“ This is nuts….truly nuts.”
As I looked 40 yards to my right and then the same distance to my left, I could easily see my two sons, George and John, as they repeatedly shot at the thousands of doves that literally filled the sky from horizon to horizon.
“I told you I could tell you about this experience, even show you videos of it, but you’d have to actually experience it for yourself to truly believe it!”
Our group was situated approximately one hour north of Cordoba, Argentina, in the center of arguably the world’s finest wingshooting destination. Outfitted by my longtime friends Jim and Trip Jones of Shooters International, we were being outfitted locally by Zeke Hayes of the famed H & H Outfitters. The Hayes family are one of the largest private landowners in Argentina, controlling more than 400,000 acres under management divided between raising cattle and row crop farming, primarily grain producing crops. Even more important than their huge farming concern (at least to our way of thinking) is their possession of greater than 80 percent of Argentina’s finest dove roost, all on Hayes family property.
H&H Outfitters were the first Argentine based outfitting service to recognize the vast (and up to that time, untapped) potential for marketing and providing these outdoor adventure opportunities to sportsmen/women from around the globe, but primarily from the United States and Western Europe where wingshooting has been a long term and well-established part of the culture and way of life.
Tens of thousands of sportsmen and women flock to Argentina each year for the incredible high-volume dove and pigeon hunting, not to mention the outstanding duck hunting. Additionally, and certainly “over the top” of these offerings exist some of the world’s finest flyfishing.
H&H Outfitters has partnered with Shooters International, certainly at the top of any list of U.S.A. outfitters, to build and support magnificent lodges that are affiliated with each partner. LaPortenita, Sierra Verde are all ultra-modern, meticulously maintained with individual bedrooms with ensuite baths, huge great rooms and fabulous 5-star cuisine staffed entirely by native Argentinians who provide first class service.
Seasons of the year and locations are critical to accomplishing an individual’s stated goals. The finest dove hunting is NOT necessarily located where the finest pigeon hunting is located, nor is the finest pigeon hunting located near the finest fishing. One must decide what the priorities are and then make the necessary adjustments to enjoy total success.
My personal preference is high volume dove hunting and to be able to indulge my passion while bringing my two grown sons along was almost too much to ask for. My oldest son, George, is a PhD in Clinical Psychology, specializing in marriage and family counseling. He resides in Dallas, TX with his wife, Monet, and newborn son, Bennett. My younger son, John, is a medical doctor currently involved in his radiology residency in Miami, FL. For the three of us to be able to come together, in the same place, for four to five days of intense “father-son” time was truly a dream come true for me as a father.
Also along on this father-son adventure was my longtime friend, Rusty Ellis, one of Mississippi’s finest custom home builders, joined also by his two grown sons, David, a lawyer, and Jason, a construction owners representative, all from Jackson, MS. Also along were the previously mentioned Jim Jones, with his son and business partner, Trip.
I have personally known Jim Jones for more than 30 years. His business, Shooters International, is a first-class extension of his effervescent personality and his high level of personal integrity.
Upon our arrival in Cordoba, we were met by representatives of H&H who quickly and efficiently ushered us through Customs and baggage claim before being loaded into Mercedes Benz vans for the one-hour transfer to the lodge. This initial treatment, especially for the first-time client to Cordoba, only serves as the first “taste” of the high-quality adventure that awaits.
Upon arrival at the lodge, a quick shower and change of clothes into hunting attire precedes another short ride to the field of choice for the afternoon hunt. Upon arrival at the afternoon destination and before the start of the hunt, a traditional Argentine field lunch known as an asada is enjoyed by all. This consists of various meats and sausages grilled over an open flame accompanied by fresh locally sourced vegetables, salads and homemade desserts all served on white linen tablecloths with fine china, silverware and crystal. It’s quite an experience in the “wilds” of Argentina, especially for the newcomers, but an event that is both a classic and mandatory component of the total Argentine experience.
At the time of the year that we prefer to hunt, August, the hunts are conducted over roost sites. The numbers of doves are mind boggling and one can shoot as much or as little as you prefer. Each hunter has his own blind and birdboy furnished with two Benelli 20-gauge Montefeltro shotguns and ice chests filled with your preference of beverage. Cases of high brass shotgun shells are always at the ready and the hunt continues until 5 pm.
The Argentine “birdboy” is truly a misnomer. This job is not a “job for hire.” The birdboys are grown men who have gained entry into this profession via their father or grandfather. It is truly a job passed from father to son. These men are professionals in all that they do, including providing shooting instructions to those clients who request help. Many are exceptional wingshots in their own right. I have had the same birdboy, Chelo, for all of my Argentine hunts, and look forward to hunting with him many more times in the future.
The eared dove is our quarry of choice. Secondary to the temperate climate of Argentina and the non-migratory nature of these doves, four to five hatches per year are possible with an estimated 30+ million birds in our location alone. Additionally, with Argentina located in the Southern Hemisphere, the weather that time of year is delightful with minimal rainfall and maximum enjoyment. Also, the propensity of the eared dove to fly all day long allows for the high-volume hunts Argentina is so well known for.
Once the hunters are gathered up at the conclusion of the hunt, the return trip to the lodge allows each time to decompress, enjoy a cold beverage and discuss their individual experiences. Upon arrival at the lodge, the staff is there on the front lawn to greet you and serve fresh drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Then it’s to the showers to freshen up before a fabulous evening meal is prepared, usually consisting of fine grass-fed beef from Hayes family cattle accompanied by a vast array of side dishes plus an incredible variety of fine Argentine wines, showcased by their fine Malbec.
A standard hunt package includes six hunts over three and a half days, but packages of any length can be customized to accommodate any desire.
This incredible opportunity for us dads to spend intense quality time with our sons is truly priceless. All of our sons are now grown men and already establishing themselves in business and growing families, so to be able to arrange to get them all together is both a feat of logistics and a treat for the heart and soul. To be able to view, through a father’s eyes, as your son(s) have grown and matured and turned into productive members of society as well as leaders of their own families, is a blessing unto itself. To talk with them, observe their conduct in the field as they hunt and to share in both pictures and in words our mutual adventure can only build memories that will last a lifetime.
The knowledge that we will soon be going our separate ways at the end of our time together makes each and every moment precious as only a father, and a friend, can understand.–D. Kyle Ball M.D.