Argentina Dove Hunting Mecca

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA — With doves filling the sky, the Cordoba province in Argentina is considered to be the international mecca of dove hunting.

Huntsmen travel a long way to put a bullet in a dove.

For the past 20 years, Cordoba has attracted a wide majority of Americans and smaller groups of English and Chileans.

Hunting is legal in Cordoba because the province considers doves vermin.

The birds reproduce on average 3.6 times a year.

Doves eat hundreds of acres of planted soy beans and sorghum.

Hunting aficionados delight in shooting because there is no season nor limit, unlike in many other countries.

Here, in Villa del Totoral, about 140 kilometres away from Cordoba city, a batch of Chileans have come for the weekend to practice their favourite sport.

The regulars hunt here up to four times a year.

Dove hunting in Argentina is like shooting fish in a barrel because of dove abundance.

“This is a sport that anyone can practice regardless of age. It is simple and there are a lot of doves,” says Felipe Aguirre, a hunter from Chile.

Hunting has turned into a big business for the tourism industry in Argentina.

Up to 8,000 foreigners hunt in Cordoba every year, according to official figures. They usually stay around four days.

Sports hunters spend on average US$1,000 a day, from luxury accommodation, licensed weapons ammunitions and blended whiskey.

Here in La Porteñita lodge, about an hours drive from Cordoba city, a group of six hunters from the state of Georgia in the United States are toasting a forthcoming trip.

The mood is jovial.

Dressed in their camouflage pants, they are thrilled to enjoy the thousands of acres the lodge owners have rented with hunting rights.

As he gets ready for a long hunting day, Jimmy Gillespie adds the finishing touch: country music.

He has been coming to Cordoba to hunt doves for the past 25 years.

“Cordoba is the best wing shooting in the world. You have doves, pigeons, ducks, partridges. This is the best in the world. So if you go somewhere and spend your money, you go to the best place,” he says.

Hunting staff load munitions all day long for a non-stop hunting day.

72-year old Jim Willoughby hunted for the first time in Cordoba in 1987.

He has come here every year since then.

“In Georgia (state), we have dove hunts maybe two times, two days a year and the dove limit is 12. Here there is no limit. Here it is not hunting, it is shooting,” he says.

La Catalina lodge is a retreat for huntsmen wanting to shoot for the sky.

The estancia’s walls list the highest number of doves tourists have hunted in a day.

On a typical day, hunters can fire 1000 to 2000 shot shells. The most prestigious category is the 5,000 one.

“We are right by the hill country, which is really really nice. We are located an hour north of the city of Cordoba, which is the second city in the country with an airport that has enough traffic that you can connect flights from both the United States and Europe very easily,” says Dicky Miles, the co-owner.

The hunting has sparked controversy amongst environmentalists.

They say residues of lead-based gunshot ammunitions threaten or kill wildlife, contaminate water sources and agricultural fields, and can lead to food poisoning.

Lead is one of the most toxic metals. It can cause irreversible health damages.

At the University of Cordoba, a team of researchers found out that between 600 and 1,000 tons of lead a year wind up in the province’s agricultural areas due to bird hunting.

The presence of heavy metals in the air raised their attention.

The study was headed by María Luisa Pignata, a Chemistry professor.

“Lead contamination in soil is a permanent problem because once lead penetrates the soil, we cannot extract it. This toxic metal prevents soils from being cultivated. The toxicity as well as (lead) residues in food should be some of the elements to discuss to figure out whether to use cartridges that are less toxic than lead,” she says.

The reality is that shooting doves is above all a business.

There are no regulations in Argentina on discharging lead-based ammunitions.

Two draft laws were presented at the provincial and national level to restrict the use of lead cartridges. None of them were approved.

“It is important to take into account hunting tourism’s social and economic impact on towns as it provides jobs, a labour force and creates new opportunities for people in rural areas,” says Octavio Crespo, the Head of Cordoba’s Hunting Tourism Chamber.

In what may be a step in the right direction for environmentalists, Argentina‘s Santa Fe province requires that at least 25 percent of munitions be made of non-polluting metals.

In the meantime, the South American nation remains a magnet for hunters escaping strict regulations in elsewhere.

This video was produced exclusively for The Associated Press in May 2016. It was released on June 26, 2016. Click here to watch it. If the link does not work, search: Argentina hunting.


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