DOVES, DUCKS, PERDIZ, PIGEONS, AND FISHING – ARGENTINA #290

DOVES, DUCKS, PERDIZ, PIGEONS, AND FISHING – ARGENTINA #290

Hunt Nation’s Don Sangster brought this outfitter to us after personally visiting there a couple of years ago. Here’s what he said:

“Of course I’d seen videos and read many articles about the fantastic dove shooting in Argentina, but I guess I didn’t entirely believe that there could be that many doves, but there were. That first evening shoot, there was virtually no time at which there wasn’t a dove visible somewhere in the sky. They weren’t all in shooting range, of course, but in whatever direction you looked, there were birds.”

The first thing you have to understand about doves in Argentina is that they are an agricultural plague – not just a pest, but a plague (like rats or locusts)! There are literally millions of doves, and they can wipe out entire crops of milo, sunflowers, sorghum, etc. So to say that local farmers welcome hunters, and encourage them to shoot as many doves as humanly possible, is an understatement.

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So how many doves can you actually shoot? Well, there is no closed season, and no legal limit, so that tells you something right there. But to put it into perspective, while Don was there, another hunter at the lodge wanted to join the “1,000 Club” by shooting 1,000 doves in one day. And he did it! He went out to his blind in the morning, and stayed there until he’d reached that magic number after lunch. If someone wanted to stay out all day, shooting 2,000 or even 3,000 shells in a day is possible! Talk about a “blast”!

This outfitter has been in business over 20 years and actually operates 2 different lodges in the Entre Rios province of Argentina, one of which is “mixed bag” heaven, while the other is focused on duck hunting. Many hunters may be familiar with the famous Cordoba region of Argentina when it comes to doves, but Entre Rios gets less publicity, and that’s a shame because there are some real advantages to this area over Cordoba.

The first big advantage is that while most operations in Cordoba tend to be basically all about doves, this outfitter not only offers outstanding dove shooting, but numerous species of ducks, perdiz (a quail similar to bobwhite), pigeons, and outstanding river fishing for the incredible golden dorado (there is no fishing in Cordoba).

The second benefit of this particular outfitter is that they have their own 500-acre dove roost RIGHT ON THE LODGE PROPERTY (no other operation in Entre Rios has this). While many other operations require hunters to all pile into a cramped van for a long drive to and from the dove fields each day, Don was actually able to walk to his dove stand from his room at the lodge. Not only does this mean more shooting time, but it’s much more comfortable and enjoyable.

If you are a serious wingshooter, you owe it to yourself to experience Argentina at least once in your life! There is simply no place like it.

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DOVES

Dove hunting put Argentina on the map for serious traveling sportsmen seeking the best in volume shooting. The prevailing native bird species in Argentina is the “eared dove”, which is similar in size to the mourning dove. All of this outfitter’s dove hunting takes place in the province of Entre Rios, either in conjunction with mixed bag hunts between May and August, or as independent high-volume hunts between September and April. High-volume hunting may also be combined with golden dorado fishing in warmer months for unforgettable “Cast & Blast” packages.

The principle ingredients required for abundant doves are food, water and a safe roosting area. Entre Rios is the most water-saturated area in Argentina due to year-round rainfall, as well as the vast system of rivers and marshes which saturate the terrain. Additionally, this region is one of the most active areas of commercial agriculture in the country, with crops principally consisting of soy, corn, sorghum, wheat and alfalfa. Due to the prevalence of water and food combined with ideal weather, doves in Entre Rios hatch 2 eggs 5 to 7 times annually, resulting in their status as an agricultural plague. THIS LODGE ALONE HAS IN EXCESS OF 10 MILLION DOVES ON THE PROPERTY! THAT’S NOT A TYPO!

As mentioned, Cordoba tends to get most of the attention when it comes to doves in Argentina, and although it’s debatable whether there are actually more doves in Cordoba than in Entre Rios, some hunters who have been to both areas feel that while you might SEE more doves in a day in Cordoba due to the terrain hunted, there is a human limit to how many doves you can physically shoot in a day, and you can reach that limit just as readily in either place. And, as mentioned previously, we feel that the variety of game available in Entre Rios is a big plus for when you get tired of just shooting doves.

