The lure of high wa­ter

Tom Sykes sets an am­bush for ducks on an in­land flooded field and ex­plains some of the tac­tics he has em­ployed to shoot it suc­cess­fully

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

My duck shoot­ing usu­ally con­sists of fore­shore ex­pe­di­tions. How­ever, I some­times have an op­por­tu­nity to head in­land and change tac­tics in the pur­suit of ducks. Where I live, the ma­jor­ity of ground that can be shot is taken by some­one and it is rare to find an op­por­tu­nity that can be ex­ploited. The es­tate where I con­trol ver­min has some great flight­ponds that are shot by the boss and his guests.

Though I’m very for­tu­nate to re­ceive the odd in­vi­ta­tion to shoot, I have firmly fixed my sights on a flooded field for the past few years.

Storm Des­mond

I first no­ticed the flood on a shoot day af­ter Storm Des­mond hit Cum­bria a few years back. The large body of wa­ter erupted with ducks when the first shot was fired on the drive a few fields away. Ducks al­ways catch my eye, and I soon ap­proached the boss of the es­tate to see if he would be kind enough to let me have a go.

I have since shot the flood re­li­giously when the con­di­tions are right and have had the joy of tak­ing plenty of guests on there, in­clud­ing my girl­friend who man­aged to bag her first duck on it.

This par­tic­u­lar flood has been cre­ated in the past few years since a drain has col­lapsed some­where un­der­ground where the wa­ter flow leaves the field and en­ters the next hill­side. This means that the wa­ter lev­els change rapidly, de­pend­ing on the amount of rain­fall we have in the area. The flood can ap­pear overnight and re­sem­ble a small lake in a short space of time.

How­ever, it is also sus­cep­ti­ble to drain­ing off quickly if we en­counter a few dry days. This makes it in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing to shoot as I have to wait for the right op­por­tu­nity. The wa­ter lev­els also make it im­pos­si­ble to feed. I once at­tempted to feed it, dump­ing a bag of wheat 1ft into the wa­ter as we had rain fore­cast for the next day. That rain didn’t ma­te­ri­alise, so the food was stranded on the bank­ing where the crows soon de­voured it.

at its high­est, the flood can stretch about 400 yards long and 200 yards wide. I have never been able to test the depth in the mid­dle as it be­comes too deep to get across in chest waders.

“The birds would be sil­hou­et­ted as they de­coyed against the last sliver of light”

I would es­ti­mate it to be about 6ft at its deep­est point. This can make it dif­fi­cult to get a de­coy lay­out in place and I have even re­sorted to us­ing my moth­er­line sys­tem to float the de­coys in the ar­eas too deep for waders. De­coys are a must when the flood is large, as the birds have lots of space where they can land out of the ef­fec­tive range of a shot­gun.

as the new sea­son started, I waited ea­gerly for any early signs of the right

Shoot­ing TIMES & Coun­try mag­a­zine • 21

Tom or­gan­ises his kit on the flooded field for an evening flight

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