regard, it would be hard for me to select a favorite part because there are so many favorite parts.
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Jim Crews in La Paz Argentina. At last Jim, I’ve been trying to get you down here dang near as long as I’ve known you. I knew because you all been down to South America before we talk about it, I just knew you would be all about this experience right here. But tell me how your week went down here, the Swamp Warlock week went down here at La Paz, what was your favorite part?
Jim Crews: This has been an extraordinary experience in every regard, it would be hard for me to select a favorite part because there are so many favorite parts. But I’ll tell you some experiences that stand out in my mind. First morning out got on as hot of a duck hunt as you will experience anywhere. I’ve finished a limit in less than an hour, it happened so fast, I didn’t realize it was over till my bird boy handed me the counter and said, Finito, which means the end. The second day, I drew a slower duck hunt even in Argentina, sometimes that can happen, it happens, I’ve been down before it happens and I was a little, we might say non-pleased about it, but I wasn’t upset because I knew that things would get better. And sure enough that afternoon we went out on a mix shoot where you never knew what the next bird would be. And as it happened and this is classically happens at La Paz, the staff made sure that I was in a position where I would get to shoot not only doves and pigeons, but would also have the opportunity to shoot a few ducks. And so what transpired there was, I got to shoot a nice good handful of teal, 3 different species, the speckled teal, the silver teal and the ring teal, all out in the edge of a cattle feedlot where a little stream ran through. And so I had a handful of little feathered jewels, all pretty drakes that hadn’t fallen in the water, they fell on dry ground, so that kind of filled out my day, it was a tough duck hunt in the morning, good big shoot in the afternoon on a variety of species. But it goes to show you that everybody here wants you to have fun. Everybody here wants you to be content and happy and glad you came and that’s how I feel.
Ramsey Russell: Go back to that first morning duck hunt, it was a little bit in the dark on the side of the road, that big wetland just stretches for miles down the highway and they were dropping us off in different parts, some of us were going to walk, some of us were going to ride horses and as I understood it with a bunch of Spanish flying at me, I was going to ride a horse, you were going to walk and you like it because you got a bunch of horses around your house, but you ain’t crazy about horse, but it turns out you climbed up on that big white horse and went riding.
Jim Crews: That’s right. Just because I don’t particularly take riding as my favorite activity doesn’t mean I don’t know how. And one thing I have learned about hunting in South America so many times is you roll with what you have. And many times on these duck hunts arrive at the hunting area and you just don’t know exactly what’s before you. But I have learned if nothing else don’t guide the guide, if they say we’re going to ride the horse out to where we’re going to hunt, there’s a good reason. And as I soon learned that first morning, hunting where we wound up was probably three miles out through the marsh from where we started, there’s no four wheelers, there’s no mud boats, if you want to go out there where we went, you’re going to go on horseback. You certainly wouldn’t walk.
Ramsey Russell: The cover type was chest high pompous grass. I don’t know how you taking a buggy out there anyway, I mean, horse is the only way I can imagine you could have gotten out there.
Jim Crews: Yeah, the only way you could other than horseback would be in an Argo, I’ve hunted Louisiana marsh, which is very similar. And but again, there’s no Argos down here, the horse is, your 4 by 4 in Argentina.
The Pigeon Hunt Dreams Are Made Of
And the way you effectively hunt pigeons is by focusing on them. If you get distracted by doves and parakeets, you’ll get to shoot a lot, but you’re sacrificing the opportunities at pigeons because they are just wilder and more skittish.
Ramsey Russell: Day one, we went duck hunting, day two, we went pigeon hunting and you’ve done pigeon hunting before we talked about on the drive up, describe that pigeon hunt? Let’s talk about pigeon hunt, we were blind apart and boy stuff was dying down there by you all. Talk about that pigeon hunt.
Jim Crews: Yeah. We had a blind on this hunt, Alison and I hunted together with our bird boys, Julian and Betto and shot and shot and we had made a deal between ourselves that it was only going to be pigeons that day. And the way you effectively hunt pigeons is by focusing on them. If you get distracted by doves and parakeets, you’ll get to shoot a lot, but you’re sacrificing the opportunities at pigeons because they are just wilder and more skittish.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like, I would see them, they kind of fly slow motion or so it seems and they would be approaching like my position at times and if anybody else in the field would shoot, they would flare off, they would change them. So I try to tell everybody shooting decoy pigeons and you want to kill pigeons to trust you me, you want to kill pigeons, go ahead and knock the cobwebs off with the parakeets and the doves at first light, but the minute you start seeing pigeons focus on the pigeons. You all shot nothing but pigeons that day.
Jim Crews: We shot a full bag of pigeons, we shot as many as they allow us to shoot. And an interesting thing about them that I had observed in past trips and wondered if it would be true on this one was, pigeons are kind of gentlemanly birds, they don’t come at daylight, you don’t need to be set up at daylight, they’re going to be in the field at 09:00, 09:30 and then fly till about lunchtime, they may fly up all day. But you take a nice mid to late morning hunt stop for your Asado, the grill, lunch in the field and then go back out in the afternoon to finish out your shoot on pigeons and then they stop about 4 o’clock, something like that and you’re done, you’re satisfied and you’ve had a big day and that’s what we had.
Ramsey Russell: The first morning we duck hunt, second afternoon, we dove hunt it. And they’ve got a couple, two or three locations to dove hunt around and that place we went to is actually, owned by the former president and it is kind of a big deal. It’s a nice property and it’s a massive roost behind us and out front, I’ve hunted it when it was in beans, I’ve hunted it when it was in rice, I’ve hunted it when it was in corn. Boy, it’s just wave after wave of spell binding doves. How do you describe that? Because now I like the dove hunt, but you were a dove hunter, I know you to hunt doves, every weekend and it’s open in the state of Mississippi, which is a bunch and you probably 4 or 5 post down the road from where I was, but I saw a lot of stuff falling.
Jim Crews: There were a lot of opportunities. For every dove I shot at, there were 500 that went by that I didn’t shoot at and I shot shells till I was utterly worn out.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever seen anything even close to that in the States?
