Wingshooting in South Africa: An Unexposed Jewel. Part 4: Waterfowl Hunting

Even though South Africa is mostly known for big-game hunting, bird-hunting opportunities are also second to none and well deserve your attention. In the fourth and final part of the “Wingshooting in South Africa” series, Peter Ruddle will cover waterfowl hunting. 

Part 1: Pigeon and Doves

Part 2: Driven Bird Hunts

Part 3: Over Pointing Dogs

There are seventeen recorded duck and three recorded geese species in South Africa. Some of them can only be hunted if you have a special permit e.g. Black Duck and Pygmy Goose. The most commonly hunted ducks are Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard and South African Shelduck. Depending on the area and region, other species like Comb Duck and Fulvous Duck may be commonly added to the bag. Egyptian Geese and Spurwing Geese are hunted country wide. 

Similar to the upland birds, African waterfowl are mostly very drab in color so as to be well camouflaged from both birds of prey and nocturnal predators. Most of the birds coloring is only reflected in the different colored bills and some do have limited colored feathering. Birds vary in size and their preference of habitat but the largest concentrations are on the central plateau in the maize (corn) growing areas.

A duck and a hunter collecting birds

Some of these waterfowl birds can become real pests. For instance, Egyptian Geese breed very well within the city limits and when their numbers increase significantly, they descend on the golf courses that in most cases are perfect waterfowl habitat, lots of ponds and green fresh grass. This often brings them into conflict with golfers who get irritated by the large quantities of excrement deposited on the lush green golfing greens. As hunters, we know how to solve this problem but the use of firearms within the city limits is banned. 

The practice of decoy duck hunting is the same worldwide. In some instances, temporary blinds are built prior to the client’s arrival so that the waterfowl are already habituated to the blinds. In areas where hay bales are available, these make great blinds as these are familiar sights to the waterfowl feeding on agricultural lands. 

Let’s get Tim van Heerden from Karoo Wingshooting have a say on waterfowl hunting.    

THE HUNT

Waterfowl is shot over decoys from natural and man-made blinds. Morning shoots are generally on cultivated pastures or recently combined maize (corn) and wheat fields. Afternoon shoots usually take place around impoundments. Bag limits are generous and a gun can expect to shoot, depending on the time of the year, between 10 and 20+ waterfowl per day. Depending on the time of the year you will encounter, amongst other, the following species: Egyptian & Spurwing Geese, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard, White-faced Duck & South African Shelduck. Parties of between 2 and 6 guns can be accommodated. 

PROGRAM

A typical day will commence with an early morning wake-up call. After a quick cup of coffee, rusks (biscotti)  and toast we will depart for the morning’s shoot about half an hour away. After placing the decoys around the pre-positioned blinds, shooting will commence before daybreak until roughly 10am. Snacks and beverages will be offered during the shoot. Back at the lodge, you will be entertained to a hearty brunch, with siesta time thereafter to catch up on some early morning lost sleep. 3pm will have us depart for our afternoon shoot till dusk. The shoots will conclude with a photo session of the session’s bag. 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 waterfowl shoot takes place over a minimum of 2 days shooting. International guests can combine a waterfowl shoot with some of our other shooting and touristic options. Best shooting is from May to August in our main area, and between October and November at our Western Cape concession

GEAR

The season ranges from our mid-summer through mid-winter to spring, so please inquire about recommended clothing for your shoot when booking! Real Tree, Max4 and Sniper camo is highly recommended. Dark khaki works great too. Light khaki and light coloured clothing is to be avoided at all costs. Waterproof Wellies, or Gumboots as we locals call it, will be supplied to guns if wet, muddy conditions are to be encountered. Sunblock, a shooting cap, eye and ear protection as well as a shooting vest is recommended for an enjoyable shoot.

GUNS AND AMMO

  • 12 gauge over/under shotguns are recommended.
  • Shot in size No.3 with a minimum of 34 grams will be supplied to visiting sportsmen. This combination has found to be ideal for duck and geese shooting in our areas.
A Nile goose and a duck

CONSERVATION

Geese are considered an agricultural pest as they trample valuable crops during the initial growth stage after germination. The damage a flock of a thousand geese can cause on pastures is unimaginable to uninformed outsiders. By adding value in terms of concession fees paid to landowners, hunters create tolerance towards the birds from landowners. It is also seen as a protein supplement to their labour force and excess birds are distributed to impoverished local communities. These benefits deter landowners from eradicating these birds en-mass by employing insalubrious solutions to the damage causing birds. Waterfowl season is from the 1st February until the 30th September.

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Combination Hunts and Season Dates

When planning a bird-shooting trip to South Africa you may also want to look at combo hunts. The following generalized guidelines may help with your planning. As a rule of thumb June, July and August are the standard bird hunting open season. However, South Africa has nine provinces and each has their own Nature Conservation Ordinance so there is some variance with regards to upland and waterfowl hunting regulations. This is the reason that serious bird shooting outfitters have numerous locations centered throughout the country to be able to maximize on the bird hunting opportunities during each provinces open season.  Applications for special out of season permits may be issued by the respective authorities.     

SPECIESHUNTING SEASON
Doves & Pigeons1 January through 31 December (Best Mar to May)
Ostrich1 January through 31 December
South African Shelduck1 January through 31 March
Burchell’s Sandgrouse1 November through 30 April
Double-banded Sandgrouse1 November through 30 April
Egyptian Geese1 February through 30 November (Best April to Aug)
Spurwing Geese1 March through 30 September (Best late May to Aug)
Namaqua Sandgrouse1 April through 15 July (Best May to Jul)
Francolin1 May through 31 July
Spurfowl1 May through 31 August (Best Jun to Aug)
Guineafowl1 May through 30 September (Best Jun to Aug)
Ducks1 May through 31 August (Best May to Jul)

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