Why Not Argentina – Dove Hunter – David T. Palmer – February/March 2006

Dove shooting in Argentina was a special experience for TONY TOWNSEND. Not least because half of the group was female.

Ah yes, Argentina. The true pinnacle of dove shooting where everyday is opening day. A “Mecca” of sorts which should require a forced pilgrimage at least once in a dove hunter’s life. A vast and beautiful country with doves in such incredible numbers that it becomes a whole different standard by which to judge. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to comprehend or explain. “This is ridiculous!” my 11-year-old son, Hunter, exclaimed as wave after endless wave of doves swarmed us for as long as we wanted to shoot-never stopping from the moment we started hunting until we had to put the gun down from exhaustion or sore shoulders.

Speaking only from a dove hunter’s perspective, as I have not yet experienced the waterfowling (also the best in the world), Argentina is in a class by itself. As dove hunting goes, there’s fair, good, great, fantastic, hot barreled, freaking incredible and then Argentina. If a good Mexico white wing hunt is red hot, then Argentina would be white hot or melting.

For example, at Estancia Los Chanares, a beautiful, full-service Argentinean estancia, or ranch, the average hunter shoots 22 boxes at every three to four hour hunt. This number includes hunters of every age, sex and ambition. That translates into 44 boxes per day and yet almost anyone can easily shoot 40 plus boxes per hunt if the shoulder and arms can take it.

In contrast, even a good outing in Old Mexico would be eight to 10 boxes spent. So when it comes to dove shooting, Argentina is not only better, it’s at least four times as incredible as its Central American competitor.

So…, why not Argentina? Why do so many bird hunters keep Argentina on the “to do” list and not take that “once in a lifetime” hunting adventure?

A few excuses and one potential reason is what I hear all the time. “Its too far away”

“Too expensive.” And the worst one, “Well, you can just as easily hunt doves here!” with the subtle implication that they are comparing apples to apples.

Great news on all fronts.

Not long ago, the ‘too far away’ excuse had some credibility. But now, there are many daily flights to Argentina and stopping points along the way make the issue moot. Yes, it may be seven to nine hours in the air on the long leg of the trip, but to turn summer into winter or vice versa by getting deep into the southern hemisphere, what can you reasonably expect? At least three airlines have daily overnight fights from Miami, Florida, and American Airlines has overnight flights from Dallas, Texas, to Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile, both stopping points before a short hop to the Cordoba area where most of the dove shooting occurs. Continental Airlines just started daily nonstops to Buenos Aires from Houston.

The northern area of Argentina can be reached with flights through Bolivia. The Salta Province, in Northern Argentina, has even more doves than Cordoba Province, which seems truly unbelievable, considering the 30 plus million birds in the Cordoba area that bring in thousands of hunters every year. The latest estimate for the Salta Province is a staggering 100 million doves.

The ‘too expensive’ excuse is sometimes a real reason, depending on income and bills to be paid, but Argentina can still be done and done on a budget if you work at it.

Using airline miles through the numerous credit card companies, for example, can be a real help. On my first trip to Argentina, my brother-in-law and I paid only $350 each for total airline costs by using frequent flyer miles with Continental Airlines. Sixty thousand points will get you to Santiago, Chile, via American Airlines. Santiago is one of the main stopping points very close to the Cordoba area.

As for actual costs, quality operations will generally cost between $2,000 and $2,700 for a three-day hunt. However, this can sometimes be less during the “Off season”. Off season in Argentina is really a joke because millions of doves don’t read the calendar. “Off season” usually means November through December when it is more difficult for the outfitters to fill up their lodges due to the American holiday season.

As I am writing this, my son and I are at Estancia Los Chanares (again) during the 2005 Thanksgiving break and obtained a super deal of only $1,695 for both of us. Estancia Los Chanares is fast becoming a favorite of many hunters because of the fantastic shooting, great service and short drives to the field of no more than 10 minutes. This estancia was built right in the middle of the action.

Many outfitters will offer a price break for large groups, non-hunters or father/son combinations.

Costs, however, do not stop at the outfitter service. The greatest expense for some aggressive shooters (aren’t we all?) is the shells. A warning to the wise…if you think you can’t shoot 40 to 50 boxes per hunt, you can! If you think your son won’t shoot 40 boxes per hunt, he will! At two hunts per day, that’s $800 to $l,000 per day, per hunter and it can and will happen unless you budget your shooting. While writing this at Los Chanares, a fun group of 11, rather aggressive hunters from Sacramento was already $7,000 over budget in shells alone. Out of the total shell bill over $21,000, much of the damage was done by shooters as young as 10!

At the Cordoba airport, we ran into a more serious bunch of dove hunters who shot an average of 90 plus boxes per day per hunter for four days straight.

At about $10 a box and with so many birds that the temptation is to shoot 40 boxes per hunt, a three-day hunt may cost you an extra $2,400. Those watching their budget by not shooting at every available shot, throwing in one shell at a time, or just using an over and under, could easily cut that in half. Twenty boxes per hunt is still an incredible amount of shooting.

Even if the high cost of a trip prohibits many hunters from coming to Argentina except “once in a lifetime,” in my opinion, it should still be once in a lifetime. Start saving now. Take a second job for a while. Set the goal, save your pennies and just do it. If you like wingshooting, it’s worth it.

Finally, I meet many people who love to hunt, have the financial means to go, etc. and still never go because, “You can hunt birds here. Why should I go waaaay over there!” These very hunters often spend hundreds, and sometimes, thousands, of dollars trying to groom an area for dove hunting in their “neck of the woods.”

Yes, you can hunt a limited number of doves here with stringent 10 to 12 bird limits with thousands of other hunters. But, in reality, saving your pennies now and not trying to produce the perfect dove area is often the best approach in my opinion. Been there, done that.

The number one rule in all of hunting and fishing remains “Go where the game is.”

The best baits and best trolling pattern will not produce a Blue Marlin in the Great Lakes, nor would you put out a perfect duck spread in your backyard pool and expect to be successful. A slight exaggeration, of course, but the point is clear. Argentina has the birds by the millions. It is without a doubt the best and most consistent dove hunting in the world. Period.

Although many hunters may not admit it, fear of leaving the country is a real factor, which prevents some of them from enjoying dove hunting beyond their wildest dreams. The known, fair to poor, and more importantly, inconsistent, hunting for local birds, outweighs the unknown, surefire, outrageous dove hunting available to many hunters if they would just get on the airplane. Heck, just watching the news everyday will scare the pants off anybody.

After growing up overseas (Africa) as a missionary’s kid and literally traveling the world over, I recognize this as an exaggerated and unfounded fear. Argentina, in particular, is very pro American and welcomes American hunters with open arms. Competition for foreign hunters is keen and reputable outfitters will do all they can to make sure your stay is a great memory.

For those reading this who think no limit, shoot till You drop dove bunting is excessive and wasteful consider the predicament Argentina, and to a lesser extent, Bolivia and Paraguay, face with populations of doves and pigeons, which have ballooned to plague-like proportions. These birds now consume 20 percent of the unharvested grain grown in these countries and their numbers continue to grow. Shooting doves in Argentina is good for the farmer, outfitter and hunter. It is truly a win, win,win, situation.

So, why not Argentina? Take the first step and go get that passport. Start planning now. Since any time right time, you can make Argentina fit your schedule. Google “Dove

Hunting Argentina and start researching your options. The most fantastic dove hunt of your dreams awaits.