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Guinea Fowl …. the other big bird!

Posted by on May 14, 2013

I was talking to one of my friends over in South Africa this morning, asking what the conditions were like and how the wildlife had made it through the hot summer months, when he mentioned that there were lots of Guinea fowl over on one of our other buddy’s properties. This piqued my interest, as these large birds are one of my favorite African small game species to hunt with an airgun …. And also the first animal I shot in Africa with an airgun many years ago.

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A very pretty bird, the Guinea fowl is one of those anilmals, like the warthog, that scream Africa at me. One of my favorite airgun quarry anywhere in the world!

Guinea fowl have the body size of a goose, but are shaped rather like a huge polka dotted quail, with a cartilage helmet on their heads and a bright red moustache. They travel in flocks, sometimes very large flocks, and travel over the ground foraging. When threatened they will take off on a fast run, only exploding into the air as a last resort. Talk about confusing a predator, if you’ve ever kicked up a covey of quail, imagine 20 or 30 birds the size of a small turkey bursting into the sky all around you! These birds are as wary as turkey, but instead of 5-6 sets of eyes on look out you have 10 or 20 times that number watch for signs of danger. It is a challenge to sneak up on, or get in front of and ambush, actively feeding birds.

I’ve hunted these birds in the bush on the Eastern cape, at a family friends vineyard down south, and as pest control quarry in my mother in laws garden down near the Capetown coast line. My favorite technique, and the most productive, is to figure out out where the birds are feeding and get into position wearing full camo so that an ambush can be set. You need to wear gloves and a face mask, and be perfectly still. Like turkeys, they will pick up on the slightest motion. I haven’t tried calling them yet, but am looking for a sound to go on my FoxPro, and would like to try next September on our trip down. They are vocal birds and have a unique call, I just can’t replicate it.

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Many guns suit the bill for these birds, I like a standard caliber gun of at least mid power. I took several with this Marauder .25 caliber on one trip, using head shots or a placement at the base of the neck.

I’ve used a range of guns for Guinea fowl over the years; Quackenbush .25, .308, .457 (over-kill), Marauder .177, .22, and .25, my Dragonslayer .50 with roundball, Falcon .22, and a number of other rifles of varying power and caliber. While the larger calibers let you reliably take body shots and drop birds consistently, I like a standard caliber gun and taking head shots or hitting them at the base of the neck, which is also my preferred shot placement for turkey. In standard caliber guns, my preference is for a medium to heavy round nose pellet, and I’ve had a lot of success with JSB Exacts and Crosman Premiers.

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Come on…. what’s not to love? My mother in law makes a great stew with these birds, from a recipie she learned growing up on a farm in the Transvaal

On my next trip, I will use the Verminator in .25 caliber and think the arrow barrel and carbon fiber bolts will be especially effective, but we’ll see come September. I haven’t decided, but think the Wolverine .303 will travel with me on this trip as well, which will also be an interesting Guinea fowl gun, as I think the .303 JSB pellets will be the right blend of penetration, energy transfer, and generation of a large wound channel …. But again we’ll see!

What else?

Just got back in from an interesting hunt in North Dakota over the weekend; I shot a coyote (with my .223 ) and got lots of Richardson’s ground squirrels, which look and act like small prairie dogs. I was shooting about 60-70 per day, and put the Verminator and the Brocock specialist to work. Both were effective and accurate, but the big .25 caliber pellets out of the Verminator were really impressive! Will write up more on this trip later. Currently selecting the site of my next hunt ……

11 Responses to Guinea Fowl …. the other big bird!

  1. George O'Reilly

    How do you attract them to you? Do you use a Call?

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi George;
      The Guinea fowl are creatures of habit and tend to feed down to the same areas on a regular basis. One approach is to throw the dice and set up in an area where they routinely feed, or on the path leading to those areas. The other is that these birds are quite noisy and you can follow the sound into an area where they are scratching and sneak in for a shot. Either is a challenge because there are a lot of eyes on watch, and these birds are wary!