Jim Crews: Oh, no, nothing compares.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, they really number in the millions, a small roost like that is probably 1 or 2 million birds. And it’s hard to imagine like, we started off, we got there early enough, it was like a Mississippi dove hunt, just maybe like a really good Mississippi dove hunt with flocks and singles and just kind of pull it over and I got through 4 or 5 boxes pretty quick before the bottom fell out. And I was trying to get through and knock out my shells because I wanted to walk up and down the road and get some footage when it happened, because it’s unbelievable to see for as far I can literally see the way they were coming from the fields coming in, just wave after wave, it’s unbelievable.
Jim Crews: It was a complete stream of doves and you’d have a flock of 50 go by on your left side, 75 go by on your right side and you have to mentally overcome that inclination to try to shoot them all.
Ramsey Russell: You have to pick one.
Jim Crews: You have to pick one. Even if there’s 50 or 80 or whatever going by, you just pick one. If you shoot him, you might get a double, you might get a quadruple if you’re really focusing, it can be done, it’s not easy to do, but it can be done.
Ramsey Russell: And it’s like, even this morning, we’re wrapping up the week and we went and sat on all that cornfield out there in another place and it was just to drive in, just them rolling like black clouds out of those fields it’s a spectacle. People tell me all the time, I don’t want to go to Argentina shoot doves, I’m not a dove hunter, I’m like, yeah, I get that, I’m not either. I’m a duck hunter, but if you like to pull the trigger and shoot birds, you’ve got to experience that. It’s unbelievable.
Doves vs Ducks: Hunting Insights
What do you think doves or ducks, which is the easiest to shoot?
Jim Crews: Absolutely. And I’m the epitome of what you just described. I first and foremost, a waterfowler, but the spectacle of the doves is something that everybody needs to experience, even if they don’t want to dedicate a whole trip to it, they certainly need to experience that.
Ramsey Russell: Shotgun and a shotgun, whether you’re hunting upland birds or waterfowl or geese or ducks, I know they’re both waterfowl or doves or pigeons, they’re all unique to themselves. But to me, the more flying objects I shoot that the better, I am overall shooting at flying objects. What do you think doves or ducks, which is the easiest to shoot?
Jim Crews: To hit, ducks by far.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I agree. Even though the teal kind of bobbing and weaving do their thing, they’ve still got a smooth arc and I’ve seen doves for no reason whatsoever, but that just because I start to do something crazy by the time I’m getting into the swing, they’ll just put on a break or the bottom will fall out of the rocket straight up for no other reason than just because they’ll just do something crazy and throw my shot to heck and back.
Jim Crews: When you describe doves, it reminds me of the Nash Buckingham story, De Shootinest Gent’man but the is spelled De because of the dialect, De Shootinest Gent’man. But Captain Harold Money, the protagonist in that story was a famous English shot and he came to Mississippi to hunt doves as a guest of Nash Buckingham and had a tough day and he was used to shooting driven pheasant, driven grouse, that’s what they do in the UK and did 100 years ago when the story was written. And apparently he found the doves to be a little bit different and he had obviously not shown shot well and they asked him what happened. And he said, in his aristocratic British accent, they are small and they fly very fast.
Ramsey Russell: That’s erratic. Jim, did you have any favorite meals? Was there any meal down here? Because I like them all. And for the first time in 20 years of coming to Argentina for extended periods, we had shrimp last night, I’ve never had shrimp. That guy brought up 3 kg about 6.5lbs of those big Jumbo Argentine ribs and we made a feast of it. But did you have any meal that just stood out, you said, I could eat this every day.
Jim Crews: I’ll tell you what, this has been one of the great gourmet experiences of my life. If I had to really say one that stood out for me, it’s the Matambre.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I love pork Matambre.
Jim Crews: Yeah. And I can’t adequately describe it, but it’s very much like veal, they cook it, it’s a thin mussel, it’s very tender, they cook it with different spices. But anybody who comes here, if they have an opportunity to eat, they need to eat that.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. Well, if you come down here, you’re going to have a chance of everything, but the moo or the squeal on an animal, it’s all good. Jim, have you got plans to write another book, a sequel to Amid the Cypress and would this hunt make a chapter or two?
Jim Crews: Absolutely on both counts. These are the kind of experiences that inspired Amid the Cypress. I have another book coming out this fall called Behind the Levee, that’s going to be dedicated completely to my hunting in the Mississippi Delta and life in our hunting clubs. So, that’s the next one in progress.
Ramsey Russell: All right, folks, you all check out Amid the Cypress and then when it gets ready, you all want to go read this book, Behind the Levees, I promise you’re going to like it. Jim, man, I’ve hunted with you around of course Mississippi and throughout the Deep South, but I’m so proud to have shared camp with you here in Argentina, having you and Allison was just an absolute pleasure, enjoyed it a lot.
Jim Crews: It’s been mutual, we’ll do it some more.
A Magical Hunt
You’ve been to South America with Jim before, what was it you liked about this location? The combo, the ducks, the experience, what specifically?
Ramsey Russell: Mrs. Allison Crews down here in La Paz with her other half, Jim Crews, The Swamp Warlock. Swamp Witch, how did you like La Paz.
Allison Crews: There’s nothing not to like about La Paz. Everything about La Paz was magical from the moment we arrived to this moment now where we don’t want to think about ending it, but we are about to go on our last hunt and each hunt has had the whole experience of Argentina and each hunt has been magical.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite aspect of it? And I got a guess. But what did you enjoy? You’ve been to South America with Jim before, what was it you liked about this location? The combo, the ducks, the experience, what specifically? What would be your fondest memory?
