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Huge Bags: Dove Shooting in Argentina

huge_flocks

Image Alastair Rae and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Dove shooting in Córdoba Argentina is a sport of HUGE bags. Huge is an incorrect term really, the bags are monumental; your eyes water at the pure numbers. How many thousand shells do I need? How many birds are coming down around me? How hot is the barrel going get? Dove shooting was more than I could have ever imagined.

Lets get this straight; Argentina is a beautiful country

Two British brothers a Canadian and a South African head off to Argentina in search of a wonderful week away in a hunting lodge come ranch of epic proportions.

Before we get into the Dove Shooting lets get this straight; Argentina is a beautiful country. The food is magnificent; the people are friendly, this country was nothing like I had expected. People of middle income live well here.

We were two brothers and four friends meeting together again for the first time in 15 years; what better place to do it than here. My brother Michael and I arrived weary from separate flights. Myself from Canada and he from the UK (BA having lost his luggage) we made our way up to the Lodge and began to settle in.

A left bottle of Tawny port was a pretty good start to this evening.
eared dove

Image Alex Proimos Flickr

After unpacking; or should I say after ‘I unpacked’ we made our way onto the veranda where we were swiftly offered some port for the evening. We were both astonished when two glasses and a bottle arrived. A bottle of vintage Tawny port was a pretty good start to this evening. This was clearly going to be a good holiday.

After a wonderful meal of possibly the nicest and rarest leanest steak I’ve ever had, garnished with peppercorn sauce we settle down in a ‘post-banquet daze’ and waited for our friends to join us. I am amazed; the food here is World class; believe me I’ve had a lifetime sampling!

We got into discussions with a number of the other guests. At this point a large penny dropped. Not one of those post 70’s pennies either. It was one of those ‘Queen Victoria’ sized pennies which would dent the floorboards… My 12 bore was going be too MUCH for the job!

Our new American friends had bought enough hardware with them to fight off an attack by raiding Apaches at the OK Corral.

In fact there will be “so much dove shooting” said one of the American guests, I wouldn’t have a shoulder left come lunchtime tomorrow. They informed us of the numbers of shells that they had expelled in the last two days. I was in shock, I was beginning to think now that they were right. In fact, I cannot believe there would be anything of my shoulder if these doves came in such quantities!

After making my way back into the lodge I found our host and discussed ‘my newly discovered problem’. To my relief he was well used to hearing this and had a few 20 bore Benelli’s I could borrow the following day.

Our new American friends had bought enough hardware with them to fight off an attack by raiding Apaches at the OK Corral, so making use of the lodges’ equipment was no problem. ‘The Americans would never want to use these little sleek Italian guns anyway’ I thought.

after a day most ‘big guys’ come to me with tears in their eyes and ask for the ‘ladies gun’.

“It is common” said our host “for hunters to come here with their big semi-auto 3” shell goose guns and raging ego’s” saying “they will get the best of their buddies at the bird count in the end”; but I’ve done this long enough to know that after a day most ‘big guys’ come to me with tears in their eyes and ask for the ‘ladies gun’.

I am having none of that nonsense, my AYA’s are staying in the case! “I’ll take the Benellis” and immediately had their loan fee added to the bill straight away.

Michael said to me “I was wondering why you paid to fly those all the way here”, “didn’t you look online at this place when we booked it?”

                 

 

no limit shooting here and the birds just come in flock after flock after flock the bag limit for your day depends on how much hammering your shoulder can absorb.

Morning came and John and Andrew had arrived some time in the night. After another meal where I ate too much of ‘the good stuff’ and we jumped into the 4×4’s in anticipation of a great day ahead. What really caught my eye was the hampers; food, chairs, tables and cooking implements being loaded as well. So much that we set off with our vehicle loaded down until it creaked. With friends excitedly chatting and cases of ammunition straining the suspension.

There is no limit to dove shooting here and the birds just come in flock after flock after flock. The bag limit for your day depends on how much hammering your shoulder can absorb.

“Most shooters come here” so our host told us “to shoot a once in a lifetime trip. However there is a certain percentage of ‘regulars’ who make the trip once or even twice a year”! I can see why.

Locusts have nothing on the damage that these immense flocks of doves can cause

Dove shooting numbers each day in each ‘Guns’ bag defies belief. The local Government and Agricultural board encourage dove shooting as much as they can as the local population is uncontrolled monumental and artificially high due to the huge fields of sunflowers and millet which stretch out for miles around. Locusts have nothing on the damage that these immense flocks of doves can cause to agriculture they can strip fields in a day and let me tell you fields here are truly enormous.

Our first stop was down a dusty track. Andrew and John were deposited together with two loaders knee-high in ammunition to set up. Because the day was so hot our hosts kept encouraging us to drink as much water as possible this kind of shooting is thirsty work and dehydration is a real problem. They immediately start applying sun cream too!

We carried on down the side of an immense millet field. The birds are already up and around us> Michael and I stepped off midway and the other trucks continued further on with the American guests.

I could hear the others now probably a kilometre away starting to shoot at a regular pace

We set ourselves up and the trucks headed off almost out of sight with the trail of dust fine climb into the sky behind them. We then noticed the reason we were here; there was what appeared to be a small watering hole attracting birds. As the temperature in the day began to climb doves would swoop in to cool off.

Diego and Jose were our loaders and they pointed out markers for us both to stand at and pointed to a number of trees on the far side of the pond (relative distances that these little 20 bore Benellis were effective to).

I could hear the others now probably a kilometre away starting to shoot at a regular pace. The sound came bounding down the dirt track towards us. As we began to load the sound of the pace of fire increased to quite a rapid tempo. Jose in his broken English commented (I guessed) that the pace of fire was too fast, and that if this continued they would be worn out sooner rather than later.

Jose looked at me and said “we begin”, I somewhat nervously looked back at him and said “well okay” I took a shotgun from him loaded with two local cartridges took my first shot; and missed! Not the best start. My second shot struck home, I realised that these little 20 bores although effective probably do not put out the amount of lead that I was used to. My shooting was spot on though by the time we had swapped guns over four times.

I was getting into the swing of it.

this would (I figured) relieve the strain for the onslaught that was to come.

It has been a little while since I have been shooting at high birds. My time in Canada had got me into a regular pattern of field shooting the North American way and dove shooting at this real distance and height was not something I had done for 18 months now.

I took a break and found a better place to stand. A slight dip in the clay where I could put my left foot on the ground very slightly higher than my right foot, this would (I figured) relieve the strain from the onslaught that was to come as the morning wore on.

the butt dug into a point between my collarbone and chest area causing a huge bruise immediately I knew this was going to cause me trouble

After an hour and a half I let one shot go which was way over our heads and to the right of us. The Benelli was not tucked snugly into my shoulder, and when both shots let go the corner of the butt dug into a point between my collarbone and chest area causing a huge bruise. Immediately I knew this was going to cause me trouble.

I stopped shooting for a short while and checking my shoulder, the pickup truck full of our American friends went by. They were all sat in the back armed with semi-autos taking a break from their own ‘endurance test’ looking just like a group of troopers driving through Iraq.

           

 

the light weight and ease of swing and lack of recoil was just what was needed.

After a while I got back into the shooting; perhaps I had paused a bit longer than I needed to for something to eat. I immediately got back into the swing of things, these little Benellis were quite sweet to use. They were perhaps slightly older models but the light weight and ease of swing and lack of recoil was just what was needed for the volume of dove shooting we were doing. If my AYA’s were in my hands I would be in trouble by now. However these ‘ladies guns’ were certainly doing the trick. As the day wore on most of us started to improve. I obviously got used to this kind of Dove shooting and was getting my technique right at around 60 yards or so.

The Benellis were over and under’s and I am glad I wasn’t the loader for the day. To be honest they were a bit of a pain to load. If I was doing the reloading I would much rather have had a side-by-side configuration.

I would be busy again for another 10 or 15 minutes as the next wave came in.

To be honest the vast majority of birds were further away than the range these guns had, and there were times when I had to stop shooting as everything moving was out of range. But then as the day wore on the odd dove or two would start to be tempted by the water and I would be busy again for another 10 or 15 minutes as the next wave came in.

The flocks had now dispersed and I was looking at the odd one or two birds which would fly pass the waterhole on their way back into the fields. This seems to suggest that there were literally just one or two birds; I mean one or two birds every minute or so and as the day drew on our total count would just keep climbing.

Michael somewhat annoyingly was averaging 69%.

It was time for lunch; and with that Michael and I regrouped. His first words were “what’s your average then?” To be honest I hadn’t really been counting. What amazed me however was the fact I had got through nearly 600 cartridges so far! I chewed some numbers into my phone and discovered I was just over the 50% cartridge to bird ratio. In fact José pointed out, nearly all my birds were shot with the second barrel with very few double misses.  I should be putting a bit more lead I guess for the first barrel.

Michael somewhat annoyingly was averaging 69%. We sat and had lunch with a rather pleasant bottle of chilled white which I guess was Pinot Gris but I couldn’t be sure. We had another two and a half days of this. What a joy.

After our three days of dove shooting we were to go straight into a few days of fishing and this lodge was going to look after us well for the week. I recommend this to anyone who shoots just for the experience itself. We will be back again.

Rupert Mcleod