Tag Archives: Doves

Both Eyes Open When Shotgunning!

Paul James, General manager of Estancia Cortaderas, shot a shotgun for the first time with both eyes open. After coaching from Vicki he shot 11 of 25 with his first box. He was amazed at how slow the birds appeared when shot with both eyes and minimal gun movement.

Gil and Vicki Ash help a new shotgunner be a better shot by keeping both eyes open.

By Gil and Vicki Ash

Upon arrival we were stunned at the well-groomed front yard. The grass was manicured and the trees were pruned to form a canopy-like setting completely surrounding Estancia Cortaderas. The Parana River was the northwestern boundary of the Estancia and was larger than one would expect.

Paul met us with the excited smile of a new friend and a twinkle in his eye, which made us feel welcome immediately.

We were the only ones in the lodge and were shown the spa area, complete with shower, wet and dry sauna, message rooms and hot tub room all on the second floor.

First on the hunting list were pigeons. Tired from a day of travel to Buenos Aries, then change airports, then to Santa Fe and a ride with Omar for about an hour and a half to the lodge, we decided to not leave at 5:30 the next morning. We retired early, slept until 5:30 and started the day off slowly with coffee in the room. This put us a little late by most hunting standards. But the best shooting was going to be between 2:30 and 5 p.m., so Paul called it right.

The pigeon hunting was a blast and there were many lessons learned, especially for Gil. These birds are very large compared to the doves we normally shoot. They are hunted much like ducks, but not over water. Just a blind and decoys on the ground. No calling necessary.

One of the biggest takeaways for both of us was the fact that they appear to be moving fast, but actually are moving very slowly. It is easy to shoot in front of the birds. Why in front? It goes back to gun speed equaling bird speed, which is the basis for consistency in our system of shooting. Even though they are big birds they can put a move on a hunter who comes up too suddenly or too early.

We used our 20 gauge K-20s on this hunt and they performed flawlessly. With the Isis recoil systems there was little or no felt recoil. Omar who was our chief guide, made shot selection. We would be using #5 lead, which just happens to be my favorite shot size for large birds like the pigeon. With Modified over Modified chokes and those #5s, it was an unbeatable combination with clean kills even at 40 yards. We had many headshots as well as the usual misses behind because the gun stopped when we checked the lead or we mounted too fast and the accelerating muzzle caught our eye.

While at Estancia Cortaderas we had an occasion to take the General Manager, Paul James, and Hunting Guide and gunsmith, Omar Borghello, out on a dove hunt with us. Paul has shot rifles and done a little wingshooting, but was closing an eye and trying to aim.

One of the doves we shot and picked up had germinated soy beans in its crop. These birds have gotten to the point that they know where the beans are planted in the field and they scratch the soil with their feet until the bean is exposed and pull it out of the ground. This is the reason they are regarded as pests in Argentina.

The next morning we all went to a field near the lodge and began to shoot. They watched. When we pulled the trigger and the bird folded, they landed at our feet or just in front or just behind us.

Then it came their turn and Paul was first. Vicki put two shotgun shell boxes on the ground and showed Paul what he was supposed to see when shooting with two eyes and how it was different from shooting with only one eye. When he understood the difference she had him move on a few birds with an empty gun and then he loaded one shell and the next bird that passed he missed behind but he knew WHY! He immediately said he had looked down the gun while looking at the bird which made the gun come up on the bird and made the gun stop as he pulled the trigger. It was almost magical what happened on the next shot. As the trigger broke the bird folded and hit the ground dead.

Paul shot his first box of shells with two eyes for the first time. He killed 11/25 and on every shot he missed, he called the error correctly and CORRECTED THE MISS. His comment was that everything was moving in slow motion and he knew even before he pulled the trigger when he was going to hit the bird and not.

“In the beginning I was afraid of not being able to keep both eyes open. I got this habit from rifle shooting. Got over it easily as I was told not to look at the barrel but concentrate on the target and fine tune on the head,” he said. “I was surprised when I did this that I was able to keep both eyes open and when mounting the gun use short and gentle movements and you become very accurate.”

Will Paul be a great shot with two eyes from now on? Maybe, maybe not. That will depend on how much he practices, not on how much he understands the procedure.

