First Tarentaal of the Season - Hunting Story

First Tarentaal of the Season
by Christiaan Kruger

“Do you want to go to the field and run Jessica a bit” I asked Josua just after we unloaded his bags at home.  I thought he might be a bit tired after the almost 40 hours and four flights it took him to get from Rolla, Missouri to South Africa. 

“That would be very nice, Dad” was his answer.   It seems the Hunter-Outdoorsman spirit never says no for an opportunity to be in the veld. He has just spend 5 wonderful weeks in the woods of Missouri where he spit rails, hunted squirrels and mowed a lot of lawn.

We got our 20Ga Pedersoli muzzleloader shotguns, bags and our German Shorthair Pointer, Jessica into the Land Rover and drove to the veld where we have permission to hunt some birds. Josua looked very happy to be in the veld. He mentioned how great the South African veld smell and how different it is from the smell of the woods in Missouri.  

The Mielie fields have just been harvested and the Tarentale, and Swainsons are eating the leftovers and skedaddle into the grass next to the field when they see people.  It was in those longer grasses that we walked.  A very energetic pointer was scanning the field as the sad-short mielie stalks lay to our left and the marshy-stream slowly trickled to our right and the big dipper was descending in the west.  It was a good rainy season on the Highveld and the grass is long this year, a bit too long to see the pointer all the time.  We had to call her back all the time and she flushed a few Swainson’s too far ahead of Josua.

Suddenly, she was making one of those quick U-turns just to the right of me and came to a stop.  It created a feather flapping frenzy as two Tarentale exploded where seconds earlier there was just silence.  The smokepole came to my shoulder and I cocked the right hammer in one motion.

The 20Ga is a bit light for Guinea fowl and the bird is moving very fast”, was my only thought and then the smoke filled the air.  My heart was rushing like a heart could rush when the first Guinea fowl of the season scares your soul. I saw the bird tumble from under the smoke column, and I knew it was a hit bit not a clean one.  Jessica saw it too and rushed unto the scene. She is not supposed to break on shot but I let her go as I knew we will struggle to catch a runner in these long grasses. There was a scuffle and movement in the grass and Jessica came back with the most beautiful speckled-feather bird.  Oh, how I love these beautiful speckled birds.  They are such weary creatures and I don’t get a lot of them with the Muzzleloader shotgun.  Most of the time they will just outrun me or take to flight in those awe-inspiring small clouds against the blue skies.  Sometimes I get them in the longer grass where they try to hide.  I looked at the beautiful bird and felt privileged and honoured to have one in my bag. I hear there is a special bird, kindda king of all birds, in every wingshooter’s heart.  The Tarentaal is the king in my heart.  I love to see them along the road.  Especially when there is little tarrentaaltjies.  They just seem to be such a happy family unit.  Every time I shoot one there is also a sadness when I admire the warm bird in my hand.


We kept on walking.  Jessica pointed a few more Swainson’s but they were just too quick and we were too slow to cock the hammers and take a clean shot.

While the sun was setting she suddenly stood on a solid point and I told Josua to walk up, cock the hammers and be ready.  I got the camera out and stood ready.  When the brown bundle of feathers rose I pressed the button.  It got the flame from the barrel but the shutter stayed open a bit too long in the low light and with all the excitement I must have moved a bit.  The photo is blurred but you can still see the shot and the brown spot.  Josua aimed too high and shot over the flight.  It just kept on flying and then gracefully glided into the long grass some 300 yards ahead of us.  That fast flapping Francolin flight with the graceful glide to go and land, sure is a pretty sight to behold.

As the sun dipped over the horizon we were glad to experience the wonderful afternoon and smell the winter grass in the fresh evening air.