We head out over the potato fields on the neighboring farm in two white Toyota Hilux. Standing on the barn of the first Toyota, I am with Allan and Nigel and the two dogs Jetta and Marlin. We are each armed with a shotgun, an over/under and a side by side, and of course, the pockets filled up to the brim with cartridges.
I have chosen an over / under for today’s occasion, which I would also normally spend on hunting at home in Denmark. It’s now safely in the armory at home, it’s a check, and there it’s waiting for me to come home for the winter and go out and air it again, so that it can continue to lay down faithfully pheasants and deer again, as it has done so fine the last few years on the preceding joint hunts.
Bird Hunting and Field Racing
So here we are with prayers in the chamber and breaking every conceivable safety rule you could think of in Denmark. But this is not Denmark, it is South Africa, and anything can happen here. So here we stand, working hard, each one to keep his balance and not fall on his ass. And if you take the chance and look down at the bottom of what we are standing on, you will be able to see a sea of used cartridge cases, sodas, and beer that travel from side to side in step with the car’s movements across the field.
The two happy dogs look up at us, full of energy and excited to go out and do the day’s work; we had a total of 10 dogs on the farm, each with their tasks. The tracking dogs, the bird dogs, the guard dogs, and then those who had been rescued after being left by poachers in the bush. Never have I experienced dogs that have had it so well.
In the midst of all this, the sneaky thoughts sneak into the head of one. Is this now also the most brilliant idea? BANG !! The bang comes right next to me, and it’s Allan who has shot at a startled guinea fowl trying to take flight as the car rumbled past it. The guinea fowl fell and hit the ground with a bump. But there was no time to stop and pick it up. The car behind us would take care of that, this time. And so all sensible thoughts vanished, for now, we were on our way. In front of this bouncing and rocking vessel, I had climbed an hour earlier that day was Mark.
Mark was the owner of the farm I lived on, and I work for him daily. His farm was a short half-hour drive on gravel roads; ,we are now tons away from the farm. Some distance behind us is the other Toyota Hilux, with the same setup at the back of the barn, with dogs, shotguns, three happy hunters, and plenty of ammunition. In this car, Carissa, who is Mark’s daughter, drives the car across the field.
The only difference between her and her father’s driving is that she’s about to blow up our eardrums with the car horn blowing across the fields as a tribute to the shot-down guinea fowl. So there we come blazing across the field, in a procession without equal, with weapons sticking out from all directions of the barn.
We crash together upon the barn when Mark chooses to step on the pedal, which has the job of braking the car and further through the floor of the car. At least that’s how it felt on the barn when the car was brought to a standstill. We try our best to stay upright, to avoid falling over or shooting each other’s buds, as the shotguns swing merrily back and forth as we crash.
Mark’s head comes out the window, with his full beard, long hair, and cap pressed down over his head to take the worst of the sun. He points straight ahead to show us the many gray spots that can just be glimpsed ahead. This is precisely what we have been looking for during this heartbreaking drive, a flock of guinea fowl sitting and eating grain in the field, utterly unaware of what will happen in a little while.
Carissa and her sling come up next to us. Mark and Carissa both stick their heads out of the windows of the cars to lay a plan for the guinea fowl hunt. Mark finally turns his head and looks at us, upon the bed of the two cars, and says, “so guys, the plan is, we are going straight ahead, and the others are going around” and then ends with “If it flies it dies.”
That plan does not get better; for a long time, I also do not get to think about all the missing details of the plan, such as whether it is meant for us to shoot at full speed. For immediately after, we set off across the field. And then the other thing is to hold on to the sides of the car with one hand and the rifle with the other, and then be ready to shoot.
As we approached the guinea fowl, they began to sense uneasiness and gradually started walking on their wings. It became a confusing escape from the two cars that came thundering towards them from different directions as we got closer. Mark set the speed, for they should not be allowed to reach, to run away. Then the bangs began from both the right and the left.
It only took me a few seconds to learn the art of shooting from the barn of a moving car, which rocked from side to side. You just let go of the edge with one hand, balanced or leaned up from the side of the car, and then it was otherwise, Take Aim And Shoot. It resulted in a pair of fine guinea fowl that dragged down from the sky here and there.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see something moving along the ground, and in a way, I had plans to rise into the air. It was a fine steinbock that had been frightened out of the place it had pressed and now whizzed in a fine line 15 meters past the radiator of the car. All my hunting instincts strike, and it feels like everything is going in slow motion.
I spin around and hold the sight some distance in front of the animal and follow it there, so it fits that it will run directly into the ball rain, with the heart and lungs. My finger slides down and over the trigger and is about to deliver the deadly shot that will sling the animal to the ground in a bunch of flasks when it dawns on me that it is not like a joint hunt in Denmark and reminds me even if we do not have permission to shoot other than guinea fowl and franklins on this farm.
When it’s all over, we get out of the car and set the dogs loose to help us collect the guinea fowl. Here we stand and enjoy the sun and its heat while getting a cold beer and talking about the day’s hunt. And all in all, quite satisfied. One dog runs off into a bush. Where the dog has whizzed in, a lot of birds fly. And to our great surprise, Marlin comes out with a fluttering guinea fowl in her mouth, which she so proudly showed in front of us, in a hint of “see what I have caught. so can I.”
This was one of the more unusual hunts. The birds we shot had to be regulated as there were too many of them on the farm, and they ate the farmer’s grain. The people who were with were all related to Mark, just beside three other young people who lived on the farm and me. Allan was his brother and came from Colorado; the other brother, on the other car, was from the United Kingdom. It’s great to think about how hunting can bring a family together even if they live on separate continents.