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General > Wildfowling Diary - October 2010
Wildfowling Diary - October 2010
Direct Shooting Supplies Pro-staff Wildfowling Diary.

Until the last week of October Sam and I only managed one flight on the shore but we did manage to have a few blank mornings at the feral Grey's off a local lake and some successful flights at the ducks on local ponds and odd bits of floodwater. Sam had one really good flight at Teal with a friend of his whilst I didn't shoot and just worked the dogs for them - I wished I was shooting as they only accounted for 4 teal from 6 or 7 packs. Sam and I had a better average on the local Mallard and as the month drew to a close we had put 3 Teal and 33 Mallard into the bag.


Sam the Soccer Player!!
Sam in "plain clothes" and proud to play for Barnard Castle FC
Sunday 24th October. Sam had a football match for Barnard Castle at lunch time after which we headed northwards to the foreshore for a weeks 'fowling during Sam's half term holiday. Sam and I slightly mis-timed evening flight and arrived at our chosen spot with time against us and a nasty surprise in the form of 7 wildfowlers cars at the access point. I don't enjoy 'fowling with a crowd so we turned tail and headed off to a less popular spot where we found two 'fowlers cars and, with light running out, we had little choice other than to stop here and kit up quickly. Sam had already putted his chest waders on back at the house so that saved a bit of time and we were able to head of quickly with the minimum of gear. At the back of the marsh we quickly glassed up and down to see where we could head without disturbing anyone and as luck would have it the two parties out were well spread leaving us with plenty of marsh to choose from. The tide was just dropping off and revealing some of the eel grass beds and a strong northerly was moving the Wigeon along the tide line in search of food and shelter. The falling tide revealed patches of over in the form of Spartina on the tide edge which the Wigeon were passing close by so Sam & I waded out to a large island of the grass, loaded up and laid down on our bags. Almost immediately a pack of Wigeon passed in front, low over the water and far closer than we had estimated so we could have kicked ourselves when we let them pass by without a shot. Darkness was drawing in quickly and the distinctive Wigeon whistle was the only notice we got of incoming birds which came on us quickly and our hunched position seeking cover in the short Spartina made it difficult to respond quickly so a few easy chances passed us by. Sam then spotted a single bird and a whistle through my teeth turned it in towards us and I had a simple shot as it set its wings and looked to settle in a splash just behind us. Teal ran in and quickly had a small Hen Wigeon to hand, a satisfying start to a week’s wildfowling. Several large packs then flighted over us heading inland but they were close to the limit of range so we let them go in the hope of another easier chance which soon came our way. In almost an action replay of our earlier chance a single Wigeon responded to a whistle through my teeth and set it's wings to drop into the splash and with a single shot Sam, after 4 years trying, put his first Lindisfarne Wigeon into the bag. Teal struggled to pick the bird at first and for a moment I thought it must be wing tipped and diving in the shallow water but after a short pause to collect his senses Teal went down wind of his mark and worked back to pick the a nice Wigeon drake that must have been semi submerged in the mud making it hard to scent. A drake pintail could be heard behind us but I'd left my Haydel's MP90 and an attempt to call it "by mouth" drew a blank, or so I thought. Suddenly out of no where the single Pintail came round behind us with his neck twisted down looking for a mate, we tried to swing round into a shooting position but in doing so gave our position away and he was up and away on the wind without a shot fired. A few more Wigeon came by low but none responded to my whistle and I rued leaving my Brass Wigeon Call in the car as I'm sure a well timed blast would have turned a few well into range and helped us add to the bag. However when we decided to pack up we were well pleased with two Wigeon for two shots and the excitement of seeing a very good flight.


Heading out
Sam, the wildfowler, heading out for the flight
The following day (Monday) a big tide in the early afternoon held the prospect of a tide flight so just after lunch we returned to the spot we'd had success the previous evening. I built a hide just under the Sea Wall and set out a dozen deecs on a mother line and threw out another dozen on 6oz strap anchors. Back at the hide Sam and I settled in with the dogs for what turned out to be a hopeless flight - flat calm water and bright sunshine made for a nice day by the seaside but gave the ducks no motivation to move, the best we could do was watch them at distance through the binoculars. The tide dropped off as darkness started to descend and, based on the previous evening, we felt we'd have a good chance of rounding off the day with a duck. I gathered in the deecs on the strap anchors and Sam packed away the hide prior to evening flight and we then waded out onto a bit of high ground. I'd "towed" the decoys on the mother line with us and dropped these just landwards of us into the tidal pool ducks had looked to drop into the previous night. Unfortunately the evening flight was just like the earlier tide flight, a total none event with no ducks or geese seen of heard.


