Written by Neil Harmse
Chapter 17. Why Wingshooting
I think there are as many reasons hunters pursue game as there are hunters – and those who hunt feathered game are no exception. When I decided to sell off my rifles and, instead, take up my sport of ‘shooting flying’, I had to seriously consider this change in my hunting options.
I have always enjoyed and thrilled in the challenge of tracking and following game animals in their natural habitat, studying their habits and their ways of eluding a hunter. The kill was simply an end to the challenge.
I have also always enjoyed the challenge of wingshooting, especially with a well-made and well-balanced shotgun. My shotguns are mostly of a vintage variety and I feel there is nothing as satisfying as stepping out into the veld in pursuit of either terrestrial game birds or waterfowl with a gun made over 100 years ago, knowing that it will do the work it was designed for the day it left the maker’s bench. The beauty and balance of these old English guns are a joy to behold.
Another reason I decided to take up wingshooting, as opposed to game hunting, was that because I was advancing in years, this sport was less strenuous and could be shared with a good companion or two for an enjoyable day’s outing, whereas game hunting was a more solitary pursuit. My good friend and hunting ‘buddy’ of about 45 years, Terry Murfin, was always ready to join in a shoot and many a day or weekend was spent walking behind a well-trained pointer, letting the dog work out where the birds were and holding them in position for a point while Terry and I strolled along, chatting about mutual interests and past experiences. Once the dogs were showing the point, we would take turns having the first shot, the way gentlemen hunters and friends should. This made for a really great day’s outing and a thoroughly enjoyable shoot. We would never worry about shooting a lot of birds and were quite satisfied with a brace or two for the pot, taken in an ethical and sporting way.
Unfortunately, Terry has now passed away and is sorely missed when I am in the veld on a shoot. I am fortunate that my son, Craig, and grandson, Kyle, also enjoy the sport and – having been brought up to respect the idea of ethical hunting – will hopefully also be my companions in the years ahead.
I have mentioned how good it is to hunt with a well-trained dog and would like to add a few thoughts on this topic. Whatever breed of dog you decide will suit your type of shooting, you will experience a lot of pride and pleasure in having one that helps to find the birds and add to the bag. My choice has always been for the pointing breeds, with the German short-haired pointer being a favourite. For more than 12 years, my trusted four-legged companion has been my GSP, ‘Storm’. When I first saw her, I was sitting on the veranda of my friend Dave Fowler’s clubhouse. Dave was a breeder and trainer of hunting dogs. I noticed a scrawny, young pup trying to scramble and climb over a mesh wire fence to reach us. After a few attempts, she managed to get over the fence and, with a proud wave of her stumpy tail, came to join us. I said to Dave that this dog showed guts and determination and would make a great hunting dog. He asked whether I would like to have her and I agreed with pleasure. Storm became one of my best four-legged companions and together we shared many enjoyable hunts. She passed away about two years ago and now rests in the veld on one of our favourite shooting farms near Koster in North West Province.
In Storm’s later years, I bought a young GSP to work with her and be trained by her. His name is Rocky and although he shows great promise, I am not sure whether he will be able to live up to Storm’s reputation. Only time will tell.
It is the companionship of a good friend and a good dog that make wingshooting the enjoyable sport it is reputed to be.