Last February I took two guns, as I always do, but for the first time I packed a 28 gauge. When Colombia's Cauca Valley doves were still in their heyday, I used to smuggle in 200 2 ½-inch .410s. To lead off the first two mornings of shooting I'd fire 100 .410s out of my Remington 3200 with Briley full-length sub-gauge .410 tubes. This was great fun, but it wasn't like taking a 28 gauge gun and expecting to shoot it every day, plus this last trip extended from Uruguay into Argentina - a hunt with two different outfitters.
The 28 gauge I selected for the trip had all the earmarks of being an ideal dove gun. A Caesar Guerini Summit Sporting model with 32-inch barrels, I already knew the over-and-under fit me perfectly, as I had been shooting it quite successfully at home for over a year. I also took a reliable 12-gauge Krieghoff over-and-under, figuring to bounce back and forth between those two shotguns during this trip.
There are so many doves plaguing Uruguay that visiting gunners can pick about any type of shot they want to work on - close in birds with open chokes, high birds using the tightest of full chokes, left-to-right crossers, right-to-left crossers, quartering birds, or mix it up with any of the above.
Whatever shot I might be concentrating on for the day or the trip I like to work on shooting a high percentage. Consequently, you'll usually find me loading only one shell at a time. Knowing I only have one chance at the next dove makes me concentrate more. Hard focus is a major key in such a scenario, and I work extra hard at focusing on the dove's eye. I find the more I work on this the more I can see the dove's eye at longer and longer distances - within reason, of course. If I can see a dove's eye that bird is almost assuredly in the bag. But I knew this from previous trips, so this wasn't something I learned last year in Uruguay.
What I was trying to find out centered around whether a 28 gauge was adequate or not. Shortly after arrival I found that outfitter Hector Sarasola didn't want his clients shooting the big pica zuro pigeons with anything other than a 12 gauge, and he supplied them with 32-gram #5s for this gunning. But he assured me that my 28 gauge would be plenty for doves.
I won't bore you with dove kill-to-shots fired ratios, but I did shoot the 28 gauge better than I did the 12, and this also proved to be the case a week later when I shot in Argentina. How can this be? Since I'm getting longer in the figurative tooth I think one reason might be the 28-gauge Guerini's lighter weight. This is not a true lightweight, however, since it weighs a full 7 pounds. But a gun of this weight, including the long 32-inch barrels, I think, is just about right for a shooter of my age and stature, the latter 6' 2" and 185 pounds. I did mention the long barrels. The longer sighting plane is a bonus on doves, though not on all upland game.
The second thing I learned during this Uruguay trip was more a "re-learning" than my learning it for the first time. There were some English chaps shooting the doves at Hector Sarasola's La Ninette Lodge at the same time. Not only were all of them fine shots, they had taken their share of shotgun instruction in England. Consequently, they knew what they were talking about - shotgun-wise.
Of course, I've taken my share of lessons as well, but I was having a bit of trouble with one particular shot. I shoot right handed, so the right to left crossing shot has always been relatively easy for me. Probably a couple of factors contribute to this. First - the gun tends to stay attached to the cheek as a right hander swings to the left. Second - a right hand shooter can swing a lot farther to the left without his or her swing binding up.
As you might have already guessed, I wasn't doing as well on the left to right crossers as I was on the right to left crossing doves that trip in Uruguay. Over lunch we got to talking shooting - a lot about shooting - and that's where I posed my problem to the Englishmen.
One of them quickly came back and suggested, "Try aiming your left toe at the area where you think you will be pulling the trigger."
Naturally, I tried that during our afternoon high-volume dove shoot, and the suggestion worked wonderfully. By pointing my left toe at the trigger-pulling area I was turning my body, getting it more in position to make a correct swing on that dove. So what I noticed myself doing that afternoon was actually shuffling my feet a lot more than I had been doing - getting my left toe properly pointed in the right direction for those left to right crossers.
Finally, I can't say enough about Hector Sarasola's operation. He hunts doves year round, his pigeon shooting is a great bonus, and from May through July he has outstanding perdiz (a partridge known scientifically as the spotted tinamou) shooting over some of the finest pointing dogs you will ever see. During that same time period Hector also offers super duck shooting.