It’s about an hour preceding showtime – hectic opening morning of Dallas Safari Club Convention. While putting finishing touches on the GetDucks exhibit, Ramsey Russell introduces long-time Argentina hostess, client relations specialist and trusted friend, Martha Ciaffoni. Martha is an integral GetDucks Argentina duck hunting team member for over a decade. How’d they meet? What funny, stressful, and memorable events shaped their working relationship? What’s it like taking care of so many US duck hunters each season? The conversation ends, until next year, as people begin flooding through the doors.
For Martha Ciaffoni, Being GetDucks Boots-on-The-Ground Argentina Hunt Hostess and Customer Relations Specialist is a True Life Calling
Ramsey Russell: This is Ramsey Russell, GetDucks. It’s Duck Season Somewhere. I guess a lot of you guys right now, while this is being recorded, are out chasing ducks. I’m actually out chasing duck hunters. I am at Dallas Safari Club. This 2020 show is GetDucks’ 10th year, in fact, at Dallas Safari Club Convention. Just imagine, 50,000 to 60,000 or 70,000 square feet of every hunt on Earth you could possibly imagine in a super nice environment. I’m at the GetDucks booth. The show doesn’t open for a couple of hours, and I’m at the booth with today’s guest, Mrs. Martha Ciaffoni from Argentina. Now, you guys that have actually hunted with us down in Argentina, you all know Martha. And you guys that may not have hunted with us but have looked over our website through our Argentina-related testimonials for our famous La Paz duck hunting combo trip in Argentina and that very wild, remote hunt, Rio Salado duck hunt in Argentina, you’ve certainly seen her name. You know Martha Ciaffoni. Everybody loves Martha.
I tell everybody, when you go on this trip, you don’t need to speak Spanish, you just need to know two words: “Martha, Martha.” She’ll fix everything. I thought to have her as a guest today because we have been working together-we figured out at breakfast-for eleven years. Eleven years she has been my boots-on-the-ground down in Argentina. She’s a problem solver and a fixer. It’s not always the rosy, fun picture you imagine there in social media. She and I have had some pretty challenging times down in Argentina behind the scenes. Martha, how are you this morning?
Martha Ciaffoni: Good, I’m ready for the show.
Ramsey Russell: I know you’re ready for a show. She comes up here all the way from Argentina to help us out during convention season every year. Martha, to kick this thing off, you’re not a hunter. You go out there with my guest and you shoot sometimes. I’ve seen you shoot birds, and I’ve seen you out there hunting because you get up in the morning a lot of times and go with these guys, but how did you get into this business? How did you and I end up meeting? How did you get into this business?
Martha Ciaffoni: Well, I’m a translator. I was in college in Cordoba where all the doves are. And I started working for a guy there in Cordoba, and I’m a people person.
Ramsey Russell: You’re definitely a people person.
Martha Ciaffoni: I was like, made for this show, and we start working with Facundo, and then a couple of years later I realized that he was not pointing at the same target that I was pointing at. I worried about people, and suddenly I met you and Anita.
Ramsey Russell: He was one of those outfitters that really gives the hunting guide industry a bad name from what I gathered.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, definitely.
Ramsey Russell: And actually, when I met you, you were working for another “agent” that I didn’t really care for off the top of my head, and then we got sideways. Look, guys, when we met, I kind of started working through a hunt posing as a hunting consultant like myself. There’s plenty of posers in this business. Things got real sideways on the organization of that hunt, over the money of that hunt, because of just some of the unscrupulous stuff that was going on at the time. And Martha and I got on the phone one day, and my wife was clear across the house, and she heard Martha’s voice get emotional over the stressful situation. And mind you, this is the first conversation I’ve ever had with this lady. And my wife-just like how women hear a baby crying and they come running across the house and see what’s going on-man, Anita comes busting into the office to listen to this conversation. And I told Martha, “We’ll get it worked out. Don’t worry. We’ll get this handled.” Because we had been on this particular hunt. We wanted to represent this hunt. It is now easily one of our most famous hunts in the world: La Paz Combo down in Argentina. And, in the upcoming months, we did get it sorted. The clients did go have a great time. The rest is history, as they say.
Martha Ciaffoni: We had a volcano explosion in Chile, remember?
