After a day of travel, we landed at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aries. Although the journey seemed long, the wait in the random hallway for the firearms license seemed to be the longest part. I patiently waited with my luggage hoping I was in the right place and had all the right paperwork. This is the most unsettling part about traveling internationally to hunt. After this, everything was going to be smooth sailing.
After a long wait, I was greeted at the unmarked door in the hall that I could only assume was the area used for smoke breaks based on the pile of cigarettes in the corner and yellow tinge to the drop ceiling. I hoped my really bad Spanish would be enough to get by. I was in fact in the right place, and the process went smoothly from there.
Following signing all the documents, serial number checks, and the like, my Sako rifle and I were granted access. This was the first of many rifle checks along the way. The jump plane to La Pampa was the final leg of the journey to the hunt area. While the entire route from my home to the hunting area took over two days, my time in transit was spent daydreaming of what I might encounter in the field.
For me hunting and chasing adventure is an international pursuit. What Argentina has to offer, from their roaring Red Stags to free-ranging Blackbuck and world-class wingshooting, put it on the map as one of the top hunting destinations on the planet.
For most American hunters, any utterance of buck sparks an image of whitetail, or mule deer – maybe even a coues or blacktail. However, Argentina provides a unique opportunity to chase a true free-range exotic: Blackbuck. A small-sized antelope with long corkscrew horns that pay reverence to its rarity. The animal itself is beautiful— sharp white markings over a deep brown or black cape. The large proportion of their horns to body depict the illusion of a much larger animal when seen from a distance. Although no more than the size of a standard yellow Lab, they appear on hoof to be more similar in size to an American pronghorn. The open country they live in makes them stand out larger in your mind's eye.
Blackbuck were introduced to Argentina in the 1920’s. Originally native to India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The species took hold in the country with no real natural predators. The landscape suited them and the population took off, faring much better there than on their home range where they were nearly wiped out through habitat loss and unregulated harvest.
Through the support of regulated hunting the value of the blackbuck and proper management increased. They expanded their distribution through the country as the value of having them as a huntable resource increased. Today there is a strong population of thousands of Blackbuck in Argentina.
For a western big game hunter chasing blackbuck is most similar to hunting pronghorn. Their demeanor and habits seem closely related. Both preferring the prairies and open, they use their keen eyesight and speed to evade predators. That means it is a glassing game at its finest. Where herds are spotted at distance then the hunter attempts to move in unspotted. Any sighting and they are quick to flee. Often even running from spot to spot or shade to shade seemingly unprovoked, either chasing a doe or just to make haste to a better location.
A spooked blackbuck can really turn on the afterburner reaching top speeds of 50 mph in a matter of seconds. It’s almost impossible to keep tabs on a herd if you’re spotted too early in your stalk.
Beyond incredible speed, blackbucks rely on their eyesight to avoid danger. Blackbucks have keen eyesight and can see objects from several miles away. With their eyes positioned on the sides of their head, they have a wider field of view and increased peripheral vision. It's obvious that their speed, coupled with their incredible vision, makes it difficult for predators to close the distance.
When glassing for blackbuck in Argentina, hunters should rely on their optics. Binoculars and spotting scopes are a must during the morning and throughout the day. Since these animals are typically moving nearly all day long - though they may seek shelter to bed mid-day. moving between glassing vantages and picking apart the landscape with your optics is the best bet.
One advantage to hunting blackbucks is that they travel in herds. While larger herds are more difficult to approach, they provide more opportunities for a mature animal to be in the group. However, the bigger the herd the greater the chance of being detected. Targeting smaller isolated pockets of animals may be the better option if the terrain is not conducive to a stalk.
The best approach to your stalk is to stay low. In the open plains, you mainly want to rely on tall grasses, bushes, and slight interruptions in the terrain as cover. One thing to consider is that herds during their rut are often sporadically moving and chasing does, sometimes for miles, so you need to make your play quickly. It’s important to take advantage of a good opportunity and close the distance while they are there.
During my hunt, I used a Sako S20 Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor topped with a Razor HD LHT in 3-15x42. Sako makes some of the most reliable rifles on the market— but I chose this rifle because of its accuracy. You can adjust the rifle for a perfect fit with an adjustable recoil pad and cheekpiece, and many other stock options for both bench rest and hunting pursuits. That makes it the perfect rifle for open country or precision shooting on a small target.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is the ideal caliber for this trip as I was also hunting Red deer as well but did not want a rifle too large for the smaller blackbuck. I used Federal Terminal Ascent ammunition with a 130 gr bullet, the bonded bullet has one shot knockdown power for larger game and doesn't ruin the meat on lighter quarry. It is extremely accurate over long distances, and in open plains, the ability to be accurate at greater distances increases your chance of success.
In such a vast flat area as the La Pampa region in Argentina, pinpointing an animal with success can be a challenge. On this particular hunt I was targeting a mature buck but I really wanted to find one with a dark cape. While I spotted some larger ones with a brownish cape, I was really targeting a buck with that striking dark cape.
With the rut nearing, many of my stalks were incidentally blown by bucks chasing does by running them out of the country. The Blackbucks seemed to be fairly habitual and territorial, seeing some of the same animals in the same places throughout the hunt.
The buck I ended up taking we watched chase a doe off before making a stalk. As we moved to get a better look at a different buck, my buck materialized pushing a doe out in front of us. It was a right-place right-time opportunity. I quickly dropped down, steadied my rifle on my Stone Glacier Pack and dropped the Blackbuck.
Every species is unique, and each offers its own set of challenges; some more so than others. The blackbuck is one of those exciting exotic hunts that provide hunters worldwide with an opportunity to experience something extraordinary.
The hunt was capped off around the open fire as we prepared a simple dish of Blackbuck steaks cooked medium rare over the flames. Compared side by side to a Red deer steak, I preferred the blackbuck. In my experience the meat was tender and mild. I enjoyed the meal outside with good friends sharing the story of the hunt, and the comradery of the journey to this incredible location in pursuit of some amazing animals.
If you are interested in a similar hunt in Argentina, we can help you set up a fully outfitted trip through Remi Warren Expeditions where we help hunters plan some of the best hunting trips on the planet.