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End-of-season wildfowling

I know that there are only a handful of weeks wildfowling before the season ends, but if you still fancy a venture on to the foreshore, don't hesitate

If you’re new to the experience, contact your local wildfowling club through BASC and it will be glad to help you.

Obviously, the first thing to remember at this time of year is to keep below the mean high water mark.

You don’t need a big-bore gun – a 2¾in or even a 2½in 12-bore is perfectly adequate, provided you are prepared to exert discipline over distance when taking a shot.

This was proved to me recently when I was crouching in some spartina with high hopes for a Canada. I had a borrowed 3in Baikal 12-bore and when a wigeon flew over at about 30 yards, I swung and missed.

However, when I broke the gun, the ejector extractors vanished over my right shoulder. I floundered in the mud trying to find them, as goose after goose honked safely overhead.

Undeterred, the following evening I was in the same spot with my 2½in William Powell 1910 boxlock.

Again, the geese flew over my hide and the first two shots killed two birds in front, while a third was taken from the following skein.

All these geese were at around 35 yards and were dropped with barrels bearing only modest degrees of choke.

Choosing your shot
The question of non-toxic shot is, of course, pertinent to wildfowling these days and has to be given considerable thought before a choice is made.

I recommend one of the brands that offer better striking energy, such as Bismuth, Tungsten or Hevi-Shot.

You will wince at the price, but one benefit is that no-one is going to waste shots or shoot indiscriminately.

I must also admit that I have seen some stunning shots taken with steel loads but, from a personal viewpoint, as I am an adherent of traditional side-by-sides, there is far too great a risk of barrel damage from using steel.

Incidentally, always pattern your gun – once you have, you will realise why your friend’s shotgun gets results with a brand in which you have no faith.

I stand tall to shoot
Another point that is rarely considered is footwork. Being cramped and having to kneel in mud is often unavoidable and is all part of the adventure, but, where possible, try to find a hiding place from which you can rise to shoot.

I am certain that the seemingly simple shots that are missed are too often the result of contorted twists from a sitting or kneeling position. If the fowler had been standing, they would have accomplished the shot.

A drably dressed, apparently inanimate object rising gently with a purposeful raising of the barrels will more often than not achieve success.

Keeping in good shape
Fitness is rarely discussed with regards to wildfowling. When taking out a novice, assumptions about how fit they are must not be made. Not long ago, I agreed to accompany a would-be fowler who had expressed an interest in a morning flight.

So, in the pre-dawn gloom, we set out over the mud to a gutter, across which I was reasonably confi dent some duck would flight.

The silence between us did not concern me, but when he stopped and doubled up 150 yards out, my companion engaged my attention.

I noted with alarm his grey complexion, the dripping beads of sweat and a wheezing sound akin to a donkey in distress.

To make matters worse, he decided on a sit-down protest in the estuary mud. Normally, I don’t make a habit of guessing a man’s weight, but he was at least 17 stone, though he might have been a fraction less by the time I managed to get him back to firm ground.

The first thing he did was to light a cigarette. I left him lying like a walrus on the bank and returned to the gutter.

From his vantage point, he was able to enjoy the sight of two geese falling to my gun. He has not smoked since that outing.

Enjoy the experience
Too often, I have listened to fowlers at the end of a flight bemoaning the fact that they have missed some birds.

My advice is simple – enjoy every moment of what is a wonderful pursuit and be grateful that you have the opportunity to venture to places where few may go.

You may return from wildfowling with your bag empty, but you have been in glorious landscapes and seen and heard life that is truly wild.