Allison Crews: The horses, no doubt. And every time I’ve gone to Argentina, I’ve always been able to arrange a time where I could enjoy riding the criollo horses here. I just love these horses and the people that work with them, but this time was extra special because I was able to combine that with hunting. And I absolutely loved it. And one thing for listeners to hear I think is important is it was probably a little bit harder for me at first because I do know how to ride and I wanted to take charge and I had to tell myself, like my husband says, don’t guide the guide if he tells you to sit there and don’t move on that horse and hold this, hold that and let me take care of where the horse goes, I let him do anything he said. And on the way in, we were going in the pitch dark and that horse was solid, solid as a rock and we got to the place and we rode for a long time. But I think they knew that the fact that I rode, they knew that I’d be fine riding a little further than most. But boy, were the ducks there when we got there. It was just fantastic and there is no machine, I think maybe Jim’s spot you could have gotten to with an Argo. But my spot, no way it would have buried in Argo, there was no water where I was, it was mostly just super deep mud and I know all about that being a duck hunter from Mississippi.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of horses are those?
Allison Crews: Criollo horses and they are just, they’re working horses, the gauchos use them all the time to work with those cows and they’re good solid, just not a bit of crazy in them like Jim said, you saw one that acted up a little bit, it was only because Hector was supposed to get on him and that horse had enough.
Ramsey Russell: My guide is about 300 lbs, he’s a big old man.
Allison Crews: There’s a weight limit on most of the horses and that was not a big horse and even they say no, some but it was great because the horses were fantastic, calm, great and the guides knew how to work with them and we were able to pack in and pack out of there with no issues at all.
Ramsey Russell: I couldn’t believe how comfortable those saddles are.
Allison Crews: Oh, yes. In fact, I have a rig similar to that at home after coming to Argentina, I love the way they’re pretty much double girth, there’s an under girth and an over girth, but you’re sitting on a big thick piece of sheep skin and even though there’s not a horn on the front, it doesn’t matter, there’s so much to grip and hang on to –
Ramsey Russell: I want a horn to grab, just like a kid on the little corn operated pony, I wanted to hang on to –
Allison Crews: I would have done is hung your waiters when you tried to get on and off and you’ve been hanging on that saddle.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite single hunt, like one hunt memory? We were here a week, we finished 9 hunts, you all are going on to your 10th or 10.1 or 10.2 because as I understand that you all are going to go shoot and the first time you all are going to go jump back on that dove and finish up strong. But what was your very favorite hunt?
Allison Crews: Well, the short answer to that is my favorite hunt in Argentina is the next hunt. But you asked me what was my favorite hunt? It would have to be the first morning when I was on the horse and we went so far and we got there and what was so magical about that duck hunting experience is that – typically in Argentina, I expect to shoot a lot of pass shooting, I got to get on it and shoot. But being a Mississippi Delta duck hunter at the core, I love to see them work. And Betto, my guide could blow on that whistle and swing those Brazilians back around and when I discovered for that, I let them all come by and then come back and it was a comeback that made me connect better and we were finished by 6 o’clock, I think we had it only a very few minutes and all of a sudden it was over because I didn’t realize there was a limit. I mean, I didn’t know. And so he said, that’s it. He showed me the numbers and I went really? Because I don’t normally, I mean, I shoot a lot but I don’t hit a lot, but this time because he was circling those ducks it was wonderful.
Ramsey Russell: I really like the Brazilian ducks too. Coming up here in northern Argentina, we got into them and they’re rarer when you get further south. But I don’t know what it is, I like about that particular bird but I love him.
Allison Crews: They’ll come around, they go away and they’ll come around.
Ramsey Russell: Hen quacks, he whistles, they call to him, they’ll come in. Early in light because there’s no shooting time here, I can queue in on those before anything else because they’ve got such conspicuous white or secondaries and under wings, I can just track that white off their wings and darkness that be otherwise not light enough for me to shoot.
Allison Crews: I’m glad you mentioned that because I did sit there a long time in the darkness and the ducks, there were so many and they were so close to me, I was fascinated by just watching them bathe and feed and all that within 20ft, it seemed like they were all around me there. And finally, Betto said I could shoot and so I said, oh, okay. And then the game was on then.
Delicious Dinners After Duck Hunting
And I love the asado outdoor cooking, they could probably throw you on the grill and I would enjoy that.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about the food, Allison? Now, look, I met you all at camp and we ate them, you ordered goat first, a lot of us ordered goat, I said that does look good and sound good. Have you ever eaten goat before?
Allison Crews: I’ve never eaten goat. I had ordered lamb because I knew we would have so much beef while we were here and I thought, well, while I have a chance, I’d like to ask for something else that I’d never had. And I mean, I’d had lamb and that’s my favorite duck hunting food, that’s sort of our – I love to hunt, eat lamb chops in the blind or in the boat. But I love the goat, it was delicious, it was very tender. I also ate parakeet this trip, I’d never done that before and it was delicious. Parakeet fried by the people here at La Paz. I mean, I’m sure it’s not good with just anywhere but it was very deliciously prepared by this group.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not something they might go out of my way to eat. But they eat grains, why wouldn’t they be good? And people ask all time, what do you do with all those doves and all those pigeons, we eat them, they get eaten down here. There are hungry mouths to feed in Argentina that appreciate wild game.
Allison Crews: I would eat every meal if I could, the pigeons were delicious, they were very well prepared. And that’s the same thing in the States with ducks. I mean, you can say I don’t like duck. Well, no, I don’t like duck that’s not prepared properly, but if it’s prepared properly, it tastes like a steak.
Ramsey Russell: What cut of meat did you like the best? It’s hard to choose from. Because they eat so many different cuts of meat, we started off talking to John earlier and he was a meat cutter about all the different meat cuts that – because back home we just eat steak and hamburger, but down here, like today, I don’t even know what that was, they fed us tonight. You kind of hold it back here, kind of – I have no idea what cut of meat that was, but it’s delicious.
Allison Crews: Well, the flavor in it is so good and it’s how they prepare it and the flavor of the meat is so delicious, it takes very little seasoning and it just explodes in your mouth in a positive way. It’s just a wonderful experience to taste that flavor and just savor it. And I like chimichurri sauce and I always put it a little bit on the side because it makes it a different experience but it doesn’t need it, it just enhances, I would say. My favorite cut again is the next one they present because they’ve all been good. I love the pork that they prepare, that looked like – I thought I was getting a little bit of a pizza because it had a little red sauce on the top and all that and it ended up being a cut of pork that really, I had never had anything like that.
