Gene and I had been driving around Argentina for two weeks. He and his wife Nancy wanted to see the country’s many wonders, and we roamed through vast regions like gypsies. We bought gas by the jug and lambs on the hoof. We saw the incredible colors of the Salta Mountains, and worked our way high into Tucuman through subtropical jungle, and finally wound through some tough dirt tracks in the sierras of Córdoba.
We didn’t start to see the big flocks of doves until we came through the tiny town of Villa del Dique. Six miles later we stopped to take a look from a high spot on the highway. Though it is difficult to believe, looking through binoculars there were huge dove flights flying from the grain filled plains into the wild hills of southern Córdoba for as far as we could see. They were flying from south to north in lines, and flocks, and huge, high groups. Looking west and then east, I began to grasp the immensity of this movement of birds. The flyway was at least five miles wide. It seemed weird, or maybe it was perfect timing, but surely we must have hit the day of a great dove migration.
Minutes later, after turning the truck onto a dirt road in an isolated valley, we loaded two shotguns and began plucking birds from the sky—but in no time we were totally out of shells. As we picked up our doves, we inspected the birds and found their crops were full of corn. It took us some time to come to the realization that this was not a migration. These birds were feeding and going back to roost. This happened here every day!
I was back in October that same year and saw the same staggering amount of birds. I returned again in December and led the first party of Americans into the area—as far as I know they were the first foreigners to shoot doves in Argentina.
Looking back, I still marvel at the fact that a casual sightseeing tour led to what today is a thriving business that is important to sportsmen and the community, all spawned by an amazing renewable resource. Dove hunting today provides jobs for many of my countrymen, benefits the region and the region’s poor, and provides world-class sport to the people who visit us from countries around the globe.
Good shooting and be safe,