As the cold, brisk wind ripped the wrinkles from my frozen face, Gonzalo placed the backpack on a large boulder and asked, “Can you see them?” Heck no I couldn’t see them; I couldn’t even see the gun resting on the pack! The strong gusting winds had tears flowing in my eyes like a raging river. On the opposite mountainside were eight or nine red stag walking leisurely 265 yards from our position. It was our third attempt to get in range of the stags over the course of several hours. One of the largest red deer in the bunch was a pretty decent 5×6. In a few moments, they would disappear over the crest of the ridge. I wiped my eyes clear momentarily and tried finding the right stag in the scope. The 30 mph wind wasn’t exactly helping the situation. When my eyes finally caught a clear moment, the stag stopped. The crosshairs weaved across his shoulder and I touched the trigger. Immediately the stags were running over the horizon. I looked at Gonzalo, waiting for a reply, one way or another. “I’m not sure you hit him, Mark,” he replied. Well great! I started weighing my options for excuses. Obviously, the gale-like winds made for an inviting alibi, but if it was a clean miss I sure couldn’t blame the gun or ammunition.
I was hunting with Gonzalo Llambi of Cerro Indio Safaris. Gonzalo has been guiding since 1993 and owns or has access to many prime hunting concessions. With fifteen species of big game, the world’s finest wingshooting, plus great fishing opportunities, Argentina is a prime location for SCI members. I wasn’t interested in shooting doves, perdiz, pigeon or ducks this trip, and I’m too much of a redneck to use a fly rod for dorado or some of those line-stretching trout. Instead, the many different species of big game would keep me busy testing the H-S Precision pistol.
Our first morning began by searching for blackbuck. We glassed several valleys before spotting a herd and the moment they saw us, took off running and I got the feeling this was going to be fun. We hiked up to a promontory where we could look over a large chunk of real estate. Eventually we found a lone male that appeared to be our candidate. After hiking up and down ridges for more than an hour in an attempt to remain unseen, we finally got in position to get a good look at the blackbuck. He had good mass and we determined it was a mature male. The animal was feeding along at a steady pace so we made a plan to intercept his path. That took another hour or so, but the terrain allowed us to stay undetected.
I placed my pack on a rock ledge and, if we only were positioned in the right place, the blackbuck should pop over a knob somewhere around eighty yards. We hadn’t been set-up for fifteen minutes when his horns could be seen over the grass. With a rock-solid rest, I waited for him to move a little closer and offer a decent shot. When I touched the trigger, he bounced away, but not far. The .270 WSM had fulfilled its commitment. The classic spot and stalk technique worked, and reminded me of hunting antelope in our western states. It was a good way to start our hunt.
It was interesting to hunt different ranches for different species as it allowed us to see more of the country and get a feel for the variety of hunting concessions. We moved to another concession where axis deer were found in the lush pampa areas, reminding me of savannah habitat in certain parts of Africa. I love hunting axis bucks, and could not pass on an opportunity. A large herd partially hidden by the tala trees (basically a neat name to call thorn trees) yielded several nice bucks. When the right moment approached, Federal’s 130-grain Trophy Copper connected. The Trophy Copper offering is a joint venture between Nosler and Federal. Terminal performance from this ammunition proved effective on all game we encountered.
The conclusion of our South American project found us driving north to the Chaco province to hunt capybara, the world’s largest rodent. Don’t ask me why I wanted to shoot the world’s largest rat; but I did. We actually walked over a lot of ground, searching around and near little creeks hoping to find a big male. As luck would have it, the first one we encountered was a dandy. Resting the H-S Precision on a tripod, the shot was less than fifty yards. The report of the handgun broke the morning silence and we had a monster of a capybara on the ground. My wife couldn’t believe how big those rodents get and neither could I.
If it hadn’t been for a herd of fallow deer spooking our red stag mentioned previously, the morning would have turned out much different. The steep canyons at estancia Cerro Colorado provide an ideal stalking environment for the impressive stags. Unfortunately, our hunt did not coincide with the rut. Timing has never been my friend. The females were all together with their young while the males were separate and by themselves up in the mountains.
We had pursued the group of stags for several hours over the ancient formations of jagged rocks. If I didn’t know better, I could be looking for a Dall sheep on the distant mountainside. As we hiked our way off the treeless ridge, I determined that Gonzalo thought I had missed completely. The shot felt good, but I was beginning to question myself. When we made it up to where the stag was standing, no sign of a hit was visible. Walking in the direction where the stag disappeared, we continued looking and finally spotted blood. In the very bottom of the canyon, hid by the tall grass, was our stag. The Trophy Copper bullet had performed well and the stag hadn’t made 100 yards. Who could ask for anything more?
The whole experience was unforgettable. The H-S Precision with Federal’s ammunition had been flawless. My wife is already talking about a return trip, and I have a difficult time disagreeing. You know there are some big red stag in Chile, and you can bet I’ll be there during the rut.–Mark Hampton