Alan pays tribute to these big, beautiful birds which signify the pinnacle of the sport, and relays occasions when both determination and luck played a part in getting them in the bag
Alan Jarrett goes after the pinnacle of the sport
‘Good fortune and perseverance will be necessary if these beautiful birds are to join you on your journey home’
Of all the quarry available to the wildfowler, it is the geese which arguably represent the pinnacle of the sport. This was certainly the case when I started out on this path in the late 1960s, when a young wildfowler would dream of bringing these birds to hand.
There were two reasons for that: firstly, being new to the sport, geese were the ultimate prize; secondly, there were comparatively few geese in the south-east corner of the country.
Only towards the end of the year when the first of the European white-fronts arrived did an opportunity arise, and then success was confined to the lucky or the determined. Frequently, you had to be both.
In recent decades, the number of home-bred birds has begun to burgeon in this area, largely as a result of the work of the Kent Wildfowlers who brought greylag goslings and eggs from Scotland for release on club marshes, accompanied by what eventually became a 10-year moratorium on the shooting of them.
Similarly to the greylags, Canadas were introduced and spread, until today the estuaries
Alan Jarrett is Chairman of the Kent Wildfowling & Conservation Association and author of several books on wildfowling
and marshes of Kent resound to the cries of these wonderful big birds. Paradoxically – due, many of us would say, to global warming and shortstopping on the continent – it is the white-front which is less common today.
Now, if you show perseverance it is possible to eventually get that goose, even if it may be home-bred rather than truly migrant. Irrespective of their origins they are still a worthy quarry, and are just as good on the plate.
It is possible to plan for geese and pursue them with vigour, but even so, luck comes into the equation on plenty of occasions – although if you spend enough time on the saltmarshes then you are making your own luck to some extent.
Wild goose chase
Perseverance led to good fortune on a number of occasions last season. Each time, we were after ducks, who were joined in the bag by a goose. I had been decoying in a deep creek way back in the saltmarsh. There were a few wigeon about, and eventually one planed down some 200 yards away. It was easy enough to take the dog across the dry tops to find the bird and we walked back in the gathering gloom. Almost back at the hide, a glance to my left revealed a small skein of greylags heading wide of me. There was no time to change to heavy goose loads; merely time to squat down, give the closest bird a good bit of lead and watch it plummet into the edge of the flooded creek. A bonus bird. But that was only the beginning of my good fortune. Once again it was a tide flight in that same area. This time there were half a dozen wigeon in the rucksack and we trudged back with the moon breaking through the clouds. With their characteristic ‘wink, wink’, a small skein of pink-feet went out to roost. That gave me a wake-up call and I dragged the gun from its case and dropped 42g loads of BBs into the
magazine. We then tucked down among some rough grasses to see what would happen next.
Very soon more geese came, this time well out to my left and very high. Instinct took over and the urgent swing ensured that a very tall goose came tumbling down. Delightful!
The following week, about a mile west from that spot, one breaking dawn found me tucked into the edge of a gutter. This time the quarry were the greylags which often flighted on that line, and as such I was prepared for geese.
In the gloom of dawn a single bird came right to me at a good height and fell with flailing wings into the water-filled creek behind me. This time it was a European white-front, and my good fortune knew no bounds!
Fast-forward to this season and this time the dog and I were after the big birds using a different piece of coast. There were a lot of greylag and Canadas in the area, and already some had found their way into my freezer.
Not long after first light a small skein of Canadas came silently from my rear. They were very low, but caught me unawares and, in the ensuing panic, departed unscathed by my wildly fired shots.
Despite some pretty fierce inward grumbling at my incompetence, all I could do was wait patiently and hope that the goose gods would be kind in presenting another chance… which was exactly what happened.
A small group of five Canadas approached, once again flying very low and directly for me. The gun was loaded with heavy loads of No 1s, and the first shot was fired at some 60 yards out, whereupon two of the birds collapsed.
The remaining three broke and scattered, with two flaring over my right shoulder. In these circumstances, timing is everything; the reason the third and fourth birds were killed clean is because that first shot had been so true and cleanly delivered.
After that, three lots of fast single birds came downwind, and each set was dumped onto the marsh flats below. With more successful shots at another two greylags and a further Canada, the day came to an end, and it was time to unload the gun and start the process of taking two trips to get them all back to the car.
Good fortune, perseverance, determination – call it what you will. All of these attributes will be necessary if those big and beautiful birds are to join you on your journey home.
As far as Alan is concerned, geese represent the pinnacle of the sport
Canada geese were first introduced to London’s St James’s Park in 1665
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