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The Direct Shooting Supplies Wildfowling Diary - September 2009

1st September - Morning Flight

 

This season we had to miss morning flight on opening day as the previous day we were working on our stand at the Fenland Game Fair so this had meant an overnight drive back to the warehouse to unload the vehicles. The revised plan was to head to the marsh about 1000 and to set up with the goose decoys in the hope of picking up one of the feral Greylags that frequented the area.

 

Come the morning of the 1st September Sam was up bright and early and couldn’t wait to get away, he’d looked forward to this day for weeks - it was like Christmas! It seemed to take an age to get the gear ready and loaded up but eventually Sam, myself and Teal were on our way with high hopes.

 

As we closed in on the marsh our hearts sank a little as we found a huge amount of floodwater just inland with large numbers of Ducks sat on them, this would vastly reduce the chances of us picking up a stray duck on the shore. Not to worry, our target today would be Geese.

 

It rained!!
A wet wildfowler!
We had heard that after morning flight the Greylags had dropped back onto the estuary having lifted from a small area of floodwater just inland so we thought they may flight back in there during the morning. We drove to that area and found Paddlesdown Pro-Staffer “Stotty” maybe had the same thought as his car was already there – did the goose feathers at the back of his car mean he’d had some success at morning flight? We glassed up the area but there was nothing to be seen so we decided that we’d leave Stotty to it and we drove further up the Estuary to a spot we fancied the geese may move into if disturbed.

 

Arriving at our chosen spot we kitted ourselves up with waders, goose calls, duck calls, hats, jackets, decoys, binos, camera, decoys, cartridges, dog and………..a gun each. All this done in a rainstorm that lasted for the next 10 minutes but luckily September ‘fowling is a warm weather affair so a bit of wind and rain of the Irish Sea was nothing to us boys!!

 

Once on the marsh I had to leave Sam to set up the Goose Decoys whilst I returned to the Landrover as the flaming alarm was going off, must have been something to do with all the flies that seem to have been living on a dead rabbit in the back? When I eventually got back to Sam he’d set up the deecs and after a warm walk I was mighty glad to have replaced my neoprene waders for a pair of breathables!

Wildfowler sets the Goose Decoys
Sam setting out the Goose Decoys

 

As soon as we settled into the nearby gutter the heavens opened again and we were hit with another horrendous rainstorm but we took it like men, the same couldn’t be said for Teal who cowered against the bank – I bet he’s not looking forward to February?

 

Sam and Teal
Sam and Teal after the flight
After the rainstorm came the sun and glassing the sands revealed……..err, nothing! Prospects didn’t look to good but a passing helicopter raised our hopes when it raised 400 Greylag from a field about ½ mile inland from us, they circled, turned our way and then turned again to drop back in close to where they had lifted. That really was the highlight of the flight and 4 hours later we were packing up having “blanked” but happy to have been back on the marsh. Now it was just a waiting game for the Pinks and the migratory ducks to start arriving and then it would be “action stations”.

1st September - Evening Flight

 

Evening flight on “opening day” saw Sam and I back out and set up next to a bit of floodwater about the size of a tennis court. In the shallows there were plenty of “ducky” signs with fresh feather curled up in the margins and with a near gale still blowing prospects looked good for an opening day duck. Sam and I both loaded up with some 3” Victory Steel 3’s and squatted down into the only cover which was provided by some nearby rushes.

 

We didn’t have to wait to long before 3 mallard appeared high in the sky, slammed on the brakes and then tumbled straight down towards our bit of water. I let Sam shoot first, he missed with his first shot but as the ducks rose he killed with his second and I managed to take one as they departed over my left shoulder. Teal quickly picked up both birds and Sam was over the moon with his opening day duck and I was happy my new semi auto was cycling!