Omar was fascinated with our guns and wanted to shoot to see what the recoil was like with the Isis recoil system. To his amazement, after the first shot, he said, “It’s like shooting a .410.” Well we couldn’t agree more. The combination of the K-20 with 32- inch barrels and the Isis recoil system is amazing in that the felt recoil is reduced dramatically. But because of the material it is made of, there is no change in the balance of the gun. In a hunting gun, balance and handling are everything. When you combine target gun handling with reduced recoil, you have just about the perfect high volume gun.

If we were going to set the record for most doves shot in a day we would go to 20 gauge gas guns and take the plug out to have three or four guns with two loaders so the guns could cool down a little in their rotation.

We must have made an impression on Omar and Paul because they both arranged to shoot with us in the afternoon. We worked with both Paul and Omar in the morning and they could not believe how their consistency improved. Runs of six to eight dead birds in a row were not uncommon.

On the afternoon hunt Gil decided to shoot long, high incoming shots so he put in two full chokes and went to work minimizing his move and shooting birds farther and farther out in front, with Omar and Paul looking over his shoulder. One of the birds Gil shot spilled some grain as he fell and hit the ground. Paul went out to pick it up to show Gil why these birds are seen as a pest in Argentina. As he picked the bird up, falling from its craw were “germinated soy beans” and on closer inspection we found several with the new root still intact. These birds have learned where in the field the seeds are planted and they scratch the ground with their feet until they expose the seed and then they eat it. Estimates of as much as 30 percent of the crop can be lost to doves between planting and germination.

Hard to believe that this little bird could be this destructive. But when you add to the equation the fact that there are as many as five hatches each year, you can begin to see why the dove is seen as a pest and the hunter is welcome. Capitalism baby, you gotta love it! We are looking forward to coming back to Estancia Cortaderas later this year to shoot a mixed bag of ducks, perdiz, pigeons and doves. Maybe even try some fishing.



Dad’s Last Hurrah—Argentina Dove!

Have you ever had any interest in going to Argentina on a dove hunt?” An innocuous question, or so I thought. The answer that followed, however, did take me a bit by surprise. As my father looked intently at me and replied, “A hunting trip to Argentina has always been on my ‘bucket list,’ but I think that time has passed me by.”


For Dad, at 78 years old, the clock has definitely been ticking and, even as surprised as I was by Dad’s answer, sweeter words I’ve never heard spoken! Finally, here was my chance–my opportunity to make one of his dreams come true, especially for the man who has spent his whole life helping me turn my dreams into reality. “Well Dad, pack your bags because I’ve written the check for both of us to go. We’re going to Cordoba, Argentina, dove hunting capital of the world!”

As if it had always been “meant to be,” the outfitter piece of the puzzle came together quickly and completely. Enter Jim Jones of Shooters International, a specialty organization catering to wingshooters from around the globe and headquartered in Madison, Mississippi.

Jim Jones is a well-known name, especially in the South. For more than 30 years, Jim owned and operated Indian Archery, a forerunner of the custom bowhunting shops so popular today. As the years went by, Jim moved into the fledgling hunting video/outdoor television business, spearheading the development of this facet of the hunting industry, first with “Hunting Across America” and then with “Hunting Across the World” television shows. It was during that phase of his career when Jim met, befriended and ultimately became partners with the Hayes family of Cordoba, Argentina, who would eventually become H&H Outfitters specializing in high volume dove hunting.

dad's-10Jim eventually sold his shares in the video company, formed his own company, Shooters International, with his son Trip, and moved into the international wingshooting business fulltime. The Hayes family has traditionally been into farming–both agricultural as well as cattle production. They have allocated more than 20,000 acres of their vast holdings to the hunting facet of their operations and operate three outstanding lodges: La Portenita, Sierra Verde and La Loma.

Cordoba province, located in central Argentina, offers the best dove hunting in the world. The roosting grounds are heavily wooded areas, covered with native trees called “Piquillin,” producing ideal habitat for the reproduction of doves. Vast and fertile valleys producing incredible quantities of grain surround these refuges. The eared dove is the most prominent game bird in the area. It is known to produce up to three broods per year and will rear two birds per clutch. A recent Argentinean Game and Natural Resources study estimates the dove population in that area to be upwards of 60 million birds.

dad's-7A typical shooting day starts after a sumptuous breakfast with departure for the fields by 7 a.m. The driving distance to the fields ranges between 15 and 40 minutes. Each client shoots with their own experienced professional bird boy who provides shells, acts as a loader, retrieves downed birds and keeps cool drinks at the ready. Shooting continues until midday when the group gathers in a shady grove of trees for a traditional Argentine “Asado” or, as we know it, a barbecue.

