Patagonia, southern Argentina, a destination famed for its crystal clear waters and prolific fly fishing, but it is not widely known to many in the UK as a premier stalking destination. Prior to working at William Powell I myself was lucky enough to work at Tipiliuke Lodge near San Martin de los Andes in Patagonia.
Aside from the fly fishing that earned Tipiliuke the title of Sporting Classic’s World’s Top Fishing Destination in 2011, the lodge itself is exceptional, and has been named as one of the top 72 boutique hotels in the world by Taschen’s. Tucked away amongst an oasis of trees and trickling streams, surrounded by 60,000 acres of rugged, glacial landscape, with just 9 rooms, the lodge offers an exclusive getaway which few destinations can compare too.
As the fishing drops away between March and May and the Red Deer rut begins, the lodge plays host to small stalking parties, mostly flying in from America. It is worth mentioning that the stags in Patagonia are unmistakably enormous, with vast mass and dark chocolate horns, they are true specimens. Simply witnessing these impressive creatures in such vast numbers, hearing their roars reverberate around the mountain sides as they vie for control of the hinds will undoubtedly bring chills to the spine.
Though I had many memorable stalks from my time in Patagonia, the most memorable has to be a stalk I guided with a 70 year old client and John Burrell, owner of the High Adventure Company. We had been growing frustrated as our multiple attempts to get within range of the herds were thwarted by the swirling winds, typical to Patagonia, which allowed the deer to pick up our scent. These wild herds will bolt over the most distant ridge at the first sign of danger, but this fact simply makes the heart race faster when you get within range.
At last, after a long day, we stumbled across a small group of hinds which were being chaperoned by a large stag. We crept to within range along a long ridge. As we set up for the shot a loud bark from a hind told us that our cover had been blown. I must mention at this point that this next part is not to be endorsed as common practice in stalking.. The bark was preceded by the thundering of hooves as the deer bolted for the higher ground, BANG, the stag bowled over, head over hoof in a cloud of dust. To my amazement my amicable 70 year old client had taken the stag whilst it was running at full tilt, and it lay motionless on the hillside, it was like something out of the wild west, one hell of a shot. And one that will live long in the memory.
At Tipiliuke, it is not just the Red Stag that capture the imagination. The Tipiliuke ‘Grand Slam’ is an impressive, yet obtainable feat, which encompasses; a red stag, a Russian boar, a brown trout, a rainbow trout and a dozen Californian quail – which are shot over Pointers, and offer tremendous sport. The quail explode from thick vegetation like angry bees, wings beating like distant machine gun fire. The quail are shot using either a 28 bore or a .410 (if you can shoot straight), and can change direction with disconcerting agility. They are just another string to the Tipiliuke bow.
For an intrepid sportsman, Tipiliuke has it all. It even has the capability to keep disinterested wives, girlfriends and family members entertained, with horse riding, hiking, massage parlour, local shopping and a very large wine cellar. I’m not saying Tipiliuke is heaven (that would be blasphemous), but it is certainly close, very close.