Wingshooting

Whatever your main reason to visit South Africa, do bring along a shotgun to enjoy unsurpassed wingshooting.

The different wing shooting opportunities that can be offered to the serious wing shooter varies from, what is generally known as “upland” hunting for guinea fowl and francolin (pheasant) in the Free State Province. Upland hunting for various species of redwing and other partridges can be arranged at any one of many different locations. For the really serious water fowler hunts can be offered in the Eastern Cape and southern Free State. I also like to offer a balanced mixture of waterfowl and upland game birds in the north-eastern Free State. Special trips for greywing partridge (claimed to be the most challenging of all redwings) can also be arranged in the Eastern Cape & southern Free State. Trained pointing dogs (GSP’s) and retrievers will be provided, and used with or without dog handlers

Wingshooting: When?

As a dedicated wingshooting safari – best with a group.
As a relaxing day “off” or break during plains game hunting.
At the end of a safari when all trophies have been collected.
To experience the full spectrum that Andrew McLaren Safaris can offer.

Read below the basics of wingshooting in South Africa with AMS.

Wing Shooting Ethics.

All wing shooting offered to you as my guest is conducted on natural breeding birds from which only a sustainable number is taken. The venues that you will hunt have been my favorite hunting sites for some years, and I know that the populations are there and which off take is sustainable. You can be assured that not a single bird that you shoot at will be a “Put and Take” bird. I strive to always keep to the highest ethical practices. All shoots will have trained gundogs and at least one legally licensed Professional Hunter. In the case of larger groups or longer shoots, additional guides and gundogs will be arranged. I present my clients only with the highest quality shooting possible.

Type of Wing Shooting Client Catered for.

In the previous paragraph I refer to the serious wing shooter. Perhaps a better choice of words would be the ‘discerning’ wing shooter. Does the thought of a francolin or partridge rising in front of a pointing dog, or a flock of guinea fowl rising over your head or a flight of yellowbill’s coming in to the decoys get your heart racing? If not, you have probably not yet experienced the sheer magic of a properly executed hunt for the quarry mentioned. If the mere thought of these things does get your heart racing, then South Africa is the right place to be. I want to help you gain this experience. In particular I wish that you would come to South Africa with your normal hunting buddies, to share the magic of hunting with them. If you wish to also combine your wing shooting safari with a hunt for one or more of the more common plains game species, or some other adventure, well, then you are just the type of client that I want.

The less serious wing shooter is also welcome as a client, particularly for a bit of a relaxing vacation after a few days’ plains game hunt!

Ethical Bird Hunting in South Africa with Andrew McLaren Safaris

Typical bird hunting in South Africa is about as difficult to describe as to say how long of a piece of string is. I regard true sport hunting as the harvesting a small percentage of ‘surplus’ birds from a population established in a natural environment. Anthropogenic activities, and in particular agricultural activities, have resulted in such widespread changes in the environment that true sport bird hunting as practiced a few hundred years ago is today a very rare event, not only in South Africa, but also elsewhere in the world. It is the duty of the Hunting Outfitter and Professional Hunter to uphold the tradition of ethical bird hunting in the modern world.

What is Required on a Good Wingshooting Safari?

A question that each prospective bird hunter should at least attempt to answer is: “What should happen to me in South Africa before I would classify my safari as a good hunt?” Some essential parts of the answer is (i) Hunting it should be conducted in 100 % accordance to the legal requirements applicable at the hunting venue. (ii) The off take must be sustainable and not adversely affect the overall survival of the hunted or other indirectly affected species. (iii) Only “ethical” hunting methods should be used. (iv) Enough shooting opportunities should typically arise each day so that a good wing shooter should be able to harvest sufficient birds to feed him and his family.

There are many other aspects that all contribute to what I personally regard as a good hunt, the companionship of fellow hunters, the wonderful interaction between man and hunting dog, the solitude and anticipation of awaiting the dawn or dusk flight and many more. Hunting success should not be measured by the size of the bag only!

Wing shooting of Birds Regarded as Agricultural Pests.

