The first time I went to Africa was 10 years ago and I brought a shotgun along. We hunted guinea fowl and I’ve been hunting birds on every African safari since.

This time, bird hunting was a priority. Our first hunt was for pigeons in a barn yard where we were instructed to make sure we didn’t shoot the tractor. Next, we hunted ducks along a dike in the river bottom. Soon there were four ducks in the water and our dog was nowhere to be found. We left the ducks to be pushed in to shore by the breeze and proceeded down toward where we saw some Egyptian spur-winged geese, which I consider Africa’s greatest waterfowl prize. They saw us a long way off and took to the skies. Minutes later, we added snipe to our mixed bag.

Our ducks, once they’d drifted to shore, turned out to be red-billed teal. We managed to collect quite a few. In South Africa, there is no steel shot restriction and we used lead shot provided by our outfitter. Wighardt van der Gryp, our professional hunter, provided us with nice shotguns – two over/unders and one semi-auto.

In the afternoon, we went back to try for the Egyptian goose. We spotted a small covey of francolin and went in to the tall grass after them. Three of us spread out about 20 yards and followed the birds in. We finished with two francolin and big smiles to celebrate bagging species that were new to us.

One of the traditional ways to start a shooting safari is to go after smaller antelope like impala or blesbok. To my mind, a day of bird hunting is another great way to get acquainted with your professional hunter and get over the first day jitters.

Gary Lewis is an outdoor writer, speaker and television host from Bend, Oregon. Contact Lewis at www.garylewisoutdoors.com, on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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Originally Published: Aug 11, 2014

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