After breakfast on Tuesday morning Sam and I decided to take a walk up a river channel with the dogs and binos, we felt it may hold a duck or two and a reconnaissance could pay dividends. Although it was now low tide it was pleasing to see one or two ducks moving and we sussed out a couple of spots where we could set up a hide and throw out the ducks on a motherline - we would be back!!


The Decoys
A nice looking decoy pattern but no ducks to look at it!
Tuesday afternoon we decided to head off to a well known point near the South end of the shooting area for the late afternoon tide flight. There was a ready built stone hide for us to use so it was just a case of putting out 2 dozen decoys on a mixture of strap anchors and the motherline. A lack of wind, water and a lower tide meant the water would stop about 10 yards short of the hide so we had to be careful how we set the decoy pattern so the ducks didn't enter the "pattern" out of range. The head of the pattern was set just past us to our left and the back of the pattern was in front of us in a "U" shape leaving a hole to encourage the ducks to drop into our "killing zone" about 25 yards to our front. At the far side of the pattern and at the extreme of range I'd put two Pintail drakes, these stand out and provide a good marker to tell us that any birds over or beyond them are out of range. Unfortunately just like the previous days warm weather, bright sunshine and flat calm conditions mean that all we could do was watch thousands of Wigeon sitting in the sanctuary area - none moved! The highlight of the flight was a seal in the decoys and pulses only raised when a low flying RAF Jet lifted the ducks enmasse only for them to settle again in the sanctuary zone. We packed up the deecs before evening flight and reckoned we could be in a decent spot to intercept Wigeon flighting inland to feed but in time we found we were wrong! Another blank!!


A Wigeon!
Sam admires a Wigeon from a short flight on the "Low".
Wednesday was to be curtailed because I had to take Sam down to Hartlepool to play footie against Hartlepool United's Academy team, a 1500 kick off ruled out the tide and evening flight. Having had a positive reconnaissance the previous day we decided to head up to the inlet for the main channel and set up a dozen duck deecs on the mother line. It was low tide so I was able to wade out and set up a decent decoy line whilst Sam set about tidying up a nearby stone hide which we set up base in. We only had about an hour to spare for shooting so it was a promising start when two Teal sneaked in under our radar and dropped in about 150 yards further up the river. The deecs looked in good order and they'd now been supplemented with "confidence" decoys in for form of Curlew and Redshank that were feeding on the exposed mud bank on the edge of our spread. Sitting in the rocky stone hide wasn't exactly comfortable and Sam and I were pretty cramped with Sam watching out to the North and West whilst I was spotted to the East and South. It was much to Sam's disgust when I failed to pick up a single Hen Wigeon that approached from my "watch" and headed off into Sam's zone. All was not lost and a blast from my Brass Wigeon call backed up with a feed chatter from Sam's Haydel's DR85 Mallard Call turned the bird and it came straight back into the decoys where I killed it cleanly with 36g of Steel 3's from the old Baikal Semi Auto. A good result from a short "ad hoc" flight which we'd normally have not considered - off now for the 220 mile journey to a football match and back!


On Thursday the tide flight ran into evening flight and we decided to head back up to the channel that had given us a Wigeon the previous morning. As we headed up the marsh ducks were already moving on the tide and it looked like we'd left it a bit late to arrive and this was confirmed when we arrived at our chosen spot to find the tide had already reached our chosen stone hide. Sam was tasked with putting up a low hide on a bit of higher ground and I put out a dozen decoys on the motherline. I don't know why but it always seems to be the case that as you walk out and set up there are always birds flighting and the moment you get into your hide all the action ends and today was no different! Well at least today it wasn't for to long as a few small packs of ducks came up the front but rather than head up our gutter the carried on northwards straight up the front of the marsh and looked to drop into a small channel in the no shooting zone. Sam suggested we should have set up on the point at the other side of the gutter where the birds were crossing but I pointed out that this was in the no shooting zone and therefore not a good idea! A big pack of Wigeon then came into view from the South and a call from the Brass Wigeon supported with a Hail Call from Sam's Haydel's DR85 turned them and they passed over our decoys high and past me. A cramped hide and the need to minimise movement so we didn't alert birds meant I could only look South and East so the Wigeon had now gone into Sam's field of vision and he should now have taken over "calling the shots" but he did a bad job, I blame him for what happened next - never trust a 12 year old!! A single Wigeon had sneaked in from my "blind" side and came in to my view as it hovered over the decoys, without hesitation I swung round and somehow managed to miss it with two shots. Sam yelled "look, why did you do that" - as I turned to Sam's direction I saw the main pack of 30 Wigeon banking away from the deecs, apparently just as I fired at the single bird the large pack where just coming into range focussed on our decoys. Sorry Sam - a good opportunity cocked up! It was now getting very dark and a near gale was putting "white horses" on the water, a few ducks had flighted over without warning and ghosted into the gloom without a shot. The tide was now to high for us to remain where we were so we lifted the hide and dropped back 10 yards onto another bit of high ground. The grass around us was flooded as the tide had come over the bank of the channel and I told Sam that we may get a Teal or two dropping in just as a single Wigeon came past. I gave it a call on the Wigeon Whistle while Sam did a feeding chatter on his Haydel's Mallard Call and this combination turned the bird and I had a snap shot that brought it splashing down to our left and a short paddle for Teal soon had it brought to hand, a hen Wigeon. It was now to dark for sensible shooting and happy with a bird to hand we decided to head off, only one more surprise and that was the motherline anchor stuck to the bottom right out in the channel, fortunately the water was not as deep as it looked and I was able to wade out and free it but not before a slightly raised pulse!!


