Safari 2014: The Caprvi Strip / Update 05/12/2014 Bird-brained

by david on May 12, 2014

I guess I could be called a little “bird-brained” for this week’s installment as I am going to write about one of my very favorite things of all times, wingshooting. Unbeknownst to most, Africa can be a veritable bird hunter’s paradise.  If you read the same books on hunting in Africa as I have (especially those by Robert Ruark and Peter Capstick), you are familiar with francolin, doves, sand grouse, and perhaps guinea, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.  Africa has a myriad of birds to hunt.  In addition to those mentioned already, you could add spur fowl and pigeon to the upland list.  In the waterfowl category there are knob-billed ducks, white-faced ducks, Egyptian geese, and spur- winged geese in the area where I will be.  There are at least half a dozen more species in other areas of the continent.  With all of these choices, I will not know where to start.

I have hunted birds twice before in Africa, and each hunt was completely different than the other.  My first hunt was for guinea fowl near Otjwarongo in Namibia.  I had collected a fine kudu during the morning session and, knowing I very much wanted to, my host asked if bird hunting would be ok for the afternoon session.  He then asked me if I wanted to hunt birds the way you “Yanks” do or was I up for trying the way the children in Africa hunted.  I knew I was being baited if you will but, I decided to take the bait and arise to the challenge.  With my answer in the affirmative he said good and went to see to lunch.  After my post lunch nap I headed on over to the boma and let Johann know I was ready to go hunting.  He just grinned and disappeared into the office tent to retrieve the shotgun I was to borrow for the hunt.  Imagine my surprise when he returned with a bolt action, scoped .22 rimfire.  I consider myself a better than average wing shot, but I was forced to tell Johann I did not think I could hit a bird in the air with a .22.  His response was they were not shot in the air, but  on the ground.  I must have started to grin because the next words were only head shots count.

Johan must have had a good laugh at me, weaving the barrel of the gun back and forth trying to match the rhythm of the guinea’s head as the birds ran down the path ahead of us.  After a few minutes (it seemed more like an hour) of failing to match the rhythm and several missed shots, he finally took mercy on me and gave me a quick lesson.  Do not follow the head because there is not enough movement to gain a proper lead and you will shoot behind it every time.  You need to shoot where you think the head will be when the bullet gets there.  It made sense and I started to mark how far the head bobbed and how long it was in between bobs and pretty soon I figured out the pattern.  At the crack of my shot with this new method my first guinea came to pot.  I then proceeded to curse myself by saying that was not too hard and, sure enough, I missed the next 10 attempts.  I would love to be able to say I quickly learned the way of the guinea, but that would be stretching the truth a mite, so I’ll leave it at we got enough to feed ourselves and all of the camp staff before we ran out of .22 rounds.  I will also have to admit it was one of the most pleasant (albeit unusual) afternoons of bird hunting ever, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone willing to give the unusual a try.

My second bird hunt took place in Charisa, Zimbabwe and was for a mixed bag of guinea and sand grouse.  I like to call the story the “Lion and the Sand Grouse”.  Check back next Monday for that story.

Previous post:

Next post: