We touched down in Buenos Aires after a very pleasant flight. As we disembarked my colleague got pulled aside and asked if he had his done his reciprocal fee. He has an Australian passport, therefore this fee needs to be sorted out prior to arrival at immigration at Buenos Aires. The stewardess helpfully provided assistance with translating the website and the fee was sorted. (Further info can be found in this blog.) Getting through Buenos Aires airport was very straightforward: no queue at immigration and bags waiting for us in the baggage hall. As we left the airport we were met by Fernando the driver sent by David Denies to collect us.
The journey to the lodge was across the flattest landscape I have ever seen. All the way from Buenos Aires south there was not even so much as a ripple on the land. This is prime beef territory and it swiftly became clear why beef is one of Argentina’s biggest businesses. With the numbers of cattle in Argentina sitting at around 50 million it is one of five countries in the world that have a higher population of cattle than people. The average Argentine eats 55kg of beef per year, 84% of the annual production is consumed within the country. Vegetarians beware…
After 12 hours of airplane food and 2 hours of driving past umpteen cows it was highly convenient that we arrived Los Crestones just as the chef was getting to work on the BBQ. After some delicious canapés it was time to get stuck into the main feast. Two weeks later I am sure I can still taste the first bite, it was wonderful.
Los Crestones is located 2-hours’ drive from both the international and domestic terminals, making it the ideal location to visit either on your way into Argentina for a warm up shoot or alternatively on the way home to wind down. The lodge is just what you would hope for from a converted old estancia. There are nine en-suite double bedrooms of which eight are of a good size with large bathrooms. The ninth is only used when required by a large group as it is somewhat smaller than the others.
After lunch there was time for a quick and much needed siesta before we headed out for the afternoon shoot. Los Crestones is a true mixed bag destination. Here you can shoot doves, pigeons, ducks and perdiz. There is also the option of doing a big game hunt for black buck or Axis deer. The quarry for the afternoon was a dove/pigeon mix. We set out from the lodge to the shooting field, which was about 20 minutes away. On arrival, the birds were already starting to move so we set up some decoys and started to shoot. As we are both keen pigeon shots back at home these were always going to be the focus for us. We spent the first 20 minutes trying to work out the flight paths that would net the most pigeons. As it was they were splitting on our current location. We therefore made the decision to split up. I headed off to use a small bush on the edge of the lake as my cover, while Tarquin chose to stand on a fence line the birds were following. They came in regularly with plenty of shooting being had by both of us, our bird boy diligently running between the two of us stocking us up with cartridges when required. As the sun started to sink in the sky I got the added bonus of teal dropping into the lake next to me, which made for some interesting shooting. By the close of play that day I had shot three species of duck, doves and pigeons, proving that Los Crestones lives up to its name as a mixed bag destination.
The alarm woke me the next day after what felt like five minutes…when we are on these trips there is no such thing as rest. I struggled into my shooting gear before grabbing my camera and other kit and heading for breakfast. Breakfast offered everything from fresh fruit to a full English. Afterwards we loaded up the trucks with all the kit needed for a duck shoot plus all of our camera gear.
After an hour in the trucks we arrived just as the sky was starting to lighten. When all the decoys were placed we settled down in our submerged buckets to wait for the ducks to arrive. I have to confess I felt like a member of the family from the duck dynasty in my Real Tree waders standing in the reeds with the guides calling behind us. It was a right hoot.
Slowly the ducks started to arrive and we got off to a rather embarrassing start… in the early dawn it is always difficult to judge the distances, well that’s my excuse. In the far distance we could hear the others shooting away, they were clearly more in the action than we were. With an outing limit of 35 ducks there was no rush so we settled down to wait. The duck limit is strongly enforced by the lodge. It ensures the population is not overshot and there will be plenty of ducks for future generations to enjoy.
After about an hour or so it became clear that our location was not the best on the day, so the guides decided to move us on. We drove a short distance to the next bay. As we arrived a cloud of ducks took to the skies, the quarry had been located. We settled into our new buckets and from the word go it was more lively. By the time we had finished we had shot a fair few species of duck and a cormorant or two, the Labrador with us had had a great time picking up, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen a dog more enthusiastic about water retrieves.
We arrived back at the lodge in time to grab a bite to eat before Fernando arrived to take us back to BA. The journey was uneventful and the famous BA traffic did not rear its ugly head. The big problem with travelling through BA is that the domestic airport is located right in the heart of the city. This can make travelling from one airport to the next a real hassle. Please ensure you have at least 4 hours between flights.
As mentioned earlier Los Crestones is a great destination to start or end your trip. It is also perfect for those that might be in Argentina on business with a day or two to kill. I would not say that it’s a stand-alone dove or duck lodge and it does not pretend to be. What it does offer is a different experience from the standard Cordoba trip. If you are interested in Stalking/Big Game hunting as well as bird shooting then it is the lodge for you. While I did not have time to pursue this sport on this visit there were a couple of guests there who did. They both shot fantastic Black Buck and one of them also went after an Axis, which was a proper monster. From what I could gather from the guys it was very exciting proper belt buckle stuff due to the flat terrain.
While we were at Cordoba Lodge, which was our next stop on this trip, Horacio invited us to shoot perdiz as his guests. This is not something that is normally offered at Cordoba but it is at Los Crestones, which is why I mention it here. Hunting perdiz is the Argentine’s favourite way to shoot. Very few of them actually shoot the doves these days. What they love more than anything else is taking their pointer out for these extremely well camouflaged birds. This type of shooting really appeals, as I love watching a dog and its handler work. To me this is the ultimate in shooting experiences.
This type of shoot is done in pairs; a Gun either side of the dog. Once the dog starts to cover the ground you want to try and stick as close to him as possible, which is easier said than done. Once the dog goes on point you approach from your side and whoever will be taking the shot on this flush taps the dog with his knee. The dog will then flush the bird. The perdiz take off like rockets and can go in any direction, they are normally in ones and twos although sometimes you will get a group of three. Once the bird has flushed it is all up to you, but the dog won’t be impressed if you don’t fulfil your end of the bargain and give him something to retrieve. We covered two fields in difficult conditions; the ground was very dry making it hard for the dog (a bit of moisture will hold the scent better). The total bag was eight perdiz, with the highlight being Tarquin getting a left and right on his first flush. If you are in Argentina and you have the chance to go after a perdiz or two with a good dog then I highly recommend you give it ago. It is one of the most natural shooting experiences you can enjoy.
Next blog will be the new Cordoba Lodge in Cordoba and a review of all the David Denies Lodges and their most recent improvements.
For further information on Shooting in Argentina please contact Richard Scrope on 0845 299 6212 Ext 3 or Via E-Mail