There is no doubt about
it, Africa is a long, long flight away for the USA! We left Savannah,
Georgia at 7am and arrived in Johannesburg via Washington and
Dakar around lunch time the next day. However, bringing guns into
South Africa is an easy and swift process, under the guidance
of our outfitter. Clearing immigration and customs, we were greeted
by our genial host, Mark Haldane, owner and operator of Bird Hunters
Placing guns and
luggage in the trailer we boarded a bus for the two hour drive
to Bloemfontein and De Oude Kraal Country Estate. This is a very,
very nice hotel indeed, and the recipient of many International
Wine and Dining Awards. The main building contains the reception,
lounge, dinning room areas and a unique bar! The wall decor featured
racks and racks of neck ties from around the world - every regiment,
old school and athletic club tie was on display, each one referenced
by a story describing how (and on whom) it had arrived at De Oude
The rooms are individual
buildings in a traditional corral setting and truly Five Star
luxury, the decor and comfort surpassed only by the superb cuisine
and wine cellar.
It was an early start
to the hunting- 4 AM, but our jet lag, induced by the time change,
helped! We began the day with a goose flight, first setting up in
the freshly harvested wheat fields adjacent to a National Wildlife
Park, containing one of the largest dammed lakes in South Africa.
With enormous care and great stealth,
the guns where positioned in the dark, by masked flashlight, along
the boundary abutting the Park. As the first whispers of sunlight
crept over the horizon, the ducks and geese began to stir - first
calling to each other, then rising, curling and circling around
the dam before turning to pass high over the waiting guns to breakfast
in the fields behind them.
There was a stiffening breeze from
the west and this, combined with the deceptively lazy wing beat
of geese disguising their true speed, created some really challenging
and exciting shooting!
Tip! The trick to making passing
shots at geese is to ignore the body, and treat the head as if you
were shooting a snipe. In this way you get a true impression of
its speed and also place your shot in the most vulnerable areas,
ensuring a clean kill.
As the fireball of the rising sun
crept up over the horizon, majestically sweeping away the last cobwebs
of gloom, the flight slowed to a trickle. We had acquitted ourselves
very well, and there was a large mixed bag of Spurwing and Egyptian
geese together with a variety of duck.
The Egyptian Goose is of similar size
to a Canadian, but has the most wonderful colorings! The Spurwing
Goose is twice the size of the Egyptian - as big as a Swan with
solid black and red markings on the head and huge spurs, 4 to
6 inches in length, at the elbows of the wings, hence the name.
The native ducks have red and yellow bills and are of a similar
size with the familiar flight characteristics of a Mallard.
After a short drive home and a
hearty breakfast, we proceeded to try our hand pass-shooting at
mourning doves in volume that would put Argentina under pressure
to match! For me, the contrast between the lumbering geese and
these winged jet fighters made an incredible day's shooting experience!
This was, of course, complemented
by my favorite - Lunch in the Field - a variety of grilled sausages
'Al Fresco' and a cold beer - what better combination to cool
our hot barrels!
On our recent trip to South Africa,
we shot over 21 species of Game Birds in 3 distinct locations.
Each area offered a different hunting experience and to share
these with you will require more than one article, so "Wing
Shooting Africa" will be a regular feature until all of our
adventures in Africa have been covered.
For trips: www.birdhuntersafrica.com
Mark Haldane - Bird Hunters Africa
5 Sedgley Place,WorldÕs View 3201 S. Africa
Telephone: + 2733 343 2247