Ramsey Russell: Matambre, it’s probably one of my – when I’m in town and I order it, I always go for that because it’s always good.
Allison Crews: And I love the asado outdoor cooking, they could probably throw you on the grill and I would enjoy that.
Ramsey Russell: I guarantee you. I think they cook it so simply just a little salt, pepper, boom, cook it. Any favorite desserts?
Allison Crews: The one I just had. Again, I come here for Dulce de Leche because I like that on everything and they do mix it in with a lot of things and some people call it a caramel sauce and yes, it is, but that’s like calling a roux and gumbo and comparing that to beef broth, I mean, it’s not the same at all. I mean, the Dulce de Leche has such complex layers of flavor and it’s cooked so long and so delicious.
Perdiz: Wild Quail on Steroids
But that helps me focus and it’s a lot more fun way than just getting shooting lessons, let the birds teach you how to shoot.
Ramsey Russell: Alison, we’re hunters and we initially, we were going to go to the swamp do just a duck hunt, but this is a combo. What would you tell the listener about coming to Argentina for the first time? Should they go just duck or should they avail themselves of all that’s offered down here?
Allison Crews: Well, most of us think about Argentina and we hear the stories of the legendary dove hunts and then of course, being a duck hunter, I would do duck hunting all the time if I had the choice. But I would say the first time you come to Argentina, you must experience all the different things it brings. I mean, the perdiz there’s nothing like the perdiz when you get on a good hunt, it’s like an old time quail hunt or kick them up quail, not that I not kick him up quail because that’s really all we have nowadays and it’s a wonderful thing to do. But the difference in a pin raise quail and a wild quail and the perdiz is like a wild quail on steroids and they’re fun to hunt behind the dogs. The doves, I’m not about shooting volume, that’ll pound me to death, even with a good gun doesn’t matter, it’s just a lot of shooting and I enjoy doing it. But what I enjoy about it is I can make myself calm down and work on a specific shot. I work on a certain, okay, today I’m going to shoot from the left tomorrow, from the right, the ones coming from here. But that helps me focus and it’s a lot more fun way than just getting shooting lessons, let the birds teach you how to shoot.
Ramsey Russell: It’s so much shooting variety and shooting volume that you can’t help but improve. I know I’m shooting way better now than I was Monday, than I was to precede Monday, it’s just something about that.
Allison Crews: Well, one thing about coming here too, this is the first time we’ve ever come without our own guns. And so, this establishment, we were able to rent guns and they had both overs and unders and side by side, I mean, not side by sides but automatics and over and under shotguns and it was nice to be able to rent here so we wouldn’t have to travel with them. And although I love shooting my own, it is nice to have the option of not having to do that and also having whatever gun, they had plenty to choose from and they were all very good.
Ramsey Russell: I’m not used to hunting with you outside the cypress swamps from Mississippi, Miss Allison, but I sure did enjoy sharing camp this week with you and Jim, thank you all very much.
Allison Crews: Well, we enjoyed being here and the sound of Argentina, there’s nothing like it and you have to be here to hear it, so hope you can come as well.
More Than Just Food
It’s almost like a social experience around food. Is that just a part of the Argentine culture?
Ramsey Russell: This is Karen Alcaraz who is the one of my partners down here at La Paz and also the head cook extraordinaire. You all know me, I like to get back in the kitchen, I like the food, I think that food offers the proper context and hardly anywhere we go, do I hear as much about the great food and the great hospitality as I do right here at La Paz, we’ve been here for 13 years, Karen.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes, of course. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: Good. Are you glad that the clients are finally starting to come back after the pandemic?
Karen Alcaraz: Yes. We’ve been without working for two years and I was missing this job.
Ramsey Russell: Karen, everybody loves the food and loves the hospitality down here and I’ve learned over the years that you and your husband, you all have an experience, you all used to own a family restaurant in Buenos Aires, is that right?
Karen Alcaraz: Yes. We had a restaurant for 5 years in Buenos Aires and we worked a lot and I think we learned all what we know now is what we’ve learned in those 5 years.
Ramsey Russell: Describe your restaurant to me? What was your restaurant like? Because Buenos Aires, unlike America, one thing I love about Argentina is I really don’t ever see big massive corporate chain restaurants. It’s like when I go to Buenos Aires, for example, every city block has a family owned restaurant and there’s thousands of blocks and not only are the businesses competing with price points and hospitality, but with quality food.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes, it’s homemade food basically. And if you have a family restaurant that all the family works in that restaurant, it becomes very good. It’s like you stay at home with a homemade food and with people you know and the owners are the ones who attend you.
Ramsey Russell: What were you all specialties at your restaurant? What did you all specialize in at your restaurant?
Karen Alcaraz: Our speciality was barbecue asado and Italian food.
Ramsey Russell: We eat a lot of barbecue here.
Karen Alcaraz: Yeah. We have a great meat.
Ramsey Russell: I tell everybody we eat all parts of the cow except for the moo and it’s all equally delicious. As Valdo is like the king of the grill, but then I learned the other day because he wasn’t here, you’re also a master of the grill.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes, I practice with him. But as he has now an operation in the back so I help him and I learned a lot of making asado too, but he’s the king of the asado.
Ramsey Russell: How many plates a day did you all – how big was your restaurant? Like how busy was a restaurant like that?
Karen Alcaraz: We made 600 plates daily and we also had delivery.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, and carry out too.
Karen Alcaraz: How do you say like a long table people did outside tours is in –
Ramsey Russell: Oh, my goodness. You were telling me last night we were making something and you were telling me you would get to work at like 5 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon and then as Valdo would get to work at 5 in the afternoon until maybe 4 or 5 in the morning.
Karen Alcaraz: We crossed each other.
Ramsey Russell: So, I mean, it’s like a restaurant like that is open just like 24 hours.
Karen Alcaraz: 24 hours and the rest of the time it’s cleaning up.
