SHOOT OF A LIFETIME
For the sheer abundance and variety of birds, you can’t beat southern Africa. An old hand’s wingshooting primer for greenhorns
Flying in with the sun behind them as though they’d stolen the Red Baron’s playbook, the birds suddenly appear. But it’s too late. Having obviously seen us, they’re already twisting skyward as I shoulder my gun. I manage to get off two shots, but in truth, it’s a desperation move—I don’t cut a single feather before the flight of a dozen sandgrouse disappears toward the horizon.
They’ll be back, though. Sandgrouse keep to their schedule with the precision of a Swiss watch, and I’ll be waiting for them, better concealed, when they return the next morning. In the meantime, I’ll go chase guineafowl and francolin. Such are the bird-hunting options in southern Africa—if you miss one bus, there’s always another just minutes away.
For hunters, the appeal of an African safari is the marriage of the abundance and the diversity of game. Understandably, many only dream of hunting big game, with literally dozens of antelope species to choose from, in addition to the fabled big five and a broad assortment of other unique animals of all sizes and descriptions. As with others, I have also been captivated by the intoxicating allure of Africa’s big-game hunting.
With every return visit, however, I became increasingly distracted by game birds, from flushing a covey of francolin while stalking a kudu bull to getting sold out by squawking guineafowl on a Cape buffalo hunt. As a result, I discovered the opportunities for bird hunting are every bit as numerous and notable as they are for four-legged critters. Now I make bird hunting a major part of every visit to this part of the world. And I’m not alone—dedicated wingshooting safaris are an emerging trend in African hunting circles.
After all, there’s no other destination that offers the variety and numbers of birds as southern Africa does, particularly in South Africa and Namibia. Aside from the airfare to get there, it’s also very affordable when compared to guided wingshoots elsewhere, including North America. If you’re considering a trip, here’s some background to get you started.