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THE ULTIMATE SNIPER by Maj. John L. Plaster USAR (ret.) [Book Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Cork Graham

You may be asking what a review on a sniper instructional book is doing in an outdoors magazine dedicated to effective wildlife conservation practices and game and fish cooking. What you might be missing is how the path of hunter to sniper has returned to hunter in the last ten years. It’s evident in the camouflage and even the equipment being used in the hunting community.

Hunter, Sniper, Hunter

Major Plaster uses the phrase “Close to the Earth” to describe that quality about the best snipers from around the world. This refers to the fact that almost all the best snipers, certainly the most recognized, had younger years based in the country, with a solid hunting background. Whether Russian snipers who hunted wolves in Siberia, or Austrailians who shot kangaroos, or American snipers who were raised hunting elk, deer and squirrels, all the highly regarded snipers had a solid background learning woodcraft in their youth.

How does this pertain to you, the hunter, just trying to do better in field? A lot!

In the last twenty years, the hunting community has benefited greatly by the equipment that has been developed for the sniping community. Previously, it was the sniping community that benefited most from what the hunting community provided. There’s this cycle that seems to have come completely around, where techniques and equipment gained through hunting were brought to the sniper schools of past: and now, the equipment and knowledge that is used in sniping has come full circle back to hunting…and anything you can do to be that more efficient in taking your game, lessening the chances of crippling or loss, is a level of effectiveness to reach for–good wildlife management and conservation practices demand it.

One of the easiest ties to recognize are the camouflage improvements to hunting clothing, advances in the military that were picked up and improved upon in the hunting community. There are also the improvements in rifles that make it almost a foregone conclusion that if you’re purchasing a new bolt-action rifle from a reputable manufacturer, you can pretty much expect it to shoot under 1 MOA.

A review of writings by Jack O’Connor would quickly tell you that in the 1930s and before WWII a rifle that shot 1.5 MOA was pretty good. And we’re not even talking yet about shooting technique and optics, of which the improvements in binoculars and laser rangefinders has been amazing! Sometimes snipers can even make good optical equipment purchases  through the civilian hunting market because the advances have come so fast in this hunter focused market—driven by a market that wants the best and has the money to pay for it.

And let’s not forget those skills taught snipers that every hunter can benefit from knowing and practicing: attention to detail, personal and environmental awareness; and  rifle, optics, and cartridge knowledge, and finally, but never least important–marksmanship.

The Ultimate Sniper

Of all the books out there, that takes a reader from the most basic skills to the most advanced, the latest updated and expanded the 2006 release of The Ultimate Sniper rises to the top. A large book with 573 pages, everyone of them worthwhile. It was written and compiled by sniper instructor and lecturer Major John L. Plaster, USAR (ret.), whose prior experience with MACV SOG in Indochina and starting a number of highly regarded sniper schools, are well-known.

Even though the sniper’s instructional tome is directed toward military and law enforcement snipers, there is so much information that applies to your hunting improvement. Here are just  few of what  The Ultimate Sniper covers.

Basic and Advanced Marksmanship

If only these sections were taught to everyone who picks up a rifle. In the basic section, Plaster writes about sniper attitude, proper sight picture, shooting positions and breath control, and one shot sighting in. With the advent of the Caldwell Lead Sled, I’ve found this to be one of the easiest to perform.

When Plaster gets to the advanced marksmanship techniques, there’s information in there that will improve your shooting skills immensely.

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I’ve lost count of how many hunters I’ve seen miss because they just brought their rifles up and fired off-hand. How much more venison would have ended up in a hunter’s meatlocker had they used a better shooting rest?

A sniper is always aware of the best shooting position, always on the lookout for the rifle rest. This can be as simple as shucking a backpack and dropping it down the ground to lay the rifle over (one of my favorites if the ground permits) or dropping to a sitting position—many drop to a knee, when a sitting position is much more stable…

Bring shooting sticks with you. Plaster shows you how to make your own. You can make them long or short. I carry a foot-long tripod made with wooden dowels in my hunting pack, and also carry a set of Predator-styx slung across my shoulder with a thin bungee cord. At a moments notice, you’ll have a much better shooting rest than an offhand shot could ever be.