 

A happy wildfowler
Sam, 4 Mallard on opening day
We saw 2 or 3 nice lots of Ducks including Teal and Wigeon passing high and wide before a single drake mallard whizzed past over my right shoulder and a corking shot brought him down 40 yards behind me. Not long after another single came in but although it managed to keep itself in the shadows for most of the time Sam hung fire until it appeared in the last of the light to the West and took a very nice single shot to put it into the bag. With two ducks apiece we decided to call it a day and headed back to the Landrover very satisfied.

2nd September - Evening Flight

Through the school holidays Sam had fed mallard into a small pool where the local river passes through his Uncle’s farm, Sam had walked down each morning and seemed to be feeding a decent number of birds. The plan for the night of the 2nd September was to go down there, taking his Grandfather, flight the ducks in.

 

The evening turned out wet, cold and windy which should have made for ideal duck flighting conditions. We only had a short drive of half a mile to the farm yard where we left the vehicles and walked down to the river. We decided that Sam would approach from upstream and his Grandfather, David, and I would come from downstream to the place he fed the ducks. Sam would try to drive and ducks sitting onto the river over his Grandfather and give him a shot in good light, I’d wait down stream with the dogs so that, if a bird dropped in the river, we could pick up. Sam put up just one Mallard and this come low straight over David but he didn’t see it until the last minute and missed it with a single shot as it departed.

 

We all met up at the pool Sam had fed, Sam settled into a small stone hide that he’d made and I made David a hide behind a bit of fence. Fairly soon a single Mallard came straight up the river and should have given David and easy chance but he blamed rain on his glasses and a dark background for this miss.

 

We waited until it was almost dark and it was pretty clear nothing else was going to come so, slightly disappointed, we packed up and headed away. Talking to Sam he confirmed that every day when he came down to feed there were good numbers of Duck on the river so it looks like they must be flighting into there on a morning and then roosting and feeding there throughout the day rather than on a night. A change of plan is required for the next visit!!

3rd September – Evening Flight

 

Bit of a rush this evening as Sam had football training with Barnard Castle FC until 1930 after which we dashed off to a spot we had watched for the last few weeks. Basically whilst flighting Pigeons into our wood we had noticed a good flight of Mallard, Teal and Wigeon coming from some nearby floodwater to the 6 flight ponds in our wood. We couldn’t shoot directly over the ponds as this would disturb the 800 Mallard we had reared and put onto these ponds for our driven shoot days but as our chosen place was ¼ away it would not be a concern.

 

When we arrived it was almost dark and we expected the flight would be almost over, most the ducks we’d previously seen had come in good light and, in fact, they’d fligthed back and forth all afternoon. Luck was with us though and Sam saw a lot of Teal and Wigeon but all out of gun shot to his side, a few singles came close but not close enough for a shot but finally I had a shot and took a nice Mallard from the end of a fairly wide pack. No shots for Sam but he’d seen plenty and had some good practice wit his Duck Call!!

 

 

4th September – Evening Flight

 

Not a night we will forget in a hurry!

 

Sam and I had hatched a cunning plan for this evening. We had calculated a point where we thought the Canada’s returning to roost from one direction would cross the route taken by the local Greylags going another way, we were going to be right under them. Problem was the “correct” place was right out in the middle of the sand so we made a couple of phone calls, checked the rule book and the map to make sure we were within the rules and that we were not on the “designated goose roost” over which our club enforces a no shooting “Sanctuary Zone”.

 

When we arrived at the marsh it was disappointing to see the near gale we had at home had dropped to a whisper and we now had a bright sunny evening, not good for goose shooting. Anyhow we kitted up in the usual gear and I also took a decoy bag with a few goose shells, a net and some short hide poles. Then off we headed, over the Sea wall, across the merse and then followed a small gutter out over the sands towards the main channel. Half way out the main channel we guessed we’d reached the place the Canada’s would cross if the roosted in the place our “intelligence” had told us they were using and the Greys coming from the top of the estuary would also cross this point on the way to the RSPB reserve or the sanctuary zone. Sam put the goose shells out and I put up a small it of sand coloured net over a few lightweight poles, I also kept back a couple of poles to use as “gun rests” so we could keep them off the sand.