In my opinion the “best” bird hunting opportunities arise where the hunted species have benefited by the presence of agricultural crops and have bred in numbers that could not be sustained naturally within the area. In these areas the landowners regard the birds as pests, which they wish to be ‘eradicated’, but on which at least some serious reduction in numbers should be applied to control the growth of the population. Here bag limits are either not set at all or at high numbers, as is generally the case for shooting pigeons and doves feeding on planted sunflower fields. In some instances hunters have literally harvested multiple hundreds of rock pigeons and doves in a single day. At another venue strict limits may be set for some of these species. At some of the venues Spurwinged and Egyptian geese, as well as other species of duck can be regarded as agricultural pests. Similarly the guinea fowl populations at some venues are much higher than could be sustained if the crops that they feed on were not present. The venues where I will take you hunting are generally at places where at least some species are regarded as pests. By the nature of things some other species will occur only in low numbers at these same venues. You simply cannot have your cake and eat it!

“Put and Take” Shooting.

Some hunters demand to be “guaranteed” a certain number of birds per day, and in response to this demand some of the Hunting Outfitters then resort to Put and Take shooting of, mostly introduced, but sometimes also indigenous, species. Andrew McLaren Safaris do not subscribe to this shooting at living targets as hunting. Every hunter who books a wing shooting safari under our guidance is here and now assured that each and every bird that he/she gets a shot at has been naturally bred and grown up as a fully wild bird in the area and the harvesting of such birds will not have any negative effect on the overall survival of the species in that area.

A Typical Wings hooting and Plains Game Safari to the Free State Province of South Africa

I do not have any set and fixed offer, but every single safari that I arrange is tailored to the needs and desires of the particular group. As we all know waterfowl are migratory birds, here one day and gone a week later. They also migrate to some very large dams in time to molt. You have to know where the birds are to get them, then make arrangements for all your accommodation and travel to be able to hunt them. A wing-shooting safari that is to include any waterfowl hunting can therefore not really be finalized until just before the start date of the actual safari. The quest for terrestrial game birds is quite a bit easier, you can know early in the hunting season what population to expect at any particular shooting venue, and then plan accordingly. As any wing-shooting safari will be only by custom arrangement, I cannot now tell you what the cost for the whole group would be. As a guideline I can assure you that it would be significantly lower than the US $ 400 to US $ 600 per gun per day charged by many operators. My likely total cost for a group of 7 hunters would be about US $ 325 per hunter per day. This figure give only the order of magnitude, and there may be some differences, depending on the number of Professional Hunters and dog handlers required. Once you start finalizing which type of hunting the group desires, weather all will be hunting 1X1 or 2X, get names, arrival and departure dates and getting to the stage where a booking is to be confirmed by paying a deposit a fixed and formal quote will be prepared, which is not expected to differ very much from my indicator price of $ 325 per hunter per day.

Planning a Wing Shooting or Plains Game Trophy-hunting Safari in South Africa.

The planning steps described in more detail elsewhere can be summarized as below:

Step 1.

Decide if you want to go.

One of the first questions asked, is: “Can I afford it?” The true and only answer that I and some of my previous clients have to this is: “Yes, you can afford it, and NO, any true adventurer and sportsman can not afford it to not go and hunt in South Africa!” In our Andrew McLaren Safari Newsletter Early August 2003 some of the concerns that hunters have expressed before deciding on visiting South Africa are addressed as questions and answers.

Step 2.

Decide on When.

You may well ask: “When is a good time to undertake a such a safari?” The concession areas where we hunt for plains game animals allow hunting throughout the year. Unless a special permit is arranged birds may be hunted only during a declared open season, which is normally during the period May to September in most of our provinces. The weather during May to September is also quite pleasant at most venues.

Step 4.

Decide on How you want to hunt.

One or the major cost items will be the airfare from USA to South Africa. You may as well try both a wingshooting and a plains game safari on a first trip. If you intend planning your own wing shooting or/and plains game hunting safari under our guidance, there are some chain of events of which you should be aware of. (See Andrew McLaren Safari Newsletter No. 2. Late August 2003)

Some hunters wish to do things on their own. That way things gets done! A single hunter can enjoy many benefits, of mobility, travel flexibility, never having to wait for someone to get ready, undivided attention of his professional hunter and other advantages associated with doing your own thing, alone. You may however wish to share the excitement of a South African safari with your wife/companion, with one hunting buddy, as a whole group of hunters friends and non-hunting companions. In my own hunting circle birdhunting is always a social event, shared by a group of hunting buddies. The choice is yours!

