Monday, May 14, 2012

My 2010 Red Stag Hunt

Here's the story:

While my featherbrained friends in the USA pursue spring turkeys, autumn arrives in the southern hemisphere. I first hunted red stag in La Pampa, Argentina, in April 2005, about a year before I was diagnosed with ALS. Through the years I stayed in touch with my guide, Carlos Martinez, and he was aware of my deteriorating physical condition. Carlos emailed me in September 2009 to say he’d figured a way for me to hunt ciervo (stag) without having to stalk them in the thick cover.
I was hesitant, but my wife Ligia insisted we take advantage of the opportunity. “We can bring Ivson to do your lifting and transfers,” she said, referring to one of my personal aides.
Ivson had always liked watching hunting videos with me, and he jumped at the chance to actually go on a hunt. When I told Carlos we could make the trip, he said, “Be here for the April full moon.”
We hunted on a hacienda (ranch) owned by a man nicknamed Chino. Although Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, Ligia and I speak a good deal of Spanish. This helped us get to know our Argentine hosts better. During the month-long season, Chino’s son Rodrigo works as a guide and does the cooking for visiting hunters. Chino’s father remains very active at 85 and keeps up with all the goings-on at the hacienda. Although we talked quite a bit, I never learned his name; everybody just called him Abuelo (Grandfather).
Carlos rigged my adaptive shooting gear on his Remington Model 700 .30-06. Since my condition precluded stalking deer in La Pampa’s thick brush, he arranged for us to sit in blinds and keep vigil on food plots—at night, by moonlight! This method is legal in Argentina, and commonly employed to hunt wild boars. My scopecam doesn’t work in low light, so I explained that Carlos would have to shoulder the rifle to aim, and tell me when to squeeze the trigger with my cable release.
We hunted three evenings without any shot opportunities. One loudly roaring stag approached to within 70 yards but never gave us a clear look. I had booked a four-day hunt; time was running out. To make matters worse I came down with a cold, which made it difficult to sit quietly in a blind.
One morning Rodrigo had to tend cattle. Always ready to play Camo Cowgirl, Ligia saddled up to lend a hand. And I think Ivson is a true redneck at heart because he wore camo the whole time we were there.
Rodrigo and ranch hand Nero slaughtered a year-old lamb for the grill. As you’ll see in the slide show, when they say parilla (grill) in Argentina, nobody envisions a propane-burning contraption.
While we savored this delicious meal, Ligia came up with the brilliant suggestion to extend our stay at the hacienda by two days. Carlos, Chino and Rodrigo enthusiastically approved. Carlos said, “We’re willing to do the impossible to make it possible for you to take a stag.”
For our final evening Carlos set up a low-profile tent blind on a slight rise that offered a wide view of a pasture bordered by calden trees. He had to dig a 15-inch pit to accommodate my wheelchair. Carlos sat beside me on a plastic chair and Ivson fit behind us on a folding stool.
Carlos’ effort paid off. An hour after sunset, illuminated by a three-quarter moon high in the cloudless sky, we watched two deer walk toward us from the pasture’s far corner. When a third, larger deer appeared at 150 yards, Carlos put the crosshairs on it and told me to squeeze the trigger release.
Immediately following the rifle’s report we heard a hollow, wet WALLOP and knew our bullet had hit its mark. We saw the stag run back into the brush and Carlos said he’d rather recover it in the morning than risk trampling the blood trail in the dark.
Waiting at the house, Ligia and Rodrigo heard the shot and were anxious to know the outcome. Rodrigo’s mother Gladys joined the celebration as we toasted our success with a bottle of Jaegermeister I had brought for the occasion. The next morning couldn’t come soon enough for me.
The stag had run farther than expected. Carlos and Rodrigo followed a spotty blood trail for 400 yards before they saw antlers in the knee-high grass.
The stately 5x5 had thick beams, a wide spread and a busted-off brow tine missing from its right antler. We estimate the stag, noticeably thin from the rigors of the rut, weighed around 400 pounds. Three men worked hard to muscle it onto a trailer to haul to the house.
When people say they find inspiration in my example, I remind them that my hunts require a team effort. Ligia shines as the real source of inspiration because she always encourages me to pursue my dreams and stays by my side as we work to deal with challenges along the way.
Enjoy the slide show!

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