Thanks to the efforts of SCI Central Paraguay Chapter, lead by Pedro Zuccolillo, the Secretary of Environment of Paraguay issued the Resolution N. 799-2014 opening the dove season for the next five years.
The season will be open from April 1st to July 31st setting the rules and procedures for national and international hunters to enjoy dove hunting in the country.
This will also allow to outfitters to offer packages ahead of time; something it was very difficult in the past due some years the agency didn’t open the season until very late in the year or did not issue the resolution at all.
Congratulations to Pedro Zuccolillo and his team for this accomplishment!—J.Thomas Saldias, MSc.
If there’s a bird shooting paradise anywhere here on earth it has to be Argentina. Though the country offers phenomenal duck and goose hunting, and big game like Red stag, wild boar and mountain lion, Argentina — the province of Cordoba in particular — is best known for its dove shooting. Indeed, the Benelli people offer a semi-auto shotgun in 12 and 20 gauge that’s called the Cordoba model. It is estimated that some 15,000 hunters from around the world visit the country each year just to shoot doves. And why not? Where else on earth could one man shoot 15,208 doves in 14 hours, and another guy 10,335 in 10 hours, both setting world records doing so? It’s hard to get your head around such numbers, especially when here in the States going through a couple boxes of shells in a day is considered damn good shooting!
Equally mind-boggling is that each year all those shooters from around the world have not put so much as a dent in the population. The province of Cordoba claims to have some 30 million doves, but other provinces not as well developed for tourism as Cordoba, claim to have more than 100 million birds. The reason for such awesome numbers is that these doves do not migrate, and they have as many as four broods per year. Looked upon by farmers whose crops they ravage as being nothing more than flying rodents, it is estimated these ravenous birds destroy as much as 20 percent of the corn, sorghum, millet, wheat, soybean and sunflower crops, representing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.
It wasn’t always like it is today. In fact, dove shooting and the infrastructure that supports it, i.e., the formation of outfitting companies with leases and places to put up guests who expect good food, accommodations, etc., really didn’t get organized until the late 1970s, which was about the time I first visited the country. My first hunt down there was in Patagonia for ducks and geese. My outfitter was Luis Sier, whose company, Luis Sier Safaris, is one of the oldest and best established in all of Argentina. In the 35 years he’s been in the outfitting business, Luis has hosted more than 27,000 clients. I’ve been back some 20 times since that first trip hunting waterfowl, partridge, red stag and boar, but most of my trips have been dove/pigeon shoots. Luis has leases in Cordoba, Patagonia, San Luis, Formosa and Salta provinces and he claims he has more than 300 million doves in the areas surrounding those leases. He feels that Cordoba has enough outfitters and dove shooters, including his own estancia, Riverside; that’s why he’s developing new areas in different provinces that he feels are as good or better than Cordoba.
My most recent trip was this past December, which is my favorite time of the year. It’s late spring down there and temperatures are still quite comfortable — high 70s and low 80s. It was my first visit to Luis’ newest estancia in San Luis province, which is south and contiguous to Cordoba, and about the same distance from the country’s capital, Buenos Aires, which is about 500 miles to the east. It’s about a one hour flight to either, but only a 20-minute drive to Luis’ estancia, Mememhue, while most of the Cordoba hunting areas require drives of two and three hours. That’s important to me because I hate having to sit in a car for that long, especially after spending so many hours in airplanes to get there.
Anyway, my son, Sean, and I, along with a friend, Mark Poulton, had the lodge all to ourselves that week. As is customary, we shot different areas each day, and though we did not experience the quantity of birds as we have in some other areas of Cordoba and Salta, we had all the shooting we wanted. There was a time when I was quantity oriented and could not get enough shooting; they had to drag me out of the blind for the traditional mid-day asado (cook out) and siesta. Tables, chairs and cots are set up in an established shady place near the shooting area where the camp chef prepares empanadas, grilled sausages, chicken, pork ribs, chops, beef tenderloin, skirt steak and more over hardwood coals. Then it’s a siesta before going back in the fields for the afternoon shoot.
I’ve long since evolved into a less bloodthirsty shooter, where I limit myself to 10 boxes of shells in the morning, and 10 in the afternoon; that’s 500 rounds or one case per day, and that’s more than enough for me. In fact, my son and I always share the same blind and bird boy, and take turns using the same gun. We find the chiding and banter on both good and bad shots far more enjoyable than being posted alone.
Another thing I like about Luis’ Memenhue lodge is that you have both pigeons and doves in the same shooting areas. We shot far more doves, but with most places I know of, you have to go to different areas if you want to shoot pigeons, and there’s always a premium price attached. Not so at Luis’ Memenhue Lodge.