Step 5.

Contact a South African Hunting Outfitter

It is only a registered Hunting Outfitter that may offer to arrange your hunt. So whatever you do be sure that the Hunting Outfitter that you deal with is properly registered as such in South Africa and in the province in which he/she offers to take you hunting. (Go to my operating licences).

There are a number of ways to effectively plan a wing-shooting safari in South Africa. Some hunters prefer to work through a booking agent, and most are very happy with the results. Some South African Hunting Outfitters put up exhibitions at e.g. Safari Club Conventions, and hunters who attend these conventions can negotiate directly with the Hunting Outfitter. I have seen advice offered that you should join Safari Club International specifically to plan a hunting safari. Some Hunting Outfitters’ offers are for only wing shooting, and some offer wing shooting as a sideline to other hunting while yet others offer antelope hunting as a sideline to wing shooting. Some Hunting Outfitters (mostly those who are the actual landowners) offer hunting only on one or a few properties, while others have from a few to a large number of concessions in many provinces on which they can offer hunting. You could search the web for advertised hunts and do all the homework from home/office. By whatever means you have now contacted Andrew McLaren Safaris as Hunting Outfitter and Professional Hunter, and I invite you to read some of the advice that I offer to make the planning of your trip easier, and to help ensure that you get what you expect to get from a hunting safari to South Africa. Please go to our bookings link to communicate your desires to us. We will then guide you through the planning process to culminate in a simple actual booking and the start of a new adventure that will ever be fondly remembered. You are also invited to read all our questions and answers as well as the information on wing shooting targets to give you some insight into the hunting in South Africa.

Wing-shooting Safari Hunted Species.

Waterfowl:

The species regularly hunted include Egyptian Geese, Spurwing Geese, Yellow Billed Duck and Red Billed Teal. Shooting methods include driving the waterfowl off smaller dams, and shooting them on their natural flight paths in the early morning and evening. Another successful method is with the help of callers and decoys, which lure the birds into the shallow pans where they feed or over fields where they feed into the night. Without trying to enter into an age-old argument – number 1′s and 3′s shot size for geese and number 4′s and 5′s for duck and teal. Hunting is best later in the year from June or July to August or October.

Doves and Pigeons:

Our bags are generally made up of Red Eyed Morning Doves, Cape Turtle Doves and Rock Pigeons. For the shottist who likes to be kept busy with a variety of challenging shots, doves and pigeons are a must. Numbers 6 and 7 are recommended and each gun can expect approximately 200 shots in a day. Doves and pigeons are normally shot over fields where they are feeding, decoys are sometimes used although numbers seldom make this necessary. They are generally an afternoon hunt, so they combine well with other game birds such as guinea fowl or Francolin, which can be hunted in the morning. Hunting is allowed throughout the year, but best when sunflower fields are ready for harvesting in January to May.

Guinea Fowl:

Without any argument Africa’s cleverest game bird. They are normally shot driven over the waiting guns. Those which take to the long grass are then walked up with the help of Pointers. Another method is for a number of hunters (and helpers) to surround a flock feeding in a field. Hunting takes place from March to August, but is best when the maize is ready for harvesting in June and July. On a guinea fowl hunt the saying of: The more the merrier, can be changed to; The more guns, the better!

Francolin:

The Swainson’s Francolin and Orange River Francolin will be mostly encountered. Limited numbers of Redwing, regarded as the No. 1 choice land bird, may be available at some venues. For serious Redwing hunting the eastern Cape mountains is the place to go to. Both pheasant and partridge are shot over English or German Shorthaired Pointers. They are normally combined with guinea fowl shooting as they are often found in the same habitat. Hunting takes place from March to August.

Accommodation:

The accommodation is guaranteed to be comfortable and adequate. At some venues two hunters may be required to share a room equipped with two single beds. At one of my “best” wing shooting concessions there is a dormitory with no less than 12 beds. There are normally two meals a day – brunch and dinner, as well as coffee and rusks before an early morning departure to the hunting field.