Ramsey Russell: Oh gosh, I’d forgotten all about that. Hey, just when you think you’ve seen and done it all in the world of duck hunt, you go to meet the lady you’re fixing to hire as your representative-we were on our way to Argentina-and a volcano, a major volcano, went off down in Chile. The wind, prevalently out of the southeast, blew soot and smoke thousands of miles. It looked like fog. It looks just like a foggy day in Buenos Aires. But it shut down the entire airspace because jets don’t like to fly when there’s volcanic ash up in the air. It damages the turbine motors. But I had told Anita when I was going down there-I said, “You know what, I’m going to meet this lady. And if she is half of what she comes across in person, I’m going to make her an offer she can’t refuse because we need to hire somebody like her in Argentina.” And how long did we spend in Buenos Aires that time?
Martha Ciaffoni: Oh my God, we got stuck in Buenos Aires.
Ramsey Russell: We got stuck and you’re worried about me because I had taken a real cheap hotel in a bad part of town.
Martha Ciaffoni: But the minute you jumped in the cab, you started talking like you always do. And I was looking at you and I was like, there’s no way I can work for him. I don’t understand a word of what he’s saying and then you suddenly took a breath and I was like okay, just give me a minute. Go all over again and slow down.
Ramsey Russell: She understood English, she just didn’t understand my English. I’ve got a face for radio and accent for Andy Griffith. If that. And she had a very hard time understanding my accent at the time is what she’s trying to say. Wow, eleven years ago was a long time. But we ended up spending a week in Buenos Aires. I think she was staying at her apartment, and I was staying in a real seedy part of town, a seedy hotel. That part of town I stayed in was so scary that the staff would run outside if I opened the door to go outside. They would run outside and look both ways and kind of form a barricade between me and a restaurant because they were so scared I’d get knocked off in that part of town. Martha was scared to death for me too. She’d take me and say, “Are you okay? Have you got the door locked?” And of course, I’m fine, nobody messed with a Southern boy in that part of town. I got lucky that year. And then we went up to La Paz. And we began to put it together.
Martha Ciaffoni: And you met all the team, you met Osvaldo, Karen, Diego, Santi, everybody.
Ramsey Russell: And see, that’s a very monumental time in the history of GetDucks.com because that meeting with that staff transformed our business model because they had never had American clients. La Paz is an absolute fantastic Argentina combo hunt for ducks, doves, pigeons and perdiz. But they had never had American clients. They had a few Spaniards. They had a few Italians, French. And I never will forget, they opened up a notebook one night after dinner, and they said, “We’ve never had American hunters. Tell us exactly how you want this program to be.” Well, I had been in business for 10 years at that time. I knew what-I thought I knew what-American hunters wanted out of this hunt. And I knew American hunters don’t want to come in and eat at 10 or 11 o’clock at night like Argentines and French and Italians do. They want to eat at 6:00 or 6:30, and then they want to have drinks, and then they want to go to bed, and then they want to go hunt again. And we laid this program out, and this wonderful staff really has kind of pulled it off. We customized this program. That’s partly why it’s so successful.
But I was smart enough to know right off the get-go to include Martha. She is our translator. She is the babysitter. She is the therapist. She is the nurse practitioner. She is the concierge for all these clients. And it made my life a lot better. So I wanted to talk to her today, since y’all could get a feel about who she is and how we work with her. One thing I will tell you, and I say this very humbly: I ask her and Anita all the time why they keep me around at GetDucks.com because really and truly, these two ladies are the brains of the operation. They really make things happen on the ground. I just wanted to say this, I feel like y’all seeing an Argentine duck hunting experience through her eyes and what she’s seen over the years versus just what I tell you it is would give it just a little depth and share just a little insight on why these GetDucks Argentina hunts are so good, and why me and you and anybody listening are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. We’re only as good as the team we put together. And Martha is an integral part of my team down in Argentina and here at Dallas Safari Club and Safari Club International and elsewhere.
What’s It Really Like Being a Full-Time GetDucks Argentina Hostess (Customer Relations Specialist)?
We have very wealthy clients, and we have people that have saved all their lives to go on an Argentina duck hunting trip. So, my point is we really got to give all of them the best chance to experience it. So let’s give them what they are looking for, and that’s a dream come true.
Taking Care of Client Needs
Ramsey Russell: Martha, in all the years you’ve been working with us, what is the craziest thing you’ve seen? What’s the craziest thing you think you’ve seen or done with a group or clients or just something you could share?
