Hunting Africa’s Real Big Chicken

Africa's ostrich is among the world's largest fowl and is a good-eating bird.

Africa's ostrich is among the world's largest fowl and is a good-eating bird.

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Besides hunting deer and bowfishing, I also have been known from time to time to take on the world’s large fowl with muzzleloading guns. I regularly hunt ducks, geese, turkeys and swan (quite legally in North Carolina where there is an annual regulated harvest). Well, this year I was in Africa during Georgia’s turkey season, and it appeared to me to be particularly appropriate to also hunt their largest fowl, the ostrich.  

Earnst Dyason, my professional hunter and the owner of Spear Safari, had never hunted ostrich, although he had grown up with them and there were some on his brother-in-law’s farm. These were wild birds and quite unlike the ranched ostrich that are raised elsewhere in South Africa. This farm was also covered by very thick brush,  which made hunting them much more of a challenge than shooting one at 200 yards across a pasture.

We found ostrich all right, the problem was getting the one adult that we wanted away from a bunch of cows. He was quite happy to live among them, and would not leave them. We stalked him three different times, but could never get a safe shot. There was also a hen and a young male, but they left never to be seen again. This was well, as we would not have shot them anyway.

We found another in a separate part of the farm well away from any domestic stock. It was also in thick brush, but he wanted to stay on a road where it had a good clear run. Run he did. We could not approach within a 150 yards of it, too far for a shot with my muzzleloader. We tried a couple of loops around through the brush, but with its excellent eyesight, very long neck and equal facility with its long legs, he avoided us.

Finally we repositioned our truck along a road and made another half-circle around through the brush to intersect it. Being a quarter-century older than Earnst and also lugging a 13-pound gun, I could not keep up with my long-legged PH or the ostrich. By the time I got to the road the ostrich had proceeded in the other direction.

He saw the vehicle, reversed his direction and came running back towards us. I took a shot at 30 yards. The fowl just shook under the impact of a 444-grain bulled propelled by a 150-grain powder charge and remained on its feet. He absorbed some 2000 pounds of energy, as the projectile did not exit. He reversed his direction and we followed him up. Another shot through the body downed him.

Wow! This was a huge bird. It weighed something over 125 pounds, had at least four feet of neck and unlike any fowl that I had ever seen, only two toes. It had a large claw on its toes, like the raptors in Jurassic Park. These birds can kill people, and  they do.

Now what? Neither Earnst nor I had ever cleaned one. It got plucked,

Plucked it can be appreciated that most of the meat is in the legs, thighs and neck.

Plucked it can be appreciated that most of the meat is in the legs, thighs and neck.

 and it had no breast meat. All the meat was in the leg-quarters and neck.  The leather, feathers and meat were salvaged. When cooked, the meat was quite tender. The neck meat is often used like ox-tail to make soup. The taste of the meat is more like a mild-tasting veal than chicken or beef.  

My trip to Africa lost me two weeks of Georgia’s turkey season, but I got a good fowl anyway. I will certainly never forget my hunt for Africa’s real big chicken.
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