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Wiltz: Argentina -- the whole nine yards

As you read today's column, I'll be West River deer hunting in Lyman County. It's new country for me, I'm excited about it, and I'll write about that next week. Because readers occasionally ask about our most recent hunting trip to Argentina, I'd...

As you read today's column, I'll be West River deer hunting in Lyman County. It's new country for me, I'm excited about it, and I'll write about that next week. Because readers occasionally ask about our most recent hunting trip to Argentina, I'd like to touch on what wasn't covered in the June/July columns.

I am reasonably certain that most hunting trips to Argentina involve wing shooting for waterfowl,

doves, and pigeons. The big game hunting, primarily for red stag, is also popular, but not to the same degree as the wing shooting. Argentina continues to grow as a very popular hunting destination.

With the cost of roundtrip air transportation to Buenos Aires around $2,000, partner Mike Hall and I decided to combine a wing shooting adventure with our big game hunt. While this made good sense to us, I don't know that I've ever read about anyone else putting these two different hunts together.

I already covered our San Ambrosia duck/dove hunt in a July column, but I did not give much column space to Mike's hunt for a trophy stag. It was a different kind of hunt in that taking a stag was not the question. What was in question was how big a stag, and what it would cost - all determined before the trigger is pulled.

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While hunting, Mike had access to a card that held the following information. SCI referred to Safari Club International trophy scoring points, and USD referred to cost in U.S. Dollars. Tito, our non-English speaking guide, would point to the card to indicate what stag we were looking at. While these stags were free-roaming on Algar's 60,000 acres, they were seemingly proud of their antlers and not particularly wary.

RED STAG: 270-320 SCI POINTS USD $4,000

RED STAG: 321-360 SCI POINTS USD $7,500

RED STAG: 361-400 SCI POINTS USD $10,000

RED STAG: 401-440 SCI POINTS USD $15,000

RED STAG: 441-480 SCI POINTS USD $25,000

RED STAG: 481-520 SCI POINTS USD $35,000

Fortunately for the hunter, if a downed stag scored better than Tito indicated, you paid the agreed upon price. If you wounded and lost the animal, you still paid the price. Mike made a good shot on a stag that scored about 315 points. SCI denotes a 190 + point animal as "bronze medal," a 312 + point animal as "silver medal," and a 378 + point animal as "gold medal." If Mike cared, he could have his red stag entered in the SCI record book in the "silver" category. I know this type of hunting does not appear to be very adventuresome, but the magnificence of the animals, their "roaring" during the rut, and the setting make the hunt special.

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In 2004, the late Don Kaberna and I hunted free range Argentine stags for a reasonable set fee. A 400 point stag was possible, and I actually had a chance at one but got "buck fever!" The ones we eventually took were in the 250 point range. Because this hunting was strenuous and the stags were wary, it was a great hunt!

In 2009 Don and I hunted New Zealand stags. We took 370 point animals within a "reserve," a very large fenced-in tract - about 7,000 acres. The fence did not seem to affect the "fair chase" aspect of the hunt. We then hunted free-roaming animals outside the reserve. The $4,000 fee included both hunts, lodging, meals, guide, license, trophy fees, and our wives who had a very good time.

During our recent Argentine hunt at Algar, I hunted non-trophy "management" stags that would

never have $4000 antlers as they lacked the genetics. I paid a $50 apiece fee for the two stags I killed, and had a great time hunting them as they were quite elusive. This was because they hung around with hinds (females) that were protective of their calves.

It appeared to me that the high dollar $15,000 + animals were within a fence much like the New

Zealand reserve stags. I can understand this as the owners/breeders didn't want these big ticket

animals wandering into the remote mountains owned by the corporate Budweiser people.

My big New Zealand stag is on the wall, and you're welcome to come by the house and see just how magnificent a red stag is.

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See you next week.

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