Martha Ciaffoni: I don’t know if there’s a craziest or better or worst thing I’ve seen. I think I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people that want to go to a fortune teller. I’ve seen people that lost their heart medication, and I found myself in front of a pharmacist who didn’t speak English translating drugs and important medication. I found myself in front of people who lost their passport on their departure day and had to rush to the American embassy and get a temporary passport so they could leave the country. But I think that what I’ve seen at the very beginning of it is that we have all kinds of clients. We have very wealthy clients, and we have people that have saved all their lives to go on an Argentina duck hunting trip. So, my point is we really got to give all of them the best chance to experience it. So let’s give them what they are looking for, and that’s a dream come true.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Martha Ciaffoni: So that’s what we all do. That’s why we take the best photographs we can, so they can take them back with them. We give them whatever they want. If it is a fortune teller, why not?
Martha Ciaffoni even took one client to an Argentina fortune teller!
Ramsey Russell: In case you didn’t mention that, I was going to actually ask you a true or false question: Have you ever been asked to take a client to a fortune teller? What was that all about? What was that experience like? What was it like going to a fortune teller in Argentina? Because I’ve kind of been thinking I might need to go myself. What is that all about?
Martha Ciaffoni: Well, he didn’t dare to ask me for that at the beginning. I could tell that he was trying to tell me something. But a couple of days later, he said, “Can I ask you for a favor?” And I said, “Sure, just let me know what you need.” And he said, “Can we get a fortune teller?” And I thought he was joking. I was like, “For real?” And he said, “Yeah, I want to know what she sees in the cards.” And so we started looking for a fortune teller in the little town.
Ramsey Russell: Was it hard to find in Argentina?
Martha Ciaffoni: I think there were two in that town, and only one of them came to the lodge. So I had to translate.
Ramsey Russell: Well, how did that go?
Martha Ciaffoni: I think it was a joke because she was a big liar.
Ramsey Russell: Of course she was lying. She’s a fortune teller.
Martha Ciaffoni: The first thing she said was you are on this trip because you’re looking for some answers. And then she goes, “Oh there’s this woman, of course there’s a woman.”
Ramsey Russell: Named Martha.
Martha Ciaffoni: No, she was talking about his fiancé, his girlfriend, I don’t know. She kept talking about this lady who, of course, didn’t exist. And he was like, really focused on that, and I’m like, “Oh my God, just stop lying.” Anyway, it was fun. It was different.
Ramsey Russell: Talking about the passports and firearm licenses-It’s not like leaving Mississippi and going to Arkansas to duck hunt for the weekend. You are going a long way from home, and you might lose your hunting license or your driver’s license or your billfold in a bar in Arkansas. But when something happens in Argentina, all of a sudden you’re in a foreign country without paperwork that you need to board the flight back home or to get into the United States, or you’re in a country and you have firearms, but you don’t have legal paperwork. That’s not good. And man, I tell you, having the right person that I’m working with, like Martha, that can fix these problems is always a good thing. It makes my life easy, and it makes the client’s experience better.
A lot of what I have seen in Argentina is the way a lot of these other Argentine operations are conducted. You’re met at the airport by somebody who greets you and takes you to a van. And that’s the last you see the person who greeted you because she was just a contract hire. And then you’re transferred hours to a lodge. And that’s the last time you see the driver because he was just a contract hire, like a taxi. And you’re greeted by one set of staff, and then you’re passed on to another set of staff and another set of staff and another set of staff, and you go shoot a few birds, and you’re back at the airport, and you’re gone. And there really wasn’t a lot of continuity in that experience. I felt like what was really missing-that we tried to build into our experiences-was some continuity. We needed somebody that could greet our clients and get them through customs if there were issues, help them get their guns through customs if there were issues, help get them on a van, be their translator if they had a problem: “Well I don’t like my guide or I don’t like eating chicken for dinner or I need a different wine.”
Martha Ciaffoni: “I want a different mattress. I want a different shower.”
Ramsey Russell: “I need a different shower pressure.” Everything. Everything. “Martha, Martha.” Like we’ve talked about before, this business is hunting, but this business is really hospitality and a people business. And that’s where we found that Martha brings tremendous value to improving the client experience.
Discovering Rio Salado Duck Hunting During Exploratory Trip
And I knew we had found something special and to this day, I want my ashes scattered in that wild marsh.
Ramsey Russell: Martha, how long ago was it that we went and “discovered” Rio Salado? How long ago was that? Because that was the real proving ground in our relationship. Most stressful week of my life or ten days of my life.