You will have a “bird boy” assigned to you (who may or may not speak any English) who will escort you to and from your blind (usually just a few stalks of standing corn to sit or stand behind) and look after you. He will provide you with refreshments, fill your shell bag as needed, count and collect your birds, and even load and hand you your shotgun if you have 2 guns going when the action is fast and furious. The dove shooting itself is also as relaxed or intense as you want it to be. You can shoot at every bird that comes within range, or you can pick and choose your targets. If you feel that you need some practice on your right-to-left crossing shots, just wait for those opportunities. There are enough targets to keep you busy.

Most hunters head out for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, as this is when the birds are most actively flying between roosting, feeding and watering areas. After lunch, you can spend the middle of the day either relaxing back at the lodge or by the pool, or perhaps doing some pigeon hunting or fishing. If this sounds a bit relaxed, that’s because it is. You decide what you’d like to do and when. If you want to keep shooting as long as the birds are flying, that is entirely up to you.

Here’s a testimonial from a repeat client:

“I tell people… it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on…. If you want to pull the trigger, you can. There is always a target or two.” – Pete F.

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DUCKS

Duck species in Argentina consist of local varieties as well as migratory ducks, depending on weather patterns. Migratory species include rosy-billed pochards and pintails, and the local species, which are not affected by migration, are Brazilian teal, ring teal, speckled teal, silver teal, cinnamon teal, red shoveler and whistling ducks. All of this outfitter’s duck hunting properties are in the Entre Rios province, which literally means “between rivers”. Commonly referred to as “siempre verde”, or “always green”, this is the most ideal duck habitat in Argentina due to the abundant freshwater in rivers, marshes and ponds. Additionally, Entre Rios receives more rainfall than any other area in the country, with precipitation occurring twelve months out of the year.

Duck hunting requires flexibility from an outfitting standpoint, and they always like to go to where the birds are, and they are fortunate to have access to more ideal land than any other duck hunting operation in the province. While this outfitter is able to access hard-to-reach marsh areas with the aid of amphibious vehicles, they hunt small ponds out of dry blinds just as frequently, thus eliminating the need for waders and long travel. They have duck fields as close as 5-10 minutes from the lodges, but in some circumstances have to drive further; the average is about 30 minutes.

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Baiting is legal in Argentina, and because they own all the land they hunt, ponds are pre-baited, giving this outfitter a unique advantage over their competitors. The result is that the ducks WILL COME. In fact, they

GUARANTEE a limit of ducks (20 birds) on each hunt! When Don hunted with this outfitter, he eagerly shot at the first few ducks that appeared in the faint light of pre-dawn, but realized later that he could have been more selective and waited until full light, as the birds kept dropping into the decoys late into the morning. Ducks are hunted in the mornings, and you will reach your bag limit as quickly or as slowly as you wish.

While both of their lodges offer truly world-class duck hunting, their flagship duck lodge 2 hours from Buenos Aires is the largest duck operation on private land in Argentina, and stands alone as a duck destination due to unique land management which keeps ducks on the property 12 months a year. The beauty of private ownership is that they are not competing with other outfitters for land leases, and the vast acreage (15,000 acres in total) allows them to frequently rotate hunting locations and not over-stress any one given area, even with back to back groups of hunters. This lodge is renowned for being one of the few lodges in the country offering duck-only hunting packages, although you can combine ducks with pigeons and doves for mixed-bag packages. Alternatively, many guests enjoy combining several days of strictly duck hunting at the duck lodge with combo packages at the other location.

Duck season in Entre Rios is between May and August, and the bag limit is 20 ducks per day.

PERDIZ

Perdiz is the Argentine counterpart to a quail or partridge (a bit large than a bobwhite), and is one of the most prized species for sportsmen in Argentina. They thrive in low-lying grasses in undisturbed fields and pastures. An increase in commercial agriculture has posed an obstacle to strong perdiz numbers in many areas, but this outfitter’s roughly 15,000 acres of private land is largely comprised of cow pastures where planting and harvesting do not take place. This creates a safe haven for nesting in perhaps the largest area of perdiz habitat being hunted in the country, and they are 100% wild birds.

This is classic upland shooting over expertly-trained Brittany spaniels. The perdiz fields are often no more than 5 to 10 minutes from the lodge, but the average is about 20 minutes. Perdiz are hunted in the mornings, and hunts consist of walking through fields in pairs with one hunter on either side of a dog (along with an experienced dog handler and guide). In contrast to quail hunting, perdiz do not covey but instead flush in singles or pairs, and seasoned hunters find that perdiz get up and fly much faster than quail. The explosive flush is so fast that the bird’s wings create a whistling noise, piercing the still surroundings.

