Argentina: Dove Hunters Paradise
Years have passed since the time I first heard of Dove Hunting in Argentina. And during all those years, the thought of going remained just a romantic illusion that rambled around in my head from time to time, and once in a while it would bubble to the surface and remind me that I was not getting any younger.. And I assume that my eyesight and physical ability was not getting any better either.
And in the past it seemed that there was always something holding me back.. Small things, like college tuition, mortgage payments, a needed new vehicle.. And of course, guilt.. The thought that I would be spending five house payments to fulfill a dream that could only be defined as self gratification was always there.. But a man gets to a point in life where some guilty pleasures can be tolerated.. Or at least for me..
I am older now and many of the obstacles that held me back have faded into the past and the only thing I had to worry about was the guilt.. But of all the things that kept me here all those years, guilt was the lesser of the group. I will have to admit that the cost was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome, and it did still have my brain grinding on it until the time I committed to go.. But once I decided that I would go, the "How much does it cost" thing evaporated like a fart in a whirlwind.. Then I was like a kid waiting for Christmas..
My brother and I have always been avid dove hunters, and my Dad and Uncles would drag us with them when we were little bitty kids, if only to fetch birds and beer for the first few years, until we graduated from gate opener to 410 shooter. We always had a deer/dove lease, usually replete with a couple of good stock tanks, grain fields, and a lot of south Texas brush. A little later in life, I figured out that we got to go when we were small to keep Mom off Dads ass.. Something I emulated in later years I will have to admit. But it was not long till I was a bushwhackin' SOB with that 410. While the men sat around barbecuing and drinking beer, waiting for the evening water migration, my cousins and I would sneak up on birds stupid enough to sit on a bare mesquite branch, and give us their GPS coordinates with their cooing.. We got downright Daniel Boone on those bastards, and many times we would have a limit before the "Men" ever took their guns out of the bags.. Mama always said that they tasted the same whether the were shot flying or sitting.. I'll have to agree..
A few years ago I met a fellow in our store, who had been going to Argentina for years. He said that he had always wanted to go, and finally his wife told him "Well if it's one thing you gotta do before you die just go on and go." This was his tenth year in a row.. He said after trip one, when he got off the plane on the way back, he was looking for hub caps to steal to finance the next years trip.. Enter Dave Krantz.. And so it was that after him visiting Falcon three years in a row, and telling me all about it, I could no longer resist.. So I went.. And as of yesterday I have a deal on some really nice spinners if you are in the market..
We flew from San Antonio to Houston; nine and and a half hours on to Buenos Aires, were bussed across town to the small airport, and then flew into Tucuman, two hours back to the North. Too bad there is no direct fight into Tucuman.. Throw in a few lay overs and you have twenty four hours killed pretty easy.. We took the long flight overnight, so with the help of a couple Jack and Cokes and a very small pill, I managed to make it to Arg without going insane.. The planes all had video screens, but there are only so many episodes of The Simpsons a man can watch.. And I was up $240 on the poker game but none of the stewardesses would give me my money.. They did try to poison me with something they defined as food.. I would not..
All of us met up in Buenos Aires, and we were the last flight to touch down.. Actually it felt more like we were shot down, but we did manage to walk away from the wreckage. And after we were sent thru Immigration inspection, Airport Security, National security, and the Passport inspection station, they finally let us out to meet with our old and new friends.. Who were about to leave us sitting because of the inefficiency of the airport staff.. We stood in one line for about an hour, while they micro inspected the fifty yards of people in front of us, and then when we got about ten people from the front of the line they ran us through like calves in the spray chute.. Hell if I know..
Have you ever see any of those Jason Bourne movies where he shows up at the airport and gets to the Passport station and they just give him that steely eyed stare waiting for him to crack.. Seems like an eternity.. And then Wham! they stamp his passport and say "Enjoi ur wisit du or country.." Well that's what this guy was doing to me.. Guess I was looking guilty.. I do have that James Bond air about me.. I guess when he asked me what the purpose of my visit to his country was for I should not have said "To kill anything that fly's.." But after they finished the cavity search they did let me in.. Wham!
