Again I am sitting on my patio a few metres from the Sand River. Ducks are paddling in the slow-moving pools, and Egyptian geese are flying up and down raucously calling – the birdlife is magic…
The history of bird hunting – wingshooting – can go back to one of the greatest names in hunting: Frederick Courteney Selous. We see him in that classic picture, ensconced in a deck chair with an open book, and hung next to him is a recently shot Kori bustard. This majestic African bird is actually the world’s heaviest flying bird, weighing up to 40 pounds. Of course the ostrich is also the largest bird, but it can’t fly. However, it can run – and run fast! So while the ostrich does not belong in the wingshooting category, it is still a huntable bird and is featured in the issue.
Africa offers a diversity of game birds and, like her game, the birds are varied, colorful, and numerous – and also a challenge to he (and she) with the gun. We have run features on wingshooting, even featured some with the legendary Rovos Rail, but have not made it much of a focus. That is about to change. And to herald the change, we thought it was time that a bird should adorn the front cover.
My family has always been interested in wildlife – and birds in particular. Ever since I can remember. I was making catapults (some call them sling shots) from the time I was a little boy. Shooting at birds in the back yard and bushveld around our home was something that I just did. My bedroom walls were covered in pressed and dried birds’ wings. I did projects on birds in junior school, and my interest evolved to keeping waxbills in aviaries. I really loved the small seed eaters and today they are still my favorite bird family.
Getting back to the cover. The iconic guinea fowl is probably Africa’s most recognised game bird, be it the white spotted plumage, the shape of it flying, or the wonderful cackle the birds make at dusk and dawn. It’s Africa calling.
Wingshooting seems to be less offensive to the crazy antis. No soulful eyes, no names that they are called by, no collaring for tracking and scientific reasons. Oddly, birds seem to be lower on the totem pole of importance. Maybe it is the calm before the storm, who knows. For now, let’s capitalise on the fact that wingshooting is widely practised, is a hugely traditional sport, and is right here in Africa! We have the ingredients to attract and open up a new sector in a big way. And then to a good friend, Dieter Krieghoff, who I have been telling I will be moving to cover this – I can finally get that monkey off my back and say – at last – we have delivered!
Wingshooting will be receiving its due respect as we regularly bring you content from Ken Bailey with whom I recently went on a tremendous tour around South Africa, hosted by Bird Hunters Africa, with me being initiated into the “world of wing shooting” – to quote the title of a great book, published some 30 years back. Ken’s the hunting Editor of Outdoor Canada, and if we can get a fraction of the fanatic wingshooters from the northern hemisphere to experience the opportunities for feather-based hunting in Africa – things will be just fine.
Until then – brace yourself.