wildfowling 2009

 

Set up and ready we settled down to wait. Time passed and through the bino’s Sam watched a fire engine coming round the marsh from the right and then another from the left, sirens sounding and lights flashing – must be a major incident. As it happened they pulled up in front of the flats about ½ mile from us over the sands and on the other side of the main channel. “I can’t see a fire Dad” announced Sam, at that point I started to get that sinking feeling and it had nothing to do with quicksand!! My thoughts were all but confirmed with the arrival of the Coastguard – someone must think we were stuck on the sand and had called out the Coastguard? That was pretty much confirmed as Sam looked through the Bino’s and saw a group of Firemen and the Coastguard looking back at us. I was now had visions of a helicopter arriving so we had to do something without it looking like we were in distress and then it dawned on me – a friend lived just ½ a mile away so I rang him. Thankfully he was at home and briefed he set off down to meet the assembled group of emergency services and explained just what was going. Finally the Fire Engines departed, the Coastguard departed (and the extra 2 Fire Engines that were on route were turned back). I got the call that all was OK, someone had apparently seen is setting off across the sand and then we had “just vanished” (although I’m told Sam, myself, the dog, the hide and the deecs were all highly visible) so in good faith a call had gone in to the Coastguard.   Whatever we were able to settle down to our wildfowling although in all the mayhem the Canada’s had already flighted down the river, past the Fire Engines and then dropped short of us in the main channel. As time passed it became clear that the greys were not going to play ball either, they had moved form the fields we’d seen them on earlier and they all flighted into the RSPB reserve and the no shooting zone further down the estuary. As a full moon started to rise on a very still night we decided to pack up and head back, time for a bite to eat!

 

Tuesday 8th September – Evening Flight

 

Sam and myself out for evening flight in the hope of a Goose at a spot that gave us very good success last season. At home it was a howling gale but when we arrived at the parking place it was a very disappointing “breeze” that greeted us.

 

As we got ready we could see a few geese moving and a skein of Canada’s passed just to our side just a few feet high so this motivated Sam to move a bit quicker than usual! We had an easy walk speeded up a wee bit through the attentions of a stampeding herd of Highland Cattle. Even as we headed round the edge of the water another couple of skeins came in from the East and, surprisingly early in the year, we had a pack of Barnacles come in over us. We watched the Barnacles for a while and they circled several times very high overhead looking to come in and land which they eventually did, I suspect they had just completed their annual migration – great to witness the “coming of winter”.

 

We headed into some rushes that would give us cover and settled down, I left Sam under the supervision of James the Jock. James is starting wildfowling this season and he had come out with us as a non-shooting observer so he could get some idea of what wildfowling was about, he could also supervise Sam and that gave me the opportunity to split from him and settle in somewhere distant.

 

First Goose of the season
Sam's first goose of the 2009 season
A few ducks moved at last light and I missed a real “sitter” that Sam didn’t let me forget. I then had the first decent chance at the geese which I called in with my Haydel’s H-81 only to miss with my first but thankfully the second brought a Greylag crashing down into the mud on the edge of the water. A pair of Greys then came to the call and passed low to my side, I let them go as I could see they were heading to Sam and he pulled of a comfortable shot to put his first Greylag of the season in the bag.

 

Heading back to the vehicle Sam was over the moon and very boastful of his shooting prowess – 1 shot, 1 goose unlike my err…..1 for 4, oops! Sorry Son but you will get your arse whopped before the season is over!!

September 13th 2009

The 13th September promised a lot when we left home, a near gale was blowing and reports of decent numbers of Pintail and Canada’s frequenting our chosen place gave reason to be excited. How different things were when we arrived on the west coast to be greeted by butterfly weather and hordes of dog walkers! The only positive was the 120 Canada Geese we had spotted about ¾ mile inland of the marsh.