Ramsey Russell: You know something I’ve noticed when I go to a restaurant in Argentina, like in America, let’s just say the Americans want to eat at 6 o’clock. It’s very busy between 6 and 7 and you go in, you get seated quickly as you can, they feed you and then they’re ready for you to leave because they got another customer coming in. But in Argentina, the dining experience is more than just food. Like when I go to restaurants in Buenos Aires, most don’t open until 8 or 9 o’clock at night and once you have the table, nobody is in a hurry to get rid of you. It’s almost like a social experience around food. Is that just a part of the Argentine culture?
Karen Alcaraz: Yes, because we don’t eat at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, we eat at 08:00, 09:00, 10:00. And then after dinner we also rest or sitting on the table, at the table, drinking a coffee or a champagne and nobody hurries you up to replace the table. Another way of taking the business.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good way. I think that’s a very good social or cultural experience because I mean, what a great time to meet with family and friends, it’s just over food, good food and good laughter and good company.
Karen Alcaraz: Around the table, we make business.
Ramsey Russell: Business and pleasure. And it brings me kind of to La Paz, we do have private groups here, teams will come here among themselves, but like the clients that just left, there were several people, several groups kind of mixed in and we all sat around the table and we visited and we became friends and we didn’t just come in and eat and leave, we came in and ate between the courses, we told stories at dessert, we told stories and after the table was cleaned, we continued telling stories, it bring people together.
Karen Alcaraz: It’s a great moment of pleasure.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever do you notice? Like I know here you serve a lot of Argentine food, there’s an Italian influence for sure –
Karen Alcaraz: And Spanish.
Ramsey Russell: Spanish influence. Do American hunters tend to gravitate towards certain things that you serve or are there favorite dishes that you see that all the clients like? Do you have a recipe that you say, I know all my clients are going to love this because all the Americans loves this?
Karen Alcaraz: Yeah, sometime people don’t know what to eat because they don’t know how in another country the fish, for example, can taste. But most of the people who come here experience different type of recipes and they like them.
Ramsey Russell: I believe honestly, in my heart of hearts that you and Valdo should make a recipe book. I think that everybody that comes through the door that want it. I’ve started the habit of collecting my favorite recipes around the world that I get to enjoy and several of them are right here. Now, I’m from Mississippi in the Deep South and we pride ourselves on fried food, what we call fried food and fried fish is a big deal and it almost pains me to say that my favorite fried catfish is right here at La Paz. You’ve got a recipe that I’ve requested every year I’ve been here since year one. And for those of you all listening, it’s like a big flathead catfish out in the river here, I’m looking at the Parana River and you take those filets, it’s very firm and you fry it and then you top it with a sauce. Can you walk me through how you cook your fish recipe like that? Because I love it.
Karen Alcaraz: I need a good filet, a firm flesh. Then I put it when first I put it with salt, pepper and lemon, I leave it one hour and then I put them through milk, after milk, I put them through flour and then I fried it very slow with butter. Then I take the fish out and maintain it in a warm oven and in that butter with flour, I put that became cooked, the flour finishes cooking, I put cream, then salt a little more pepper and the cream became more harder, like a sauce. Then I put the fish inside capers and a little bit of parcel and it’s ready to serve. It’s very easy. But the mixture of the cream with the capers with the acid of the capers and the texture of the flour makes it very soft.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ve got the recipe now and I’m going to start cooking my fish that way, we love it. And you also taught me last night, one of the drivers had brought some shrimp, cook an amazing shrimp recipe. And Karen, it was the first time in 20 years of coming to Argentina that I’ve ever eaten seafood shrimp in Argentine Lodge and it was amazing. But I talked you all to letting me cook my little black and shrimp recipe and I normally top it with just I cheat and I use like a package hollandaise sauce to top it with. But you taught me to make a beautiful sauce last night, very simple, very easy. What was the name of that sauce that we made and how do you make that also?
Karen Alcaraz: That sauce is a called beurre blanc that in Spanish in French is a white butter in French. The difference between a sauce that you prepare from a bag is that it’s artificial, it’s not the same as if you prepare it homemade. So for that beurre blanc, I put white wine with white vinegar and shallots cut very slightly. And then you have to evaporate all the alcohol and reduce the quantity of liquid. After then you put –
Ramsey Russell: Let the liquid burn off, let them evaporate and it distills the flavors of the shallots and that vinegar and wine.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes. And then you put a great pan of butter but in pieces, not all together and you have to whip and don’t stop wiping out of the fire because if not, it cuts.
Ramsey Russell: I noticed that, when you would put the butter like about a pound of butter, you put it a little at a time and you didn’t keep the pan over the heat, you kept the pan warm enough to melt the butter, but not over the heat. So when you whipped it, it wouldn’t melt and then you warm the pan a little bit, but if you try to heat it, it’ll make it separate.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes and it will burn, so it will became the brown. Then you put salt, pepper and a little bit of cream and you maintain it in double boiler, so it maintains a liquid and not hardens.
Ramsey Russell: After you add the cream and you get everything like you want it, you strain, I remember you strain and get the shallots out.
Karen Alcaraz: Yes, you have to strain because you have to take out the shallot.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. It was amazing. And like a lot of foods that good chefs like yourself prepare and that you prepare here, it’s never really complicated, it’s like, it’s almost the simpler, the better, it’s just pay attention to the basics. I was trying to make a little seasoning the other day and I was looking for some measuring teaspoons, you don’t use that, you just put your seasons together to taste.
Karen Alcaraz: Yeah, I use my eyes.
Ramsey Russell: You could do it in your sleep. I’ve got another question, right here on at La Paz premises, there’s a little chocolate factory and it’s very busy. People come from, I guess all over Argentina to get your chocolate, how did you get into that? When did you get into making chocolate?
Karen Alcaraz: Well, when I was 18 years old, I married my husband and my mother in law had a chocolate factory in Harrods, the English store, but in Buenos Aires. And I began working there and there I could learn all the chocolate secrets and from then to now I love cooking, so I always take recipes and I make changes and –
It’s not only hunting, it’s staying in a good place a place, that eat well, it have a good food, have a good company…
Ramsey Russell: Always looking for something different. Give me a sample, I go over there every time and I love to buy gifts to bring home at this little chocolate store. Walk me through some of the different specialties, the Argentine specialties, the box of chocolates like what do you get in a box of chocolates here in Argentina?