Martha Ciaffoni: I thought you were ready to get rid of me. It was like nine years ago.
Ramsey Russell: I was ready to be a Walmart greeter about midway through that hunt. That was a tough experience.
Martha Ciaffoni: Oh my Lord. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: So what happened is, I went to Argentina during their off-season, and parts of Argentina have a rice depredation season. I was just going to come down here and explore and kick around and look at some stuff. And I had a couple of clients who said we want to go with you, we want to do that “real Ramsey stuff.” And Martha and I set it up. And she was going to be our translator and we were going to go to a couple of places and we were going to do some stuff. Since we had booked our flights and the time we showed up, the federal government had changed some firearm importation laws that nobody was aware of except for them. And we went from plan A to Plans B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P in about a ten or fifteen day period. And it was probably one of the most stressful but memorable events in my life. Do you remember that Martha?
How does Rio Salado compare to other Argentina duck hunting experiences in Argentina’s Santa Fe province?
They became life-long clients just during those few days duck hunting in Rio Salado. And I knew I had found something special and to this day, I want my ashes scattered in that wild marsh.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, I’ve had this place in mind for a while. But just mentioning Santa Fe, for you, was enough. So you said, “No, I’m not ever going back to Santa Fe. There are no ducks there. I don’t want to go.” So we started in Cordoba, we toured around a little bit, and then we went to Santa Fe.
Ramsey Russell: Well, there are ducks in Santa Fe. The problem is I had previously been duck hunting Argentina’s Santa Fe province 3 times with 3 different operators. For example, I’d say 7 out of 10, 8 out of 10 of the Argentine outfitters sitting here in the convention today are from Santa Fe, and they’re all right there in San Javier, practically all neighbors on the Parana River. It’s very, very cookie cutter. All of the outfitters are running similarly mediocre duck hunts. If you want to go have a mediocre duck hunt in Argentina, by all means, go to that part of Argentina (Santa Fe). And I’d been three times, and I just said, “This is not at all theArgentina duck hunting experience I want for GetDucks clients.” So when you said, “Let’s go to Santa Fe,” I’m like, “Nope, not going, not ever going back to Santa Fe. It’s a shit show. I won’t ever go back to that part.”
Well, we found ourselves there. But we instead found ourselves in a 130 square-mile marsh in the middle of nowhere. And the first morning, I walked a quarter mile in ankle-deep muck out into the marsh. And I witnessed something I had not seen in fifteen or more years of going to Argentina and around the world: wild birds in a wild place, more ducks than I’d ever dreamed of. And when I got back to the lodge, Martha came out and said how did it go?
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, because I was nervous. I didn’t have my waders with me, and I was not able to go to the field. So I woke up that morning-which I usually sleep in the morning-but I woke up that morning, and I was so worried about you and your hunting that when you came back and you said I want my ashes scattered there, I finally breathed again.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And it sounds terrible, but it’s really how I describe that particular hunt. All these years later that became our world-famous Rio Salado duck hunting Argentina package. The 2 clients I was with who just thought they want to do “real Ramsey Russell stuff” and explore, until we had to roll some unforeseen obstacles. It was the best duck hunt they had ever experienced in their lives too. They became life-long clients just during those few days duck hunting in Rio Salado. And I knew I had found something special and to this day, I want my ashes scattered in that wild marsh. Not in a drought year, I’m going to tell you, in a very, very wet year like it has been the last couple of seasons.
But speaking of wet, the thing about getting to this particular place, it is a long way. You can’t hardly get there from here. You leave Buenos Aires, you drive for an hour and a half. Now you’re outside of the city of Buenos Aires, which is the fourth largest city in the world. And you drive and you drive and you drive and you can play on your phone and play on WIFI and play on Facebook and everything you want to until about the last two hours. And the last hour, in a dry or average year, is down a dirt road, and I don’t mean a gravel road. I mean dirt, like a turn roe in a soybean field, dirt. It’s been raining, it’s mud. And sometimes it only takes an hour to get down the road. Sometimes it takes much longer. When we got into Rio Salado that first time- This is getting up to one of my most memorable events in GetDucks.com history that involved Martha.
“Real Ramsey Stuff” while exploring Argentina duck hunts
I jump out, man, ready to high-five everybody, and all I see is white eyeballs. Everybody else was covered in mud. I mean, covered head to toe in mud.
