High Volume Dove Shooting in Córdoba, Argentina
By Dan Gallagher
Approximately four years ago I decided to take-up shotgunning with the purpose of learning how to become a better wingshooter. The impetus was that I had been early retired from doing science, and I required a challenge to fill the void. I discovered that challenge when my close friend Guy took me to his skeet range outside of Austin, Texas; I stunk-up the range, hitting about 1% of my shots, unable to even consistently hit a clay thrown at station seven. I decided at that time to become a better clay and wingshooter by first learning the basics.
I went online, and discovered the Leon Measures’ Shoot Where You Look (SWYL) training program (http://www.shootwhereyoulook.com/index.asp). I completed the home study course using the mirror technique and my Marlin .22 rifle. The beauty of SWYL is its simplicity, and that at the end of the program, the fundamentals of wingshooting are engrained at minimal cost to the shooter without firing a shotgun: safety; stance; smooth swing; touching the trigger without slowing the gun; both eyes opened with focus on the target (i.e., shooting where you are looking). I continued to practice the exercises of the SWYL program while evaluating shotguns. I finally purchased a Browning Citori 325. Additionally, I joined a local gun club (Bradford Sportsmen’s Club, RI). After completion of SWYL, I shot about 50-60% of targets during my first attempt at sporting clays, and approximately 70-80% when shooting trap or skeet. After shooting clays for about four years, I have made incremental improvement, but the most dramatic improvement was through the SWYL program. I am now a much better shotgunner than I was that first day outside of Austin.
However, my reason for taking-up shotgunning was to learn to wingshoot, so when Leon informed me that he was arranging a dove hunt to Córdoba, Argentina through John Wiles of B&W Sporting, LLC (www.bestwingshooting.com), I decided to go as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the field with Leon and 30 million doves. [Also, last September, I shot dove outside of Balmorhea, Texas with my friend Guy from Austin, Texas. I was immediately bitten by the dove hunting bug.] Unfortunately, Leon was unable to identify the necessary number of interested participants, so what was planned as a group hunt was cancelled. Fortunately for me, Mr. John Wiles has been arranging all inclusive hunts for decades (https://bestwingshooting.com/wingshooting-in-argentina/ ).
John was able to seamlessly transfer my prepaid hunt to Frontera Wingshooting, Argentina. This was significant as it allowed my wife (a non-shooter) and me to utilize our non-refundable airline tickets, and for me to shoot on the same days as those scheduled for the Measures’ hunt. Everything I was told about the trip by Mr. John Wiles came to pass. It was extraordinary, and I cannot thank John enough.
We flew on LAN from JFK overnight to Santiago, Chile, and then a one hour flight to Córdoba, arriving about noon Monday, March 30th. Ivan met us, and after an hour and 45 minute drive, we arrived at the lodge about 2:30 pm. We were graciously welcomed, and introduced to all the staff. My wife Anne and I were the only guests at the lodge, and we were treated like royalty. We were shown to our room, and our bags were stowed. I assumed that given our late arrival, we had missed lunch. Wrong!! An incredible lunch was prepared: ribeye steak; potatoes, salad… I will not try and remember each meal prepared by Goyo, but each was delicious: appetizers, champagne, wine paired perfectly with each meal (except breakfast!)… (I am sure that Anne could describe each meal if one is interested.) Cristian and Elisa were wonderful to us. One or the other would meet me with a cold beverage when I returned to the lodge after morning or afternoon shooting. It seemed that they were available when needed, but were non-intrusive. They made our stay at the lodge a perfect experience. Anne had a relaxing time. One could not ask for more attentive hosts!! And, as John had suggested, it was not a weight loss program. The food was incredible! The quality of high volume dove shooting was only exceeded by the graciousness of the staff! Now, on to the shooting.
Gabriel determined shooting locations, and Francisco stayed with me during the duration of each morning/afternoon shoot. On a couple of occasions, Gabriel also stayed to provide suggestions to improve my shooting. Morning shoots lasted only a couple of hours with the largest volume of doves flying from roost to fields for about an hour. The afternoon shoots began around [4:00]-[4:30], and one could shoot until sundown. Afternoon shoots were overwhelming; the dove just kept coming. I was told that recent heavy rains had flooded many low nests, and that dove numbers were down. I can only imagine what it would be with population numbers at peak.
Afternoon, day 1: I shot 500 rounds in only two hours. Francisco indicated my success rate was 364/500. If I had followed Leon’s advice and mounted my shotgun 500 times per day for a month, I could have shot for another two hours. However, I was fatigued. The birds just kept coming! I was wearing a nice pair of leather gloves, but still developed a blister and bruise on my trigger finger. For all other shoots, I taped my fingers under my leather shooting gloves.
Morning, day 2: Gabriel moved me to a different location, so as to shoot birds flying from roost to the fields. We were about 1/8th of a mile from the roost. The shooting was generally more challenging as dove flew out of the sun and 50% were high incoming passing shots. I shot 16 boxes of shells and hit 284 birds. The number of birds coming off the roost was more typical of the videos seen of high volume dove shooting. High incoming shots that I struggled with last year in Texas, I consistently hit, although the dove in Texas were flying with a 50 mph tail wind. There was no additional soreness in my taped trigger finger.
Afternoon, day 2: Went back to near the same location as the morning. Francisco counted my success rate at 304/500. The volume of birds was incredible, and when flying to and from the roosts, they generally were flying high and fast. I would say the majority of shots were taken overhead, or nearly so. Very few low crossers. When I tired, I took a short break, and Francisco provide water. I shot for a few hours. The dove were flying back to their roost with a purpose.
Morning, day 3: I was on station at about [7:15] near the La Zenaida lodge, just as the sun was rising. We were located 20 yards from a roost. The shooting was very different as the birds were lower and in closer with many crossing and quartering shots, and a few incoming overhead shots. I went 340/450.
Afternoon, day 3: I shot at the same roost, but a couple of hundred yards from the morning location. Doves were coming and going, crossing from left and right, and presenting what seemed like all possible shooting angles. I could have shot until sundown if I had been in better condition for the volume of shooting, but quit at 351/500. The shooting was most challenging.
Morning, day four: For my last shoot, I shot at the same morning location as day 3. This location near La Zenaida lodge was but a short drive from El Paraiso lodge.
The final count after six trips to the field over four days, 2089 dove shot with 112 boxes of shells expended. That got me a cap as a member of the 2000 club, and a big smile! I returned to the lodge for lunch with Anne, and prepared for the return trip.
This high volume dove shoot was incredible, and I would return to repeat the adventure. It would have been an even greater thrill to have shared time in the field with Leon and Frillie. The only issue that I had during my stay at Frontera was an inordinate number of malfunctions, primarily failures to fire. This was noted by Gabriel and Francisco, and I discussed the problem with Cristian and Martin. However, even with this one issue, the trip exceeded our expectations. Thank you to all who made this trip possible!