High Volume Wingshooting, With A Dose Of Malbec
We set up on the edge of a five thousand acre roost. It looks like an impenetrable fortress of thicket 10 to 20 feet high. The roost is surrounded by cropland and is home to 50 million doves. Regionally the doves are considered a plague.
We stand our ground and aim to hold our own. The doves fly constantly. I hit the first couple and then miss nearly a box worth. Slowly I get into the groove. Swing, lead, shoot, repeat. I exchange the shotgun for camera and enjoy the show. Over two and a half days, with my primary focus on photography, I accidentally killed 500 doves. Those focussed on shooting would shoot more than that per day. A good shot, eager to stack up numbers, might try to join the elite yet attainable 1,000 bird/day club.
Guns are barely up to the task. The lodge swears by Benellis and Berrettas and supplies them to clients. A full time gunsmith is on staff, each gun is inspected and cleaned twice a day. Guns last two seasons. They have to import 40 new guns each year.
A semi truck arrives each Friday and unloads 70,000 rounds of ammunition. Fiocchi has a plant in Argentina. Maers & Goldman has an exclusive agreement with Fiocchi to purchase every 20 gauge shell produced in country. That adds up to nearly 4 million rounds per year.
The lodge is open every day of the year, except between Christmas and New Year, hosting about 20-30 guests at a time. With guests shooting an average of 50% that leads to approximately 2 million doves killed per year. A crazy number that barely puts a dent in the population.
We ate doves every night, prepared in ways I never imagined, and they were delicious. However, in the short time I was there most went uncollected from the fields. As we neared the end of each shoot hundreds of raptors, hawks, eagles, and vultures, all slightly different from any species I had seen before, descended on the fields to devour the doves in a mass feeding frenzy. The roost is also home to Pumas that creep out and take their share. It looks as if an entire food chain has developed from the dove hunting industry.
The owner and I discussed lead and it’s effects on the soil, water, and raptors. As one of the largest lodges in the country they are working with the Government to sample all of the above for potential negative effects. They are open to making changes if they’d improve the sustainability of the operation. Moving away from lead in the near future seems likely. But it’s not as simple as going to the store and buying steel. An entire supply chain, complete with international borders, needs to be altered.
Picking up shells we all had smiles on our faces and while shaking our heads in disbelief. The math, logistics, and volume of it all is mind numbing. Eyes wide open, I was full of questions, simply curious to understand how it all works. A couple days satiated me. But if you love wing shooting, like to pull the trigger, and want to wash it all down with a glass of Malbec, their is nothing comparable to Argentine dove hunting.