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Hunting terrestrial game birds – equipment

12 January 2017

 

The type of shotgun mostly used

Wingshooting, as the correct way of hunting game birds is known colloquially, is a highly traditional sport that is practised within a strict code of ethics, including the equipment being used. The primary requirement for equipment is a shotgun of good quality with the right calibre for the right type of gamebird. The calibres vary from 410 to 12 guage, with the latter the best general calibre for South African conditions where it forms 94 per cent of the shotguns being used.

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Various types of shotgun exist and they vary from a single-shot break barrel, a double barrel side-by-side, a double barrel over-and-under, various types of single barrel and semi-automatic shotguns. Each type of shotgun is best under specific conditions as they all have advantages and disadvantages, but the double-barrel shotguns seem to be preferred by most of the wingshooters in South Africa. Whether the double barrels are positioned side-by-side or over-and–under seems to be a question of personal taste. While semi-automatic shotguns are effective, they may not be used in some regions for wingshooting because of inadequate safety measures.

 
 




 
 

Importance of the choke

The maximum shooting distance with a shotgun seldom exceeds 40 m, which makes it a close-range hunting weapon. Shotguns have different types of choke which means that they have various grades of constriction, or choke, in the barrel. The grade of choke determines whether the pellets will be concentrated or spread out when reaching the target. An open choke which creates a more dispersed shot pattern is recommended for terrestrial game birds which are usually shot over short distances of up to 35 m. When using a closed choke to hunt terrestrial game birds the shot pattern may be too concentrated which reduces the size of the target. Should the target be hit, a closed choke will often leave little of the bird to be used for the pot.

 
 




 
 

Hunters´ stock position

www.leopard.tvWhen selecting a shotgun it is important to ensure that the stock of the shotgun that is chosen will fit the build of the hunter so that it can be used correctly. Because a shotgun does not have a rear sight, the hunter uses eyesight to aim the shotgun. A stock that does not fit correctly will cause the line of sight to be off which will make it impossible to hit a target. As shots are usually fired rapidly, aiming is often impossible and the best results are obtained when the stock comes to rest naturally against the shoulder to create the correct line of sight for the most accurate shots.

 
 




 
 

Ammunition

www.leopard.tvThe ammunition for shotguns varies with calibres and the shot sizes that are effective for various types of bird being hunted. The smaller the pellets, the more pellets there are in a cartridge and the larger the target, and vice versa. This is a matter of personal choice at times but it also depends on reaching a compromise between the maximum area that is being covered by a specific pattern and the killing capacity of the chosen shot size for a specific type of bird. Choosing a shot size that is inadequate for the target can lead to wounded birds and unnecessary suffering. A cartridge with larger pellets may lead to more missed shots but it will also wound fewer birds. The latter is the first responsibility of any hunter. The choice of a suitable shot size also depends on the distance over which is shot and whether pointing dogs are being used to find wounded birds or not. When using pointing dogs a more open choke and shots over a short distance are more effective than a narrower choke and shots over a longer distance.

 
 




 
 

Hunting game birds - code of ethics

There are strict codes of ethics when hunting game birds in general. A paramount rule is never to shoot at birds that are out of range in the hope of making a lucky kill. Hunters should practice their shooting skills so as to know when a target is within their shooting capability. Most hunters are unable to kill a game bird at a distance of more than 40 m with a shotgun. It is therefore a sound approach never to shoot at any birds that are more than 20 m away. Using a choke does not make a hunter a more accurate shot but it only alters the pellet pattern. Increasing the choke will require an increase in the shooting skill of the hunter but it does not increase the distance over which the hunter can shoot accurately. When hunting with a double-barrel shotgun, it is a good practice not to fire both barrels in sequence, but to keep the second barrel in reserve for any birds that are wounded by the first shot.

Every wingshooter, and any hunter of any game for that matter, should always be aware of where other hunters are positioned when hunting. Apart from safety this will also ensure that a hunter does not spoil the shooting line of another hunter when wingshooting. It is therefore essential that a hunter should not move in position during a hunt. Finally, every wingshooter that hunts from a blind should clean up the blind before leaving. Cartridge cases, rubbish and abandoned gear should never be left behind. When hunting terrestrial game birds, fence lines should not be damaged and all gates should be closed properly when leaving.

 

References:

Botes, G 1999. Shotgunning – hearing conservation. S.A. Game & Hunt 5(6): 21.

Brooke, R K 1987. A history of the use of indigenous game birds in South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research Supplement 1: 2 - 4.

Potgieter, L 1987. The efficiency of the shotgun as firearm. South African Journal of Wildlife Research Supplement 1: 91 - 95.

Van der Westhuizen, R (Ed.). 2002. Wingshooting. Game bird shooting in Africa. Pretoria: SA Wingshooters’ Association.

Viljoen, P J 2005. AGRED’s gamebirds of South Africa: field identification and management. Houghton: African Gamebird Research, Education and Development Trust.

Viljoen, P J 2016. Wingshooting. In: J du P Bothma & J G du Toit 2016 (Eds), Game ranch management, sixth edition. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pages 703 – 705.

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

 

 

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