Ramsey Russell: Now understand for the previous week, we’d been rolling and punching and dealing with the government. For example, we were sitting with the client, we were shooting pigeons on about the third or fourth stop we had ever done. And I was very content and very relaxed, and I finally had an appetite, was eating a little bit and Martha got a phone call. I don’t know how she got a phone call. We were at a cafe I’d never been to, she’d never been to, nobody had ever been to. Somehow she got a phone call, and I was sitting there just snacking away, and I don’t know what we were eating, probably steak. And I looked up-you know how you feel like somebody’s looking at you and you kind of look over-I felt something. And I looked over, and I looked through the kitchen door into the kitchen, and Martha was on the phone, and I could tell by the look on her face that we were onto another plan. Something had changed. Something bad had happened or something unexpected had happened. I lost my appetite immediately.
Martha Ciaffoni: We had to change from Plan B to Plan Z.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. We had to change plans again, explain to the clients. They were getting a little frustrated at that time. But hey, this what you signed up for, guys. This is “real Ramsey stuff” here. It wouldn’t have been stressful at all had I not had these clients with me, I would’ve just drunk another beer and gone with the flow. Let it work out.
Martha Ciaffoni: We were sweating.
The time we got stuck in the absolute middle-of-nowhere-Argentina
Ramsey Russell: It was hot. Because the off-season, right? It’s like spring and summer. So we go and we hunt Rio Salado for the first time. The clients are absolutely loving it, I’m loving it. I knew after three days that I had found something truly special in Argentina for which I give Martha credit for steering me that way. I’m telling you right now, she led me this way. And it’s raining, and it’s been raining every afternoon. It’s been raining so hard that it would knock the power out. And if the air conditioner wasn’t blowing at night, it was hot. But it rained and it rained and it rained. First time I’d ever been here, I didn’t know about this muddy road. I just knew it was a dirt road. I hadn’t seen the muddy road part of it yet, but it’d been raining for three days solid. And we got out, we dressed for the flight home, we loaded up our baggage into the back of the truck, clients all got in, Martha got in the back seat. Two clients, myself, the owner David, and Martha.
One thing I just noticed but didn’t really take stock of at the time was David threw a shovel in the back of the truck. I didn’t even think about it until halfway out. We got stuck. I don’t mean just a little stuck. It was like a hipped up dirt road, hipped up like a watermelon row, hipped up tight, slick. And if we were going, we started sliding, sliding, sliding, and sliding. He’s a great driver, don’t get me wrong. He downshifted, got it good in the third gear to get that low-end torque going, and it didn’t matter. We were sliding over towards this ditch. It was full of grass. And I just feel like had we fallen off into that ditch-I couldn’t see the bottom-I don’t feel like you’d still be able to see that truck all these years later. I believe we would have just disappeared and been swallowed into the earth.
So we stopped and I mind myself and the client and everybody got out and what we did is we got up along the edge of that ditch, and we pushed the side of the truck so that as he was gaining traction going forward, it wouldn’t continue to careen off into this ten or fifteen foot deep ditch, and it wasn’t working. And by now we are covered with mud. And we don’t know what we’re going to do. One of the clients is 80 years old, right? He’s no help whatsoever, and he’s not feeling well. So he’s in the front seat of the truck, and David gets out. He looked at the one client who is built like Mr. Clean, weightlifter, power lifter. We obviously need him. He looked at me. I’m the guy, he looked at Martha. She’s the girl. Well he asked, “Martha, can you drive?” She goes, “No way.” Well that was kind of a surprise. What kind of thirty-something year old woman don’t know how to drive a truck?
Martha Ciaffoni: I would never drive there.
Ramsey Russell: Well I understand. I get that. I would never drive in Buenos Aires traffic, either. Lines down in Buenos Aires, painted lines and yellow lines, white lines and dotted lines, that’s just a decoration. That is really nothing you pay attention to down there when you’re driving. So he looked at me and he says, “Can you drive a stick shift?” I’m like, “Hell yeah!” So I get in, and the three of them start pushing, and I floor it, going quickly through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th gears so I can finally hit that low-end torque 4th gear, and next thing you know, I’m a hundred yards down the road sitting in the middle of the crown of the road. We are out, we’re out. I jump out, man, ready to high-five everybody, and all I see is white eyeballs. Everybody else was covered in mud. I mean, covered head to toe in mud.
Martha Ciaffoni: And my leg was broken.