Karen Alcaraz: We have alfajores that is our biscuits, round biscuits made with chocolate powder and then you put inside filled with dulce de leche or almond paste or nut paste or queens jelly or fruits like strawberries, red fruits, figs, orange and they are all covered with black chocolate, white chocolate and sugar icing and then you have a mixture and assorted package of different alfajores. The alfajores is an Argentine invention.
Ramsey Russell: I describe an Argentine moon pie, only a lot better than our moon pies. Yeah. Have you ever heard of moon Pie? I’ll bring you one next time, you probably won’t appreciate it after eating alfajores. But that’s all we have got back home.
Karen Alcaraz: They are different things. We make chocolates fine bonbons with different with a sort of incidents inside.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of the popular bonbons? What are some of the bonbons flavors you’d make?
Karen Alcaraz: How do you say coconuts, hazel nuts, almonds, nuts, raisins, liquor.
Ramsey Russell: It’s quite a production
Karen Alcaraz: Vanilla cream, strawberry cream.
Ramsey Russell: You smile when you talk about making all these chocolates.
Karen Alcaraz: To remember everything and then we prepare homemade marmalade and a homemade liquors, lemon with orange.
Ramsey Russell: You all make the it here, I did not know that.
Karen Alcaraz: All what you eat is homemade everything is made here.
Ramsey Russell: I think homemade food and I think it speaks a lot to the Argentine culture because we’ve talked about restaurants, we’ve talked about coming here to the lodge at La Paz we talk about your chocolates, I think it speaks a lot to the culture that it’s homemade because I think that home cooking comes from the heart. And I think that’s the essence of hospitality.
Karen Alcaraz: It’s coming to the essence, coming back to your home where all the families around the table and I think, I don’t know if it’s because of the job of the work of the hurry of all the people that you don’t sit at the table to have a nice time with your family or with your friends, everybody eats, like it’s something natural because you have to eat and nobody takes the time to stay around the table and talk about, what have you done all the day?
Ramsey Russell: About hunting, about seeing this beautiful country, that’s exactly right, that’s the whole thing about the experience, not just the dead duck, it’s about the overall experience.
Karen Alcaraz: All experience, exactly. It’s not only hunting, it’s staying in a good place a place, that eat well, it have a good food, have a good company, I think it’s all –
Ramsey Russell: All encompassing. Yeah, it’s all encompassing. Karen, thank you very much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule.
Karen Alcaraz: Excuse me, for my English.
Ramsey Russell: Well, no, you speak much better English than I speak Spanish, I promise you. And thank you so much for your hospitality, thank you for taking care of our clients and I can’t wait to bring my own wife. I think next year –
Karen Alcaraz: We are waiting for your wife, you promise every year.
Ramsey Russell: Next year is already in the process. Well, no. Next year, I’ve been told that she and some of our friends, we’re going to bring 3 or 4 couples down here and anybody listening wants to throw in, come on, we got room, but we’ve got a little couples retreat planned. Because one thing I will say in closing with you about La Paz is so many of the places that we hunt and I like getting remote, I like being in the middle of absolute nowhere, but what this destination, this particular place offers that nobody else in Argentina offers is we’ve got amenities, we’ve got the chocolate confection right here, but we’ve also got a spa, we’ve got little shops, we’ve got gaucho stores, we’ve got a museum, sometimes there’s a rodeo, last night, some folk dancers came in and it really adds something because a wife could come here or a non-hunter could come here and just have a good time. And you’ll also do, I’ve learned over the years, you all’s busy time of year when we’re not bringing hunters is the summer time because a lot of them out of Buenos Aires come here to vacation, there’s water skiing, there’s boat riding, there’s all kinds of stuff right here, this is like a big vacation destination.
Karen Alcaraz: People come here for holidays, Argentine people from Uruguay from Paraguay, we are near Paraguay too.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Well, thank you very much for everything, Karern.
Karen Alcaraz: Thank you for coming.
Martha Martha: La Paz’s Premier Hunting Host
…the normal program is 5 days, it’s ducks and doves and pigeons and perdiz, it is not a duck hunt…
Ramsey Russell: And wrapping it up, Martha Ciaffoni. Martha, everybody called her. I tell everybody when they come down here to La Paz you don’t need to know Spanish, you just need to know two words, Martha Martha and it was right here in La Paz, Martha that you and I got started, I’d say a 100 years ago have been with you the last few weeks, but maybe just 13 years ago.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, that’s about right.
Ramsey Russell: You come to La Paz a lot more than I do, you’re our hostess down here. What is your take on La Paz? How would you describe La Paz to – we’ve heard all the clients describe but I want to hear what you see the clients enjoying down here.
Martha Ciaffoni: I’ll describe it as home, as I’m at home.
Ramsey Russell: What about the clients?
Martha Ciaffoni: I think they feel the same way.
Ramsey Russell: What about some of the non-hunters you’ve had here before. Talk about some of the things non-hunters have done here.
Martha Ciaffoni: Wives?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Well, we can go to the spring water pools, we go for horse ridings, we go to the Chocolate Factory shopping at town. We had some tours in town too. La Paz is a pretty neat old town and we can go and spend the afternoon there, we can go to the port, Casino, get a massage, spa.
Ramsey Russell: What about the dancers that come? What’s up with the dancers that come here?
Martha Ciaffoni: That’s beautiful. It’s like an interchanging of cultures because we get these groups of folklore dancers and they are very passionate about what they do and they come here and just in about 15 or 20 minutes, we get to see how proud they are of their culture. And I wish there was a way to translate the songs and they dance because they talk about the river, they talk about the boats and people who work on the island with the cattle when they bring it inland and then they talk about love stories and also the dancing, it’s also passion.
Ramsey Russell: It ain’t a real guy thing. I mean, I enjoyed it though. I can see where a lot of people would enjoy it, I can see where, especially like next year, myself and Ian and several other couples are going to come down here, I can see where it would be great family entertainment, something to do after dinner.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah absolutely. We have a group that comes every year, they are here every year, the first week of the season and they want music, entertainment every night.
Ramsey Russell: What other entertainment is it besides what came here last night?
