Tom Sykes takes Chris Green on a trip to remember at Morecambe Bay whilst filming for Chris’ next DVD
Tom Sykes takes Chris Green on a fowling trip to remember on his home turf.
Chris Green and I have been very good friends for a number of years, but we rarely get the chance to shoot together. This is due to the large distance between us, Chris being in Cornwall and me being in the North West. Chris has always been keen to venture up to MBWA (Morecambe Bay Wildfowlers Association), which he did for the first time last year on our way up to shoot the Tay in Scotland. Although we had an enjoyable day it’s fair to say that Morecambe didn’t deliver the goods, due to the poor fowling weather and lack of birds. After a failed attempt to show Chris the potential of my local marshes I decided to invite him back with the hope of a bit more action.
After a few phone calls to Chris on the run up to the season, we decided it would be nice to tie Chris’s visit in with a talk at the club’s hotpot supper evening. Once this was all confirmed and booked in, we had our dates. The club kindly donated a few day tickets to Chris so I could accompany him on our marshes and hopefully get him under some birds. I decided to treat the few days as a special ops mission to see how many flights we could do to give us the best chance of birds down on camera.
An added bonus
As most people who have taken guests out will be aware, you want them to
“The magical sound of whistling wings was a relief as the early packs began to decoy”
have an enjoyable time and a visit that is worthwhile. I decided to get the ball rolling by taking Chris on an inland flood after mallard and teal. The flood is situated in south Cumbria on the estate where I shoot most of my crows. This is a massive new flood that I’ve kindly been given permission to shoot by the boss of the estate. The water level had dropped considerably since I had last shot there, but I thought it was well worth a go.
The idea was to meet Chris in the area and travel light with a few decoys and see what would happen. My friend Mark, aka Stumpy, offered his picking-up services, which I accepted on the condition that he also brought his gun. The weather wasn’t really in our favour as the easterly wind could have resulted in birds dropping short of the decoys and out of range. Undeterred, we geared up ready for the short walk across the field into position. Chris had picked up a new Akkar triple-barrelled 12-bore 3½inch chambered wildfowling gun on his way up to me and was eager to test it. What better way to christen it than on a duck flight?
After the gun was assembled freshly out of the box, the three of us set off with spirits high. I soon had the boys in position, sitting against the edge of the water with a few of my Green head gear decoys in place. The banter was on top form as we eagerly awaited the first birds to approach. After a short wait the first birds had paddles down off to the right of our position and out of range. I reassured Chris that we were in the right spot, however he was unsure after the next birds dropped in wide and short to our left. Just as I had begun to wonder if my plan was a good idea, the ducks began to circle overhead. The magical sound of whistling wings was a relief as the early packs began to decoy. It wasn’t long until the first bird was in the bag. The action was thick and fast as birds swung in at every angle making for some exciting and challenging sport. After a good 15 or 20 minutes of continuous sport the tap was turned off and the ducks stopped moving. We had plenty of birds down and all that was left was to start picking-up.
Chris and Mark headed back to the vehicle for reinforcements in the dog department while Goose and I made a start. After the dogs had a good sweep we left the field with 14 mallards, the first flight was a success.
The following morning, after very little sleep, we headed out at 4am to a spot where I thought we could hopefully
get under the pinkfeet that were heading south from Scotland. After meeting a few others in the dark car park, including my brother Jack, we geared up and set off out. As we braved it over the seawall, we could hear the distant calls of pinks and greylags out in the bay. It sounded promising as we marched out over the network of little creeks and gutters into a suitable ambush position. Unlike most conventional wildfowlers that can walk out with the gun slung under their arm, pocket full of shells and a dog in tow, Chris and I were weighed down with all the camera equipment. Our rucksacks full of cameras and equipment probably matched the weight of a small man, or at least felt like it.
After setting up the polar bear enclosure for our dogs, Chris and I set our cameras up ready for the geese. Greylag were now only a few hundred yards out on the mud in front of us, which gave us high hopes for a shot. As the geese were so close we decided to let the ducks that passed us in the half-light go undisturbed to increase the chances of bagging more geese. This may have been a mistake as we had a cracking flight of ducks over us that morning, including pintail, which we frustratingly let go. The geese lifted and looked like they were heading our way, we hunkered down and got the cameras rolling but it wasn’t our time as they passed just wide of our position. This, however, allowed another fowler, a little down the way, to bag a right and left. The next bunch lifted and followed the same route as the first allowing another two birds to fall effortlessly to our next man. He then came across to say goodbye to Chris and I before leaving for work. We decided to stick it out in the hope of a shot and it wasn’t long before Mr Green bagged a wigeon.
Quick tide flight
After a semi-successful morning flight, I decided to give the tide a go despite the sunny weather being a major disadvantage to us. We pottered out and I set a small motherline up as Chris set about concealing the hounds. Although the sun was shining and the wind hadn’t really materialised, the duck flight was another success. I let Chris have the lion’s share of the sport, only downing a single teal to my own gun. Chris on the other hand ended up with a nice bag of wigeon to add to our tally. A pair of his wigeon came from a successful stalk by Chris as he managed to ambush a small squad further down the creek – after the birds had dropped short of our decoys. I couldn’t believe just how many chances we had considering the conditions. It was definitely a great way to pass the time of day whilst relaxing in the sun.
We finished the day by having a reconnaissance mission flight to see where the geese were flighting on the river for the next morning. Although we didn’t fire a shot we left with some good intelligence for the following day. All that was left to do was head home, get the cameras charged up for the following morning and toast a successful first day with a glass of port!
After a good bit of sport all thatwas left to do was pick up
goose and Chris’ dog Jake needed theirown hide because their fur stood outlike a belisha beacon against the mud
The birds swung in at everyangle making someexciting sport
Chris and Jake proudly displayingsome of their impressive bag
The Akkar triple-barrelled shotgunmade a good account of itself