  2. Nic Taylor

    Hi Jim
    Went along a river bank a few months ago looking for poacher snares and Guineas. Was dressed head to toe in camo and walking upright most of the time. Heard a noise off to my right and saw about 8 – 12 GFs within 12m from me. They were VERY curios as to what I was. Had my Gamo CFX .177 with an old piece of grey/white Tshirting wrapped around the scope area (to breakup the gun shape) and took a head shot on a huge bird (used a Gamo TS-10(I think thats the right name)). Expected the rest to run/fly off while the shot bird was thrashing in the long grass. NOTHING! They watched him/her for a bit but carried on scoping me out. If I hadn’t had to fight the small pocket I had my other pellets in, I’m sure I could easily have taken 2-3 more. Is that normal behaviour for them? I’m not the most silent stalker either… Thanks.

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Nic;
      I’ve seen it go both ways; sometimes they’ll mill around a bit if they don’t see you and you can get a second or third bird, sometimes they’ll actually start pecking at the dying bird, but most of the time they explode in every direction trying to get a way. I’ve mentioned before Guineas are very high on my list of favorite airgunning quarry!
      Jim

  3. Morne Wilken

    Hi Jim.

    I just want to find out when can you hunt GF. Some of the people i asked said that the time you can hunt them are between May through out August. Then from September till the end of April, you can’t hunt them since it is breeding season and they are full of worms. I’m in Pretoria Gauteng and there are many GF near us and I am wondering if it is true or not? I’m always thinking of ways to save a bit of money and the thought of hunting GF to freeze for those tough times have always been nagging at the back of my head.

    • Jim Chapman

      Hello Morne;
      Not to sure of the laws for two reasons; first is that I am always in ZA during your winter (our summer)seasons, so season is always in full swing when I’m down there. When I’m over in (your) summer, usually hanging at the beach with family or fishing. The second one I hate to mention because its really not very fair, but the laws for foriegn hunters are different than for locals, because it’s tied into outfitter permissions. For instance, I don’t think locals can hunt big game with an airgun while outfitters can get permits for foreign clients. I think if you are able to get landowner permission in agricultural areas you can get depredation permits. I’d listen to the local advice, but you could always shot a couple and take a look inside. Sorry I’m not more help, I’ll ask some of my friends and see if I can get a better answer for you.
      Regards,
      Jim

  4. Jp Jones

    Hey Jim,
    It would be pretty cool if Guineas had of gained a foothold here in the America’s like the RingNeck Pheasant, with the outbreak of lyme disease in many of the midwestern states, they could provide a valuable hunting resource, and a deterrent to ticks.

    We had guineas on our farm as a kid in Iowa. I always wondered if they could establish themselves in Midwestern Climate,

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi JP;
      Not sure if they could survive the cold, I’ve always seen them in warm weather climates. I wish they were running around here, one of the most challanging airgun hunts going….. unlike the ones you see on farms, in the wild these birds are wary and hard to approach.
      Jim

  5. Lou

    Are GFs migratory? I see a large flock of probably 200 birds on a golf course I play 3-4 times each month. The GFs seem to have a pattern of showing up for about 10-14 days twice a year. They also seem to just about totally ignore the golfers & golf carts. Haven’t seen a single one fly yet.

    How are they to eat?

    Finally … I live in TX (USA). Cannot find them on any of the lists in the TX Hunting Proclamation – Managed/Regulated Game; Nonregulated Game; or, Illegal Game.

    • Jim Chapman

      They don’t migrate in South Africa where I hunt them, they are a year round resident. My mother in-law hates them, as they shred her Cape Town garden. They tend to follow the same patterns on and off roost, feeding along the way. I often hunt them by setting up ambushes along paths I know they’ll follow. I would think they would be classified an exotic in Texas, which would mean air rifles are good to go, but you should double check with Wildlife / game enforcement. One of my favorite airgun quarries.

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