have i been singularly fortunate in the ease with which i have forged a path to the foreshore? are the rumours true that in some quarters “newbies” encounter something akin to a muddy masonic lodge?
to get the answer to this and many other questions i contacted BASC’S wildfowling officer mark greenhough for his views. mark was quick to emphasise that i am indeed fortunate to live in wild and sparsely populated east anglia. Some novice fowlers who live in larger conurbations encounter clubs whose membership number many hundreds. this makes places for aspirants less readily available and waiting lists can abound.
in some other clubs, prospective members are required to undertake rigorous tests on wildfowl identification from photographic images or practical gun safety testing.
my research has yet to uncover any rolled trouser legs or bared chests at midnight, but this may be due to the difficulty in doing so while wearing neoprene chest waders.
however, the major issue facing wildfowling, it seems, is not the difficulty in newbies finding and joining a club but the clubs retaining their new members. mark’s research revealed that for every new member joining a club another one leaves. the leavers tend to be those who have been members for less than three years.
Why do they leave? Perhaps the reality of a wild, wet, muddy marsh with birds flying miles away from your location doesn’t match the 26 • Shooting times & Country magazine expectations raised by the books of BB, eric Begbie and James Wentworth Day? is it that new members find their loved ones get fed up with early mornings and ooze-covered clothes littering the house? are the new kids ignored by the big boys?
i suspect the answer may be more mundane. retention and engagement happens when clubs foster a mentoring ethos towards those of us who are new to the sport; equally the wildfowling student must get involved, ask questions and become part of the team.