Feeling in the pink
Tom Sykes heads out with his good friend to try to intercept a fresh influx of pink-footed geese, which marks the true start of the season
For most wildfowlers, the sound of pink-footed geese can make the hairs stand up on the back of the neck; it often marks the true start of the season for some. Pinks usually arrive with us in the north-west of England towards the end of September, but they were a little early this year. Their distinctive “wink, wink” can be heard over the house as the skeins head to the local roost and feeding ground, which always gets me in the mood for a wild goose chase.
A browse of wildfowling social media groups revealed that some of our club members had already been out and struck gold. The forecast for the following morning was for rain and a good strong wind, which in theory should have helped as it would force the birds to fly at a lower altitude. Unfortunately, the morning was unsuccessful as the birds left the mud over our boundary as little specks in the distance and I was unable to get a shot.
There were a few stragglers but the broad daylight visibility and the lack of decoys resulted in the birds spotting my position before coming in range. I decided to pull up the stumps and retreat defeated.
My brother Jack decided to try his luck the day after my failed attempt. As with most brothers, there is a little sibling rivalry between us. So far this season, I seemed to have lost my mojo and Jack had apparently acquired it. He has had few trips this year but is clearly a magnet to geese because he has left most flights with a bird or two for the table.
Jack hit the right day because there were plenty of fresh birds in the area. He bagged three geese from three different bunches and for three shots before the sun was even up. Happy with the bag, he left the marsh early and left the birds to it. He was keen to express his joy and success in a wildfowling group chat we have between a few friends, which spurred our good friend Tom and me to hatch a plan for the following day.
Jack had given us access to the information he had acquired while out. He suggested the birds’ movements and what he believed to be the best plan for success. Tom and I decided that we would take a few decoys to give ourselves the best chance at a shot. Tom was keen to make the flight count because he lives a good two hours away from our club.
We have been friends since school as he shared numerous classes with Jack. Though they are a few years older than me, they were great at letting me tag a long on occasion. We all joined our local wildfowling club as Young Shots and have shot together most years since becoming full members.
“He bagged three geese from three different bunches and for three shots before the sun was even up”
Tom is a major in the British
Army, a fabulous job that has allowed him to see the world but has also interfered with his shooting at times over the past several years. Luckily his family have stayed in the area, giving him a good base to stop when over this way. As our club has a long waiting list, Tom remained a full member, even when fighting for his country overseas.
The presence of pinks in the bay can entice plenty of wildfowlers out of bed at an ungodly hour, so we had an early start to ensure the best
Tom sets out the decoys to give the best chance of a shot at the pinkfeet