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Doris Lessing As A Sportsman

From a 1956 New Yorker story by the late Doris Lessing:

Guinea fowl move in flocks of anywhere from ten to two hundred. They can be heard a long way off, because of a chink, chink, chinking sound they make, like stones rubbing together under water. When disturbed, which they regularly are, since this chinking advertises their presence to every enemy for miles around, they set up a raucous complaint and run extremely fast in all directions. If they stuck to doing this, they would be practically invulnerable, but, no—curiosity is their downfall. More often than not, before they have run any distance they fly up into trees to see what is going on. Their wings are weak, and once in the trees they are reluctant to launch themselves into space.

Having considered these facts and all their implications, I set out one day with the rifle and wandered around until I heard the "chink, chink." I crept toward it. Then I heaved a large stone at it. There was a scurrying, and presently seventy-four guinea fowl flew up into trees all around me. I knew there were seventy-four because I sat on a log counting them and deciding which looked the youngest and fattest. I then carefully aimed at this one and fired. The bird started perceptibly, and settled back and watched a leaf that had been dislodged from a frond three feet above its head float down to my feet. I tried again. How difficult it is to keep a gun barrel still became apparent to me only now that I had all the time in the world to practice it. I walked to a nearby tree and laid the barrel against its trunk for support.

The bird I had chosen was about four yards away. I kept the rifle steady long enough to shoot it in the crop. It fell, and I dispatched it with another shot, in the eye, and went home with it. The family, naturally, assumed it had been shot on the wing, and in the eye at that—the first shot going unnoticed—and a letter with this news was at once sent to my brother.

Thereafter, my technique, while remaining substantially the same, developed small refinements. For instance, though a properly trained dog would have been useless to me, we did have a dog perfect for my purposes. I took him along. He went full pelt toward the "chink, chink" as soon as he heard it, and by the time I arrived, dozens of guinea fowl were already perched on every tree, watching the dog, who was bouncing and yelling below them, satisfactorily distracting their attention from me while I arranged myself and chose my bird at leisure.

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