Like many others, I have heard for years about the droves of roosting doves in Argentina and groups shooting thousands of birds a day. To a guy who has sat for hours in an Alabama dove field waiting for enough dove to fill a 15 bird limit, this seems unfathomable – the stuff of legends, hunting folklore if you will.
As lady luck would have it, about a year ago I began shooting more sporting clays and met a couple of guys who were planning a trip. One had been before and his son and grandson were going along on this trip and for the other, it was a bucket list item. There was still an open room at the lodge and since we all got along well they suggested I jump in and go with them.
I was hesitant at first as flying to South America for any reason is not a casual financial decision, and this trip was to a really nice lodge – definitely not my typical budget hunting trip. However, having lost several of my friends in recent years, I decided you only live once and this is a Bucket List item so I joined the merry crew.
Luckily the guys already had a place and an itinerary so all I had to do was whip out the credit card to join the party.
The original plan was to fly through Houston to Panama and then on to Cordoba, Argentina. Unfortunately, the Allstate Mayhem guy said not so fast and broke the plane before we even got out of Houston which meant we missed our Panama connecting flight before we even got back into the terminal. Thank you, United.
Well you know your plans have gone to hell in a handbasket when they start talking about rerouting you through other countries to get you where you are going regardless of time. The final path took us to Lima, Peru and then back to Argentina; just many hours later. This was not necessarily how one hopes a plane ticket costing about $2000 gets executed, but once there it’s all forgotten.
The good news is we all planned to rent guns at the lodge rather than hassling with a temporary import of our own and all we had was carry-on luggage so we arrived fully intact ready to hunt- albeit with an “up for the last 30 hours” zombie-like stare.
Our accommodation for the hunt was the Posta Del Norte lodge; an Orvis Endorsed Destination located north of Cordoba. A driver was waiting for us at the airport and as soon as we cleared customs we were on our way. No visa was required for the trip, just a passport.
As we stepped out of the van at the lodge we were greeted with a tray of warm cloths to knock a bit of the travel dust from our weary faces. Our four double occupancy rooms at the lodge were roomy and clean. A couple from Ukraine and a couple from Mississippi occupied the other two rooms.
The dining room and other common areas were all very comfortable with plenty of space for guests to lounge and share tales of the day. The open bar area of the lodge is actually over 200 years old and had a nice assortment of beverages. The remainder of the lodge is much newer but maintains the rustic theme.
The lodge advertises a “gourmet” cuisine which exceeded my expectations from the very first lunch. Every meal, whether it was served at the lodge or in the field while hunting, was amazing – freshly baked bread, grilled meats, delicious wine, and unforgettable deserts added five pounds to my waistline over the four days of hunting.
The small but talented staff seemed to always be there if anything was needed. Leo, the manager, has been running the onsite operations for 20 years and has the logistics of jostling guests between the airport and dove fields down to an art form.
After getting settled and a magnificent lunch we were off to a half day of hunting at one of the closer fields to get our first taste of Argentina dove. After being there I can hardly call it hunting; yes you’re in a blind scanning for game but it’s not a challenge to find a target. It is fast paced, action-packed wing shooting.
We had all purchased a 3,000 round package and would be hunting for 3 ½ days. Hunts began the afternoon we arrived followed by two full days of hunting the further out roosting areas and then a full day of hunts closer to the lodge the last morning and afternoon.
The cost of the package was $2,995; extra shells, gun rental, daily hunting permits, and gratuities were additional charges.
A typical day was 0630 wakeup, 0700 breakfast, 0730 departure for the field — drive time varied from 40 to 90 minutes depending on the field. Hunt until about 1130, then either return to the lodge for lunch for the closer fields or have a grilled lunch served in the field for the further out roosting areas, then resume hunting until 1700 or 1800 when the group was ready to leave.
Once back at the lodge the Jacuzzi was the favored gathering spot to soak, chat about the day’s adventures and enjoy more delicious appetizers and drinks. In typical South American fashion, dinner was served at 8:45 pm and was always well worth the wait.
In the Fields
The van drops off hunters at blinds set up along the hunting area into the capable hands of the “Bird Boys,” who are there waiting with guns, shells, refreshments and loads of encouragement and advice. The Bird Boys ages range from the mid-’20s to ’40s and are very knowledgeable and experienced.