Martha Ciaffoni: Well, we have three guys, one of them is 83 years old and he’s a freaking genius with the guitar and his son and another guy who sings. And then we have another guy with an accordion that comes here some nights. Well, Mark and his team, they really enjoy it and they already know the musicians and the dancers, so they want one kind of entertainment every single night and it’s really nice.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the point I’m trying to make is, I always describe La Paz and we’ve got other combo hunts, but La Paz, especially the normal program is 5 days, it’s ducks and doves and pigeons and perdiz, it is not a duck hunt, we duck hunt just a little. I just have –
Martha Ciaffoni: We have three mornings of ducks.
Ramsey Russell: And I describe it as like this assorted box of chocolates like what we get over here at Karen’s Chocolate Factory because you get to taste a little of everything, the best of and beyond just the ducks, the dove, the pigeon, the perdiz when the river’s right, go catch golden dorado besides all that, it’s a very culturally immersive experience. And the week, gosh, it seemed like we just got here, but we didn’t, it’s just we duck hunted sometimes, we dove hunted sometimes, we did everything but it was so fast pace and so changed up, every duck hunt was different, both dove hunts were distinct and if it was like in a 5 day period, 10 hunts its 10 different hunting experiences.
Martha Ciaffoni: Different as in areas, different areas, I really love the dove hunt this morning because it was not sunny, but we get all those clouds of doves coming every single second.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Do you know Karen and I were talking after she and I recorded and I was telling her, I love the food, you’ve seen me, I started collecting these recipes but kind of part of that, what I’m trying to get to is part of that is what I’ve learned is when I travel and I go to hunting operations, forget what the operators saying, forget the dog and pony show that’s expected, go to the kitchen, get back in the gun room, get back with the staff, get back with a guy that cleans the boots, get to know those people and figure out who they are and how they like the job, how long they’ve been there and just get a real feel for that. Now, you know. Because I don’t care if you’re in banking or insurance or restaurant business or hunting business when you start seeing unhappy clients and a lot of staff turn over, you got problems. We’ve been coming here for 13 years and every single person I see this week had been here ever since the beginning, every one of them, every single one of them and they love their jobs and they’re happy. Martha, I’ve been here a long time and I’m so happy to end on a La Paz note. We went to Rio Salado, it was amazing. But there were issues and you’ve showed me headlines from around Argentina and man, I’ve gotten a lot of inboxes won’t know how come you ain’t posting more duck pictures you all not killing ducks, man, we’re killing F bomb out of ducks down here, I’m going to tell you that right now, I’m not posting pictures by special request of outfitter associates. There’s some drama going on here in Argentina and I’m shocked and we’ve had to struggle with it because not only is there – I don’t know, I hate to say the word corruption but just typical Latin American government going on. But it’s gotten worse because there are anti-hunters that want to close.
Martha Ciaffoni: It’s like we are being attacked from different fronts. On one hand, we have corruption and these people that made no money out of bribes for 2 years and now they’re going to do it all in one – And then on the other hand, we have all these anti, I don’t know how you say that –
Ramsey Russell: Greenies they call them, anti-hunters.
Martha Ciaffoni: And these anti-hunters that I don’t know if it is social media or what because they have always been there. Since I was a little girl, I’ve heard of people who didn’t like hunters killing red stags in my province where I live. My family is a hunter’s family and we’ve been dealing with this for so long. But now it’s like they are right at the door knocking and saying, we don’t want you to kill more animals.
Ramsey Russell: They’re saying, like you showed me a headline from June 10th, they 5 groups here in Rios, more abroad have litigated the judges or something and something before you all’s court system to prohibit the hunting of all indigenous wildlife, which is ducks and doves and perdiz. But they really go after the ducks because they’re beautiful because not many people locals here hunt them because it’s an easy target, but some of the little wrinkles, it’s just a typical anti-hunter modus operandi. Like, one of the reports I read it is was talking about the “Rich American hunters”, they don’t call them hunters, you’re right, they call them predators and poachers. And as an American hunter, I’m insulted because we have created an economy and the greatest wildlife conservation model on earth hunter funded. And it’s like, of course, they hate us because if we show, if we demonstrate to the regular folks out here that this is a viable natural resource that’s renewable, of course, they’re not going to ban hunting but these people are just nuts and it drives me crazy. Patricio and I talk a lot about it, but right here in my adopted home, away from home, it’s frustrating and what it’s done, it’s created an opportunity for more corruption. Not to mention, never mind the fact that inflation, I don’t know what inflation is in this country, I’m going to say it’s well over 100% this year –
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, it’s like 300.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s like since I showed up the exchange rate on the blue market out on the streets has increased 15% just in the last couple of months. I mean, I’m just around –
Martha Ciaffoni: Not to mention that the last time you were here, the exchange rate was 40.
Ramsey Russell: 40 to 1.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah. And now it’s 226 or something like that.
Ramsey Russell: And never mind the fact that, this government you all have – a lot of the drivers going back forth to all the lodge in Argentina are struggling to even stop at the road and get diesel, there’s no fuel, but you still got people out here worried about hunting a natural resource, it makes no sense. And I’m leading up to this because I want to say, boy, I tell you what, I love Hector, I’ve known him too for 13 years and I’m just not going to hunt here if Hector ain’t my guide, because he and I get along just right, I love him to death. But that horse, he rode into the forest yesterday, didn’t like him a bit because Hector is a big man, that horse said, oh, hell no, you ain’t getting on my back again.
Martha Ciaffoni: And he keeps gaining weight, he’s not going to be able to get in on any horse.
Ramsey Russell: But the day before we left, we were out there dove hunting this morning, tell us what Hector said to me in Spanish that you translate.
