GEESE:

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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - WITH ALAN JAR­RETT

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

Team­work makes the dream work

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