WILDFOWLING AD­VEN­TURES

Tom Sykes takes Chris Green on a trip to re­mem­ber at More­cambe Bay whilst film­ing for Chris’ next DVD

Sporting Gun - - CONTENTS -

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.

goose plan

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!

TOM SYKES

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

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