Example Itinerary for a Seven Day Wing Shooting Safari

The details of such a hunt would be in broad outline:

Day 0 (Sunday): Depart Atlanta or JF Kennedy at 11.20 local time by SAA direct flight to Johannesburg International.

Day 1;(Monday): Arrive Johannesburg at 10.30 local time. Clear customs by lunchtime and depart for an about 3-4 hours drive to the first hunting venue at Mervilla in the Free State. Unpack, get settled, shoot a few clays, get acquainted with the dogs and relax to get over jetlag.

Day 2 to 4 ( Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday): Rise early, hunt, rest, eat, hunt, rest, eat and so on concentrating on waterfowl and guinea fowl, but also limited pheasants and even a few (restricted) greywings ( the undisputed “king” of South African gamebirds).

Day 5 (Friday): Have early hunt. Breakfast. Pack up and leave to Bloemfontein. Visit taxidermist / places of interest / lion park or whatever the group wants to do. Possibly go on a rock pigeon shoot in sunflower lands. Stay overnight in guesthouse or similar guest cottage.

Day 6 and 7 (Saturday and Sunday): Leave early by road for a few-hour’s drive to the second hunting venue in the Free State province. Do a guinea fowl surround with beaters or hunt pheasants over dogs. Shoot dives and pigeons in sunflower fields.

Day 8 (Monday): Leisurely pack up and make way to airport via the most scenic route. Depart at about 18.00 by SAA direct flight to Atlanta or JF Kennedy.

Example of Eleven Day Combined Wing Shooting and Plains Game Safari

The details of such a hunt would be in broad outline:

Day 0 (Ideally Saturday): Depart Atlanta or JF Kennedy at 11.20 local time by SAA direct flight to Johannesburg International.

Day 1(Sunday): Arrive Johannesburg at 10.30 local time. Clear customs by lunchtime and board connecting internal flight to Bloemfontein. Meet with transporter and depart for an about 2 hours drive to hunting venue in the Wepner district on the Free State Lesotho border. Unpack, get settled, shoot a few clays, get acquainted with the dogs and dog handlers, and just relax with a glass of good wine to get over jetlag.

Day 2 to 4 (Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday): Rise early, hunt, rest, eat, hunt, rest, eat and so on concentrating on waterfowl and guinea fowl, but also limited pheasants and even a few (restricted) greywings (the undisputed “king” of South African game birds).

Day 5 (Thursday): Have early hunt. Breakfast. Pack up and leave to Aliwal North, a drive of about two hours. Unpack, get settled and check telescope adjustment.

Day 6 to 10 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday): Hunt for plains game from the base camp and on surrounding properties. (See ”A typical day while on safari”)

Day 11 (Wednesday): Leisurely pack up and take two hour drive to Bloemfontein to catch internal connecting flight to arrive at Johannesburg International in time to depart at about 18.00 by SAA direct flight to Atlanta or JF Kennedy

Example of Nine Day Combined Wing Shooting, Varminting and Plains Game Safari in the Free State.

The details of such a hunt would be in broad outline:

Day -1 (Ideally Saturday): Depart Atlanta or JF Kennedy at 11.20 local time by SAA direct flight to Johannesburg International.

Day 0 (Sunday): Arrive Johannesburg at 10.30 local time. Clear customs by lunchtime and board connecting internal flight to Bloemfontein. Meet with transporter and depart for an about 1 hours drive to hunting venue in the Dealsville district in the northwestern Free State. Unpack, get settled, shoot a few clays, get acquainted with the dogs and dog handlers, and just relax with a glass of good wine to get over jetlag.

Day 1 to 9 (Monday to next week Tuesday): Rise early, hunt, rest, eat, hunt, rest, eat and so on concentrating on waterfowl and guinea fowl, but also limited pheasants. Hunt for plains game from the base camp and on surrounding properties. Do night time varminting by both calling and searchlight search. Limited daytime varminting (long range shooting) for a few species.(See ”A typical day while on safari”)

Day 10 (Wednesday): Leisurely pack up and take 1 hour drive to Bloemfontein to catch internal connecting flight to arrive at Johannesburg International in time to depart at about 18.00 by SAA direct flight to Atlanta or JF Kennedy.