Ramsey Russell: Your leg was not broken. Don’t exaggerate.
Martha Ciaffoni: It was twisted. I had to wear a plaster cast for forty days.
Ramsey Russell: I do not ever remember seeing you wear a plaster cast.
Martha Ciaffoni: Because you were going home.
Ramsey Russell: You are not exaggerating, are you?
Martha Ciaffoni: No, I’m not. I twisted my ankle.
Ramsey Russell: I appreciate it. That was donated to a good cause. Because by the time we get out of this middle of nowhere place, we’ve been stuck for hours. And we finally get out.
Martha Ciaffoni: It was like three hours.
Ramsey Russell: It’s down pouring rain. And we drive up to the blacktop, we swap cars, we get picked up by another associate, Osvaldo. He stopped somewhere on the side of the road at a washroom, and we have just enough time to bathe off in a men’s room sink. I remember bathing my crocs off in like one of the little buckets that you use the windshield wipers with, that you dip the windshield squeegee in, and change clothes. And we made it to the airport just in the nick of time.
Martha Ciaffoni: It was crazy.
Ramsey Russell: We were soaking wet. We were filthy wet. I woke up at three o’clock in the morning to go brush my teeth or something on the plane.
Martha Ciaffoni: I was going to mention that.
Ramsey Russell: And I looked in the mirror, and I’ve still got mud in my eyebrows and mud caked up in my ear, and nobody had said a word. I guess when somebody gets on the plane smelling and looking like that, you don’t say nothing, you know. But I knew that hunt was a success, and those clients were happy. And no small part to how Martha responded and how she was able to translate and keep this ball rolling. And I knew right then that this relationship with Martha was going to be a very meaningful relationship in terms of the kind of help clients would get.
What are usual client needs while duck hunting in Argentina?
I’ve always felt like the very best thing I can do to help a client is to increase his powers of enjoyment. That when he shows up, he’s got the right gear, there at the right time, he’s got the right attitude, right expectations of what he has gotten himself into.
Each group and each hunter is different. We try to be ready for them…I don’t think there are difficult or impossible people to deal with, even though I’ve had some hard times. I can put up with everything. I’ve noticed that I can be very patient with some people. I had a group one time, the youngest was 80 years old.
Ramsey Russell: Martha, in having dealt with all these clients, if you had to differentiate between a good client and a bad client, or a prepared client and an unprepared client, how would you describe that to somebody that’s never traveled to a foreign country or to Argentina? Like just based on your personal experiences.
Martha Ciaffoni: Each group and each hunter is different. I always expect duck hunters to be there. But sometimes, some guys are there, and they have never killed a duck in their lives. So they don’t know what duck hunting really is. They don’t bring any waders, they’re not ready for water. But I’ve learned that we need to be ready for all of them. So some guys come and say, “Oh Martha, I didn’t bring any kind of boots or waders.” So we try to be ready for those and get some at the lodge, help them with their gear. Some guys don’t know what camo is, and they want to go hunting in white shirts, red shirts, and I’m like, “Nope.” But anyways, we try to be ready for everybody. We try to be ready for those guys that cannot sleep at night because they know they’re going to go duck hunting in the morning and they’re so excited. So we try to be ready for them, we try to have coffee earlier in those cases. I don’t think there are difficult or impossible people to deal with, even though I’ve had some hard times. I can put up with everything. I’ve noticed that I can be very patient with some people. I had a group one time, the youngest was 80 years old.
Ramsey Russell: Wow.
Martha Ciaffoni: And they don’t want to get wet, but they want to kill ducks. They forgot all their gun paperwork in their bags before we had to check with the police. So you just got to be patient and know that people are different, and they’re having vacation and they’re having their time of their lives. So you got to cope with that and try to do your best. But I always ask them to let me know if they have any health issues, if we need a special diet. I get all kinds of questions too. Sometimes they want to know if we have bumpy roads.
Ramsey Russell: Yes! The answer is yes! There are bumpy roads in Argentina.
Martha Ciaffoni: Always. Yeah. Some guys bring four suitcases.
Ramsey Russell: Oh boy.
Martha Ciaffoni: They don’t understand that they don’t need that. We have laundry service. We can help them.
Ramsey Russell: Every day.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah. So I tried to get in touch with them before the trip, and we can get to details and get everybody on the same page and have fun.
