The first thing to understand about South American Eared Dove shooting in the Cordoba region of Argentina is that this is a boys-on-tour trip. Non-shooting guests are going to be mere arm candy, and generally pointless; is there anything more important than shooting? And then discussing the bath-birds over dinner and cigars? A thousand shells a day requires physiotherapeutic massage every evening to keep going. This causes a total black out when you finally hit the sack. Welcome to South American Eared Dove shooting nirvana.
For many people this will be the once-in-a-lifetime shooting holiday, so what can you expect? Well, to start with, imagine this: the more you shoot, the greener you are. You will be helping to control an agricultural pest of biblical proportions. These doves can clear a crop faster than a swarm of locusts. There is no overage. Only your body’s ability to absorb the recoil can possibly limit you. The excellent, locally made cartridges are £300 per 1,000, a little more than over here – but cheap by international standards.
A group of seven of us went to help celebrate a milestone birthday. Hayes & Hayes outfitters were looking after us at their new super-luxury estancia; Guayascate Lodge, near Jesus Maria, 140km from Cordoba airport. Hayes & Hayes are one of the originals, and I believe, one of the best. They produce a daily shooting report, which I have replicated here.
Brits testing the limits when South American Eared Dove shooting
So, when you have decided you definitely do want to go, what type of guns should you take South American Eared Dove shooting? Take two of the very best you have, but small gauge. When the London “best” gun was developed, men shot six days a week from mid-August to the end of January, getting through three or four hundred shells a day. My friend Machine-Gun Dan took a pair of William Evans 16 bores, and he double-gunned; they never missed a beat. I took my David McKay Brown over-under 20 bores and used them on alternate days. I forgot to bind my thumb on the first day and burnt it on the top barrel! The regulars use 28 bores from either Perazzi or Rizzini and always via a top finisher as, for example, a rough stock will tear the skin off your face! Finally the locals use either 20 bore Beretta or Benelli repeaters.
Best of all, the Argentineans enjoy having us South American Eared Dove shooting. Brits do not want to stand in a corn field and shoot shoulder-high birds all day like Americans. It seems alien to us, but they want to go home and say they shot a 95 per cent average.
An afternoon of South American Eared Dove shooting
On day four of this South American Eared Dove shooting trip it was raining in the morning, so we shot over a near-to-the-lodge sunflower field, as the forecast was for sun and wind in the afternoon. Instead of the usual asado (typical local barbecue lunch) we enjoyed a leisurely swim at Guayascate before changing into dry clothes. As predicted, the weather cleared up. This was nearly too good to be true and we asked for the highest birds they could show us.
Due to the sheer number of birds on offer, dove shooting in Argentina is a great way to perfect your technique. The writer and his team shot a staggering 23,399 doves in six and a half days.
To put the afternoon’s South American Eared Dove shooting into perspective, in the morning I had put out a cartridge box on a sunflower stalk at 45 paces and shot all my birds beyond it. By doing this I discovered the effective gun/cartridge killing range was 65 paces.
In the afternoon I had to select the lowest birds just to reach them. I picked up a few doves that had just collapsed; each one had a single pellet strike typically in the neck or heart area. And this is with English 7½ shot 25gram cartridges through full choke barrels. The bird boys were highly entertained all afternoon; Americans will not shoot where we were.
An eye-watering South American Eared Dove shooting bag
The seven of us shot 23,399 in six and a half days and we used 36,325 cartridges. Some people make the mistake of trying to compare South American Eared Dove shooting to our own game birds. To shoot that many in the UK would cost over £1,000,000 including the inevitable VAT, and would be deemed unacceptable by almost everyone. Doves do not simulate grouse, partridge, or pheasants.
Yes you can ask for flat birds, short skyline birds, or even super tall birds, we shot all three. But our game birds do not jink at the flash of barrels, and do not come in twos and threes for six or seven hours a day without stopping. And are not so frustratingly susceptible to gusts of wind. The South American Eared Dove makes excellent shooting and eating – two breasts are just two mouthfuls.