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Dear Matthys.

I WANTED TO tell you again how much all of us enjoyed and appreciated hunting with you and Likhulu Safaris in South Africa this year. I must admit, however, your confession that you were waiting at the Johannesburg airport for "a short, stooped, bespectacled old man" disappointed me greatly I am wondering what I said in my frequent e-mails that made you think I was short. There has never been an adult Liere of either sex who was considered short. Even my last three aunts on my father's side--all of whom passed on in their 90s--were over six feet tall.

I guess most of your clients come to South Africa to pursue big game rather than birds, and I was delighted to see that our preference for feathers in no way compromised the quality of our hunt. The accommodations were exquisite, the food delightful, the company congenial and the gunning superb.

Before your head swells to unmanageable proportions, however, I must say I was a little disappointed in your shorthair, Bibo. In most of the places I hunt, a pointing dog that breaks on the flush is not highly regarded, and I definitely saw Bibo break point when that ostrich came crashing out of the thorn thicket. Perhaps it was a good thing he broke in the opposite direction, as I can't even envision a 60-pound dog attempting to retrieve a 300-pound bird. I have a friend in Canada with a big Labrador that retrieves coyotes, but not until they're dead. I'm pretty sure a live ostrich would test even his jaw strength.

Although we all enjoyed the dove, pigeon, quail, francolin and guinea fowl shooting, I think the waterfowl hunting was the highlight for Mike and me. As I told you, on my other trip to South Africa eight years ago, my Egyptian goose and shell duck skins were devoured by grease worms before they were ever dipped and packed, and they arrived with the feet and legs almost completely missing. Ever since, I have hoped I would some day get back to try it again. The huge pterodactyl-looking spurwing geese were a bonus--or did I read somewhere they are actually a duck? They are not a particularly beautiful bird, but I must say, goose or duck, they are the largest waterfowl I have ever hunted. The only bird any bigger, in fact, was a tom turkey I shot three springs ago that weighed 23 pounds.

Surprising to me, the waterfowl didn't seem to mind your decoy spread, which at first I thought was another example of your South African sense of humor. In American goose hunting circles, there is much to-do about goose decoys. Above all, they must look like geese, and a dozen will often cost as much as a good used car. Personally, I have gone from simple plastic shell decoys to sophisticated silhouettes with photo imaging to flail-body decoys with textured heads and tails.

Full-bodied decoys require a trailer to transport, and many of the most expensive ones are stored individually in separate cubicles, wrapped in a cotton sleeve to protect the paint and the flocking that give them texture. I have also hunted over mounted geese decoys, which are expensive and require even greater care. Your primitive plywood "decoys" with the black paint and random splashes of white looked more like abstract art than birds. I thought one of the most prominent ones in the spread looked like a giant question mark. Mike told me he thought they looked as if you had let first-graders design them and had then picked the worst design. Nevertheless, we couldn't argue with the way they attracted waterfowl.

We thought the braying zebra was a nice touch as we setup decoys in the dark--sort of a confirmation we were on an African goose hunt rather than in a harvested peanut field in Georgia or Texas. If Mike and I ever make it to South Africa again and are fortunate enough to hunt with your service, you will probably know better than to hand us only two boxes of shells each before leaving the blind. Mike and I make it a practice to fire a dozen or more warning shots each before settling down to business, and because Mike was shooting a side-by-side for the first time in his life, he kept trying to pump the gun between shots, which threw off his aim considerably. I know we shot fewer birds than you expected, but you must remember a really good goose hunt in the States yields three or four birds. All things considered, I thought the 38 we picked up was pretty impressive, and I was very pleased to see how happy the farm workers were to get them.

I hope Nathan over there at Joe Regal Taxidermy in Odendaalsrus will have our mounted birds shipped out by the time you receive this letter. I've waited a long time for an Egyptian goose and a shell duck, so if I have to, I'll free up some wall space by moving the grandkids' pictures to the garage. They'll look good right below their parents' wedding pictures, which were displaced by the palm teal from Uruguay.

Again, thank you Matthys, for a glorious trip. It was perfect.

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Author:Liere, Alan
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Dec 1, 2009
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