 

Heading over the Sea Wall with guns, decoys, wildfowling gear and the dog Sam and I bumped into our first dog walker. Following a short chat we bid them farewell and they wished us good luck with our fishing, I dread to think what kind of fishing they thought we were doing! Heading towards our chosen place we could see another dog walker out on the tide line throwing sticks for his dog and clearing the area of all ducks, fantastic. As we neared the dog man cleared off but the damage had been done and the whole area was now devoid of ducks.

 

Although there was little chance of a duck we still decided to chuck a few deecs into the channel as we wanted to have a “dry run” with our new motherline system. Sam got the deecs out of the bag and I clipped them to the motherline and after a couple of attempts at getting them into the channel all looked good and we were happy we’d had a practice before we really needed to get the job right. Back on merse edge we built a low hide and then settled down. As the sun started to set the marsh cleared of dog walkers and we were left on our own for the best part of the day and were privileged to see the most fantastic sunset over the Southern Lakeland hills.

Sam looking for Ducks

 

The night was still and there was little chance of a shot so Sam and I shared the Bino’s to watch the Greylags silhouetted in an orange sky settling onto the sands in our sanctuary area just in front of the railway bridge. Then came the Canada’s and at the first sound of their voices hope of a shot grew, then we saw them! Rarely do you see Canada’s flying 100 yards high but somehow this lot had managed to get some serious air underneath them in the short distance between us and their feeding grounds. All we could do was resign ourselves to not getting a shot and enjoy the spectacle of them flighting against that burning sky and whiffling down onto the roost. Another blank wildfowling trip but one to remember.

25th September - Evening Flight

Prospects looked good for an evening flight at the Greylags, a phone call from a friend had told us where 500 or so Greys had flighted in the previous evening and with a strong wind blowing it would hopefully keep them down and in range. However I’m starting to think that I must live in a unique micro-climate as when I left home it was blowing the usual near gale but arriving in the car park it was flat calm – bizarre, this is the third time this has happened this season!

 

Getting my gear on at the back of my Landrover a sudden sinking feeling hit me – my semi auto didn’t have a cocking lever in it! The gun had been displayed on our stand at the Midland Game Fair and I’d taken the cocking lever out of it to stop it getting nicked and it now lay on the window bottom at home. So there is a tip – make sure you take your entire gun to the marsh! Fortunately I found the solution in the form of a screwdriver which served the purpose of pulling the block back and cycling a round into the chamber, unconventional but effective.

 

Another ‘fowler arrived just before us and he walked out with Sam and I to the far side of the bay. As he’d arrived first Sam and I gave him the choice of positions, as he had no dog and the water was close in, he suggested we “worked” together so that if he had a bird out on the water I could send my dog to pick up for him which I was happy to do. I felt the geese would come in over a fairly narrow front of about 150 yards so we spread ourselves over this dropping Sam first, me in the middle and the other guy on the far side. Though I ended up just 40 or so yards from Sam I had a lengthy walk around a deceptively deep gutter and through a massive “bog” that I managed to fall into twice thus arriving at my spot somewhat wet and muddy.

 

Armed with my screwdriver I managed to get a 3.5” steel BB up the spout of the Semi and shoved 2 more into the magazine, now it was time to relax and wait.

 

I only had a short wait before a single Grey came in from the South, not the anticipated direction, but it responded to a short blast from my Haydel’s H-81 Goose Call. Unfortunately, for me, the Goose’s route to me (and certain death!) was directly over the other ‘fowlers head and as it passed him his first shot struck and his second went wide, the goose towered before crossing high in front of me. Clearly the bird was going to make it out to the roost so I pulled well ahead of it and 42g of Gamebore’s best steel BB’s brought it crashing into the water with a huge splash. Teal ran out, in fact he probably set off before I shot, and made a fine water retrieve to bring back a Greylag that I later passed on to the other ‘fowler. There is another wildfowling tip for you – if another ‘fowler hits a bird hard but it carries on and you then kill it for him offer it to the guy, that is simple marsh etiquette and hopefully some day the favour will be repaid.