The Asado features an open-air barbecue of grass-fed Argentine beef (from Hayes family ranches), sausage, traditional Argentine salads, gourmet desserts, fantastic wines and regional beers. After lunch and an optional siesta in a hammock, the shoot continues until 6 p.m.

dad's-8Upon returning to the Lodge, hearty hors d’oeuvres are served in preparation for the evening meal. Each Lodge employs professional massage therapists to help unwind and relax at the end of a long day. Next, it’s get a good night’s sleep and prepare for the next day!

Upon arrival in Cordoba, Juan Hayes, logistics chief for H&H Outfitters, along with other members of their staff, met us. After breezing through Customs and Immigration, we were transported to La Portenita, our lodge for the next five days.

La Portenita Lodge

Situated on the very top of a high hill with commanding views of the surrounding valley, La Portenita is set within the confines of a working Argentine estancia. The lodge was built in 1935, remodeled in 1996 and possesses six large bedrooms in the main house with a separate three-bedroom villa–La Casita–just behind the main building.

In Mississippi, we will gladly spend an afternoon in a boiling Southern sun to harvest a 15-dove limit. Now, the doves were so abundant that we could harvest 15 doves PER MINUTE!

The afternoon hunts were over the roost sites and if the number of doves seen in the morning was incredible, the volume of birds in the evening hunts was increased by a factor of 20. Literally millions of doves were in the air at any one moment, stretching from horizon to distant horizon. For more than three hours–and if you could physically stand it–you could shoot as fast as you wanted to. Your only limitation being the speed with which your bird boy loader handed you a loaded shotgun. The birds were endless.

At the end of the first day, we sat and watched doves continue to pour into the roost area while waiting for our driver to pick us up for our return drive to the Lodge.

On each of the seven hunts we shared, Dad and I were never farther than 30 yards apart, so we could always keep each other in sight and enjoy watching each other shoot. Watching Dad shoot, especially when he would get “into the zone” and shoot as fast as his bird boy, Damian, could hand him a loaded Benelli shotgun, was a real joy for me personally. Even at 78 years of age, his shooting eye was still pretty impressive.

Over the entire course of the seven hunts we shared, he shot at an 82.5 percent pace–Outstanding! The physical toll I expected, but the mental toll was incalculable. This type of adventure wears you down to the core. You’re sore in places you couldn’t imagine and I can honestly say that when that last morning hunt was over, I don’t believe Dad (or I) could have done any more.

dad's-12As we said our goodbyes and boarded our flight homeward, it wasn’t long before Dad had stretched out and “passed out” for a much-needed rest. As I looked at my Dad, I realized that the aging process spares no one. Thinking for so long that Dad was “bullet proof,” I knew that those days were gone forever, just as they would be for me some day in the not too distant future. Reviewing my life, as one of his four sons, I couldn’t help but think of all the great times we have shared afield as well as in the practice of medicine and our chosen specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology. I have been blessed to practice with some of the greatest surgeons our country can produce, but few compare with Dad. I know that is a biased opinion, but he was truly gifted, making the most difficult surgical procedures look effortless in his hands, all the while practicing with a humility that was an example to all.

I also know, more than ever, that everything I know about being a man, I have learned from him: 1) How to be the Christian head of the home. 2) How to live your Faith each and every day. 3) How to be a husband to your wife. 4) How to be a Father — a mentor and friend — to your children.  5) How to have friends by first being a friend. 6) How to be a physician whose bedrock principles of treating each patient as if they were a member of your family, have never wavered, faltered nor failed.

This time spent together on possibly his last international trip, “Dad’s Last Hurrah,” will always be precious to me. Thanks Dad–for the life you’ve led, the man you are and the father you’ve been to me. It is my highest privilege to be known as your son.–D. Kyle Ball, M.D.

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