Lesson From A Gaucho

By Mr. Black

Sometimes we take things a bit too far. Take knives for example. In the constant search for the lightest and most compact tools possible, many of us have taken to heading afield with no more than a folding scalpel in our packs. This seemed like a great idea to me until a couple of friends and I found ourselves on a mountainside, out of ammo and with a crippled cow elk on our hands. “Does anyone have a knife?” Two of us shrugged while the other pulled a Havalon from his pack. The tiny blade ultimately ended the elk’s suffering but let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty. Grown men cried.   

The Patagonian gauchos take a vastly different approach. The first time that I climbed out of the Hilux to follow Adrian on a stalk, he shoved a kitchen knife-sized blade into the back of his belt, right alongside a sharpening steel. Over the course of several days and numerous animals, I watched in awe as Adrian used and abused that knife for every conceivable task. With it, he could effortlessly break a stag into quarters, bife de chorizo and lomo in less than five minutes.

He wielded it like a machete to hack a Toyota-sized path through thick thorn bushes and gutted a Eurasian boar like he was slicing open a pack of hotdogs. One afternoon, I shot a cull stag high up a ridge and he’d neglected to carry his steel. He selected one of the smooth stones near his boot and used it to touch up his edge. The lesson was clear: Hey gringo, carry a real knife and keep it sharp.   

On the last afternoon of the trip, we found ourselves 1,100 yards above a giant old stag who was roaring his head off in the river bottom. The wind was dead wrong and the sun had already dropped below the peaks behind us. We had to make a plan, and quick. Since we weren’t hunting public land in Utah, we decided to try for a stalk rather than to merely drop prone and start slinging lead.

We made a circuitous loop over the next ridge, probably covering a mile at something just less than a jog. It was almost dark when we popped up on a gravel road just over a hundred yards from the stag. He was in chest-high grass, still screaming his challenge. Several of his tines were broken and a sizable chunk of bush was tangled in his left beam—this guy was a scrapper. Sensing something, he turned to face us head on. I rested the camp rifle, chambered in the Lord’s caliber, over a fence post and shot him in the throat.

He dropped immediately but when we ran up to him he was still thrashing around trying desperately to hook us in one last stroke of revenge. “Una mas?” I asked Adrian, ready to put a finisher into him. Adrian shrugged his shoulders and, in one motion, pulled the gaucho knife from his waistband and stabbed the old warrior in the lung. Blood shot skyward and, just like that, the lesson was complete.  “Muerte.”  No one cried.   

From the FE Films Archive

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