Bird Hunting Report – July 2012
Best Dove Shoot, Ever!
I recently had what I would consider my best high-volume dove shoot in Argentina at Posta del Norte, a Flyways lodge, in Cordoba. I planned a father/son trip and asked Jeri Booth at The Detail Company to arrange. Since April was our window to go and we were a small party, she suggested Posta del Norte as it was close to doves at that time of year (mid-autumn in the southern hemisphere), and they could easily accommodate two hunters.
The arrangements were typically seamless, as I have come to expect from The Detail Company. After our red-eye from Atlanta on Delta, Letitia Acosta, the transfer agent who has taken care of us on earlier trips, met us at the international airport in Buenos Aires. We passed through passport control easily, after paying the $140 per head entry fee (good for multiple entries for 10 years) which Argentina imposed in response to a similar fee the U.S. charges for Argentineans’ entries into the U.S. It is rumored that this fee might be dropped in the near future, by the way. Letitia is charming, and she and her husband Alex are great sources of restaurant, shopping and sightseeing tips for Buenos Aires. They will arrange city tours if you wish.
Having learned that the flight is very tiring, we chose to stay the day in the city and go to Cordoba the next morning. Our flight on Aerolineas Argentinas to Cordoba was on one of the 20 new Embraer 190s that the airline has just purchased. A 96-passenger, narrow body jet in the Aerolineas configuration, it was the quietest jet I have ever flown on. A very nice, quick trip.
At the Cordoba airport, Leonardo “Leo” Foresti, the lodge manager and César, his assistant, met us. After about an hour and 15-minute drive to the north of Cordoba to the small village of Las Peñas, we arrived at the lodge in time to clean up and relax a little before lunch.
When drove up, the butler, Christian, was waiting at the front door with damp washcloths for us to freshen up with. (In fact, every time we returned to the lodge, he was waiting to greet us with the cloths.) The weather was very pleasant at this time of year although it did get a little chillier and windier on our second day.
The dusty rose-painted, stucco lodge itself, renovated in 2010, was built onto the original, small posta which now serves as a very well stocked bar. The lodge includes a comfortable living room with a huge stone fireplace, dining room and kitchen with handpegged floors throughout. The guest rooms are spacious with a double and single bed each, fireplace and en suite full baths. Up to 12 hunters can be accommodated, but they are happy to handle small parties like ours. As a matter of fact, when we arrived, we were the only shooters at the lodge.
After changing into our shooting clothes and a sumptuous lunch featuring beef (what else?), we headed to the field for our first shoot. We chose to rent the Berreta 20-gauge autoloaders from the lodge rather than deal with bringing our own guns, which was actually a lower cost option at $50 per day as opposed to paying the import fee. They only held four shells, but the bird boys kept us loaded very nicely.
This first hunt involved the longest drive of the trip, taking about 40 minutes into the low hills to the west to reach a small roost at the edge of a pasture over which the doves were crossing, returning to the trees behind us. Our bird boys were waiting with shells, cold drinks and two hides prepared by chopping openings in chest-high Johnson grass at the edge of the trees. The shooting was rapid as the birds were returning to the roost after feeding in the corn, soybean and sorghum fields surrounding us. Lots of incoming and crossing birds gave us plenty of shots. After about 2 1/2 hours and a full case of cartridges, I called it quits. We typically shot about the same length of time each morning and afternoon, and I calculated I averaged close to five shots a minute in the field.
After a gourmet dinner served by a white-gloved Christian, starting with dove paté and finishing with a delicious flan with dulce de leche and accompanied by Argentine malbec, we turned in early since Leo planned for us to be in the field at first light to take advantage of the birds coming off the roost. Thefood at the Posta del Norte was the best I have had in four trips to Argentina lodges, without a doubt!
The next morning after a full breakfast, we had a short, 15-minute drive through more bean fields and in and out of the thorn trees typical of the country to a tree line along the west side of a several hundred-acre field. At the light grew, incoming doves in untold numbers flooded out of the roost across the field. My only complaint was it was difficult to pick one to shoot, but I picked up several Scotch doubles. I noted the positioning and preparation of our stands at each hunt was typical of the care and thought Leo put into our shooting. Every day after the first, we shot from prepared blinds of freshly cut brush and bamboo screens, facing away from the sun and positioned to take maximum advantage of the flights.
Returning to the lodge, we met the only other hunters who were there during our stay, Jesper and Klaus, from Denmark. Both were hail-fellows-well-met, excellent shots, and we were relieved to find that like most educated Europeans, they spoke excellent English.
Lunches were asados with assorted meats from the grill including short ribs, sausages, skirt steaks, sweetbreads, sirloin and doves en brochette, all accompanied by chimichurri sauce. Evening meals featured homemade lasagna with both white and red sauce and a sort of chicken roll stuffed with ham and olives as a break from the heavy beef emphasis at midday. Interesting vegetable and salad preparations accompanied the meals also; something typical lodge meals don’t often feature. Doves were served en brochette with onions and bell peppers, in a paté, in burritos, and my favorite dove nuggets, which were breasts marinated in chimichurri overnight, battered and deep-fried.
That afternoon we returned to the same area as the morning shoot but in different stands for doves returning to the roost with similar results. On our second full day, we shot around a cattle feed lot about 10 minutes away. My morning stand was on a small rise under a tree, and the doves were mostly incoming and breaking to the left or right around the tree. Again, hot-barrel shooting. About midmorning, a front came in from the east, and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees in about 30 minutes, and the wind picked up to 20 to 30 miles per hour. The shooting really got challenging then! A wildlife note: Everywhere we went but especially around the feedlot, dozens of “eagles” were attracted by the easy pickings of hundreds of dead doves on the ground. Our bird boys seemed to classify all birds of prey as “eagles” by the way, no matter the species. Returning in the afternoon, I moved around the tree to shoot with the sun at my back. I watched an “eagle” make a meal of a pigeon I had shot about 30 yards away. He was totally unconcerned by my shooting and ate every bit of the bird except for the gizzard.
Our last morning was back to the bean fields to shoot the roost a second time. After lunch, César took us to the airport for an easy flight back to Buenos Aires. I highly recommend Posta del Norte. Everything from accommodations, food, guns, bird boys and drinks (they went to the trouble to lay in some non-alcoholic beer for me as per my request) to the shooting was first-class. I saw many more doves on this trip than on my previous outings to Cordoba.
Leo is a great host and saw to it that our every desire was met. He will arrange for evening massages should you wish one, and the housekeepers took care of our laundry, returning it nicely folded to our rooms every afternoon. And if you shoot over 1,000 birds in a day, you are awarded a “free” cap. In fact, if you get close, they have “Almost 1,000” caps, too. Shells were $12 per box for no. 7s and although the price is much higher than we are accustomed to seeing for comparable cartridges in the U.S., Leo assures me he sells to hunters cheaper than retail. The lodge charged $1,590 per shooter for our three-full-day outing. The suggested compensation for bird boys is $40 per day. Posta del Norte, postadel norte.com.