So once we got on the bus and exchanged a lot of introductions, the BS started.. As did the rush hour traffic tour of Buenos Aires.. Let me tell you that sardines in a can are living like Al gore in one of his mansions compared to these folks. They are squeezed into every nook and cranny.. And as Dave said, "If they all came outside at once there would not be room for all of them to stand. A small population of these folks are very wealthy, there is a bit of a middle class, but the majority of inhabitants of BA seem to be living in poverty.. Another population victim of a socialist government.. It don't work anywhere on the earth..
More on BA later..
Dave brought a few buddies from the Atlanta vicinity, and another group came from corn country in Iowa. And then there were three of us from Texas, and we did our best to keep up with the Jones's when it came to the BS.. There was plenty of it around and after evening one, with the help of a few bottles of fine Argentine wine, we melded into a lean, mean, bird killin machine. Our group was very eclectic, with folks from a lot of backgrounds, but all based in "Country Folk".. And like Johnny Cash said, after it was assembled, we pulled out the switch and all the lights came on..
We were met at the Tucuman airport by Gustavo Olsen and his staff. Gustavo is the owner of the lodge where we were going to be staying for the next five days, and his brand new lodge was five star to say the least. If you wanted for anything it was your own fault. You could not turn around without running into food or drink.. Some folks had a problem with this.. Some folks had the morning plague a time or two.. But all survived.. But I think on one occasion one of the fellows read the past evenings menu again in the middle of the night.. It happens..
The sun rose and the air temp was about 35 degrees, quite a shock to a south Texas boy, but a welcome one.. It was awesome with a light jacket on.. No wind.. We were served a big breakfast (everyday), but I am not a breakfast guy and I had coffee and juice.. But looking at the table I can tell you that pigs are cheap in Argentina..
They put us out close to a running creek, between a big roost area and a cornfield the size of Oklahoma. And of the fifteen hunters, I shot the fewest shells of all. I shot eight boxes of shells and killed 134 birds.. Not what I was expecting.. Especially when my buddy Joey said he shot seventeen boxes.. Several guys in the group shot over twenty boxes and I was a little concerned. But these are the kind of things that the staff takes very seriously.. They are there to sell shotgun shells afterall..
After a little wine at lunch I was able to come out of my shell and and intimate that I thought the shooting opportunities would be better.. But I have been on a lot of hunts before and I knew that all things would even out before the week was done. That afternoon, things would change..
After lunch were were put out near another creek with running water, that was near a giant corn field.. And the setup looked better than the AM to me.. And boy was it.. I shot twenty eight boxes of shells, and killed 513 birds.. A little more like it.. My goal in this adventure was to kill a thousand birds in one day, and things were looking better for day two.
Day two dawned not quite as cool, with temps around 48 degrees, and clear skies.. Except for the clouds of birds we saw starting at sunup.. Holy Cow..
They put me in a blind in a fencerow with tall trees to the east, so I was in the shade all morning. We were once again hunting between a giant roosting area and another giant corn field. This would be the standard mode for all morning hunts.. Heading off the roost to the fields.. In any case, they had me right where I would have put me if I were hunting in Texas.. I knew it would be good.. Thirty one boxes of shells later I had whacked 647 birds.. I also got five parakeets.. They hate em down there and I was just doing my part.. More on that later.. Well on my way to the grand for the day.. Back to the lodge for another ton of food, a short nap, and then back out to the fields again about 2:00.
The evening hunt was a Texas brush shoot, with lots of low birds coming to a water feature to our rear. And let me tell you that there were some tree topping birds coming in. Easy shooting and I stopped at twenty boxes and took pictures and and shot video.. But not before I killed 432, giving me my thousand for the day.. Or to be exact, 1079.. Life was good..