Evening Flight 24th Sept

 

Shortly after Sam let out an excited cry, “they’re coming Dad!” To the East I could just make out several large skeins of Greys which, as they closed in, joined into one large mass. Initially they were very high and it looked like a shot was out of the question but about 100 yards out they whiffled down into range and I shouted across to Sam to “let 'em have it if they came over you". Just before they reached us they whiffled again and as we both went up to shoot they presented a tough shot as they lost height rapidly and darted from side to side. I missed cleanly with my first shot but killed a Greylag stone dead with my second, as for my third shot – it jammed in the action. Wildfowling tip #3 – do not be a tight git and try to use rusty cartridges in your auto, they will jam! Over on Sam’s side of the gutter all I could hear was “I’ve got two Dad, I’ve got two Dad”. Teal brought my goose back and one of Sam’s and, initially, I assumed Sam must have just had the one bird down and was also trying to claim the one I’d shot – he’s not unknown for this!

 

With 2 birds in hand I was thinking about packing up although it was still early when a single came from the South. I gave it a call on the Haydel's H81 and it responded and passed by slightly wide and out over the water, a long shot struck it hard and it smacked down into the water and started to swim. This would be a tough pick for Teal and he needed to be quickly onto this bird so it was a bit alarming to find him sat still looking in completely the wrong direction with a rather puzzled look on his face, some times I do wonder about this dog! I ran over to the waters edge with Teal and fired a single shot at the departing goose, Teal saw it immediately dived into the water and powered across the bay to make a superb retrieve.

 

Though there were still geese flighting and light was good Sam, myself and the other ‘fowler agreed to pack up and let the rest of the birds come in unmolested. We headed over to Sam, this time wading the gutter (we’d seen the dog in it and the water was only inches deep!). Sam was confident he’d shot two geese and that he wasn’t claiming one of mine so I sent Teal to work the area Sam said it fell in and to our to delight he quickly picked a nice plump Grey, a very satisfying end to a successful flight.

Two geese for Sam

27th September - Evening Flight

I had a batch on 10 bore cartridges to deliver to a customer up North so I arranged this so that I could tie it in with evening flight at Lindisfarne. I’d heard good things about the number of Pinks coming through but, as ever, they were there one day and gone the next so nothing was to be taken for granted.

 

When I arrived at the Island Geordie was already there with my mate “Jimmy the Jock” who was travelling back from Scotland and had met up with us for an exploratory look at the place. I was also greeted with flat calm conditions and not a sound or sight of any Pinks or Wigeon, not brilliant! It was still early for the flight and with water still on the place we had a run round to Geordie’s for a bite to eat and a chat. As always you get engrossed in wildfowling tales and we ended up with a bit of a rush back to the marsh and a much hurried dressing for the marsh!

 

Tonight we headed out to the channel, the tide would soon be pushing us back but that would leave us in the middle if the Zostera beds where we hoped to intercept a few Wigeon and if we were lucky we’d maybe be under a Pinkfoot as it headed further north onto the hard sands? Today was a new adventure for “Jimmy the Jock”, it was his first experience of Mud Patterns but he coped well on his way out to the Mussel beds and there were no dramas which was slightly disappointing for Sam and I as we’d hoped he fall flat on his face in the mud!!

Wildfowling, heading out for the flight

 

Out on the Mussel beds we dropped Jimmy first then Sam and I went right out to the main channel where we chucked out half a dozen Duck deecs on a motherline, we hoped that there would be a movement of Ducks on the first push of the tide. Well, the only thing that moved where Shellies and Brent Geese – not a Wigeon was seen or heard. As the tide rose and evening flight drew in we dropped back in front of the tide and took up position on the Wigeon feeding ground, the Zostera, but still not a thing was heard or seen with the exception of 6 Pinkfeet that kept well out of the way over towards the Island. The “flight” ended with a total blank but some consolation in the form of an “All Day Breakfast” at the Purdy Lodge!!

Wildfowling, waiting on the mussel beds

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