Hatrick in the afternoon
Sometimes luck smiles upon you...
The evenings and mornings were crisp, the days shorter and the nights longer. The signs were there that winter had arrived, and with it wingshooting season. Every chance I got to do some wingshooting was grabbed with both hands and every pigeon that flew over my house was followed with a calculating eye.
Like an addict suffering from withdrawal symptoms and always on the lookout for his next fix, I was constantly making plans for shooting opportunities. When the chance thus presented itself to slip away from work early one day I phoned Jaco, my shooting companion, to hear whether he could accompany me.
Luckily Jaco could also escape
from work early. Excited, we quickly made arrangements and before long my car’s nose was pointing to the north. Jaco’s uncle farms near Settlers and we are privileged to have free access to the property whenever we want to visit and do some wingshooting. The mealies and sunflowers had recently been harvested and these fields were attracting large flocks of pigeons and doves.
After doing the usual round of greetings at the farmhouse and being informed where the birds are flying, we went off to a recently-harvested land. As we drove, it became obvious that the drought’s effect had disappeared. The crops that were not harvested yet were looking healthy and we were constantly seeing groups of spurfowl running into the grasses bordering the fields. We parked the car beneath a tree and quickly scouted around before commencing the shoot.
On the edge of the field, behind a stand of trees is a deep quarry. It was excavated many years ago to use the gravel for a large building project. The excavation remained a deep, dry depression for some years and we would sometimes use it as a “shooting range” to pattern our guns.
Jaco’s uncle however told us that the rains had transformed the area. To our surprise the past season’s rain had transformed the gravel pit into a small wetland ecosystem. Reeds had sprung up on the edge of the pit and the pit itself was half filled with water. A pair of redbilled teal was leisurely swimming in the middle of the “pond”. The birds were alarmed by our appearance – suddenly six more appeared from the reeds at the edge of the water and the whole flock took flight.
As the teal flew away to our right I lined up on one and squeezed the trigger of my new Franchi Feeling Steel over-andunder. The teal simply folded its wings and plummeted to the earth – stone dead. The flock swung back and flew almost right over us. This time it was Jaco’s turn and at the sound of the shot another teal dropped from the sky. Obviously Jaco’s old 1960s Brno side-by-side was still as lethal as always. We were smiling from ear to ear as we collected our birds. They were beautiful and fat; obviously the diet of maize was keeping them happy and healthy.
It was time to turn our attention to the pigeons. We switched ammunition – No 5s for No 7s, decked out the decoys and took up our positions under a line of trees bordering the maize field. It was quite windy, causing the birds to fly low. Most shots were thus on low, fast flying birds. Flocks of rock pigeons were followed by single laughing doves and pairs of red-eyed doves.
The shooting was exciting
» and demanding and the birds kept us on our toes. I was again reminded how important safety is during a shoot such as this. Jaco’s camouflaged clothing and the long grass made him difficult to spot and had there been more shooters, it would have been essential for everyone to be acutely aware of all the different shooters’ positions. Obviously with just the two of us it was less of an issue.
As I watched a pigeon Jaco had just shot, fall gracefully from the sky, I noticed a Swainson’s spurfowl in the middle of the field. The sound of the shot and the pigeon that fell close to it must have flushed the bird. It flapped its wings as if to take off but then disappeared in the stubble.
FLUSHING A SPURFOWL
We decided to try to walk up the bird. I kept my eyes glued to the spot where the spurfowl had disappeared. I kept a line slight- ly to the left of the spot and Jaco to the right. Just as my mind was starting to question whether we had walked too far or not quite far enough the Swainson’s flushed right at Jaco’s feet and flew fast and strong to his right. Jaco mounted his Brno in one smooth movement and cleanly took the Swainson’s with his first shot. With the spurfowl recovered we returned to the trees to resume our pigeon shooting.
At sunset we packed up and returned to the farmhouse to deliver some of the birds and thank Jaco’s uncle for the privilege of once again allowing us to shoot on his farm.
As we headed home I reminisced on the afternoon’s shooting. How lucky we were to bag a hattrick of species in a single afternoon – pigeons, Swainson’s spurfowl and red-billed teal. I was already looking forward to our next outing.
Red-billed teal taken with a trusty friend, my new Franchi 12ga.
ABOVE: Birds and gun. This picture was takenonanother occasion when we shottwo spurfowl. MAIN FOTO: The “dam” mentioned in the text. My friend Jaco, posing with the red-billed tealhe dropped withhisBrno.
The guns we used during the shoot – an old Brno side-by-side that belongs to my friend and my new Franchi over/under.