Martha Ciaffoni: Hector asked me to translate for him and he starts saying that he wanted you to know that he’s very thankful that you’re back in La Paz and he’s very thankful that we bring hunters here because it means a big difference in his economy and he wanted us to know that it’s not his, it’s everybody’s because it’s his family, his friends families, all the bird guides families that they make a difference on their profit –
Ramsey Russell: The whole community,
Martha Ciaffoni: Of course. And also the big producers get a lot of problems with the birds because they eat the crops and sometimes they eat 60%, 70% maybe 80% of the crop. And also what he was trying to tell you is that, he will love you to go and see what his mom does with the dove, the pigeons and the ducks, she cooks so many different dishes and plates and they get to eat for a long time with what we hunt in just one week.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a very sobering thought to me, we find and offer and coordinate to me, the world’s greatest duck hunting experiences to include Argentina. I believe that these 4 lodges we represent, especially for a combo, I believe it represents the very best that Argentina has to offer. When I was over in Rio Salado on my birthday, they cooked this wonderful lamb and it was just one client and I was there at camp on the weekend and the whole staff, all the guys, all the house keeper, everybody came into the lodge and we drank beer and drank tequila and drank vodka and carried on and ate that lamb and then afterwards David and several of the staff Pablo and all these staff got up and asked for my phone so they could Google translate and they thanked me, the same way that Hector did. They thanked me for coming here and it dawned on me that –
Martha Ciaffoni: This is what you need to understand maybe in one day here with hunting business, they make more than for a whole month working. And I mean, working from 6 in the morning till 8 in the afternoon, I don’t know, cutting wood, how do you call that, mowing grass, farming, building something like these little ranches. So imagine what it means for them after a whole season, making all this money and being able to improve their ways of living.
Ramsey Russell: And what I’d like to tell any anti-hunters listening because they’re not, but what I would point out to them is just my little company, my little company working at 4 lodges, it represents about 120 to 130 families that are, I don’t mean getting rich. I mean living, feeding their families and it represents about 500 people. Not to mention all of the farmers and the gauchos that receive a lot of the food that want allow this game bird to cook.
Martha Ciaffoni: We have drivers, we have these locals –
Ramsey Russell: The farmers, the seed buyers, the whole industries.
Martha Ciaffoni: One of the bird guy is coming right now because his mom needs gaucho hats and she’s going to sell them to our clients. So it’s a resource for a lot of people, not big companies, we’re not talking about –
Ramsey Russell: Agro-chemical, we ain’t talking about Zillionaire Fortune 500 companies, we’re talking about everyday people and that’s the importance of hunting. And it’s like, the recreational interest in hunting and I’m not going to beat this dead horse to death, but it just the recreational eating and the recreational value, the commodity value of hunting in a country like Argentina is a myth. It’s like, an untapped gold mine for everybody. Regulated hunting is good for wildlife, but what it really slapped me in the face and showed me being here the last couple of months is, it’s good for people, good for me, but it’s good for them and that’s a pretty strong point. Speaking of people, Argentina, knocked it out of the park when they said, you don’t have to be vaccinated, you don’t have to take a PCR test just come on. And boy, we got to fly on down here. Now, Joe Biden says, we don’t have to need a PCR test to finally to get back, so that’s great.
Martha Ciaffoni: You’re safe because I couldn’t wait for you to get the test done.
Ramsey Russell: I know. thank you very much. But the airlines, I mean, it’s not without wrinkles. Travel right now is in a tailspin and it’s kept you especially and me and Anita extremely busy. But it’s what I pride myself, the team we’ve built since you and I work together is what I pride myself on. Like we had some clients coming in, they had bought a hunt at an auction and going somewhere to do something and then coming to hunt with us and just, had it not been for you giving them all the information they need to get in the country to get out to do this, do that, range of transfers they never got here, it’s what we do, smooth the wrinkles. It’s what we do.
Martha Ciaffoni: And we love to do it.
Ramsey Russell: You do love it. I can tell you love to do it. It keeps you busy.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, you keep me busy.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ve sure have enjoyed being here at La Paz, it is a box of chocolates and I get to go home tomorrow and you’re down here through mid-August.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah. I’m going to miss you.
Ramsey Russell: I know you’re going to miss me, you’re really going to miss Char dog is who you’re going to be.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yes, I will miss her.
Ramsey Russell: But be honest here, we’re going to wrap up on this note right here, be honest because when I was texting you saying, hey, I’m going to probably need some help getting Char, I know she going to ride, she going to do this, you don’t really have a dog culture and you were like, no, your first word, any time I ask you anything, your first word, your answer is, no.
Martha Ciaffoni: Because you ask for too many things. I mean, clients don’t ask me for that many things as you do.
Ramsey Russell: But you got to admit it, you were just thinking some unruly.
Martha Ciaffoni: I was like, it’s going to be a nightmare, that’s exactly what I thought. And I talked to Fete, I was like, Ramsey is crazy, he wants to bring the dog that’s going to be. And then I started talking to drivers and they were like, we don’t want a dog in the car and I was like God, but she’s awesome. She behaves better than you do and it’s great to have her around and she’s a great hunter, she’s always excited every morning to go there. And she’s been really sweet, we all love Char.
Ramsey Russell: The drivers love her, the lodgers love her, the guides love her, the vets love her, everybody loves her, she’s may be one of the most famous dogs down here. Really, the only pain in the ass of bringing her was the time I spent in Buenos Aires, she does not like to use the bathroom on a sidewalk and there’s no grass within 10 blocks. So I just have to walk and walk and she finally gave it up on the sidewalk like every other dog in Argentina, but anyway. Martha, I’ve enjoyed being here. Folk, now, you’ve heard a lot about La Paz, Argentina, which truly is a box of chocolates, ducks, doves, perdiz, food, fishing, culture, hospitality of epic proportion. Non-hunters are welcome, it’s a great destination to bring children, families with or without. I mean, we’ve got little private cottages they stay in, we’ve got this beautiful lodge overlooking the river and it’s everything in your backyard, we’re not stuck out in the boon docks, it’s just right here in your backyard, if you want to go shopping, if you want to go get a massage, you want to do something. It’s just a really standalone unique and great and awesome getducks destination. And it really, truly, it is the destination that I call it our flagship destination because it was here at that, we transformed and really decided we didn’t want to do business like everybody else was, we were going to do it this way and the rest is history. Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere and Martha, thank you for everything you do, I’m serious as a heart attack, we couldn’t do this without you. See you next time, folks.