That’s not to say I won’t take a quick shot at something close in the brush, or even running from an offhand position. But, it takes a lot of practice to do what is called “snap shooting.” Major Plaster co-produced and hosted an excellent video called The Ultimate Rifleman, which was directed specifically toward the hunter, and where he taught how best to prepare for a running shot on big-game. If you happen to find an old copy, snatch it up—you can find quite a bit of that type of information in the The Ultimate Sniper DVD that Major Plaster still produces.

Excellent skills deteriorate rapidly…if you come away from these sections on marksmanship with only one thought, it should at least be: practice, practice, practice!

Breath and Squeeze

The art of marksmanship is covered in great detail and every hunter will be well-served by rereading the sections dedicated to the integrated act of shooting. Using a chart and graph, Plaster reveals major components of excellent marksmanship: breathing, and trigger control, integrated with good body position and scope picture.

Like in archery, shooting a rifle requires follow through. If we all had to hunt with flintlocks like our ancestors, the importance of follow-through would be that much more apparent to the average shooter. Keep your eye on the target, sights on the desired bullet impact point, and a solid stockweld.

Know Your Round

One of the best things you can do toward improving your shooting skills is knowing what your bullet does in flight. I do this two ways, actually going to the range and shooting at 25 yard increments out to 600 yards with my hunting loads. Also, I use my ballistic software (I have copy of the Nightforce Ballistic Program that has a collection of factory rounds cataloged and the ability to type in values from a chronograph) to get a pretty good idea of travel of my bullets in their arch. I sight most of my rifles in at 1.5 inches high at 100 yards. If I run across a really close buck and want to shoot it in the neck, I aim a bit lower…little adjustments that can make a great difference when you know what your bullet’s doing in its travel.

BLACKHAWK!®’s Pro Marksman Folding Ammo Pouch with two windows for checking your dope before your shot, along with the sliderule style Mildot Master.

Expanded Awareness

Kim’s is a game that was first described in the story Kim, written by Rudyard Kipling. It’s a game that was taught to Kim when he was being trained to spy. It’s a game in a variety of forms that’s taught to spies and snipers and anyone involved in intelligence gathering. Its purpose is to improve memory skills. Attention to detail is also covered in it, which to a hunter is very useful.

Plaster has included a sniper’s version of the Where’s Waldo visual puzzle. I suggest using the Where’s Ivan as an example and sketch a herd of deer with a small buck and medium-sized buck and monster buck scattered within the herd. Then, give time limits to you and your friends to pick out bucks, and then try remembering where exactly they are in relation to the rest of the deer in the group.

Then, when you’re out in the field, scan for deer and remember what qualities there are in deer, or whatever your prey–what makes them stand out against the landscape? During archery season, and early rifle seasons, in the West, this is easy, as the red-brown and light brown hides of deer really stand out on green grass and foliage. Against the snows of winter, or the dry brown grass, a deer’s darker winter hide really stands out.

Train your subconscious to pick out inconsistencies. One of the best sighting techniques I was taught as a teen was to look for horizontal lines. Aside from the horizon, Nature normally stretches out in vertical lines, tree trunks rising to the sun, and hillsides washing downhill. When you see horizontal lines on a hillside, like the back of a deer, cougar, pig, elk, bear, or cow, it’s very apparent when you’re looking for it!  And how many of us have looked at a group of rocks, suddenly seen one of them shapeshift into a wild boar on the hoof, before running off? Pay attention…and use your optics!

Wind and Range

One of the most confusing for many hunters is estimating for wind and range. There are so many things in the environment that because of size, position, and distance can drastically effect a hunter’s ability to estimate distance: inclines, declines, objects much larger than your target. They’re all covered in this section of the The Ultimate Sniper.

And you might be surprised how much wind can effect your bullet even at ranges under 400 yards…but I’ll leave that to the reading.

Close to the Earth

One of the most important points to take is that about how the best snipers had a connection to the earth that went way back to their childhoods. From all parts of the world that has turned out some of the most impressive snipers (Australia, Scotland, Russia and the US) most of them had a hunting and woodcraft background that started in childhood. Close to the earth has relevance in a number ways. It’s the background of snipers, like Vasili Zaitsev (hunted wolves and wild boar in Siberia), Chuck Mawhinney (hunted elk and deer back in Oregon) and Carlos Hathcock (hunted squirrels and other game for the table), all well-grounded in a youth of hunting and learning wood craft. It’s the deep inner knowledge of how we are related to the earth, how we standout, and how we can blend in with this earth.