Putting out the deecs
Wildfowling - Sam sets out the duck decoys ready for the Tide Flight
Friday, we decided that we had unfinished business at the gutter we'd shot on Thursday so we headed back there for the tide and evening flight, high tide today was well after 7pm so it would not be high water until after dark. Our chosen spot was fairly sheltered and the tide hits it last so as there was a near gale we hoped the first push of the tide would have birds looking for shelter and heading up our way. When we arrived at our stone hide the tide had not reached us and the channel was down to it' bones and so low I struggled to get some of the decoys afloat, the Flambeau Pintail were a particular problem as an over large keel just snagged up on the bottom. I'd previously had other problems with these decoys - one had cracked right round the seam and two had the anchor points on the keels break off leaving me with a bit of plastic and anchor cord attached to my mother line and the decoys heading to Scandinavia! If that was not bad enough a howling gale was pushing the deecs one way and the current coming down the channel another so overall the rig was a mess until the tide turned and took them into the lovely curve we had planned with a perfect dropping zone out in front of our hide. As the tide turned Shellducks, Curlew, Whimbrel and Redshank started to drop into a pool at the bend 80 yards seawards of us and these were soon followed by two single Wigeon - would these live decoys be our undoing? The answer came sooner rather than later when some intense calling from Sam and myself encouraged the two Wigeon, that had earlier landed downstream, to flight up to our decoys. "I'll take the left and you take the right" I said to Sam just before I levelled my bird, unfortunately Sam didn't react as quickly and one bird departed unharmed. All was not lost for Sam though and shortly after a single bird came from our left and a single shot from Sam had it down on the water and Teal quickly had it gathered and back to the hide. The tide was now well in and a gale was putting "white horses" on the water making for ideal wildfowling conditions, to Sam's left several Teal had flighted inland just out of range and he was thinking of moving 40 yards so he could get under that flightline. As we debated the merits of him moving a Wigeon passed us and a joint calling effort turned it and it came back into the wind and hung over the deecs. Sam fired a single shot and missed, the bird towered and right at the top of it's climb I fired and 36g of Steel 3's struck home but the wind grabbed it and the bird crashed onto the merse on the far bank with 100 yards of frothing water parting us. Teal wasn't put off and he fearlessly made 100 yards of rough water look like a dip in the local swimming pool before climbing out onto the far bank. Teal then worked the far bank and the tide edge but to my dismay he couldn't find the duck and he headed back across the channel and in the process managed to get tangled in the mother line from the decoys. Once back at the hide I gave Teal a reassuring stroke and a few words of encouragement, he'd be as disappointed as me at not finding a bid - I assumed it must have landed in the water rather than on dry land and been swept off on the tide. Sam said he'd got a good "mark" on the bird and that it had landed well back from the tide and he's seen it "bounce" when it hit the ground so he was sure it would be pickable if we could get Teal to go back over the channel. With it now nearly black dark, a howling gale and a rough sea it was a big ask but I took Teal to the water's edge and asked him the question - "can you do it Teal?". Teal never gave it a thought and plunged in to the tide and saw the 100 yards to the far bank where I could just make him out working his way down wind before turning back in to the wind to get onto any scent. To my absolute delight I saw his head go down and a flash of white as he turned towards me with a Wigeon in his mouth. He'd worked hard and the return swim was his toughest washing him 60 or 70 yards downstream but he landed back with "his" duck full of himself and clearly knowing he'd pulled off a fantastic retrieve. Well done Teal. It was now to dark to shoot and absolutely delighted with a great flight, good calling and excellent retrieving we packed up and headed off home on a high.

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