When I said there were less birds than in most other places I’ve shot in Argentina, we still could have easily shot 1000 rounds a day if we were so inclined. Considering how many times I’ve down there, I don’t think I’m any better a shot than I was 30 years ago. Depending on the wind, and at what height and direction the doves are coming, I can shoot 20 percent or 85 percent, it just depends. I also prefer the kind of shooting we had at Memenhue. Birds were flying in smaller groups…from singles to 10 to 12, which I greatly prefer to having them come over in swarms. I find it’s so much easier to pick and stay with a single bird — as you must do if you expect to hit anything. When they come over like swarms of locusts and flare upon seeing you — as they always do — they dart, dive, and change direction so quickly that one second your tracking one bird, and a split second later another takes it place and is on a different vector. The result is that often you’ll not get off a single shot! At least that’s the way it is for me.
Over the years, I have met and shared dove-shooting venues with hundreds of fellow hunters and I am amazed how many — especially Americans — are interested only in getting to their destination, shooting as much and as long as possible, then getting back home as quickly as possible. For me, if I could not spend a couple of days in Buenos Aires, I wouldn’t go! It is such a beautiful city, one that compares favorably in all aspects to the great cities of Europe. Being the foodie and wine weenie I am, I so look forward to the superb restaurants that are everywhere. Being a city of 15 million, there are many sections I haven’t seen, but when it comes to dining, I find there are so many great restaurants in the Recoleta and nearby Puerto Madero areas, that I’ve found no need to go further. Two restaurants that are musts for me on every trip are Las Nazarenas across from the Sheraton Convention Center downtown, and Bice, in Puerto Madero. Las Nazaremas is a traditional Argentine steak house whose specialty is a 1 kilo (2.2 lb.) ribeye steak, but they also offer all kinds of carnivorous delights like lamb, goat, suckling pig all slowly cooked over hardwood coals, all of which can be seen from the street. Bice is an Italian restaurant, and a very good one. Like all the many restaurants in Puerto Madero, it’s on the Rio de la Plata and dining al fresco is a must, weather permitting.
I have always stayed in the Recoleta area of the city, named for its world-famous cemetery. Yes, a cemetery, one that was begun in 1822 behind the Our Lady of Pilar cathedral, which was finished in 1732. The cemetery covers 14 acres and contains nearly 4,700 burial vaults and mausoleums, all above ground, and every one unique. The structures range from very modest to elaborate marble buildings large enough to house a family. Anyone belonging to Argentine aristocracy — presidents, generals, famous poets, artists, and musicians…anyone who was a mover and shaker is buried there. Many mausoleums have steps going two stories underground where wooden caskets representing several generations of a family can be seen right from the street. Some are in such disrepair that you can actually reach in through the broken glass and touch the caskets. The place is divided into blocks like a small city, with tree-lined avenues separating them. I never tire of seeing the place and have visited it every time I’ve been down there. Entrance is free.
My favorite hotels are all within a block of the cemetery. This past December I stayed in the Hotel Etoile for the first time, and highly recommend it. Other places I’ve stayed are Loi Suites and Ayres de Recoleta. If you demand the best digs in town, that would have to include the Alvear Palace, which is in the Recoleta area, but several blocks from the cemetery. Another must-see place is Florida Street, which begins across the street for Parque de St. Martine. It’s a pedestrian-only street about 20 blocks long lined with shops and arcades selling clothes, shoes, leather goods, jewelry, you name it.
There are several airlines serving BA, but from the States, American, Delta, and United offer the most options. If your destination is Cordoba, you can fly directly there from Santiago, Chile, and bypass Buenos Aires, which I think is a mistake. If you do go through Santiago, recent changes in the law require that your gun(s) must be checked by police or army personnel against your U.S. Customs Form 4455. Problem is, or so I’ve heard, that those officials are in no hurry to perform that function, and the result is that you, and/or your gun, can miss the connecting flight to Cordoba.
If going through BA, your guns must also be checked by police there upon arrival to ensure the serial number matches the form you filled out weeks in advance. You then pay a stiff fee that about matches the $60 to $65 a day you’d be paying to rent a gun. It’s enough of a hassle that unless you absolutely must have your own gun, renting is the way to go. The most popular guns for rent at most estancias are 20-gauge Benellis and Berettas, but 12-ga. guns are also available. If you’re a great shot and shoot 28-ga., you’ll have to bring your own gun, for which ammo is usually more expensive than the $10 to $12 charged for 12- and 20-ga. shells.
