pointers on point

Wingshooting in South Africa: An Unexposed Jewel. Part 3: Over Pointing Dogs

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

Part 1: Pigeon and Doves

Part 2: Driven Bird Hunts

There is nothing as satisfying as watching a well-trained retrieving, pointing, and flushing or scent dog at work. Once regarded as a classic aristocratic hunt, shooting over dogs has now become one of the most fulfilling hunts available to all hunters. However, much of the gun handling, safety, etiquette and rules remain the same. Make sure you are aware of how you are expected to conduct yourself during these hunts. In some instances, even the clothing your wear may be frowned upon if not appropriate.

Some of the basic bird hunting over dogs safety etiquette rules are:   

  • Always carry the shotgun safely with the muzzle pointing up in what is known as the port arms position.  
  • Many accidental shootings happen when climbing through fences so be exceptionally careful when moving or handling your shotgun to someone else. 
  • Never fire a low shot as some young dogs may try to jump up after the bird when it takes off.   
  • Never shoot anything on the ground, as you can never be certain where the dog is. Likewise, do not shoot cripple birds unless you have permission from the dog owner.  
  • Like humans, all dogs have good and bad days. Never command another man’s dog, judge or criticise another’s bird dog. Only give handling or training advice if requested.
  • Make sure you know the rules of the dog before the hunt. 
  • Do not judge the whole breed by one dog’s behaviour.
  • Pay attention to the dog’s behaviour and be ready to move with the dog.   
  • Do not compete when hunting over dogs as this can lead to accidents. Take turns at shooting, back each other up and save the competition for when shooting clays. 
a pointer on point

South Africa is gifted with an assortment of francolin, spurfowl and quail. Unlike the pheasants of the Northern Hemisphere, these birds are all built for camouflage rather than color. There are so many predatory species compared to the other continents that as ground-dwelling birds if you do not blend in you are not going to last long.

The Afrikaans speaking fraternity in South Africa often directly translate the word “Fisant” from Afrikaans into English which means pheasant, so do not let this confuse you.       

ABOUT FRANCOLIN & SPURFOWL

There are six francolins, six spurfowls, four sandgrouses, three quails and three buttonquail species in South Africa. The francolin and spurfowl species distribution is limited to certain areas, habitats and even altitude. Therefore, it all depends on where you are hunting which bird species you may encounter. Some of the more commonly hunted birds over dogs are Shelley’s francolin, Orange River francolin, coqui francolin, crested francolin, Natal spurfowl, red-necked spurfowl and Swainson’s spurfowl. Grey-winged and red-winged francolin are a sought after bird hunting speciality species. In the semi-arid regions of the country Namaqua sandgrouse, double-banded sandgrouse and Burchell’s sandgrouse are hunted over dogs, but more commonly hunted at waterholes. Migrating common quail (Coturnix coturnix) are also available in some regions during the course of the year. 

a hunter with a gun

Let’s join Tim van Heerden from Karoo Wingshooting for a greywing francolin hunt description.   

THE HUNT

This is a walk-up shoot over pointing dogs and has been described as champagne shooting with the “Rolls Royce” of the African gamebirds. English Pointers are used to hunt, point and retrieve the birds. Greywing francolin can be found in coveys of between five and twenty birds and sit tight for pointers and flush in singles, pairs, or all at once. The greywing hunt takes place in the pristine highlands of the Sneeuberg Mountain range north of the historic town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, at altitudes of between 1600 and 2100 meters above sea level. An average level of fitness is an advantage. It can be described as challenging by some, but it is extremely rewarding to the enthusiastic wingshooter. You can expect to walk more than 7 miles or 10 kilometers per day. You will experience classic shooting to bag the fastest upland gamebird in the world while observing endless vistas and breath-taking mountain topographies few travelers will ever lay eyes on.

PROGRAM

A typical day will commence with an early morning breakfast after which we will depart for the day’s shooting. Transportation to the shooting area will be by means of a 4WD vehicle. Shooting commences on arrival in the field until noon. A hearty field lunch will be served and there will be enough time given to rest weary legs. Guns will resume the shoot at around 2 pm. The day’s shoot will conclude during the afternoon with a photo session of the day’s bag and something to fight off the cold from within. A mouth-watering dinner will be served at 7.30 pm and the day’s excitement will be relived around a comfortable fireplace until bedtime.

DURATION

A typical greywing shoot takes place over 2 to 3 days. International sportsmen and women can combine a greywing francolin shoot with some of our other shooting and touristic options.

more pointers

GEAR

This is the Southern hemisphere’s wintertime! Good, sturdy, well worn, waterproof ankle boots are essential. The mornings and late afternoons will be cold; therefore dressing in layers is 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 shotguns are recommended.
  • No semiautomatic shotguns will be allowed on greywing hunts.
  • Shot in size No.5 will be supplied to visiting sportsmen. This combination is ideal for greywing hunting in our areas.

CONSERVATION

As these are totally wild populations of francolin, no more than 30% of a population is harvested per annum. Guns can expect to flush between 60 and 100 birds per day and a bag of between 20 and 30 birds depending on the number of guns and level of shooting. Smaller groups are preferred. Three guns being the ultimate size group, four being maximum. Greywing partridge season is from the 1st May until the 31st July. All birds are consumed by clients while on safari, while the excess is prepared and frozen for post-season consumption by outfitter and staff.

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