A Goose Hunt in Zululand
During one of my promotional trips to the USA to secure groups of Wing shooters to come on Safari to South Africa with our company, I met a group of clients in San Antonia, Texas. The clients had been on a disastrous trip the previous year to shoot birds on the Kafue flats in Zambia. On arrival at the airport there was no one to meet them, and eventually they were transported to the camp on the back of bakkies (pick-ups) for seven hours in the scorching sun. The whole trip from the food, to the shooting and the transport were all terrible. I had my work cut out for me as soon as they heard I was based in Africa. I was met with a fair amount of scepticism at the cocktail party and was asked if I could guarantee good bird hunting plus all the rest. I responded positively and six shooters paid their deposits and the dates were set.
Our clients arrived and to avoid a bad start for this group, I decided we would start the safari in Zululand. I had secured excellent goose shooting on Org Cronje’s farm as well as high volume red eyed turtle dove. To make sure that all went well, I had stationed one of my Zulu staff in a tent on the farm to keep a watch on where the birds were feeding. The Zulu’s name was “Blomass” and he loved to eat snakes, especially Puff adders. The area to be hunted was situated near the “Musi Swamps” and the geese were plentiful. The guests were chartered into Mkuze and then driven to Zululand Safari Lodge, where they were greeted by two naked- breasted Zulu maidens playing their traditional Zulu drums and a welcome cocktail was placed in each of the guest’s hand. A good start so far!
Before each shoot a briefing is given to the clients, so they may understand how to start the shooting. As I was briefing the client, the first goose pit blinds were being built in South Africa; little did I know what was coming. The last comment from one of the gentlemen was “hey Trevor you bring the birds and I’ll knock em down”
An early start in “Jessica”, my beloved Land Cruiser, and the VW Kombi (bus), we set off in the dark for “Blomass” goose field. All the clients had painted their faces with camouflage, so this was serious hunting. On arriving at the goose field I was approached by my head Zulu (Induna) Alfred Maduma who quickly told me “Nkosana iloli ayifnui ukuduma” (Chief the lorry won’t start). Using the headlights to dig the pit blinds, the battery had gone flat. The clients were devastated and some of the comments “you sure as hell can’t shoot geese with an 8 ton lorry parked in front of the blinds and all” the next comment was “that sweet talk back in the states was to get our money”
Colette, my wife, for once was speechless, which is very rare. She muttered “Comins you better do something”
Avoiding the client’s belligerent stares I jumped into “Jessica” and headed for Org Cronje’s workshop and was lucky enough to find a tractor driver who assured me he would pull the lorry out of the goose field. I promised him six geese if he pulled what was now a very serious situation out of the bag for me. By the time I got back to the pit blinds, it was starting to get light and a pair of Egyptian geese were already honking and circling the decoys. Ammo was placed in the pits, the clients got into position and some distance away we could hear the sweet rumble of the approaching tractor.
Literally as the lorry left the field, the first of the Spurwing approached out of the pink dawn over the Musi swamp. My clients were using a 12 gauge duplex ammo with a mixture of BB and No.2 shot which were devastating. I kept reminding them “shoot him where he eets and not where he sheets”. The morning shoot produced 84 Spurwing and everybody was delighted.
Colette and her staff were preparing breakfast under some Sycamore fig trees. Grilled dove breasts, sausages, fried eggs and tomatoes on the griddle pan over the open fire, and the best crumpets you have ever tasted. In anticipation of the feast we nipped off to the Musi Swamps to view a pod of hippos and on the way we met two Zulu maidens, whose faces were painted with orange ochre (mud) to avoid sunburn on their way to their maize fields. We stopped and the clients took some pictures of these Zulu beauties. As we were about to leave, one of the Zulu girls asked me what the white folks had painted on their faces? The camouflage paint had been forgotten and we all had a good laugh and headed back for Colette’s feast.
By Trevor Comins, Father of Clayton Comins