It didn’t take long for Valentino Reichert to realize he was in a new world when he stepped into a duck blind on Smithville Lake.
Oh, he had hunted ducks before. But that was in South America, not in the United States. He wasn’t accustomed to the cold. Or the comfort of guide Dan Guyer’s blind. Or the heart-stopping sight of huge flocks of mallards circling overhead.
Yes, this was a new experience for Reichert, who lives in Brazil.
“This is my first time hunting in the United States,” Reichert, 67, said in fluent English. “I hunted ducks a lot in Brazil before the government banned it. Now I go to Uruguay or Argentina.
“But it’s totally different there. We will make our own individual blind or stand in the water in the tall grass. We put out decoys, but not so many. And we don’t have mallards.
“We hunt birds like tree ducks or rosy bills, and there are a lot of them.”
Reichert paused and smiled.
“And we usually don’t have to pile on as many clothes to go hunting,” he said. “Back in Brazil right now, the temperature is probably in the 60s to 70s.
“But this is like a dream trip of mine. To hunt mallards in the United States, that is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Three other Brazilians and two Uruguyans in the blind with him echoed that sentiment. They were on a trip organized by Alvaro Barcellos Souza Mouawad, co-owner of a hunting operation in Uruguay, and Airton Adolfo Haag, They were hunting with Dan Guyer, who runs the Iron Duck Hunting operation in northwest Missouri, and two of Guyer’s assistants, Brett Stephenson and Darren Cheshier.
The visitors started their trip by going to Rogers Sporting Goods, a well-known hunting supply store in Liberty, to buy their camouflage and purchase their licenses. Then they headed to Guyer’s place in Plattsburg that overlooks Smithville Lake.
In the dark Tuesday morning, they followed Guyer down a path that led to a roomy blind. Dozens of decoys already bobbed in the water. And the blind was concealed with brush and grass so that it didn’t stand out.
Guyer, with a lanyard filled with duck bands and several calls hanging around his neck, reached down and petted his black Lab, Blackwater, and said, “Ready to go?” The dog looked up, wagged his tail, signaling that all systems were go, and another day in Missouri’s duck season began.
The first sign that this was no ordinary hunt came early when Guyer gave his safety talk. One of the hunters translated it in Portugese, so that the South American hunters could understand.
“We can understand English, but it is better in our native language,” said Mouawad, who lives in northern Uruguay.
Shells were shoved into shotguns, hinged screens on the blind were shut, and Guyer made a brief presentation of custom duck calls made by a friend of his, Rick Hahne, each inscribed with the hunter’s name.
Minutes later, Guyer blew into his call, pleading with a flock of mallards to join him. The birds veered and headed toward the group, and Guyer whispered, “Get ready!”
The Brazilian hunters crouched below the camouflaged shields and waited for instructions. When Guyer shouted, “Take them,” the hinged doors were pushed down and the hunters came up firing. Two greenheads fell to the water and Blackwater bounded into the water for a long-distance retrieve.
That was the started of an outstanding day. Guyer routinely called in large flocks of mallards, shots rang out and ducks fell. By mid-morning, the hunters were carrying a string of bright-green mallards out of the blind as they talked excitedly about their morning hunt.
They were part of a budding tradition. It started in 2009 when Mouawad brought some of the clients of his ABM Hunting Outfitter and Lake Merin duck camp in Uruguay to the United States.
“Some of my clients wanted to come to the United States to hunt ducks one time,” Mouawad said. “So, I began looking for a reliable outfitter.
“That led me to Dan (Guyer) and we hit it off right away. The first time we hunted with him, eight of us took limits of Canada geese. Hunting like that was a new experience for us.”
Just about everything is different, though.
“In Uruguay, each hunter gets 100 shells at the beginning of the day,” Mouawad said. “Then, he can shoot as many ducks as he can.
“It’s not unusual for a group of four to come in with 100 ducks.”
In Uruguay, Mouawad said, American conservation measures such as restrictive limits, the use of steel shot to keep ducks from ingesting lead pellets in the marsh and plugs in shotguns to keep hunters from firing more than three shots at a time are foreign.
“That’s just a difference in the way we hunt,” Mouawad said.
Sport hunting was banned in Brazil years ago, mostly because of complaints from anti-hunters and animal-rights activists, so Mouawad went across the border into Uruguay to open a well-appointed duck camp. He calls his trip to America his “second duck season,” because the Uruguyan season runs from May to mid-September.
“This way, I get to try two types of duck hunting,” he said. “It’s something I always look forward to.”
THAT’S A long HUNTING TRIP
Four hunters from Brazil and two from Uruguay made a long- distance journey to hunt ducks and geese in the United States.
Alvaro Barcellos Souza Mouawad figures that the hunters covered more than 5,500 miles from an airport in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to hunt at Smithville Lake for two days last week. Too far? Not for Mouawad. He plans to return in January to hunt geese at the Mud Hole Duck Club in Orrick, Mo.
An avid duck hunter, Mouawad co-owns the Lake Merin Duck Lodge in Uruguay, where he hosts hunters through mid-September.