By Jose Luis Grasso.
Before referring to Dove hunting in Argentina, I’d like to explain why millions of eared doves live on a permanent basis in the province of Cordoba.
About 25 years ago, 80% of Cordoba land was covered with woodlands full of native trees from the area such as quebracho, carob, tala, piquillin and chañar trees, to name a few. This was an area where agriculture was not the main countryside industry. The main business in those years was cattle raising, developed in two ways: cattle raising in the north and dairy farming in the east, Arroyito area. At that time, farmers grew corn or sorghum in reduced spaces, simply to feed the cattle. Over the years, agricultural activities were encouraged in the area, due mainly to the richness of the soil, good rainfall and a temperate climate. As a result, these large woodland extensions were cleared and once the land was cleared and small grains were planted the dove population exploded, as it still does. At that moment, farmers and landowners did not realize they were creating the perfect habitat for Argentina dove hunting and, more specifically, eared doves to reproduce massively. In a short time, doves also became a serious problem for farmers. The huge grey clouds of doves covered the fields in such a way that they created great damage to the crops and were considered a nuisance. They were fought against in several ways, with no great results. Instead, year after year, they increased their volume in inestimable proportions. In addition, the clearance continued and formed two big areas which eared doves chose for their breeding: one area in the north of Cordoba province, covering a straight line between Jesus Maria and Rio Seco (the former is a city and the latter is a department of the province), and the other in the east of the province, in the city of Arroyito. The high dove population became such a problem to the harvesters that hunting them then became a necessity.
Arroyito, in the east of Cordoba province, is a beautiful city blessed with two remarkable industries. On the one hand, there is the most important factory of Argentina, second most important in the candy industry, and on the other, the doves that flap their wings over Arroyito in perfect harmony with clouds. This reduced roosting woodland of about 900 acres holds more than 20,000,000 doves. It is also worth mentioning that our eared doves are a non-migratory species, they rather migrate from field to field within the same area looking for food or water. There are also smaller roosting areas nearby which are used by eared doves in certain periods of the year, depending on the harvest. But, when it comes to breeding, the two areas previously mentioned are the ones they choose for their nests. Doves hatch five times a year, from September to March. I have never been fond of Maths but, 10 million couples of doves having five hatches a year, bearing in mind that the ones born in September are able to reproduce themselves by January, equals an awesome number. A significant fact is that although hunters shoot about 2 million doves a year, this number is not representative in this area and doesn’t even make a dent on the dove population. There is little doubt too that the grain fields surrounding Cordoba hold more doves than anywhere else in the world.
A very important dove-related aspect for countrymen is that doves used to represent economic trouble because they meant a decrease in the harvest, but today Argentina dove hunting has become a profitable business. This is due to the great number of foreigners who visit Cordoba, Argentina, for dove hunting. Landowners lease their fields for dove shooting and this results in a new source of income.
As regards hunting as such, eared doves are non-migratory birds, they are custom birds. Every morning, they look for food around the very same flyways. They stay in the area where they find food and in the first hours of the afternoon they head back to the roost, but they invariably need to drink water before getting into the roost. Because we know dove behavior, we organizeArgentina dove hunting in many different ways to satisfy all dove hunters, their different needs and shooting styles.
In the morning, we hunt in dove feeding spots, shots may vary from about 15 to 20 meters/yards since we make the blinds in the different fields. At sunrise, as soon as the sun comes out, shots are really exciting and filled with adrenalin, cross shooting. Cross shooting is from 25 to 30 meters/yards and it is specially preferred by sporting clay shots. It demands a lot of concentration as the doves leave the roost in a zigzag flight. In the afternoon, we propose two ways of shooting: near the water spots or by the roosts before they go back to their nests. Even though this shooting is similar to the one in the morning, dove flight is more uniform in the afternoon and this gives a better shooting average.
The “estancia” (typical Argentine ranch) is a beautiful farmhouse of eleven double bedrooms with in-suite bathrooms, heating and air conditioning at only one hour from Cordoba airport and only 15 minutes from Arroyito city. My brother, my wife and I are in charge of making lots of hunting friends who visit us mostly from the US but also from the most remote places all over the world. Hunting and my love for the outdoors is in my blood. My grandfather, Pino, was the one who transmitted me this hunting passion and his joy and spark to my brother, which are his main characteristics. He spends the whole day in the field scouting for new fields for more exciting hunts. Finally, the other person who I owe the whole business to, is my wife. Both started the company from scratch and she made her dream come true: a big restaurant with typical Argentinian food. Today, she has the satisfaction of running the whole lodge operation putting her own unique touch in every single detail.