Over the next few articles I will be looking at the different concealment methods that I use on the foreshore. In this article I’ll concentrate more on the techniques I use when travelling light, using natural surroundings with the odd trick or two to keep out of sight. Next month, we’ll look more closely at the use of hide equipment and how to deploy it in the field.
Keeping out of sight is a golden rule when trying to get near any quarry species.Wildfowlers are often fortunate to have a cloak of darkness to help conceal them while out shooting, however, not all wildfowling is performed in the low-light levels of dawn and dusk. Like a lot of fowlers, I enjoy chasing ducks and geese in the daylight hours, when concealment becomes an important skill to have. There are many ways to keep out of sight on the marsh and this and a follow-up article will cover some of the main points, including the equipment and techniques I use to get the birds in range for a shot. Having a concealed shooting position, whether it be man-made or natural, can mean the difference between a successful flight and an and unsuccessful one.
Rules of camouflage
Basic fieldcraft may seem simple, but it’s amazing how often people can get it wrong. Much fieldcraft is down to common sense, but if you want to remain hidden, there are some basic rules to follow. Snipers are masters at concealment; the consequences can be fatal if they get it wrong. They follow what is known as the “five S’s of camouflage” which can be used when shooting. These are shape, shine, silhouette, shadow and spacing. Shadow and spacing doesn’t really apply for our purposes; but shape, shine and silhouette are, in my opinion, key things to consider when keeping out of sight, with the addition of one other important factor – movement.
Shape, shine, silhouette and movement can easily give a position away and will usually result in birds flaring. Most people think that silhouettes can only be seen against the sky, but it’s important to remember they also occur against water. it is vital to have a backdrop between sky or water to prevent the human outline from standing out.
Shine typically occurs when light reflects from something with a smooth and reflective surface, but the same theory can apply to skin if it isn’t covered. Buckles on a bag can also shine, but more commonly shotgun barrels will give a position away. A lot of modern wildfowling guns have tried to combat this by having a camouflage coating over the barrel to reduce the risk of shine. Blued barrels can catch the light, so it’s worth bearing this in mind when moving into a shooting position.
A mixture of patterns
The old style of wearing green jackets can be effective at keeping the wearer hidden, but they often appear as dark blobs, which can enhance any movement. Camouflage jackets are basically designed to combat this issue by using a mixture of colours and patterns to break up the human outline. Modern-day advancements in camouflage patterns definitely help when it comes to concealment, with many different camouflage patterns from which to choose that cover nearly every situation. Don’t forget that the basic idea behind camouflage is to break up any unnatural shapes and outlines, so don’t worry too much if the jacket doesn’t match the surroundings exactly. I often wear an ex-military multicam coat, as I find it the best colour for most of my shooting, but this is down to personal preference.
I often go that extra mile when trying to hide my shape by wearing a 3D leaf suit jacket. This is a lightweight mesh jacket with cut-out leaves that stick out at every angle, making them ideal to break up the unnatural outline of the human body. They are designed more for woodland shooting, but I use these jackets in a variety of locations and vegetation to break up my shape. I wear Jack Pyke suits and have both the green and brown patterns for almost any situation.
Hats and gloves
Exposed skin can also be a giveaway, as pale skin looks out of place in the drab, natural colours of nature. Headgear and gloves aren’t just to keep warm on cold mornings – they also do a valuable job of preventing glare from skin, especially if the sun is shining. I use a variety of hats and gloves to keep my bare skin covered, but again it’s really down to individual preference. As I’m not the biggest fan of face veils, especially when calling; I will often wear a peaked cap to cover my face, keeping my head down and tucked in to remain out of sight. Gloves allow me to reach for my calls or gun without giving my position away. They allow you to get away with a little more movement when reaching for things compared to bare hands.
Most wildfowlers will use natural cover when shooting on the foreshore. This can be the easiest option, as it means there is no additional weight of hide material or poles to worry about and you should use any available natural vegetation or geography to your advantage. The most common place to hide on a foreshore is in a gutter or under the lip of the bank overlooking a channel or river. A lot of marshes in the UK have a good system of gutters or natural holes that provide perfect ambush positions. These trenches and diverts range in size and shape depending on the area, but there is normally something to get hunkered down into, whether it’s 2ft x 2ft or 10ft x 10ft. Gutters allow the shooter to tuck in and keep most, if not all, of their body behind the solid bank, thus making it difficult for the birds to spot the position.
Other areas of natural cover include reed beds and rushes. These can be used to break up the outline of the human shape and almost act like a net hide, allowing visibility, but still providing cover. I know that pockets of reeds came in handy when shooting on the Tay last year. On numerous occasions the reeds helped to get the birds in range, allowing for good, clean kills.
Digging a hole
When hunkering down in gutters and ditches, it can be useful to carry a small spade to do a touch of landscaping, making the position perfect to shoot from. A lot of clubs have different rules when it comes to digging-in on the marsh tops, so check your rulebooks before digging a large foxhole. Digging-in on the marsh top can be a danger to livestock if they fall in, however digging a small scrape inside a gutter can create a perfect sitting or kneeling position without causing too much disturbance to the area.
Don’t forget to check out my article in next month’s issue, in which I’ll explain the hide-building materials and techniques I use. Putting in that little bit of extra effort can make a huge difference, so until next time, stay hidden and happy fowling.