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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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TROPHY BLACKTAILS: The Science of the Hunt by Scott Haugen [Book Review]

Posted on 12 March 2009 by Cork Graham

You may call me partial, because outdoor writer and TV show host Scott Haugen is a stand up guy and my friend…but this book is really GREAT!

When I first arrived in California, I would have given my eye-teeth to get my hands on the information Haugen

Scott Haugen and a trophy blacktail

Scott Haugen and a trophy blacktail

delivers in this masterpiece. Perhaps it’s because he was a biology teacher for years in Alaska and Indonesia, or has a phenomenal understanding of how to use a map from his university days in cartography-the major he took up for his bachelors he concedes was for improving his deer hunting-but he really teaches the reader how to not only recognize what makes blacktail deer special, but how to effectively hunt them as a blacktail deer hunter and not a misplaced whitetail or mule deer hunter.

Starting with a foreword by another well-proven hunting writer, Bob Robb, Trophy Blacktails’ chapter one covers the deer itself, taking you through physical characteristics and average blacktail life-cycle and then moving to diet. What caught me off guard was the information on Deer Hair Loss Syndrome (DHLS)!

I’d never even heard of it down here in California, but up in Oregon and Washington this is one big bad dude! DHLS is a caused by a louse that came to Washington from either the African or Asian continent, latin name Damalinia Cervicola. DHLS results from the horrendous skin biting from the louse.

As the hair is lost, the deer’s own biting and rubbing against the irritation leads to intense stress, and that added to chill of early fall and definitely during winter, deer loses too much weight and dies. Haugen describes two events of young deer standing near the wall of their house to hide from wind, only to see them within three days, dead.

It’s just in the last few years that DHLS has been seen in the most northern reaches of California. Who knows how long before it reaches down the rest of the coast and ventures further into mule populations, too? Perhaps the more benign temperatures south of San Francisco might help in keeping DHLS at bay, though just as likely not Damalinia Cervicola itself. Stay tuned!

Haugen carries on with record books classifications and trophy judging. He then delves into a very important aspect of hunting overall and in hunting blacktails specifically: The Mental and Physical Game. This book is a book for trophy blacktail deer hunter, in contrast to the recreational, though all deer hunters will benefit greatly from reading Trophy Blacktails. It’s not as hard to get an average blacktail as compared to one that has lived more than two or three years. Most deer taken are in the two three-year range. To get the buck that has survived longer than five years that’s when you’re getting to the bucks that anyone would unbegrudgingly call, trophy, and that’s the range logged in the books. That takes a mental and physical conditioning most are not prepared to follow through with, but if you do, Haugen suggestions will be that much easier to follow toward your own wall-hangers.

Chapter two takes the reader through the strategies and planning taking into consideration blacktail behavior and scouting tactics, along with the best times and places to hunt for antler sheds. Fullfilling the rest of the strategies includes map research, locating does, and most controversial especially in California where the DFG frown and actually makes it illegal to implement: food plots.

Personally, considering how poorly the California DFG has managed its deer herds and major predators as the result of insane political pressures that have nothing to do with actually improving wildlife populations, I’m all for food plots. If I had my way, I’d have every hiker going into national forests and parks to plant foods that are most beneficial to deer, but also collaterally turkey, squirrels, quail and a number of non-game species.

I’ve always held to the belief that if you take care of the habitat the populations will follow. Is it any wonder that in the Eastern United States they’re complaining that hunters aren’t taking enough deer? Or that here in California our salmon populations have hit near rock bottom? Blow a few more dams and salmon populations will skyrocket back to what they were-how many people know that before the dam was put in to form Lake Shasta, the largest salmon run in America was the Sacramento River run? Yes, even larger than Kenai in Alaska!

How many more blacktail deer would we have in California if we allowed landowners to legally plant property to draw and feed blacktail deer with strategically placed food plots? Probably the same large healthy population of deer they have back east.

As for predators, they’ve needed a proper management program in this state for years. And no, contrary to what the Mountain Lion Foundation and other groups that make money off keeping the cougar on the no-hunt list, predator populations don’t drop along with the prey. They keep growing, eating everything until it’s gone, simply moving to find more prey, i.e. your dogs and cats in lower altitude areas as we’ve seen this drought year.

If you want to help deer populations, like I do: shoot two to three predators for every deer that you take and you might just make a small enough dent in bobcat and coyote population, and mountain lion population if the DFG’d actually get on the ball on this like they do in Washington, Idaho and California: isn’t it ironic that since mountain lions have been on the no-hunt list, there have been more mountain lions killed on depredations permits than there would ever have been on a hunting license/tag system? Right attitude: keep a healthy mountain lion population in California. Wrong implementation!

Now implementing the tactics described in Haugen’s Trophy Blacktails will bring you much more success than DFG strategies have brought to the improvement of California deer populations. Haugen shares these with you in a seasonal format that goes into the Early Season, Mid-Season, and Late Season.

As I hunt in California’s A Zone, I was most intrigued by what an Oregonian had to say about the early season as we start one to two months before the northern states. During the first half of the archery season that starts in July, most of the bucks are in velvet so it’s much easier to find deer in the open as they’re trying to keep them from breaking off on a tree or branch. Once the velvet gets rubbed off, they deer get real spooky and often become nocturnal, especially on public land with heavy hunting pressure.

By rifle season the bucks are deep during the day, offering a slight opportunity in the last one to two hours of daylight morning and evening. Because of this and the overgrown brush that has just gotten worse because of overzealous fire protection foregoing widespread controlled burning, with a tradition of use that goes back to the Spanish, we’re allowed to use dogs to basically drive deer out of that deep manzanita, low oak and chemise, though even those dogs don’t guarantee success as described in an article I wrote for Hunting the West magazine a few years back.

Cork's Blacktail taken with ELK, Inc. "Deer Talk Call"

Cork's Blacktail taken with ELK, Inc. "Deer Talk Call"

Haugen really shines in his description of using calls, blinds and stands. Also of note is using spotting scopes for checking out the feeding habits of the targeted bucks. As one who called in a nice 3X2 in 2005, I’m a true believer in using deer calls. When used during the rut, which in the A Zone can occur during the last two weeks of the season, fawn calls can be very effective. The buck in question came in following a doe that was responding to the bleat I made with an ELK, Inc. “Deer Talk Call”.

There is one last caveat about Trophy Blacktails. I wish publisher had included an index for speedier referencing, something I do when riding up to a hunt or preparing a plan. I’m confident considering the excellent quality photos and content on this first run by Haugen Enterprises that the following publications will have that much needed index.

You can order your own copy here: http://www.scotthaugen.com/books/trophyblacktails.html

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