The dogs both point and retrieve, making this hunt a favorite among upland hunting aficionados. First time perdiz hunters do not expect to enjoy this bird as much as the other species available here, but almost always end up favoring it over all the other hunts. Indeed this was the case when Hunt Nation’s Don Sangster hunted here, saying it was the highlight of his trip to Argentina!

Perdiz season in Entre Rios is between May and August, and the bag limit is 8 birds per day.

PIGEONS

Pigeon hunting, perhaps along with the perdiz hunting, is one of the best kept secrets of Argentina wingshooting. They are hunted in the traditional British fashion, using both mechanical and stationary decoys in agricultural fields, usually in the afternoons. Additionally, downed birds are arranged by your guide as a further attractant. Although often considered to be akin to doves, pigeons are actually very little like doves. They are second only to perdiz in flight speed, and entirely like ducks in terms of decoying habits. Pigeon hunts very seldom involve pass shooting. While outfitters sometimes offer pigeons as occasional shots while pass shooting for doves, these pigeon hunts are designed exclusively with pigeons in mind.

Pigeons are not nearly as prevalent as doves and are native to a select few provinces, Entre Rios among them. Because this outfitter owns concessions to 3 large ranches in Entre Rios, they are fortunate to have a variety of excellent pigeon fields literally in their back yard.

Both lodges offer pigeons, and a mixed bag hunt for ducks, perdiz and high-volume doves is rounded off wonderfully with pigeon hunts, adding another dimension of uniqueness and quality to their offerings. Pigeon hunting is legal year round, but results vary depending on weather and crop harvesting. The bag limit is 100 birds per day.

FISHING

Although known to some serious fishermen, many anglers are unaware of the spectacular golden dorado of Argentina. This freshwater gem has been compared to tarpon, tuna and even wahoo, and is a must on the travel itinerary of any serious angler. To hook one of these beasts is an experience in and of itself which can hardly be adequately described.

This outfitter fishes for dorado (and a number of other species) on the Parana River system, which is the largest river in Argentina. This river borders their property, allowing guests access to the riverbank in just a few minutes. Flyfishing, spinfishing and baitcasting are all effective methods. While the Parana River proper is an enormous waterway, home to a variety of large vessels navigating into the interior of the country, it goes far beyond what one sees bank to bank. It is in the vast system of streams, tributaries and lagoons, whose reach may take one far from the visible river, where what many consider the finest dorado fishing in Argentina can be found. The diversity of the complex system on the fringes of the river is what makes this fishing unique in offering anglers any number of fishing scenarios. Casting from a modern and efficient Carolina Skiff boat or the bank, in fast current or slack water, are all possible in any given day.

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These are acrobatic, explosive game fish with powerful jaws and razor-sharp teeth. Be warned: once hooked, you cannot keep them from going airborne, and you will lose many, usually after several acrobatic leaps and finger-burning runs! Although they can be caught using spinning, casting or flyfishing gear (all of which are available for rent from the lodge), and all are roughly equally productive when it comes to hooking fish, fly anglers seem to land a higher percentage, as they are employing single hooks and light flies, which are much more difficult for the fish to throw than the large, heavy, treble-hook laden plugs usually used by spinfishers. In terms of flyfishing tackle, anything between a 6 wt. and 9 wt. saltwater rod can be used, although they typically recommend using an 8 wt. with floating, intermediate and sink-tip fly lines.

Golden dorado fishing may be enjoyed by itself or as part of a mixed-bag trip, or a high-volume “Cast & Blast” package. The fishing is strictly catch and release, and is only available at their mixed-bag lodge. The best fishing is during the warm weather months, meaning October through March in the Southern Hemisphere, although guests enjoy good fishing year around.

PRICING 2019 (subject to change without notice until deposit received; all prices in USD)

Prices depend upon the season. Dove and pigeon shooting, along with golden dorado fishing, is open year round (“Cast and Blast” season), while the season for ducks and perdiz is May to August only (“Mixed Bag” season).

