Traditionally, many hunting camps have been the province of men, a camp that isn’t known for its cleanliness, where dirty clothes are never picked up, when used dishes accumulate in the sink, where a lot of burping and worse goes on, where shaving razors are unheard of and the language could peel the paint off the walls. Yes, a typical hunting camp is where males are the sole participants.
But I’ve recently returned from a hunting camp that is the antithesis of the above, one that is ideally suited to women. Women huntresses and shooters are on the rise. I knew this but I went to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) who had put a lot of research dollars into learning more about lady participation in both hunting and clay target shooting.
Here are some eye-popping results from NSSF. Female participation in target shooting is up 24.2 percent over a recent 10-year period – 4,312,000 participants in 2004 – 5,357,000 in 2013. When it comes to the ladies buying hunting licenses the results are the same; 2,696,000 license buyers in 2004 – 3,344,000 in 2013 – a 24.8 percent increase. In a survey with storeowners, 74 percent of those storeowners said that lady customers in their stores increased from 2012 to 2013.
These statistics prove that more females are shooting and hunting, but what about that typical male hunting camp alluded to at the start here? You can bet the ladies are not showing up at such places. By contrast, I believe women are being well accepted at sporting clays fields all over the country. Are there hunting camps where these gals would not only be welcome but would also find the accommodations, food, service, and, yes the shooting, simply top notch?
I was just shooting at Los Guaduales Lodge in Bolivia, and I know the feminine set would find this place delightful. The lodge is brand new and no expense was spared making this a 5-Star facility. There are ten very spacious rooms and all can be single accommodation, so “My Lady” can even have her own room if she is tried of listening to her husband snore.
The cooking! Someone else does it. The preparation, taste and service have everyone smiling, asking for more and gaining a few pounds. The bar is wide open, pour your own or lodge owner Jorge Molina will put on his bartender’s cap for you. The décor in the dining room/bar is startling, plus there’s a steam room, hot and cold sauna, a huge Jacuzzi – even a masseuse to pamper to the utmost.
And to top it all off is the shooting. In April, the doves migrate north to this region of Bolivia – the southeast part of the country where the Mennonites moved in some decades ago, cleared the brush and started farming for peanuts, corn, sorghum, sunflowers and other small grains. The doves begin arriving about the time some of those crops begin to ripen but largely before the harvest.
Yes, shooters are doing these farmers a huge favor by shooting these doves, but in reality, no amount of shooting can make a dent in the dove numbers. The doves leave in October when the lodge shuts down.
The shooting day begins with a knock on your door just after 5 am. Shower, put your face on and head for the dining room for a light breakfast. But don’t over eat because there’s a second breakfast after the morning shoot. Head out about 6:30 am for the fields. There’s no effort required as you are dropped off right where you will be shooting. Shotgunners are separated by 150 to 200 yards for safety reasons. In addition to the non-ending supply of doves overhead, you’ll also see plenty of big Pica Zuro pigeons. Molina says the pigeon population has been increasing every year in the area. At your drop off point, you will have a case of shells. A pick up boy will already be at your stand with a blind built and a round-type cooler to sit on with chilled drinks inside. Bang away to your heart’s content, drink in the scene and smell the figurative roses for you have selected a Valhalla for shooting as well as all the other pleasures already mentioned.
At the end of the morning hunt, it’s back to the lodge for your real breakfast. Be sure to sample the eggs, which are raised right on the property, and have a different and excellent taste. All the other breakfast items are there served buffet style, but you can also be served by a waitress.
Next, it’s off to siesta, a massage, a dip in the outdoor pool or perhaps relaxing in the Jacuzzi, sauna or steam room. You will be advised when lunch will be ready. Often there’s additional time for a siesta or more relaxation before you head out for the shooting fields for the afternoon shoot. You never shoot the same field twice, which allows you to see more of what this unique area has to offer. On return to the lodge, it’s time for sundowners and dinner. It has been a long day, and by 8:30 many are ready for bed.
Bring your own favorite shotgun, but make certain it is reliable. The bird boys clean your gun after every half-day shoot. Both 12- and 20-gauge shells are readily available, though I suggest the latter. Molina has excellent shells that work semi-autos well. If you want to rent, he has both 12- and 20-gauge Benelli semis. By the time you read this, 50 new Benelli M2 models will have arrived for future rentals. Many shooters there rent for $65 a day, but I always want to shoot my own guns. Maybe you do, too. There’s a $50 license cost to bring each of your guns in.
Trek Safaris books Los Guaduales Lodge. They can make your air arrangements if you wish, and they can almost always get a reduced price compared to you booking on line due to their relationship with American Airlines. Trek can also handle your gun permits, visas and other necessities. It costs no more to book through Trek than it costs to book direct. In fact, Molina may want only shooters booked through Trek. Non-shooters are, of course, also welcome.
The flight to Bolivia is about four hours shorter than a flight to Buenos Aires or Montevideo in Uruguay. It takes about six hours overnight – Miami to La Paz. You stay on the same plane, then it’s a short flight to Santa Cruz where you are met at Customs, then driven to the lodge about a two hours ride over a new road. The return flight leaves in the morning – Santa Cruz direct to Miami – arriving in time to meet most flights that will take you back to your home airport. The fact that the return is six hours and a daylight flight is a big bonus compared to two, 10 1/2 hour overnight flights to and from Argentina or Uruguay.
While I’ve tried to emphasize how ideal this shooting trip is for our increasing number of lady shotgunners, Los Guaduales is just as ideal for men folk. So guys if I’ve kindled your interest in shooting doves and pigeons in Bolivia – by all means take your wife along. Both of you will love it – as well as maybe fall in love all over again.–Nick Sisley