A recent chat with my first client for Wingshootingcordoba.com, Dwight Jones, shares an interesting story of how he has grown from gentleman farmer and real estate developer to avid hunter and large land owner in Uruguay. Dwight bought 1600 acres and is now commercial farming in beautiful and bountiful Uruguay as well as developing a new Duck lodge there. Wingshootingcordoba.com hooked Dwight and his son up on a mixed bag shoot in Paysandu Uruguay and read what came of the trip here. Just like Dwight, I am sure more of my clients will discover the incredible charms of Uruguay and Argentina while traveling and hunting the different countries.
From my perspective, you have quite an interesting story. Tell us where you were born and raised and how you got involved in the farming and hunting world?
I was born in Middle Georgia and grew up on a small working farm that I worked with my father. We grew some limited row crops and raised about 250 head of cattle. We also breed and raised captive birds such as mallards, quail, peacocks, etc. My father was not a hunter, but for some reason I had a passion for it from my earliest memory. Like most, I started with a BB gun and moved up the ranks over the years hunting small game and finally large game (whitetails) and game birds. Deer hunting was new in those days and it was quiet a big deal to cut a track, much less see one. Quite different than today.
We were a historical commercial real estate development firm with an emphasis on hotels and shopping centers. In the late ‘90s, I grew concerned that our commercial portfolio was running its course and felt that agriculture would prove to be a long-term growth asset. I divested a considerable portion of our commercial assets and began selectively buying farms ranging from 300 acres to 3000 in the southeast, Midwest and recently South America. Since that time, agland has become a preferred asset class and I believe that we are well positioned for future growth.
Who had the biggest influence in shaping your interest in hunting and farming?
My father was born on a working farm, but the Depression era caused him to seek a career in real estate. He always had a hobby farm at home and we worked it together. It was just a natural interest to me and I guess it grew as I aged. As mentioned, for some reason I had the hunting bug as a small child. I had a first cousin (who succumbed to leukemia when he was 18) that was a big deer hunter. He was kind enough to take me under his wing and show me the ropes.
How many acres are you currently farming in Georgia and what corps does that represent?
We work towards acquiring properties in our portfolio that have unique characteristics and with significant sources of water. We manage about 350 acres of private impounds and substantial underground water. We try to keep a 50/50 balance of merchantable timber and row crops. Between the southeast, Midwest and South America, we own about 11,000 acres, with about 5,000 in row crops. Out Midwest and South American crops are based on a soybean/corn rotation and our southeast crops are a mixture of soybeans, corn, peanuts and cotton. We also have several pecan operations in Georgia.
You have a quail hunting operation too, is that correct, tell us about that?
Quail hunting was once part of the primary social fabric in Georgia, but the decline of the bobwhite has caused a general malaise in our state. We run a horse back operation in Macon County and wild birds in Terrell county. We run a string of Elhew pointers and we raise our own birds in Macon county with a Surrogator system. Our Terrell county farm is in the plantation belt, with Abigail and Chickasaw Plantations as neighbors. This part of our operation is strictly wild birds and we manage both operations intensively to propagate quail habitat. Of course this also benefits our whitetail and turkey populations.
So you got hooked up with me and Wingshooting Cordoba through some mutual friends and went to one of my lodge offerings in Uruguay, tell us about your mixed bag hunting experience in Paysandú Uruguay?
We are fortunate to have and manage excellent dove hunting here in Georgia and I will usually log 50 to 75 limit hunts per year with friends and family. I have friends who have dove hunted South America, but the idea of pounding doves all day for 4 or 5 days just didn’t appeal to me as I like variety. As such, I never went. In 2012, my oldest son wanted to take a trip and through Wingshooting, we found a mixed bag opportunity in Uruguay (UY). I can’t say enough positive about San Juan in Paysandú. The hunting and the accommodations were excellent and we didn’t travel more than 30 minutes from the lodge for any hunting venue. Please see our YouTube channel “Closaway” for some highlights of the hunt.
What immediately stood out to you about Uruguay and the hunting?
In fairness, I never dove hunted Argentina, but have had a host of friends that have. Again, for a guy who wants to satisfy his ego and try to set a world record for dove in a day, it sounds like the place to go. On the other hand, for the discerning sportsman that wants to spend a little more for unbelievable accommodations and great variety. San Juan will not disappoint. While the dove are not as numerous, you will get all the shooting you want and there are more than one person can kill! Typically, you have a perdiz or duck hunt in the am will dove hunts in the pm. All meal service would equal or exceed the finest US restaurants.
While I love dove hunting, I’m an old school quail hunter and was particularly interested in the perdiz. In short, the perdiz hunting was some of the most challenging I’ve ever encountered, which is to say I was hooked immediately. These little birds put our bobwhite to shame and will fly a mile before they set down again. This is sporty hunting with a 20 gauge O/U and would be 12 gauge material for those who don’t shoot on a consistent basis. Even better, they also taste unbelievable. The worst part is now my quail hunting is somewhat of a letdown! I can’t wait to get back to UY!
UY is a great country and is very modern. There is a lot of psychographic variety just as there is in Georgia. While I have since traveled extensively in UY, I must state that it would be hard to get a sense of the country by simply hunting at San Juan. I would recommend at least a day in Montevideo and possibly another day along the coastline.
Now I hear you have actually fallen in love with Uruguay and recently bought 1600 acres? How in the world did this come about so quickly and tell us your plans for the property?