Cast & Blast Packages (August 21-April 30)

Doves only- $600/day

Doves and Fishing – $750/day

Lodging only (non-hunting guests) – $350/day

Private room (subject to availability) – $100/day

Father/Mother and Son/Daughter Combo – $900/day for parent and child

THE STANDARD CAST & BLAST TRIP IS 4 DAYS

 

Mixed Bag Packages (May to August)

Doves, ducks, perdiz, pigeons and fishing – $1,090/day

Lodging only (non-hunting guests) – $545/day

Private room (subject to availability) – $200/day

Father/Mother and Son/Daughter (age 21 or less) Combo – $1,700/day for both parent and child

THE STANDARD MIXED BAG TRIP IS 5 DAYS TO ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO EXEPERIENCE EVERYTHING

Included:

  • Full board and lodging, deluxe double occupancy with private bathrooms
  • All ground transportation to/from Parana/Santa Fe airport and hunting areas (mixed bag lodge only)
  • Professional hunting guides
  • Activities other than hunting (horseback riding, photo safaris, boat rides, etc.)
  • All local taxes and service charges

Not Included:

  • Shotgun shells ($13.50/box for 12 & 20 gauge; inquire for 28 gauge and .410)
  • Hunting license ($200 for 5 consecutive days)
  • Gun entry permit ($140 per gun)
  • Gun rentals ($70 per day)
  • Gratuities
  • Assistance at customs
  • Transfers to/from Buenos Aires International Airport (EZE)
  • Laundry service
  • Fishing gear rental ($50/day)

ACCOMMODATIONS

Both lodges sit on large, working ranches of several thousand acres, with feed lots, cow pastures and cultivated fields growing soy, corn, sorghum, wheat and alfalfa. The comfortable and luxurious facilities of these five-star lodges include 6 (mixed-bag lodge) and 3 (duck lodge) double bedrooms equipped with air conditioning and Jacuzzi, as well as a spacious sitting-room with a fireplace, a bar, a dining-room with an adjoining grill area, and a swimming pool. For larger groups, there is an adjacent guest house with two additional bedrooms. The lodges have Internet and satellite TV. The friendly and accommodating lodge staff prides itself on personal service, and on serving gourmet cuisine, including famed Argentine beef and a number of exquisite game dishes (sometimes from your hunt!), as well as fine wines.

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GETTING THERE

You must fly into Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). Buenos Aires is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city, rich in culture. We always recommend planning to spend a day or two in the city, either on the way to the lodge or on the way back (or both!). There is terrific shopping, dining, tours and, of course, tango shows! We work with agents in Buenos Aires that can arrange all this for you, and more, including hotels of your choice. We always tell people that you may never again get a chance to visit a world class city like Buenos Aires, so take advantage while you are there. And take the family along! NOTE: WE DON’T RECOMMEND DRIVING IN THE CITY, AS LOCAL TRAFFIC LAWS ARE ONLY LOOSELY OBEYED, AND CABS ARE CHEAP.

Flights from various hubs in the southern U.S. fly overnight to Buenos Aires, arriving early the next morning. There is no time zone change, so if you can sleep on the plane, you will wake up in the morning in Argentina with virtually no jet lag.

From there you will need to transfer to the domestic airport across town in Buenos Aires (AEP) – we suggest the following day at least – and take a 1-hour domestic flight to a regional airport close to the lodge, either in Parana City or Sante Fe, and the outfitter will pick you up from there. Some folks choose to rent a car and drive from Buenos Aires, or from the regional airport to the lodge (about 50 miles). If you are headed to the duck lodge, it is only about a 2-hour drive from Buenos Aires, saving you a domestic flight.

WHAT TO BRING

For the shooting, we strongly suggest you rent the shotguns available at the lodges (ammo must be purchased there). They are all high-quality over/under and semi-auto Berettas and Benellis in 12 and 20 gauge. If you are planning to do some high-volume shooting, we think it’s wise to not put your own guns through that kind of wear and tear. In addition, Argentine firearms import laws are presently rather difficult to navigate, and even flying internationally with firearms is becoming more complicated all the time. And the money you save in luggage fees and import permits will basically pay for the rental charges.

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As for shooting accessories, good hearing and eye protection are both a must, as is something to hold shotgun shells (either a shooting vest or pouch). Shooting gloves are nice, as is either a shoulder/recoil pad or padded shooting shirt or vest. Your shoulder will thank you after shooting several hundred or more rounds a day!

When it comes to clothing, keep in mind that the seasons in Argentina are opposite of those in the U.S., meaning that October through March are warm weather months (Cast & Blast or fishing). May to August (duck and perdiz season) represents their winter, although mild by the standard of many other regions where ducks are hunted. Early morning temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees, with temperatures rising to the mid-70s during the day. Dressing in layers is recommended.

HUNT-NATION – HUNTING AND FISHING AT ITS BEST!

1-307-637-5495; info@hunt-nation.com; www.hunt-nation.com