Back for dinner and a whole lot of BS as the crew had gotten to know each other pretty well. Oh.. And a lot more wine.. Argentine wines are excellent by the way.. As promised.. More on that later..
Day three arrived and jackets were not a requirement.. Probably about 50° and a light long sleeved shirt was perfect. And it did not take long till we were in short sleeves..
If I said I had the ultimate place to hunt on the morning of day two, I misspoke. Of course we were near a cornfield, but there is not much area around there that isn't.. And again I was up against a vine covered line of trees, with the sun on the other side.. Jimmie like.. The shooting was incredible, with lots of easy targets.. And I went on a terror.. Twice I killed 21 in a row.. And the second time I was on 21, I was real careful to pick out a number 22 that was covered in gravy.. And here he came.. From the left to right.. Twenty yards.. Of course I did not see the hundred birds that were about to have a head on with this loner.. And about the time I squeezed the trigger this bastard pulled the stick straight back and went vertical on me.. And I shot a big hole in the air.. Whatcha gonna do.. Got on several other good streaks but never made it to twenty..
And when the shootin was done, I had shot 40 boxes of shells, (1000) and whacked 834 feathered friends.. This happened in two hours and fifty minutes.. My bird boy was calling for more shells.. I canceled the shell order and just had them bring beer.. A man gotta smoke a cigar sometime.. And sitting on my stool and watching and listening to the other fellows shoot was just about nirvana.. What a morning..
There were a couple of guys shooting 28 gauge guns that morning, and I wish I'd of had one.. So that afternoon I requested a 20 and a 28.. And these folks never say no..
The afternoon hunt was interesting.. We were set up between two brush lines, and there was no wind. And it was hot.. And the birds were high.. And I was behind some stuff that was too high.. So a lot of my shooting was straight up.. I should have moved but didn't.. And then there were the these little bugs that showed up.. In Texas we call em Dog Dick Gnats.. But these bastards would bite you.. I'm still scratching..
Anyway I shot the 28 all afternoon and really developed some confidence in it. I shot 14 boxes of shells and killed 217 birds. Made my thousand easy and headed back for more good groceries..
The last day of the hunt we set up on a really neat creek, and you guessed it, right on the edge of a cornfield.. I had a little waterfall right behind me and it was about as peaceful as it can be.. For thirty seconds.. Then all hell broke loose.. I had committed to shooting the 28 again, and I had a case of shells for it with me.. I ran thru them pretty quick, and then picked up the 20 Auto.. (All the 28 ga shooting was with an O/U) And although I really enjoyed the 28, the 20 is definitely a better killer. Just a lot more BB's in the pattern I reckon, but I was mowing em down with the 20. Not that I didn't shoot well with the 28..
31 boxes all together and I had downed 601 birds.. Not a bad morning. Back for lunch, wine, and a nap, and it was back out to the field. My buddy and I, Dave Krantz, who invited me on this adventure, had decided to shoot out of the same blind. And the bird boys had built us a whopper on the edge of a roost that fronted on a wheat patch. I was a little concerned that we were not on the edge of a cornfield, but my fears were soon gone..
And speaking of the bird boys, those guys earn their salt every day. Whatever you want, whenever you want it. And if they ain't got it with them they'll have it there in a jiffy.. They all carry radios and the wagon train is not too far away.. Like I said the last thing they want is for you to run out of shells.
I am not what you would call fluent in Spanish, but I do speak it good enough to get by. But the Spanish spoken in Argentina does not contain the slang that we speak in south Texas.. Re: TexMex.. So I had to do some vocabulary work with my bird boy starting on day one.. He did not understand the word "Chingos" and I immediately had to explain the word to him.. All of you south Texas boys know what it means.. And it does carry a poor connotation.. But it means "A Freaking Big Amount." "Freaking" is a substitution.. So by the end of the trip every time I would say "Muchos Palomas", my bird boy would say "Chingos!" Also the word "Perico" means parakeet.. And there were quite a few of them around.. And when they approached they always were squawking.. All you had to do was pick them out of the crowd.. Sometimes it was not easy with the huge flocks of birds. But they wanted you to shoot them, as they are the only bird that will actually peel the shuck off standing corn and eat it.. So I shot all of them I could.. Just trying to help out.. But by the end of the trip I had my bird boy yelling "Squeekys!" whenever we heard them coming.. Just a little cultural exchange..
