The following morning was devoted to sandgrouse—the black-faced sand-grouse, to be specific. Eremialector decoratus in Latin, kwale in Swahili and tricky to hit in any language, it is a bird whose flight patterns closely resemble the North American white-winged dove, a favorite target of bird shooters in the U.S. Southwest. "Ah, yes," mused Ani�re as he jounced the Land Rover toward the shooting ground. "E. decoratus—a splendid fellow. Love him dearly, I do. Resident in the arid and semi-arid regions of East Africa from Somalia to central Tanganyika, he and his lady friends often form small flocks when Slighting to water in the early morning and late afternoon."
The site of this morning's shoot was a stagnant water hole in the midst of a high, rolling thorn plain southwest of Ani�re's camp. Bands of impala and waterbuck, plus a few rare, exotically marked roan antelope, stared as Ani�re wheeled up. A resident flock of guinea fowl, doubtless alerted to the morbid intentions of their visitors by word from the coffee shamba, legged it into the weeds with dispatch. Ani�re studied the sign on the water hole's mucky margin. "A cow rhino and her calf," he remarked with fatherly pride. "They've been around now for a couple of weeks." The tracks of a serval cat, a bushbuck, a duiker or two, and a trio of splayfoot poachers filled out the list of natural graffiti that caught Ani�re's eye. Then the sandgrouse began arriving, flying low and erratic against the first sunlight. "Let a few of them drop down to have a drink," Ani�re whispered. "That will bring the rest of them in. They'll flight for about an hour, and with luck we should have plenty of shooting—enough to stiffen up the sinews and summon up the ear doctor, I reckon."
Unlike the clumsy but rugged kanga of yesterday, these birds were graceful, frail and gymnastic on the wing. No single flight of sandgrouse followed the same approach to the water. Individuals shifted position amid the formation with disdainful aplomb, demanding the utmost concentration on the part of the shooter. Each squadron took two or three turns of the water hole before setting its wings for the low, swift touchdown run, and it became quickly evident that the most sporting shot was during one of these overflights, when the birds were from 20 to 50 yards high. Ani�re reserved his ammo for these shots, shaking his head sadly when he missed (not often) and grinning his baboon face when He scored. The gun barrels quickly grew scorching hot, and the banks were littered with empty shell cases—all of which were later retrieved, unlike one of the birds, which fell in the water hole and never drifted ashore. "One more reason for a good gundog," moped Ani�re. "Damn, how I hate to lose something I've killed. It compounds the crime, what?"
That night, the sinews were stiffened all right, and the ears still rang from the blast of uncounted shots—a whole skeet season of shotgun shells expended in a single morning. But the safari props were once again in place and all was cool, particularly the beer. "You begin to wonder about the concept of 'big game,' " Ani�re mused as the hippos mumbled. "Like so many concepts in the Western world, magnitude has become more important in our type of hunting than fun. I expect that if you could breed a 3,000-pound sandgrouse, there would be millionaires by the hundred winging their way here from New York and Cleveland and Los Angeles to have a go at them. Ha! And many of them would miss—just as they miss the big tuskers and lions and buffalo they blast away at." The campfire played its light show on the tidy tents, and a hyena uttered its strange, vocal joy over the discovery of something rotten and edible at the edge of camp—probably bird guts. Ani�re continued: "But there is a bigness to small game as well, particularly birds. They are fast and they are plenty. And not a one of them gives you the same shot twice in a row." He took a long pull from his beer. "Blast them!"