By Robert Parvin Williams
Our hosts were seriously nice: friendly, cheerful, fun, but they hailed from a culture that appeared to place exuberance before gun safety, and they had a tendency to talk with their hands.
Two days into the wingshooting safari Jeff, Mike, our hosts and I found ourselves waiting, shotguns at the ready, for the line of beaters to drive a flock of vulturine guinea fowl out of the bush. As usual, our hosts were talking, laughing, gesturing, having a great time. I, on the other hand, was rapidly growing weary of the view down their wildly waving muzzles. As one of the guns swept past my crotch for the third or fourth time I looked over at Jeff and Mike and muttered something grumpy. They nodded. Time for something different.
“You know,” Jeff mused, “I’m thinking we could probably get some flushing shots by ourselves if we were quick enough.”
We looked at each other. Yes. Yes, we could, indeed. And thus it came to pass that the noble sport of guinea running began, born of a simple desire to avoid castration by a load of high-brass 6s.
As our professional hunter was organizing the next drive we asked him if the three of us could head off into an adjoining patch of bush and try to scare up some birds on our own. He looked at us a little funny, but took the odd request in stride easily enough. We grabbed a few handfuls of shells, spread out 50 yards apart, and sprinted into the bush.
After a little trial and error we hit on a plan that seemed to work: first spot a feeding flock as it moseyed along amongst the thornbush, then one guy runs wide to the left and one wide to the right in a pincer movement, and once they’re a little ways ahead the third guy runs straight for the guineas. If all goes well, if all those beady little eyes don’t spot the flankers before they see the middle fellow running at them, the flock tends to scatter and flush off to the sides, giving the flankers and maybe the chaser some good 30-40 yard shots.
One thing we learned was you have to shoot flushed guineas on the rise. Once they plane out they’re hard to drop. Another thing we learned was it helps to run really fast. I’m talking an all-out sprint, as fast as you can run with a shotgun in your hand. In thornbush that means a lot of ducking and dodging trees and bushes, all of which want to impale you with whatever they’re armed with. At the end of a run your thorn scratches usually outnumber your birds about 20 to 1. But while you’re running, leaping, twisting and turning after those blue-feathered rockets, you don’t feel a thing.
Once we returned to the truck with a few birds some of the beaters decided we might be onto something and started to come with us. That made retrieving shot birds a lot easier, especially with cripples. A winged guinea can really cover ground.
For some reason none of the other hunters seemed all that enthusiastic. Some mentioned mambas and puff adders, some elephants and buffalo. There wasn’t much you could say about that. In retrospect, however, I suspect the local hunting gods simply classed us with drunks and sailors and gave us a pass. And surely it’s better to be trampled by an angry elephant than unmanned by an arm-waving idiot.