I actually had been investigating South America for about 5 years and was planning on starting in Columbia with a small purchase. UY was not on my radar, but while there, I was impressed with the modernization of the country and the overall ag economy. UY has a very stable government and all ag commodities are traded on our Chicago exchange. The infrastructure is excellent, particularly highways. The port in Montevideo is larger than all others in South America combined and it is a safe country. In short, if you traveled to the rural areas of UY, you would think you were in South Georgia. UY’s similarities to Georgia are astounding and the people are very hospitable. This is a place you can take your whole family as there is something for everyone.
Our investment is in multiple parcels that border a 1,300 acre private lake (ducks are unbelievable). We are row cropping the vast majority of the land and we run a small sheep operation on the parcel that houses the lodge and barns. Perdiz are plentiful and we have a dove roost nearby. We may partner with a commercial operator to offer a companion operation to San Juan (with a duck emphasis) in the future or possibly host annual hunts with friends.
Why would a bird hunting enthusiasts want to travel all the way to Uruguay to hunt doves, ducks, perdiz and pigeons?
The question is, why would a true enthusiast not want to? While at San Juan, we had a British fellow and his son came the last two days. They had worked their way through the Argentinian lodges for the prior two weeks. According to them, San Juan was the best of their experience by far. I do understand that San Juan might be slightly more expensive, but when you factor in the shell cost in Argentina, I think it might be actually cheaper. A big part of the cost of the trip is the airline cost. I ask you, would you rather pound a 1,000 shells a day at just dove or have your socks knocked off with a great variety of game birds and first class accommodations? Honestly, I would go to UY for the perdiz alone. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.
You said you got your residency in Uruguay, tell us about this process, how hard was it and how long did it take? Also, what advantages can you derive from the residency?
The Uruguayans are a very diligent people in their work, and as such they take immigration very seriously. As you might imagine, there is some paperwork and you will need to visit the Immigration Office and employ a notary to assist you. Tetanus shots must be up to date and you must undergo a short but thorough health exam. You must be able to demonstrate gainful employment in UY and provide a US apostleship background report. It takes a little time but is not that expensive or obtrusive. Residents enjoy the same privileges as citizens but they can’t vote. You can stay as long as you want and you can easily cross South American borders. You also have the one time right to import personal property into UY without paying any import tax.
At this time, many US citizens are establishing foreign residency as a backup to troubling times here in the US. While my residency is more related to the convenience of our business investment, if you are a hard core bird hunter and you want a plan “B”, just in case, UY is worth a visit.
Now that you actually own property in Uruguay, how much time per year do you plan on spending down there?
My wife is probably not comfortable with that question! UY is an easy 10ish hour flight out of Atlanta and is overnight. As such, you can hit the ground running and the time difference is negligible. By necessity, I will need to be in UY at least twice a year; however, as our children leave the nest, I hope that we can spend as much as a month at a time there. UY’s beaches are some of the best in the world, but they are not necessarily crowded (unless you want to be in such areas that are). Buenos Aries is only a 20 minute commercial flight from Montevideo and I’m confident your wife will be more than satisfied between the two. I’ve eaten all over the country from roadside cantinas and fine dining establishments. I haven’t had a bad meal yet.
What other investment opportunities do you see or plan to pursue in Uruguay?
While UY is a modern country by any standard, they are definitely behind the US is many ways. The sad part as that while you are in UY, it will be overwhelmingly apparent that us Americans are killing ourselves to leave a fast pace, extravagant lifestyle. The Uruguayans, while very diligent, move at slower pace and are a very happy people. Americans will find that they will be missing some conveniences, but these are more than made up with the significant reduction in the cost of living. For perspective, an established lawyer in UY would make the equivalent of $30,000 US, but would have a lifestyle of a US lawyer making $200,000 US.
I’m not sure it’s a place you can take $1,000 and strike it rich, but if someone wanted to divert some investment capital, I believe they could do quite well. UY is devoid of chain and franchise concepts and I question if the same would work well. Bear in mind that you are talking about a population of 3MM with 1.5MM in Montevideo.
My sense is that the beach lot/house market in UY is similar to where the US was in the late 90’s. The beaches are recognized as some of the top in the world and there is opportunity for investment there. Also, the “original” part of Montevideo is undergoing a redevelopment and there is opportunity to purchase sound older buildings to convert to housing and office space.
In short, any enterprising US individual could spend a week in UY and probably come up with many investment opportunities.
Anything else you would like to add about your experience or advice for others interested in investing or retiring to Uruguay?
I would not want to portray myself as an expert or have anyone rely on my advice in this blog; however, I think the best thing for anyone having interest would be to make a one week exploratory trip to UY and drive around the country. If they feel some chemistry, the next step may be to rent an apartment in Montevideo, a beach house along the coast or a farm house in the country for a period of time that allows them to “test the waters”. English is spoken in UY, but I’m told it’s easy to pick up Spanish in a period of 6 months or so if you are immersed in the culture.
It’s not hard to do business or live in UY, but there are restrictions and requirements that you would need to be versed. I would recommend engaging a lawyer to help you in these matters and would be glad to recommend some to your readers should they need assistance. We have a website, Closaway.com, where I can be contacted. Thanks for the opportunity to share about UY and San Juan. I hope to run into some of your clients in the near future. Take care.
Visit our website at www.wingshootingcordoba.com or contact me directly at email@example.com for details on booking your dream wing shooting adventure to Argentina,Uruguay or South Africa. Wing Shooting Cordoba represents 9 luxury lodges and four outstanding guides services for dove, duck, pigeon and perdiz in both Argentina and Uruguay and over 18 species on offer in South Africa. Also, I have fly fishing adventures along with Red Stag, wild boar and Quail hunting opportunities in Argentina.