It’s also the level of awareness that almost seems psychic in its ability to detect and enable a sniper to be two or three moves ahead of the target. It’s almost innate in someone who was introduced to firearms as a hunter, as compared to just a competition shooter. Remember that the German sniping instructor sent by Hitler to hunt down Zaitsev was better equipped, but Zaitsev relied on his “cunning” as the Germans liked to comment, and is carried in the Soviet sniper’s motto: “While invisible, I see and destroy.”

Major Plaster puts forward a hypothesis that the reason there were hardly any well-trained snipers in the Iraqi Army during what would have been a great environment for snipers, the trench warfare during the Iraq-Iran War, goes out without a blip because an Arab society that historically had a reputation for longrange shots, was by modern times devoid of them because of an enmasse move of the hinterland population into urban areas–like in so many other parts of the world. They basically lost cultural skills instilled and developed through years of pre-service experience in the country.

By improving your woodcraft as a hunter, you will increase the number of successes while hunting. Every hunter would be best aided by reading the chapter on stalking and movement. Addressing “The Wall of Green” as the author calls it, is most often hard for new and experienced hunters: much like a stream fisherman who fishes an ocean coast for the first time and doesn’t know how to read the coastline for fish. It’s overcoming this, using the scanning tactics described by Plaster, that has led me to shoot a number of deer and feral pigs in their beds. You can see an example of this, when I’m picking out a wild boar that is only 10 yards away from me in deep brush in this episode of Cork’s Outdoor TV.

If you’ve ever had failures sneaking up on those open-land antelope in Wyoming and Arizona, the section on stalking will be very helpful.

Get The Ultimate Sniper, read it, apply the techniques, read it again and see how you might improve or modify the information for your own environment…no matter your present level, I’d be surprised if your skills didn’t improve—and get out there and practice, practice, practice!

Get your copy here:


Tips and Techniques directly from the Master

Major John Plaster is well represented on two websites. As an advisor at Millet Sights, he has written a number of articles to help the shooter. He has his own http://ultimatesniper.com, where he offers his books and has a shipload of information, not the least of which are pdf scans of historical books going back to mid-1800 printings about sniping. In the following broadcast of Cork’s Outdoor Radio we talk about some of the tips. This one would be helpful to a lot of hunters by helping undersand what your bullet can and can’t do—even if you can shoot that far, depending on what cartridge you’re using, you might not want to based on the information in this brief: TERMINAL BALLISTICS

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy MAJ John L.  Plaster’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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THE VEGETARIAN MYTH by Lierre Keith [Book Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 24 July 2010 by Cork Graham

Few books really get me emotionally anymore, especially non-fiction. But, when I began reading Lierre Keith’s personal account of a strict vegan diet on her body over 20 years I was floored with one question: how in the world?

How in the world could people put themselves through such a lifestyle? How could we have arrived at such a point in our lives that those who profess a close relationship to the Earth, the morally anti-hunting/anti-animal protein driven vegan, are a great part of it’s destruction? How in the world as Western humanity gotten so far away its understanding of how the world works, how life and death are in separable?

Pain

Both Keith and I were born in the same year. That means when we were 16, she started on the vegan diet…and I was beginning to wonder why no matter the amount of high school PE and football and soccer, I couldn’t seem to get into excellent shape, even though both sides of my parental lines were in great shape from their childhood until their mid-30s. And no matter how much cereal I had for breakfast, I was hungry long before lunch, and I could never stay awake in class. The only difference between my parents and me was that my parents had an animal protein-based breakfast.

What Lierre Keith’s diet left her with after 20 years on the diet, was a degenerative bone disease, weak musculature, and nervous system of pain, that presently it can’t even support her for more than 15 minutes of standing. Not to mention all the other effects on a malnutritioned body during its most important growth years. And it was even worse ten years ago, BEFORE she began to see some slight improvements from finally getting the nutrients animal proteins provide all omnivores and carnivores.

