I have written to you several times in the past, referring to you as “the all gnawing one”. I have always appreciated your humorous, articulate and informative responses. Thanks for those. However, tonight I write to you with a much more serious question/agenda.
In shooting magazines and in your writings, I see discussed “wing shooting” in Argentina. Your writings refer to shooting hundreds, up to a thousand shells a day at a variety of game birds. The magazine ads show pictures of hundreds of dead game birds piled up in front of the happy, and I assume, well healed hunter. I am a hunter of many years. I still enjoy hunting quail here in Arizona with my two Labradors. I have taken 8 or 9 deer with a bow while living in Wisconsin and a number of large game animals with rifle while living in Wyoming. I am also a former state sporting clays champion in Arizona (1993) I say all of this to assure you that I am very much pro gun, pro hunting and pro all outdoor pursuits.
Having said that, I must express my exreme concern, anger and embarrassment at the gross, killing of gamebirds that apparently goes on in Argentina. Have you, nor these so called “outfitters”, not to mention the “sportsman” who take part in this kind of massacre ever heard of conservation, sportsmanship, or even self control? What on earth gives all of you the right to do such carnage? Is it just that you have the money/connections to do it? Where on earth is the voice of moderation in this situation? I would love to make such a trip, experience the country, the game, the people, the comeraderie, etc.; but I would stop at a dozen or so birds and enjoy them for dinner with my companions……period.
I doubt that this email will ever see the light of day in your column, but I would appreciate an answer to me personally when you can find the time.
I shared your concern with “volume” shooting in Latin America until I went down there and saw what went on there for myself. Though I can’t speak for areas I have not shot in, nor for outfitters I haven’t used, I believe my experiences in Latin America to be fairly typical.
Dove shooting in Honduras: As the day of shooting was ending the dove were gathered up and brought into one of the little local pueblos. All the kids and the mamacitas in the village lined up into two lines. Boys on one side, girls on the other. As each kid filed by they were given two dove to take home. Any left over dove were given to the mothers directly.
In Colombia it was a little different. The dove were given away in the fields. At about the time our shooting was supposed to end, people would start showing up on the fringes of the fields. They just seemed to appear. The bird boys would take all the dove they could carry (though the outfitters didn’t want them to, none of us minded) and the rest of the dove were handed over to the locals who came out to the field. Those dove went back to the villages and were on the barbecues within the hour. Ammo in Colombia was $11/box then. A local peasant couldn’t possibly afford a box of ammo, much less a gun.
In Argentina we hunted in the NorthEast for duck and dove. The hunting is all on leases. The duck and dove were always given away to the tenants of the land owner. As our trucks would be leaving after shooting, we’d go down the road and honk once or twice in front of a cabin. The owner’s wife would come running out to get her dove or duck. They were highly prized as the locals couldn’t afford to hunt them. One time we went to a gaucho’s cabin out on the Parana River flood plain where we were shooting. He was like a lineman out in the old west. His cabin was literally in the middle of a vast flood plain. No running water, unless the muddy Parana River counted, no plumbing, no electricity, six kids and a wife. He was extremely grateful for some ducks. This gaucho also had occasional work with our outfitter repairing access roads to the blinds.
Our bird boys were paid $50/day plus room and board in a bunk house. $50 a month was considered decent in that part of the country. That money mostly was sent home to a large family. In other parts of the country like Cordoba, the birdboys get about $25/day, still far, far better pay than they could get elsewhere. Being a bird boy was one of the most coveted jobs in the area. My bird boy had been working with the same outfitter for almost 20 years. For some people, shooting was their entire economy.
In most parts of Argentina dove are considered pests as are parrots. Did you know that certain provinces in Argentina (Entre Rios for one) have a law that fines land owners for permitting parrot nests to exist on their farms? The land owner is fined a substantial amount for each parrot’s nest he fails to destroy. The dove are generally eradicated much more efficiently by destroying their roosts by bulldozing down acres and acres of the roosting trees. Dove eat such tremendous quantities of grain that a nearby dove roost can decimate a crop of winter wheat. The dove we were shooting were absolutely engorged with wheat. The land owner was as anxious for us to shoot them as the locals were for us to get them dove for their barbacoas.
In a strange turn of fate, in our particular spot (though certainly elsewhere also), it was the dove hunter who saved the dove. The landowner wanted to bulldoze the roost to entirely eliminate all the dove until the outfitter offered to pay him more for shooting rights than he would lose in eaten wheat. Even the heaviest shooting only takes a tiny percentage of the birds, as opposed to 100% when the breeding roost is destroyed, so it actually worked out to the doves’ advantage.
As to shooting out a species, I won’t say it can’t be done, but the culprit is more often habitat. An example are Colombian dove. I used to shoot dove in the Cauca Valley. It was full of dove. Hunters would go down there and shoot lots of dove year round. Being just about on the equator, the dove didn’t migrate and would breed year round. In spite of the shooting, the dove gained. Then, due to world demand, the crops in the valley were changed from the type dove like to eat to the type they don’t. The dove population plummeted, even though the shooting almost ceased due to Columbia’s unstable political system. If you want to kill a species, kill it’s habitat. We certainly learned that with North American waterfowl.
Since you haven’t done a Latin American dove shoot, you might give it a try once. If you choose to shoot only a dozen birds, that’s your option. It won’t matter one way or the other to the dove population. The farmers will thank you just the same. The money you bring down will certainly help the local economy. You might even enjoy yourself.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)