There are also the standard words uttered by your bird boy.. Like "Plumas, No Mas!" Just feathers.. And then there is "Muerte!" Dead.. And then there is always "Muerte Manana.." He'll die tomorrow.. Of course "Nada!" needs no definition..
I had both guns but the birds were a little high and I switched to the 20 after about ten boxes of 28. And we whacked the hell out of em side by side.. Dave had brought a 410 with him and I was admiring his shooting with it.. And he handed it to me and I shot about five or six birds with it.. I thought he was going to pull out a Red Ryder next.. We had a blast shooting together and I wish we would have done it earlier in the trip with more of my buddies.. There are certainly plenty of targets for two shooters.. I finished my last hunt with 534 birds, and a day total of 1135..
So in four days of hunting, I shot 195 boxes of shells, (4,875) and killed 3912 birds. For a hit ratio of 80.25 %.
It was back to the lodge for the final time, and a lot of eating and reminiscing from the prior days. We had a great group, and I would go with them tomorrow on another trip of whatever kind.. Maybe we can meet at Wal-Mart.. Or maybe next summer in Argentina.. We'll see..
The next morning it was up and at em early, as we had a fairly early flight out of Tucuman. The Tucuman airport has only two gates, and this is in a town of over 1.5 million people. These are poor people for the most part, and the airport reflects it.. But I did like their security check better than any of the others went thru..
We arrived in Buenos Aires fairly early, and our transportation company/tour guide/airport professional took us on a driving tour of BA. It is a big SOB with lots of humans.. And I think half of them were on the street.. And half of those were on motorcycles.. Small ones, just a bit bigger than a moped.. Maybe 100 cc size or so.. But they ride them like Evil Kenievel.. Between cars and busses and cabs like there is no tomorrow.. And the traffic is a rolling disaster, as there are no expressways thru town.. Not to mention that the streets are very narrow and mirrors on the cars and truck clear each other about six inches.. Or less..
We walked a quarter mile down a street who's name means "Avenue of the People" and let me tell you there are people.. High class.. Low class.. Beggars.. But no worse that the US when it comes to the panhandlers.. And a lot less than Mexico..
And of course this giant sidewalk is lined with shops and malls and people hawking everything you could imagine.. I was looking for a cigar shop.. So finally I hollered out "Where can I get a cigar?" I got pounced on by about four people trying to usher me to their shop.. It was funny.. But I did buy a big fat dark Cuban and enjoyed it on the street tour.. $20 US.. And worth every penny..
We ate at a famous steak place.. Argentine beef is supposed to be the best on the planet, but I can't say that my rib-eye was any better than a good cut of meat that I have had in the states. It was good.. But nothing exceptional.. But they did know what rare was, a far cry from Zapata..
Argentine wines, at least the ones we had, were very good. But if I was the Napa Valley I would not be worried..
And the Argentine women are rumored to be the most beautiful chicks on the earth.. And while there were a few that made you take a second look, I'll put down town Dallas up against them any day..
And one last observation to make: Water does go down the drain backward from the way it does here in the northern hemisphere. I was going to get up and check out the drain in the plane right over the equator.. But that little pill got me, and I was in a state of deep relaxation.. Or maybe unconsciousness..
In any case, it was a trip well worth taking, and I will go again, Lord willing..
If you are a dove hunter, this is as good as it gets, and if you are toying with the idea of going, quit fooling around and get your ass down there. And if I can answer any questions for you just give me a call..
© James Bendele-Falcon Lake Tackle