The Book

The Vegetarian Myth is divided into three sections and in a very appropriate way. First is the moral philosophy of the vegetarian, then the political and finally the nutritional reasons spouted by the anti-hunting and anti-meat religion…and yes, I call it a religion: it what’s so dastard in how something that was a way of life has become a movement and personal identity…you should have seen the reaction I got from a guest to a party, who considered her book an insult to him personally—as if by her describing the effects of the vegetarian movement and diet actually doing what those who go on the diet are trying to stop: the destruction of the environment….I thought he was going to come at me swinging: and all I did was ask him if he had read her book!

It’s also one of the reasons that so many “dyed in the wool”, and even militant (more on that later) vegetarians will say how much Keith’s book is a fabrication twisting of lies. And how many of these same people say they’ve actually read the book when pushed: almost none!

Vegetarian Hunger Destroying Topsoil

In her thesis, Keith does bring up the fact of loss of topsoil. If you’ve studied the history of Iraq (old Mesopotamia), or other ancient nations bordering the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, you’ll be keen to know why what were lush, tree-covered lands came to be the lands that we see on the news everyday—barren, rocky islands and sand. Their agricultural societies basically tilled the topsoil into the ocean.

Now, this is where it really gets depressing. We’ve been an agricultural society for easily 12,000 years. Our major cultural makeup and politics revolves around agriculture. Most especially, our money and way of doing business revolves around agriculture. The worst examples of it are mega-corporation animal factories with chickens and pigs sitting in cages unable to move, drugged up on antibiotics, cranking out eggs and piglets for market.

If anyone doesn’t think that effects you personally as a consumer, then you’ve never eaten meat from animals that have been properly raised, in a chicken yard, or large pig pen, even left out to graze on other food types other than grain. Previously, I thought grain-feeding livestock was the way to go: more bang for the buck. Yes, more cost effective cash wise, but health wise, I’m not sure. One of the examples I know of is eating meat raised in the US on these factory farms, contrasted to eating steak in places like Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea, where they refuse to raise livestock the way we do in the US, not specifically for the animal’s interest, but more for taste and sustenance—meat is a very precious commodity in those places.

On the bright side, if you’ve tasted free-range beef and chicken here in the US, you know what I’m talking about. If you hunt and tasted the power of venison, elk and bison, you definitely know what I’m talking about. Chickens are omnivores, needing that freedom to throw in a bug, worm, or lizard in with the occasional weekly toss of grain and grazing of wild seeds. Beef, sheep, and pigs are fortified by the calm relaxation of feeding beyond grain, filling up on grasses and whatever attracts their tastes in a pasture. If you don’t think pigs need free-roam, too, then you don’t know how the Spanish make the best prosciutto, called Serrano ham: they let their pigs free to graze on fresh-fallen acorns in September, just before the butchering season.

Keith’s answer to the loss of topsoil could be considered very extreme, basically removing ourselves from an agriculturally based society, and returning to hunter-gatherers. As one who lived in Alaska for a year as hunting-gathering subsistence hunter and angler, let me tell you it’s not easy work. It was a great way to get myself back on track with regards to understanding money, and culture and healthy ways of living. But, practically, if every human being on the planet suddenly became a hunter-gatherer, because the human population is SO massive now, every wild living thing with fins, wings and legs would be decimated within a year, two at the most. Our population has turned us into a major predator; our technology has turned us into THE mega-predator.

The question Keith brings up is whether the present agricultural economy is sustainable. At the present rate of growth of the human population across the planet, especially in places where there’s already a population supported only by imports, like India, Africa and China, it’s not—the wildlife in those places are barely hanging on! The question is whether our agricultural society suddenly implodes within 20 years, somehow struggles for another hundred at its same rate of production and the dramatic effects on the topsoil: and collapses…I’ll leave that part of the thesis to your own mental machinations.

Countering Past Inaccuracies

What I’m most keen about in the solid information provided in The Vegetarian Myth, is that Keith, unlike so many new and old vegetarians, did her homework. She even went past what we’ve been spoon-fed by the government for the last 60 years about food triangle (when you read the history of those studies and how lies can have such longevity, you’ll probably say the same I did—what in the world?): wide and heavy on bread and grains, thin on meats, cheese and fish…even that demonized, but so important cholesterol. Actually there’s a metaphor if you’ve got a weight problem or dealing with hypoglycemia. I know personally from my own prior experiences, as a past believer that nutrition pyramid, when I should have flipped it: more meat and fish, much less bread and grain…but I’ve jumped ahead to the last section of the book.

