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General > Join Wildfowler "Stotty" for an very special...
Join Wildfowler "Stotty" for an very special Tide Flight
by "Stotty" DSS Pro-Staff

Ten on the Tide

 

4th October 2009  “How quickly the first month of the wildfowling season has gone by”, I thought to myself as I pulled the vehicle up at one of the clubs foreshore access point on a surprisingly warm October afternoon. I’d already notched up twenty eight flights in September, twenty three of these had been on the foreshore. It had been well worth it for six mallard, a teal and a pintail, plus 4 plump greylag geese. These were ample reward for the 120 hours (that’s five days!) spent lying in mud strewn gutters or tucked into the saltings edge waiting to ambush the elusive estuary wildfowl. Bags from coastal wildfowling are hard earned as any true coastal wildfowler knows. Every bird is treasured like some prize possession and memories of each successful shot or even miss, stay vivid in the memory banks that rarely fade even with time.

 

The 3rd October had seen the estuary abused by gale force Westerly winds and horizontal sheets of rain, so todays breeze was so tame in comparison. I had a 55 minute walk ahead of me to my intended flighting spot which would allow the dregs of the 9.5m tide to drain and uncover the sandbanks sufficiently enough to allow me access. On my approach I could see through the binoculars small bunches of wigeon ‘channel hopping’ in the middle of the estuary. Things were looking promising already; at least there were some wildfowl in the area. The wading stick I always carry proved useful yet again to cross the mudflats and water filled channels that frequent this particular marsh and so it was with great relief when I could finally sit my hot sweaty carcase down in my intended spot. The dog was tucked in out of site and unceremoniously daubed in mud to cover up his white chest patches. It was time to take a quick breather and take stock of the surroundings. It would be another half hour at least before the water had receded enough around me to allow any possible chances of returning duck. Or so I thought! Within minutes of settling in and loading up the Beretta a single cock wigeon flicked across my right shoulder and it was a snap shot that sent him tumbling into the ebb. One in the bag. What a nice start. Its always nice to score with the first shot of the day; it does no end to ones confidence. The dog dropped him nicely to hand and shook himself vigorously all over me; sweet revenge for his covering of mud just a few moments ago!

 

Pintail with the MP90
A Pintail falls to a call from the Haydel's MP90
Timeless minutes had gone by when a pack of a dozen wigeon came racing in, curled back as one, and alighted on a mud bank 50 yards to my right hand side before their habitual ‘wash and brush up’ started. They hadn’t presented me with a shot but I thought they’ll be useful as ‘live’ decoys. And how right this proved to be. Looking skywards I was drawn instantly to a pack of 14 duck rapidly descending from a great height on set bladed wings. Their long outstretched elegant necks and tapered tails gave them away immediately as incoming Pintail! The Haydels MP-90 rang out two trill notes simulating those of the drakes. The pack took a circuit out to my left and then screamed past me at 30 yards. The first shot resounded and a hen pintail crashed into the water causing the pack to immediately flare upwards, a desperate flailing second shot at a drake hit thin air, but a more focussed swing folded him up beautifully to drift out on the ebb. Both were retrieved in succession and carefully admired. Even in semi-eclipse plumage Anas acuta has to be the UK’s most elegant of ducks. They were laid carefully out of the way at the back of the hide with the wigeon. Fifteen minutes had passed. Three wigeon were now coming straight at me from my right side looking as though they wanted the same sand bank as the first pack. A quick succession of ‘wheeoos’ on the Brass Wigeon call greeted them. They responded. They flared as they saw me rise but it was too late and another right and left somersaulted into the water, leaving the survivor rapidly beating a hasty retreat out across the channel without being fired at. Hell, what was happening? Six shots and five birds gathered. At times like this it is easy to become complacent and lose total concentration. The next two bunches of wigeon brought me back to reality with spectacular misses although one cock wigeon towered out of the second bunch to drop dead on a sand bar several hundred yards away. Wildfowlers Tip: Always watch the birds that have just been fired at for as long as you can especially if you’ve think you’ve seen the target bird flinch. The dog had not seen him fall so it was good long blind retrieve for him to swim across the channel and scour the mudflats until he spotted the motionless lump lying out there. I was delighted when he picked it and came
Rolo
Rolo - wet and happy!
bounding back with it.  By now the ebb had all but gone leaving a nice wide tidal pool surrounded by boot-clawing mud. Several more bunches of wigeon had passed within range but I chose to let them go. The wigeon were ‘green’, obviously newly arrived onto the estuary and not wary of the old enemy. I could have easily bag filled but really, is there any need to? I was content with 4 early season wigeon. Now mallard, that’s a different matter…most of our early birds are no doubt released from the local area. I was completely caught out looking the wrong way when I heard mallard ‘chattering’ from behind. One thing was certain they had not seen me…not yet anyway. I watched the dogs wide eyes staring over my left shoulder so I could easily detect their incoming direction without even facing them. Getting the gun at the ready followed by a sharp turn I was stunned to see two drakes and a hen mallard literally coming at me in classic ‘paddlesdown’ fashion aiming right for the standing water. Time seemed to go into endless slow motion….I can still picture it now…Cool and calculated the gun picked out each one in turn as it eased through the nearest drake and dropped him, then upwards through the climbing hen and she fell back in a flurry of spinning wings and then finally the last shot at the surviving drake that was banking steeply away. He staggered and parachuted down dead onto the sandbank. Methodically the dog went out for each bird to finally bring back the last bird of a rare, but satisfying ‘treble’ at foreshore mallard. This was really turning into a red letter flight. ‘I’ll take one more bird if the chance comes my way’ I thought. Ten birds is more than enough. No more wigeon. The preferred choice was a drake mallard. Incredibly, only ten minutes had elapsed when a pair of mallard came swinging out from the main channel and crossed my left side. The Haydels DR-85 kicked out a lovely ‘come back’ call which turned them just sufficient enough to lure them into range. A vigorous swing and shot only clipped the drake; the next fatal shot a second later made sure of it. The gun was lowered immediately. His mate was allowed to go on her way. I’d made my mental bag limit and stuck to it. It was now time to call it a day and leave the birds in peace and, even better, still flighting in. It had been one of the most memorable tide flights I’d ever had and one that will stay with me for a long long time, even more so now that I’ve written this account of it. Believe me, it was an incredibly happy ‘fowler that trudged his weary way back to the car that afternoon.
Ten on the Tide
Ten on the Tide - a wildfowling "Red Letter Day"

 

Stotty Paddlesdown ProStaff.

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