Bye Bye Birdie
by Steve Hofmann
Namibian Male Ostrich
I arrived in Namibia in August of 2013. It was my fifth visit and Safari to this beautiful country. My intentions were to hunt plains game and birds.
I was in Central Namibia searching for caracal. One morning we came upon a flock of Guinea Fowl near a waterhole. My host had a .17 HMR rifle and he gave it to me. I took quick aim at one of the large birds and the 17 gr bullet hit it in the lower neck. The bird dropped. That bird was only the beginning.
I had brought a CZ Bobwhite .28 ga side by side to Namibia this year. I had plenty of boxes of .28 ga shells. My host had stored some boxes for me from my last trip. We encountered many doves in our search for the cat. There were three kind of doves: the Namaqua, the Ringnecked dove, and the Turtle Dove. I made a few good shots on them; they were swift and aerobatic in flight,indeed. I hit a few squarely. There was a puff of feathers; then, the birds dropped.
The next morning I was taken to a waterhole to hunt Sand Grouse. In Namibia, the flocks of Sand Grouse come to water at about 8 A.M. every morning and the flights begin to stop at about 9 A.M. You can set your watch by observing the flights of Sand Grouse in Namibia. There are two types of Sand Grouse where I hunted in Namibia. The Burchell's Sand Grouse is fairly chunky and robust, with broad wings. The Burchell's has speckled plumage. It comes over the water in large flocks. From afar; their distinctive calls can alert the hunter to their presence. The Namaqua Sand Grouse is smaller and more elusive in it's flight pattern. It's wings are not as broad as the Burchell's. They seem to cut through the air cleaner. The Namaqua has a distinctive band on it's breast. The Namaqua emits a cry that sounds like 'Choc o lot. Choc o lot' when in flight. Both Sand Grouse are very fine eating; especially with Wild Rice from America.
It was early September. The baby Sand Grouse were molted and young adults now. During their youth they were brought water in the breast feathers of their parents; sometimes as much as 60 miles from water. Very special plumage, indeed. The Sand Grouse season had started in Namibia.
I situated myself in a blind near the waterhole. At 8 A.M., just like clockwork, the Sand Grouse flocks started to appear. It was great fun trying to hit the birds with my .28 ga. They were fast and elusive and made difficult targets; especially the Namaquas. At half past 9 the bird flight ended; just like clockwork. I had harvested a few and would have a splended meal when cooked by my host in a Potjie Pot.
We said farewell to the water hole and ventured onto the veldt. We came across some Red Billed Francolin. These birds are about in between the Guinea Fowl and the Sand Grouse in size. They appear in groups. The Francolin scurried through the bush. When in flight, they are quite swift. They take off like pheasants and offer challenging targets. I succeeded in downing a few Francolin to add to the Potjie Pot. My .28 S/S was performing splendidly and was a great deal of fun to shoot. It was fast and light in weight. I could get a bead on a bird very quickly.
That evening we hunted Ostrich. I had a Ruger #1 .375 H&H Mag that I had taken plains game with. The .28 ga was out of the question for Ostrich; therefore the .375. We traveled through the veldt and encountered a huge herd of Red Hartebeest, some Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, and Blesbok. We saw a few Aardvark in search of termites. These strange appearing animals are normally nocturnal. I was priveleged to spot them on this evening hunt for Ostrich.
The sun began to set in a fiery red ball. There was stillness in the air. In the distance, perhaps 200 yards away, stood a huge Male Ostrich. The big bird was outlined by the setting sun. He offered a good and a beautiful target. I aimed my scope and rifle at the juncture of his neck and back. Right where the neck starts. I took my time. My host told me later that he feared that the Ostrich would start to run at 50 MPH; I was taking a lot of time. I aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger. The big bird dropped immediately. I had hit it right where I was aiming. My host said that it was the best shot that I had made on the whole Safari.
If anyone wants superb bird hunting; journey to Namibia!