The Hypoglycemic and Diabetic’s Food Pyramid

The first section on the moral attitudes of the vegetarian is priceless. For those who have studied any type of ancient religions, everything has life and life survives because of the death another living being. Somehow strict vegetarians believe that if it doesn’t have a face or mother it’s somehow not killing: remind of those who fish, but hate hunters? Oh, but fish and lobster have different nervous systems…they don’t feel pain—how in the world do you know?! I stopped flyfishing for entertainment, now when I fish it’s to catch one or two and put them in frying pan, leaving the rest to stay unmolested and healthy, get big, and possibly end up as an enjoyed meal for a bigger fish, after a good life of swimming and eating.

Scientific research has found that plant life also has societies and even reacts to attacks—do you know that the largest living organism on dry land is an aspen grove in Utah? My years apprenticing and training in the Native American healing communities taught me that it’s not whether we kill, we kill by simply stepping blade of grass. It’s whether we do that killing with respect for that which dies. The joke often shared in the community, especially when “the light eye” hippies, and “Wannabe Indians”, searching for meaning to their lives were appalled that the “shaman” actually the proper term “healer” (“shaman” is a Siberian native term), wasn’t a vegetarian—lesson one to the truth seeker: you live because something dies—respect that animal or plant’s death and enjoy your food…say a prayer of thanks, if you’d like!

Vegan Politics

In the second section the author takes on the political component of vegetarianism. This is where she describes how wars and battles for possession of land, and wealth are the results of an agricultural society. Yes, wars have always been fought for religion, food, money and land. She does acquiesce to the fact that hunter-gatherers did fight, also, and definitely for the same reasons of land, except for hunting grounds that provided food, as compared to land for planting that offered food. And there is definitely a much too idealistic view, even naïve attitude that comes across in her writing, and much evidenced in her surprise that militant vegetarians would throw pies at her during an anarchist book fair.

First, she was at an anarchist’s book fair when it happened after all. Secondly, every strict vegetarian, especially one whose personal identity is labeled “Vegetarian” has always had an angry quality about them: either aggressively so, as those who attacked and continue to attack her, and those passive aggressive who get in their little circles, complaining about how horrible the world is how the US Government is the leader in atrocities against the world. It’s all about how the world isn’t how they personally want it to be. Often, they’re also the same kinds of people who spike trees that will send a chainsaw’s broken chain into a logger’s head, a logger who’s just trying to keep his family fed and by doing so also open land for regrowth that enables, young saplings a chance, and an abundance food for deer and other ungulates…These are the same militant vegetarians who come yelling and screaming into hunting areas during hunting season, thinking they’re helping animals.

Did they purchase the hunting licenses and tags that fund all the wildlife areas for not only game species, but also non-game species?

Have they put any money and actual effort toward saving animals, instead of making it look like they’re helping animals?

Remember that the next time you hear the name Wayne Pacelle who also says he has been on a strict vegetarian diet for 20 years—considering all the other lies he spreads, do you think he’s really a strict vegan? When I think of strict vegetarians, I think of flim-flam artists like Pacelle, and most definitely Wiley Brooks (rhymes with Wiley Coyote) and his Breatharian Institute (as he used to say on his website before Keith’s book, about his $1,000,000 his “Immortality Workshop”, “no, that’s not a misprint”) Now he incorporates a diet Coke and McDonald’s quarter-pounder into his scheister sales letter after he was caught publicly enjoying them…there are people out there who actually believe this! No, I wasn’t surprised about the attacks on Lierre Keith by the political vegetarians, and most definitely those at the anarchist book fair.

Her writings on the way the US government, at the behest of major agricultural corporations, is well researched and developed in describing how third world nations are basically enslaved into a diet support almost completely by imports from the United States. And this is where I was lost, even though the research and collection of history is spot on!

