A hunter shooting guineafowl

Wingshooting in South Africa: An Unexposed Jewel. Part 2: Driven Bird Hunts

By Peter Ruddle

We continue Peter Ruddle’s “Wingshooting in South Africa” series of posts that proves that the country’s amazing bird hunting opportunities are on par with its more famous big game safaris. Click here to read Part 1: Pigeon and Doves

Driven bird hunts are usually associated with Europe and Great Britain, but South Africa has a long tradition of this sport as well. To this day, being invited to a farmer’s traditional guineafowl shoot is quite an honor. During these hunts camaraderie and long lasting friendships are made. The shoot is more about the experience than the kill and lots of banter and laughter was the order of the day.  

However, for numerous farmers preserving and managing the areas around their maize (corn) fields has become a nice little side-line income. Guineafowl numbers have declined significantly since the introduction of non-bird friendly weedicides and pesticides. These chemicals are believed to have been responsible for the huge decline in guineafowl population numbers in places like the Natal Midlands.  

Poisoning from these agricultural chemicals alone were not necessarily the reason for declining guineafowl populations but the weedicides also used to control weed growth also killed and therefore decreased the available plants and seeds as the birds primary food sources in the cultivated lands. 

Many farmers have now changed their farming management practises to ensure that the birds are not accidentally poisoned and that good grass cover is available around the fields so that the birds have cover available from natural predators and suitable places to breed.  Guineafowl numbers are once again on the increase and these areas now provide some top quality bird shooting. 

A flock of guineafowl

ABOUT GUINEAFOWL

South Africa has two guineafowl species. The lesser-known crested guineafowl is a forest bird found in small flocks in northeastern KwaZulu-Natal, eastern Mpumalanga and as far north as the Soutpansberg Mountain forests of Limpopo. Outside of South Africa this bird is found in the Zambezi Valley and forested areas of Mozambique. Bird collectors, normally only shoot only single specimens on the odd occasions when hunted. 

The helmeted guineafowl (known as Guinea hen in the USA) is most widely distributed gamebird  occurring throughout the country except in the far western desert regions. They commonly occur in grasslands, open savannahs and semi-arid areas. The highest concentration of guineafowl are mostly in the grain crop growing areas of the central interior region of South Africa. With regards to the rest of Southern Africa, they are found in huntable number in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Southern Mozambique.  

Guineafowl require permanent drinking water, roosting trees and cover for their nest during the summer breeding season.  

Let us hear Tim van Heerden from Karoo Wingshooting has to say on guineafowl hunting.   

THE HUNT

This is a unique and probably the best African driven hunt you will experience. On this hunt, we mimic a typical European style driven hunt with a uniquely African flavor. Guns will be strategically placed at pegs and the birds – mostly guineafowl but also some spurfowl (a type of old-world partridge) – will be driven over the line.

A crew of beaters

Sixty beaters, managed by a general and two sergeant-majors, will strategically position three lines of beaters, in a typical ox-horn battle formation, in order to drive the totally wild and expertly wily birds over the line of expecting guns.

Guns can expect to experience between 5 and 8 drives per day. A typical bag may consist of 140 to 180 birds per day. Snacks and beverages are provided during the drives. The driven hunt takes place in typical African savannah in the North-West province of South Africa. This is not a strenuous hunt, but some level of fitness is an advantage. You will experience classic driven hunt to bag some of the most unique gamebirds in Africa.

PROGRAM

A typical day will commence with an early morning continental breakfast after which we will depart for the day’s shooting. Transportation to the shooting area will be by means of a 4WD vehicle or minivan. Shooting commences on arrival in the field until noon. After 4 to 5 drives, a hearty field lunch will be served and there will be enough time given to rest.

Guns will resume the shoot after lunch to partake in another 2 to 3 drives during the afternoon. The day’s shoot will be concluded with a photo session of the day’s bag and some fellowship. A mouth-watering dinner will be served at night and the day’s excitement will be relived around a boma fire until bedtime.

Two hunters on a guineafowl shoot

DURATION

A typical Driven hunt takes place over 3 to 4 days. International sportsmen and women can combine a Driven shoot with some of our other shooting and touristic options.

GEAR

This hunt happens in the Southern hemisphere’s winter and spring time! Comfortable, non-insulated ankle boots are recommended. The winter mornings and late afternoons will be cold. Spring mornings and evenings can be chilly, but the days can be warm. Dressing in layers are advisable. A warm jacket, jersey, beanie, scarf and gloves are recommended. Sunblock, a shooting cap, eye and ear protection as well as a shooting vest is recommended for an enjoyable shoot.

GUNS AND AMMO

  • 12 or 20 gauge over/under or side-by-side shotguns are recommended.
  • No semi-automatic guns will be allowed on driven hunts.
  • No.5 size shot will be supplied to visiting sportsmen. This combination has found to be ideal for driven hunts in our areas.

CONSERVATION

As these are totally wild populations of guineafowl and francolin, no more than 30% of a population is harvested per annum. Guns can expect to see between 1000 and 1800 birds being driven per day and a bag of between 140 and 180 birds, depending on the number of guns and level of shooting. Groups of between 6 and 8 guns are preferred. The driven hunting season is from the late May until the 30th September. Birds are utilized by clients while on safari, while the excess are consumed by ourselves as well as the numerous beaters and their extended families.

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