If you’re a hunter who enjoys any form of wingshooting, you owe it to yourself to experience Argentina. No matter how much you’ve read about it, or the pictures and videos you may have seen, you simply can’t imagine what it’s like to see that many doves, to shoot that many shells, unless you’ve actually done it. And don’t forget Buenos Aires; to not spend time there would be to miss experiencing one of the great cities of the world.– Jon R. Sundra
The Third Annual Sequatchie County Youth Hunters Association Dove Shoot, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Chattanooga Chapter SCI, was held in at the Tommy Austin Farm in Dunlap, TN, on September 2. There were more than 60 kids age 16 and younger at the annual event which saw many of the young shooters bagging a limit of 15 birds. After the shoot, music was provided by two different groups while those present dined on catfish and hushpuppies. Later in the evening, many prizes were given away along with the SCI-sponsored youth model 20-gauge shotgun.
Rolling thunder had the ground shaking underfoot. A flash of lightning, and then another, foretold what was coming. But the doves were flying, so I wasn’t ready to run for the bus yet. My long-barreled 28-gauge was scoring regularly.
“Stay in the gun. Hard focus on the bird’s head. Stay smooth,” I kept reminding myself, perhaps to keep my mind off the rain that the sky promised. Just as I felt the first patter of rain, there was my favorite shot –an incomer right to left–passing on my left. The 20-gram 28-gauge load hit that bird very hard at about 25 yards.
The patter of rain increased a bit. I looked at my secretario, Jesus, and pointed the opened 32-inch barrels toward the Mercedes-Benz minibus. Jesus shook his head up and down, and followed that with, Si, señor.” He covered the case of shells with a small, zippered waterproof tarp, and we took off at a fast walk.
By the time we reached that bus it was raining a little harder, but the white aerial display coupled with the ear-thumping acoustics promised that ditches would soon be full, flat areas would turn into ponds and road negotiation would become questionable. Our head guide, Pablo, hadn’t sat in the driver’s seat very long before the rain started coming down harder. He turned the engine over and, one by one, he picked up the other shooters in our party while their secretarios ran for the nearest trucks.
Once our gang was in the bus and no longer getting drenched, we reconnoitered, trying to come up with a game plan. Pablo suggested we go for coffee. There was a gas station and restaurant about 25 kilometers away.
Proceeding slowly, the Mercedes had no difficulty getting through the muck of the field. Once we reached the road, with a good stone bottom, all we had to worry about was keeping the motor running because we had to drive through area after area where the road had flooded, with water a foot or more deep. All this time the rain kept pelting down with ferocity.
Once inside, we were dry and warm. Small cups of rich black coffee were placed before us. We sipped slowly, but the rain kept coming down. On our drive, I had predicted, “It cannot rain this hard for long.” My optimistic side showing, I followed up with, “We’ll be back to the shooting area soon.”
Well, we weren’t. The rain was relentless. The secretarios (called bird boys on previous shoots in South America) busied themselves at the restaurant pool table. Soon tiring of that game, they played “foosball” soccer. There was a table where six could play at a time. Some light peso betting took place, but the game was simply a good way to beat the rain outside.
We had reached the restaurant about 10:30 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. there had been no letup. Pablo had food brought in from the coolers in the trucks that accompanied us. A fire of mesquite-type wood was already going on the inside asado (a kind of cooking fireplace). The Argentines use the hot coals from the wood to cook over a grate. Hector, the cook, soon had chicken breast, sausages, tenderloin and other beef cuts sizzling over the coals. The rain drummed down as hard as ever.
There was no letup while we ate, or after. By around 2 p.m. it was just raining–no longer a deluge. I wondered about the safety on the blacktop surface highways, to say nothing of the dirt roads with their good, hard stone bases. By 2:30 p.m. the rain had slackened to a mere pitter-patter, so Pablo prepared us for departure. I was totally lost with all the turns we made, coupled with the heavily overcast sky. But I think Pablo took us back to near where we had been shooting in the morning.
Jesus and I took up a position adjacent to a copse of trees surrounded by a massive soybean field. He loaded two dry shells into my over-and-under. We took up the vigil, which lasted about two seconds. I had a right-to-left crosser, probably at 35 yards, but I missed. “En frente,” I told my partner, meaning “in front.” When I miss a dove, it is often in front, and I think that’s true for a lot of shooters.
My short-in-stature secretario had built a blind of cut bushes, but after shooting maybe a box of shells it became apparent that more birds were coming from the opposite direction. The solution was simple. We took up our waiting position on the opposite side of the little brush blind. The only problem was that the birds flying in the opposite direction were very high, and there I was standing with a diminutive 28-gauge tossing only 20 grams of shot–about 3/4 of an ounce. Interestingly, the shot size is one of my favorites for pest pigeons back at home–No. 7s, which you don’t see very often in American factory loads.