The world works in treaties and negotiations, and all of them are based on business. Unlike in the days of old, these days that means corporate negotiations. If we’re lucky, the local populace benefits through democracy and lack of unrest. If we’re not, it means dictatorship and totalitarian rule, and the potential for a mega civil war: something we should recall well from stupid government actions by Nicaragua’s Somoza ruling line and El Salvador’s Juntas.

…It’s Keiths’ proposal that I found so impractical: there is no way humans, unless there’s a major catastrophe that basically takes out 80 percent of the human population, are going to say good bye to the plough and pick up the spear and bow and arrow—you wont have the commerce to support gunpowder production and the bullets.

Personally, I’d love to see every east-west highway raised ten feet above the ground, and every length of fencing in the Midwest be used to not keep in cattle and livestock, but used to surround homes and cities, keeping the wild animals out. In doing so, we’d create a causeway that would redistribute and open up the land so that bison, deer, and elk populations would have their traditional migration routes. I bet you, within 10 years, the herds would be so large you would have to wait a week for each one to pass, as Lewis and Clark observed when the made their way west. A dream. A fantasy. Can you imagine how much healthy, red meat there’d be for everyone? And all the topsoil that has been lost to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico would instead stay and get thicker, rejuvenated by the stomping of the bison’s hooves…never again would the US run the risk of something like the 1930s Great Dustbowl.

Enjoy That Steak

The section of the book that I most enjoyed was the one on nutritional reasons espoused by vegetarians. Not to mention her descriptions of how a strict vegan diet really effects the brain and brain chemistry in a horrifying manner…there’s a reason vegans lose it when they’re on such an unnatural diet (when humans get a number of extra stomachs and eat our food with side-to-side grinding jaw motions of cows and sheep, instead of the present stomachs and teeth closest to the very carnivorous dog we’ve had since the origins of mankind, I’ll become a vegan)—not the least of the reasons is the hypoglycemic reactions to the diet that turns most vegans into cookies and cakes addicts, to get that immediate, yet never sated, mental stimulation of a sugar rush.

After reading that section, I’m never drinking soymilk again…and even though I have a taste for tofu from being raised in Asia, I’ll definitely cut back on the tofu orders at dim-sum. Tofu increases memory loss. If you’ve ever seen how tofu is made you’ll understand partly why…and the part about soy’s phytoestrogens, that has historically made it attractive to sex abstinent, vegetarian monks, was the last straw!

Now, I could go on and on about what’s in the book, but unless I wrote a length of text that would fit into a book as long as The Vegetarian Myth, it wouldn’t do the subject justice. As Keith says there are no meat eating slogans like the vegetarian’s quaint but hollow, “Meat is Murder”. There’re only facts and research, and that time and pages to read, 276 to be exact.

If you know someone even thinking of going on a vegetarian diet, or especially if you know a mother who wants replace her child’s mother’s milk with soy milk, please save them from a lot of grief by getting them a copy of this book!

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Lierre Keith’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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BIG GAME ARGENTINA by Craig Boddington [Book&DVD Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Cork Graham

Craig Boddington, and his guide Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Craig Boddington, and his guide, Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Argentina conjures a variety of images for those who’ve never been there. There’re the gauchos, the Pampas, and tango. For the angler there are the monster-sized trout and salmon in rivers that seem untouched because of the stretch of land that fills the borders of the country as well as its meager population that centers around Buenos Aires. For the hunter, there are the photos and images of ducks and big-game that have graced magazines, and as of late, those through the onslaught of 24-hour outdoors satellite programming.

It wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were the trout, back in the 1970s when South American was truly only a blip on the salmonid fanatic’s radar; but when I first saw the images of red deer antlers grace the pages of hunting magazines in the late 70s and early 80s, they were nowhere near the size and impressiveness they are now.

Much of this has to do with how well they’ve managed the herds that were previously left to roam without any real predation-like bluegills in a pond, they quickly overpopulated and their rack size dwindled in response to the lack of food and nutrients.

Because of the new land and wildlife management practices implemented in Argentina during the last 20 years, Argentina is really giving New Zealand’s Utopian red stag hunting a run for the money. Culling the scrawny genetics, and managing for quality instead of quantity, has created a balance between feed and minerals: showing how good management practices benefit not just game animals but non-game peripherals, adding to the grand beauty of the land  and hospitality for which Argentina has always been known.