You can choose to hunt alone, in pairs, or in a group. We tried all three during the course of the trip. I preferred to hunt in pairs in the blind as it was more fun sharing the experience with someone. Others preferred to hunt alone without the added pressure of competing for birds to see exactly how many they could hit. The Bird Boys kept a tally of birds you hit toward the coveted 1000 bird day hats awarded at dinner in the evening.
Everyone shot a 20 gauge Benelli semi-auto that is not restricted with a magazine plug; so it holds a total of five shells. 28 and 410 shotguns are also available but no one shoots 12 gauges when you are going to be doing this much shooting.
The Bird Boys do all the loading for you and boy are they good at it. All you have to do is unshoulder the gun and rotate the shotgun’s loading port toward them and they thumb in as many shells as it takes to fill it as fast as the best 3-gun shooters in the world.
Each of these guys loads on average a thousand shells into a shotgun a day, every day, all done at speed. You aren’t going to miss many birds waiting on these guys to load your shotgun. Given the chance, these Bird Boys could be some of the best practical shotgun shooters in the world.
I got my 1000 birds on our first full day hunt and then switched to an over/ under to slow my shell consumption to keep it in check with my wallet. I had come to shoot and have a good time but there were plenty of birds to choose from and I wasn’t in a hurry to try to hit them all. The stock on the well-worn Beretta Silver Pigeon 20 ga seemed to fit me a bit better than the Benelli so my hit percentages were even better.
At the start of each hunt, morning or afternoon, you begin with a fresh box of 500 shells so they can keep up with your shell count. On full day hunts, some of our group went well into their 3rdor 4thcase of 500 during the day; now that’s a lot of birds.
Birds from All Directions
The doves near Posta Del Norte are a year-round roosting population; not migratory as we have in the US. The lodge has access to several different hunting areas, part of these are near food sources and part near roosting areas. We had the greatest success at the roosting area hunts where the birds seem to fly in all directions all day long.
The skies are not actually darkened by the amount of dove in the air but it is unlike anything I had ever imagined; there were always birds to be seen in the air. At each of the fields, there were definitely hotter spots and cooler spots, but even the cool ones meant shooting 4-500 rounds in a morning session; afternoon sessions seemed to always be hotter.
I paired with a buddy one afternoon in his blind near a roosting area flight path and he finished the day shooting over 2000 shells and I shot about 1200. Two of our group actually ended up with blisters on their trigger fingers- now that’s a lot of trigger pulling.
We hunted brush lines with sunflower fields at our backs, under large trees that seemed to be checkpoints on a flight path, and in blinds nestled in the brush bordering the massive roosting areas. Dove seemed to appear from every angle; my neck ended up being sorer than my shoulder from constantly searching for my next target.
Shooting could be as close as 10 yards with birds actually falling into your blind or as far as you wanted to try your hand on a passing shot. It didn’t require shooting beyond 30 yards to reach a 1000 bird day so long as you were hitting what you were aiming at.
There was lots of good spirited joking about that being “my bird” as several shots all rang out at the same time. The Bird Boys all rooted for their shooter and kept it all going with lots of laughter.
Each day before they left, all the hulls, water bottles, and close birds were policed up by the Bird Boys so that the area was ready for another clean start the next time the blind would be used. These men were polite, jovial, funny, helpful, and a joy to spend the day with while they worked to ensure you were having the time of your life.
It was a fantastic trip spent with good friends, making new ones and enjoying fine food, great wine, amazing service and shooting more dove in 3 ½ days than I have in the past 40 years afield. The “official” count for our 4 person group was 14,754 birds with the low shooter getting 3096, and the high bagging 4053. The Bird Boy counting methods are very generous though, with liberties taken that feathers counted and comments such as “that one will die tomorrow” on questionably hit birds.
The couple from Ukraine also went big game hunting to the south before their dove adventure and bagged a beautiful Red Stag, Black Buck and an Asiatic Buffalo that the lodge prepared for dinner one evening.
Argentina was truly a Bucket List worthy trip. Would I go back? Yes, but probably won’t as I would rather continue on to explore another adventure.
- Argentina Dove Hunting
What hunt is on your Bucket List?