It’s autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere and the stags are roaring! For the third year in a row I went red stag hunting in La Pampa, Argentina. My aide Alex accompanied me on this trip (April 2-9).
On my previous trips I had hunted with guide Carlos Martinez on his friend’s ranch, but this year I went to a place called Rancho La Mota because it offers handicapped-accessible facilities. Finally accepting the fact that ALS has slowed me down, I told my guide, Jorge, that I only wanted to hunt in the afternoons.
After lunch on our first day at La Mota, Jorge mounted my adaptive shooting gear on his Ruger M77 .308 and Leupold 3-9x40 scope. I have a camera/monitor that mounts on any riflescope so Jorge could aim the rifle for me while we both viewed the sight picture; I activate my trigger device by inhaling on a tube. We took two practice shots at a 50-yard target and I was concerned when both bullets hit 3 inches low and slightly to the left. I needn’t have worried; as it turned out, Jorge’s aim was deadeye with game in the crosshairs.
Since I can’t effectively stalk animals in the thick cover, we hunted from natural blinds built on the spot with brush and fallen branches. Before going afield each afternoon, Jorge would describe the spot to be hunted and from which direction the deer were likely to appear. His predictions proved accurate every time. Here’s a pic of one of our ambush points.
The first afternoon I earned Jorge’s respect by staying vigilant and sighting the first female red deer (called a hind) to appear. Another soon materialized and we watched them feed for about 10 minutes. Then a stag emerged from the brush and Jorge told me it was a management-class stag. The price of my hunt included one trophy and one management, or cull, stag.
I didn’t want to push my luck by passing up this opportunity, even though the range was 200 yards. Jorge took aim, and when the crosshairs looked right I touched off a shot. Jorge seemed surprised when the 5x5 stag dropped in its tracks.
“I didn’t think it would be so easy!” he said, referring to the process of shooting as a team.
“It isn’t,” I said. “But we’re so good we make it look easy.”
I set a new personal record by having both wheelchair tires go flat on the first day of hunting. There are so many thorns in La Pampa that we didn’t even try to repair the inner tubes. I just rode on flats for a week and accepted it as part of the adventure. Hunting on flats is better than sitting at home on perfect tires.
The excitement continued all week as we saw management-class stags every afternoon, but held out for one with a trophy rack. Jorge’s effort and enthusiasm make hunting with him a hoot. As darkness closed in one evening, I asked him to turn on the scopecam to check if we had a good enough image to aim should a stag come out in the fading light. When he flicked on the monitor I couldn’t see a thing, but Jorge squinted and moved his head side to side, and then said, “I think I can still make out the crosshairs. Let’s give it a while longer.”
On our next-to-last evening we watched a management stag cross a field and stand broadside at 100 yards. Jorge shook his head and muttered, “If we see a cull tomorrow, it’s going down.”
“I don’t want to hunt tomorrow,” I said. Jorge looked very disappointed until I added, “I’ve been hunting all week. Enough hunting. Tomorrow let’s just kill something!”
That story quickly spread and at dinner that night everybody was calling us “los asesinos” (assassins).
On the final afternoon we hunted from one of La Mota’s tower blinds with an elevator for wheelchair access. Alex took this pic before getting me out of the truck.
We had said we’d take the first critter we saw, but we let an armadillo walk. Then we held our fire on another animal because it was Easter Sunday and we weren’t sure if we were watching a jackrabbit or the Easter Bunny. We did shoot a wild boar within the first hour. I thought we had missed until it toppled after running about 40 yards. Alex said he knew the boar was hit “because it took off, swerving and sliding like a car with bald tires.”
Check out the cutters on the beast!
Just before dark, two stags appeared. Jorge explained that one was too young to harvest and the other was a cull. He gave me the option to take the management stag, which I accepted. Jorge steadied the crosshairs, I activated the trigger, and we closed my hunt with a one-shot, 70-yard kill on the 3x3 raghorn.
Jorge and our driver, Oscar, took us to the airport the next day. When we were on our way out, already a quarter-mile from the lodge, Oscar noticed Jorge’s dog (named “Macho”) sprinting behind the truck in an effort to catch us. Oscar slowed down and Macho leapt into the pickup bed to escort us to Santa Rosa.