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

Big Game Argentina records the results of this improved bounty for the outdoors enthusiast wanting to travel Argentina and is the latest offering from Gen. Craig Boddington USMC (ret.). An outdoor writer, book author, show host I’ve admired and respected for years, a man who offered me words to live by back in 1994 as an newbie outdoor writer for The Times of San Mateo County, Boddington’s credentials speak for themselves with over 30 years in what is one of the harder and becoming more and more the hardest writing profession to create longevity.

In his book and DVD collection about hunting in Argentina, Big Game Argentina, Boddington and the photographer, Guillermo Zorraquin, deliver a plethora of what’s available in striking detail (what we in the business call “NGC”, National Geographic Color). From the province of Patagonia, north to Chaco and Santiago Del Estero, west to La Pampa and finally east to the province of Buenos Aires, Boddington and the publishers John John Reynal  and Juan Pablo Reynal took on an enviable, yet sobering project that took two years to complete.

In the offering, they delivered what I consider the most informative and beautifully illustrated book in years on Argentina and hunting red stag, white-lipped javelina (peccary), ducks, doves, water buffalo, puma, blackbuck, capybara, brocket deer, and feral sheep, goats and hogs.

Boddington's fine example of a white-lipped peccary

Boddington’s fine example of a white-lipped peccary

In a world in which text is not enough, and as a result traditional printed magazines are going the way of the dinosaurs, and multimedia is king (explaining why Cork’s Outdoors gets 11,000 hits a day) Big Game Argentina is nicely matched with a DVD that fills in the dialogue and action that can’t really be captured in text, and yet video doesn’t try to replace the informative quality of text delivered by Boddington’s honed skills as a writer.

A quick mention of the charcoal artwork by Esteban Diaz Mathé must be made: the work is superb and really adds to the quality of those images not captured in photographs, making the book anyone would be proud to have sitting on their coffee table for friends to enjoy.

Often, many of those traveling think that hunting Argentina only involves staying at estancias and hunting open Pampas. Big Game Argentina lays that stereotype to rest with text and photos covering with dramatic flare the many options of hunting Argentina: like French Alps-like mountains and New Zealand’s Fjordland-like lake and sea area to the south on horseback, or the low brush options further north, reminiscent of eastern Colorado, and the flat brush of Texas, to name a few.

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

As for capturing the adventure and drama a place like Argentina on the DVD, one of the most striking scenes is one in which Boddington, while on stand, waiting for dogs to drive out a collared peccary, sees a brocket deer break from the brushline. Swinging on the brocket with a shotgun, he dramatically takes a nice deer that reminds me of the dik-dik of Africa. In another scene he makes an amazing shot on a capybara, also on a full run. Kudos to the videographer for his skill catching all the action over Boddington’s shoulder.

In contrast to the native species, and aside from the more famous red deer, there are the fallow deer, feral hogs and water buffalo. Raised in Southeast Asia, I was always amazed that the animal I always saw as a child pulling a plow across a rice field had become such a prized game animal in places such as a Australia and Argentina. While the ones from Australia have a much larger sweep and are originally from the wild strain. The ones in South America descend from the farmed water buffalo that were originally brought to what would become Italy by the Ancient Romans, for their milk and the best mozzarella resulting from that water buffalo milk.

Through centuries of genetic selection, much in the same way Herefords are these days chosen over the original Spanish Texas Longhorn as cattle type, the farmed water buffalo has a much smaller horn, with a much less ominous wide curve of its originally wild cousin in Southeast Asia and Australia, which ironically makes it look more African cape buffalo and trophy in its own right in the feral and very wild form covered in Big Game Argentina.

If you’re planning on hunting or even just traveling or Argentina, or prefer the armchair traveler’s voyage to South America, I’d highly recommend adding the book and DVD pairing of Big Game Argentina by Craig Boddington to your collection.

Books are available through www.craigboddington.com

Book and DVD are available through www.patagoniapublishing.com

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Craig Boddington’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

 Topics: Hunting Argentina, helpful advice for neophyte outdoor writers, hunting Africa and Boddington’s two shows broadcast on The Sportman’s Channel and Outdoor Channel, and finally what’s new with Boddington’s writing and adventures in the coming weeks and months.

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