Ramsey Russell: I feel like the people that show up and don’t bring the right waiters or boots or gear, that they didn’t take full advantage of our very reliable pre-trip. Because we put a lot of information on paper. Maybe, they don’t want to read those four pages. And myself and you and Anita are available at any time before, during, and after the hunt. And we do have a lot of clients, especially repeat clients, that realize they can text or call or WhatsApp you or email one of us and get all the information they need. I’ve always felt like the very best thing I can do to help a client is to increase his powers of enjoyment. That when he shows up, he’s got the right gear, there at the right time, he’s got the right attitude, right expectations of what he has gotten himself into. It’s not foolproof. I just had a client go King Eider hunting, and it was a lot more challenging and difficult than he had expected. I wish I’d sent him to Argentina instead.
But anyway, Martha, because you truly are a people person- We’re sitting here at Dallas Safari Club, we leave here in a few weeks, and we go to Safari Club International, and countless will be the people in the next four days that come into the booth looking for Martha. And a lot of them are going to be non-hunting spouses, but a lot of them are going to be clients too. Because you’ve helped them out, and a real friendship is formed.
What does Martha Ciaffoni love most about hosting GetDucks Argentina hunters?
People’s lives are interesting, and I like the details. I like to listen, and I don’t give advice. I don’t judge anybody. So I just listen, and they listen to me too. So we create bonds.
Ramsey Russell: What is your very favorite thing about what you do? Because you’ve got to like what you do. Good times and bad, but you’ve got to overall like it to be good at it. What do you really love about your part of this job?
Martha Ciaffoni: I get into people as much as they get into me, into myself. So we create bonds. It’s more than just a business sometimes because sometimes people get to the lodge, and they start talking to me, and they tell me very personal stuff that I treasure of course, and I go the same way.
Ramsey Russell: You’re almost like a psychologist that way. I’ve noticed that. Because you’re a very good listener.
Martha Ciaffoni: I find people’s lives very interesting. So whatever they have to tell me, I don’t know if it’s a fortune teller news or whatever she may say. I think it’s interesting because something has caused them to get to that point. So people’s lives are interesting, and I like the details. I like to listen, and I don’t give advice. I don’t judge anybody. So I just listen, and they listen to me too. So we create bonds. It’s funny that I get to America, and I get invitations of all different states, all different places. “You got to come see us.” I don’t have time to do it. I need years to do it, and I would love to visit all of them. But we create really, really strong bonds, and I remember all of them in all these years. And I may forget about some names, but as soon as I see their faces, a lot of memories come into my mind.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got a phone full of photographs. You’ve got a memory like a steel trap. You seem to remember all these clients, and you brought up a good point about your interactions with these clients. Because oftentimes-pick a hunt down there, Rio Salado-I host them every year or most years, and I get to meet clients in camp for a week or two, maybe three, at a time. But what I’ve noticed is you and other guys and outfitters that I work with, you really get to know the clients a lot more personally than I do. I talk to them on the phone to help them out. We might small talk a little bit. But usually when they call me, they are at the office or in between little league ball games, and life back home is happening. But countless are the times I’m talking to you about a client, you’re like, well did you know so and so invented such and such, or got this award in hunting, or did this, or did you know he was related to so and so.
Martha Ciaffoni: Yeah, sometimes I get pictures. A couple of weeks ago I got a picture from a client that was there two years ago. And he was having dinner with some friends. And they started talking, “Oh I’ve been to Argentina. Oh yeah I went to La Paz. I met Martha.” And they got to know each other-completely different environments-and then they will send me a picture of them together. And it’s just funny because they don’t even live in the same area. But yeah, you get to know a lot of people. A couple of years ago, a client called you, and you start talking, and he said that back in the day, he went to Argentina in 2007. We were not even working together, and you said, “Martha,” and then he was like, ”Wait a minute, what Martha?” And then he sent you a picture of me.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. He and I were talking, he had called up to ask about a hunt. I guess it was Rio Salado, and I started telling about my hostess and about this stuff. He goes, “I was down there a long time ago.” And that’s right, he put two and two together, and the minute he found out that you were involved, boom, he was on board, and he’s still a good client. I think he’s going back this year and wow, it’s just crazy how you meet people. And things work out like this.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think that you know about hunting in Argentina? That anyone that has never been that might be coming into this show or might be listening or might be considering his trip doesn’t know that they kind of should know? Most people go into a restaurant and all they see is a plate of food in front of them, the table, the upfront part. Martha and I get to go in the back. We see what’s going on back in the kitchen, and we kind of know a little bit about how the menu was prepared and how everything is done. And I’m just curious Martha. Is there any observations you’ve made over the years, over the time with all your experience that you think everybody considering going to Argentina should know that they might not?
