Article Appeared in FIELDSPORTS Spring 2009 Issue
Author of a new book on dove shooting in Argentina, Tony Townsend offers a potted guide to sport at its very best in Cordoba.
In the past dozen or so years I’ve shot doves in winter, spring, summer and fall. I’ve visited all the main Argentine provinces that offer high volume dove shooting, and I’ve been lucky enough to shoot with the best outfitters and stay at their finest lodges, so you could say that I’ve become something of an authority on the subject.
Consequently it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that, whereas the majority of unsolicited emails received by men are for Viagra, penis enlargement or reproduction Rolex watches (well so I hear), for me it’s usually why, when or where should I go dove shooting in Argentina?
The ‘why’ is easy because other than shooting driven grouse, the eared dove, or golden dove as it is sometimes called, is probably the most exciting and sprung-loaded quarry to test your shooting skills. It’s an extremely fast and agile bird with an over-sized wing span that allows it to change elevation, direction and barrel roll out of danger like a Harrier Jump Jet pilot on speed, so every game shooter should give it a try at least once! Of course there is also the fact that there are millions of them, but quantity shouldn’t be the only reason you fly all the way to Argentina.
The ‘when’ depends on your expectations. If you want to just shoot vast numbers of predictable doves, and you plan to shoot in the province of Córdoba, you should shoot during the southern hemisphere autumn (mid-March to the end of May). However at that time dove shooting can be a bit samey and more akin to blapping flappy tennis racket Hungarian pheasants in October. Whereas I believe that doves shot in the bills between mid-June through to mid-March the following year, are on a par with West Country pheasants in January so no comparison.
‘Where’ is a little more complicated; the simple answer could be to look no further than shooting in the hills north of the city of Córdoba in an area known as the Golden Triangle. Really this area has to be the dove shooting Mecca for overseas shooters because as well as consistently high volume dove shooting, you also have consistently varied and testing shooting that’s hard to encounter anywhere else in Argentina, or the world for that matter. Certainly in the opinion of many seasoned dove shooters, the shooting in the hills north of Córdoba is unequalled wingshooting, with the exception of driven grouse.
But there is also great dove shooting in other provinces in Argentina. There is super shooting and wonderful lodges in the Province of Entre Rios that are just a four hour drive from a downtown Buenos Aires hotel so you can cut out the hassle of internal flights, and that’s a big plus, promise! And just north of Cordoba in the province of Santiago del Estero there is an outfitter with a vast estate with shooting all on property, so no long drives to the dove fields. And there are other provinces with equally good shooting so you have a choice.
After ‘why when and where,’ the next question is what other bird shooting is there on the menu because someone has told you that you will be bored by shooting just doves for four days. Unfortunately that submission usually comes from Brits who have previously shot in Argentina after the birds have left the high ground permanent roosts in mid-March.
There’s plenty of other wingshooting available including two species of pigeon, but if you are thinking of geese, ducks and tinamou (called perdiz because they fly like a partridge), then that’s seasonal so you have to be there during Ma June and July (the Argentine winter), and by the way, that’s when Americans migrate to Argentina in thousands for their much loved duck shooting, so it’s the most expensive time to shoot doves.
Today it’s very easy to sell dove shooting because there are so many luxury shooting lodges in Argentina serving gourmet food with great domestic wine that it makes accommodation in other South American countries look like two star hotels at the back of Euston Station.
Less than a decade ago, the bar was raised. Estancia Los Chañares put a purpose-built lodge in the middle of one of the province’s best roosts, so no travel time was spent getting to and from the shooting. Before that, shooters were accommodated in old luxury but sometimes rustic estancia houses that could often be more than an hour away from the dove fields.
Perhaps Los Ombues and Los Laureles in the Province of Entre Rios were the first to build luxury shooting lodges in their main shooting areas, but ducks are their primary quarry and the dove shooting, although very good, doesn’t match some of the spectacular shooting in hills at Churqui and Macha roosts within the triangle.
The final question often asked is how many Brits shoot doves each year in Argentina? Not easy to answer because so many people book over the internet these days. Therefore with the best information available, for the most part gathered from the Córdoba Province, approximately 8,700 bed nights were taken up this year by shooters from this side of the Atlantic. Now I reckon those numbers could easily have a 15 or 20% error factor, but it still equates to around 1,750 shooters, so not an insignificant number.
GUIDE TO ARGENTINA
It was in the nineties when my wife Yvonne and l began shooting doves in Argentina. But it was 2002 when my first article on the subject appeared in Shooting Gazette, when Mike Barnes (now Fieldsports editor) was at the helm, So you could say that Mike is responsible for all that followed! But I guess my big break came when a few years ago I wrote a 16-page dove shooting guide that prompted the Patagonia Publishing company to commission me to write a book on dove shooting. Now this required us to go to and fro to Argentina, shooting in all seasons and visiting around 30 lodges, so you can see what a tough assignment I’d let myself in for! Anyway the book is now out.
The book could also be called a novice’s guide to dove shooting because it answers all the questions I had asked (or wanted to ask) when I first went dove shooting all those years ago. So for the first time dove shooter it has to be worth every penny of the L35 price tag (even if I do say so myself)!
But I also hope the seasoned dove shooter will think it is worth the hefty price tag because it will give an insight into other seasons, outfitters and provinces not visited before. Plus, I also hit you with all my own personal opinions of what dove shooting is – and what it isn’t – and I hope you will find that interesting.
Finally, if you have traveled all the way to Argentina, you should consider a couple of side trips. The book is a guide for all that as well.
Certainly if you are thinking about a trip shooting doves, my book is the only one on the subject. So you are stuck with it!
With the credit crunch, is now the time to persuade you to take foreign shooting holidays? All I can say is that with UK game shooting getting more and more expensive; even with the current rotten exchange rate between sterling and the US dollar, it’s still very cheap to shoot in Argentina. It was recently calculated that it will cost you about a dollar a dove, and I reckon that will be the best value you will ever get shooting live game!