I had screw-in chokes for this over-and-under (a Caesar Guerini Summit Sporting, by the way), so I thought about making a choke change. For most of the trip to this point, I had found that I shot my best with the Skeet screw-ins. These have a mere .003 constriction, so I started passing up the long, high incomers, shooting only at birds within 40 yards. But even the doves at 40 yards were absolutely collapsing to my little 20-gram loads of No. 7s, at least when I did my part of pointing properly.
The rage in Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia these days is to have doves presented at extreme distances. Shooting 500, 750, even 1,000 shells a day is no longer the in thing to do. No, it’s high, high birds that shooters say they want, and the outfitters seem to work extra hard at getting shooters positioned where the tall tries can be frequent. But I’ve always resisted stretching the distance, even with a 12-gauge gun. I get a lot of satisfaction in shooting a high percentage, as well as seeing most of the doves hit very hard, i.e., with the center of the pattern. Of course, I don’t always perform to expectations.
But this seemed to be the day for me to stretch shots out a bit. It’s difficult to judge distances to an overhead dove. Whether the bird is 40, 45 or 50 yards is not easy to estimate. Stretch the distance even farther, and such estimates become even more difficult.
All I know is that I started shooting some very high doves, and regularly. You can really fine-tune your shooting on a high-volume shoot like this. Shooting doves at home, I might get only five or six shots some afternoons. If we miss four of, say, six shots there’s no frame of reference for what we did wrong. Believe me, there’s a lot that can go wrong on any given shot at a winged target. Did you have a good gun mount? Did you start the muzzle(s) swinging just an instant before you started the buttstock to your shoulder? Did you stay smooth throughout? Did you look extra hard at the bird’s head? Did you stay in the gun through the shot? How was your footwork? Was your left toe pointed toward where you shot at the bird? These are only a few of the many aspects of shooting to perform correctly to give you the best chance of being successful.
But it’s by shooting a lot that you can fine-tune all of the above and more, and especially your leads. How far you are in front of a bird at 25 yards is next to nothing compared to the lead you need on a dove at 70 yards. I was shooting out of a lodge called Pica Zuro, where I had shot three years before. The head guide at that time was Horatio Dartiguelongue. Horatio had encouraged me to take longer and longer shots. He’s not only an outstanding shooter at the longest of ranges, but he also talks about a shooting instructor from England, Simon Ward, who comes to shoot doves at Pica Zuro twice a year.
Evidently, Horatio learned a lot about long-range shooting from Ward, and he tried to impart many of the basics to me. He demonstrated on what I thought to be 70- and 80-yard crossing shots, and he had consistent success. He wasn’t bowling over every bird, mind you, but he was knocking plenty from the sky, and with so-called authority. He was shooting my Krieghoff 12-gauge with full chokes of .040 constriction. Horatio stressed anticipating where he was going to pull the trigger and immediately getting his feet and body set up for that position – he did that so his swing would not be bound up at trigger-pulling time. He also stressed a level and a smooth swing. I’m sure there were others factors he stressed, but that was three years ago.
While all the shots Horatio had demonstrated were crossers–up and out away from our shooting position–my rainy day shoot had the incoming doves flying more overhead. They were not directly overhead but a bit off to my left–so my preferred right-to-left crosser–but more of an overhead shot than one with the bird a greater distance to my left. I hate direct overhead shots on a high-volume shoot. I just don’t take them. The recoil on such a shot is simply more severe. Of course, in a duck blind, where I might take fewer than 10 shots a morning, I’ll take the straight overhead bird every chance I get.
But back to Cordoba. Because these doves were largely overhead, I think they were more vulnerable to the shot pellets than doves farther off to the side. Maybe that’s the reason I brought so many of them down with the small 20-gram load. Had the birds been farther off to my left, would that 20-gram load have been as effective? I don’t think so. Penetration at long distance becomes suspect. I think pellet penetration is easier on a bird that’s overhead compared to a crosser where the shot is more inclined to hit the side of the bird instead of the bottom (breast, etc.) of the dove.
This was an extended trip, for I was shooting for 15 days in two countries. The rainy day in Cordoba took place the next-to-last day. So by then I was well schooled via lots of practice in my shotgunning basics. I was doing all the right things, at least most of the time. I now view that rainy day in Cordoba as my best shooting day ever. Not only did I shoot a high percentage, but after more than 50 years of shotgunning, I also finally got a good feel for shooting doves at great distances. I just kept shooting them higher and higher. After one particularly long shot, I turned to Jesus and asked, “Cuantos metres?”
He came back, “Ochenta,” which in Spanish means 80 meters. Was Jesus being kind? Was he overestimating that distance? I don’t know. What I do know is the dove came plummeting down.