Going Stag

I live in Brazil. While my featherbrained friends in the USA pursue spring turkeys, autumn arrives in the southern hemisphere. My wife Ligia suggested we take advantage of the chance to hunt red stag in La Pampa, Argentina, in late April. Guided by my friend Carlos Martinez, we hunted on the hacienda (ranch) owned by a man nicknamed Chino. Chino's grandfather built this house in 1947.
Relaxing in the courtyard. My good friend and core member of The A-Team, Ron Wagner, couldn't make this trip, so we brought my home health aide Ivson da Silva. I have limited mobility because of ALS, and need assistance to bathe, dress, eat...and hunt.
Carlos (right) mounts my ScopeCam on his Zeiss 6x50 and Remington Model 700 .30-06. Chino and his son Rodrigo (who also guides and cooks for visiting hunters) were interested in seeing how my adaptive shooting gear works.
I need someone to hold and aim the rifle for me, and I squeeze the trigger with the cable release that Carlos is attaching here. Since my condition precludes stalking deer in La Pampa's thick brush, we decided to sit in blinds and keep vigil on food plots--at night, by moonlight! This method is legal in Argentina, and commonly employed to hunt wild boars. My ScopeCam doesn't work in low light, so I told Carlos he would have to look through his scope and tell me when to fire.
We spent one evening in this rather unlikely looking blind...
...watching this food plot. But no customers appeared and we called it quits at 11p.m.
Each morning Carlos and Rodrigo discussed strategy. We hunted three evenings without any shot opportunities. One loudly roaring stag approached to within 70 yards but never gave us a clear look. I had booked a four-day hunt; time was running out. To make matters worse I came down with a cold, which made it difficult to sit quietly in a blind. No comments about the granny blanket, please.
Rodrigo and ranch hand Nero slaughtered a year-old lamb for the grill.
Although Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, Ligia and I speak a good deal of Spanish. This helped us get to know our Argentine friends better. Check out Ivson (right). I think he's a true redneck at heart because he wore camo the whole time.
Ligia had photos on her computer of previous A-Team adventures, and our hosts enjoyed hearing about our hunts in South Carolina and Wyoming.
Here's where that lamb ended up. When you say "grill" in Argentina, nobody envisions a propane-burning contraption.
Mmmm...smell those ribs! While we savored this delicious meal, Ligia came up with the brilliant suggestion to extend our stay at the hacienda by two days. Carlos, Chino and Rodrigo enthusiastically approved. Carlos said, "We're willing to do the impossible to make it possible for you to take a stag."
One morning Rodrigo had to tend cattle. Always ready to play Camo Cowgirl, Ligia saddled up to lend a hand.
For our final evening Carlos set up a low-profile tent blind on a slight rise that offered a wide view of a pasture bordered by calden trees.
He had to dig a 15-inch pit to accommodate my wheelchair. Carlos sat beside me on this white chair and Ivson fit behind us on a folding stool.
Carlos' effort and the extra hunting days paid off. An hour after sunset, illuminated by a three-quarter moon high in the cloudless sky, we watched two deer walk toward us from the pasture's far corner (top left of photo). When a third, larger deer appeared at 150 yards, Carlos put the crosshairs on it and told me to squeeze the trigger release. Immediately following the rifle's report we heard a hollow, wet WALLOP and knew our bullet had hit its mark. We saw the stag run back into the brush and Carlos said he'd rather recover it in the morning than risk trampling the blood trail in the dark.
Waiting at the house, Ligia and Rodrigo heard the shot and were anxious to know the outcome. Rodrigo's mother Gladys joined the celebration as we toasted our success with a bottle of Jaegermeister I had brought for the occasion. The next morning couldn't come soon enough for me.
The stag had run farther than expected. Carlos and Rodrigo followed a spotty blood trail for 400 yards before they saw antlers in the knee-high grass.
No ground shrinkage here! The stately 5x5 had thick beams, a wide spread and a busted-off brow tine missing from its right antler. We estimate the stag, noticeably thin from the rigors of the rut, weighed around 400 pounds. Three men worked hard to muscle it onto a trailer to haul to the house.
You can see here why Cervus elaphus earns the common name "red deer." Native to Europe and closely related to elk (the two can interbreed), the species was brought to La Pampa about 100 years ago by Pedro Luro. The deer flourished and spread to other parts of Argentina, where they're called ciervo rojo or ciervo colorado.
Some folks asked me how Ivson felt about being part of the hunt. Find the answer in his smiling face.
Carlos said hunters took 18 stags at the hacienda this season and ours was one of the largest. The A-Team's Argentina squad did itself proud.
Chino's father remains very active at 85 and keeps up with all the goings-on at the hacienda. He congratulated us on the fine trophy and told a few stories of his own. Although we talked quite a bit, I never learned his name; everybody just called him "Abuelo" (Grandfather).
When people say they find inspiration in my example, I remind them that my hunts require a team effort. Ligia shines as the real source of inspiration because she always encourages me to pursue my dreams and stays by my side as we work to deal with challenges along the way. As Ivson snapped this photo, Ligia was saying, "When we come back here next year..."

The A-Team discovers that red stag at night means hunter's delight.