Martha Ciaffoni: Well as I said before, I babysit hunters. I’m always worried about them. Some people think that going to Argentina is the same as being here in America, and it’s not. But my main concern is when they arrive to be at Buenos Aires, and they are by themselves, they arrive earlier. I may be at the field, and they expect everybody to be nice. Sometimes Argentinians are nice, sometimes they are not. So that worries me a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: That’s not just Argentina, that’s the world. That’s people, that’s a lot of the US going to a city.
Martha Ciaffoni: So I always try to keep them safe. “Where are you going to be? Where are you going to stay?” And details like that. But then when you go to Argentina and you go hunting the places I host, what I think is that if they are looking for a familiar environment, they can come to La Paz, they will feel like at home, and it’s not just hunting. It’s just enjoying your time in a family environment. And then Rio Salado. I’m not a hunter, but I’ve been to the blind several mornings, and I can feel the excitement that hunters feel. And it’s something different that everybody will really enjoy, will really appreciate, especially real duck hunters.
The La Paz Duck Hunting Combo in Argentina
Ramsey Russell: Real duck hunters. The next project that Jake Latendresse and I go to film down in Argentina is going to be the GetDucks La Paz Argentina Duck Hunting Combo. That’s the hunt you and I started working on back when it was a combo: duck, doves, pigeons, perdiz, and fishing. But you know what really makes that hunt special? What I hear so much from hunters that have been and are going back? The hunting is great, but it’s the pieces. It’s you, but it’s also the staff, and you and I were talking about that yesterday about how it’s almost like magic you’ve got. Karen, Osvaldo, Santiago and his wife, Diego and his wife. The guides are all brothers and cousins and uncles, and they’re just real hunters.
Martha Ciaffoni: They get a lot of pressure because they want to provide the best to everybody. But once the hunt is done, and we see that everybody got their limit, that everybody’s happy, it’s like a party. You’re going to see them dancing in the middle of the marshland, in the middle of rice fields.
Ramsey Russell: Santiago’s giving dancing lessons at lunch, oh Elvis Presley himself. I think I would sum it up. I think it’s partly what captivated me with that particular hunt. It was so transformational for our business. It’s a level of sincerity that I had not ever seen in working, especially in Argentina, but around the world. The level of sincerity and genuine interest. It’s like I had a Doctor client there one time, a very good friend now. But he could hunt anywhere in the world he wants to hunt and has. But he was telling me about one night in between group or something. It was just he and his son eating dinner, and he said, “they brought us food out and served it. And it was very, very good food. And the staff was in the back, and they would not come and join us because I was a client.” And so he and his son picked up their plates and went to the kitchen and sat down at the table. And he said, “Ramsey, I know it was inappropriate, but we’d been there four days, man. These people were family. We felt like family, we didn’t want to eat at the kids’ table. We wanted to eat with our family.”
Martha Ciaffoni: I was gone with the rest of the team. I was taking them back to BA, and they stayed for a couple of days. And the people of La Paz, they don’t speak English. So they didn’t know how to communicate with the clients. But after a couple of minutes, they were sitting at the table having a conversation in Spanglish, I guess. And they were laughing and having fun. They were sending me texts- some pictures when I was gone.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s nine o’clock, and I’m seeing a wall of people starting to trickle in through the front door, and it’s going to get busy down here. I really look forward to this time of year. I love convention. I’ve got some other great guests lined up to meet with, guys. Thank you all for listening. If you’ve not yet met my friend and business partner, Martha Ciaffoni, I hope that one day you can.
Martha Ciaffoni: I’ll babysit you.
Ramsey Russell: Martha Ciaffoni will babysit you. And if she’s babysitting you, you’ve shot a lot of birds that day because you’re with GetDucks in Argentina. It may be ducks, doves, pigeons, perdiz, or it may be more ducks than you’ve ever dreamed of. But you’ve had a good day, I promise you. Guys, y’all can connect with Martha, @MarthaCiaffoni on Instagram. Of course I’m @ramseyrussellgetgucks. You all tune in. We’ll be live streaming like we do around the world because it is really is Duck Season Somewhere. See you all next time.