We start out on a cold crisp evening wildfowling in the end of October, I am glad I remembered my Jack Pyke hunter coat as I would have been freezing and wet if I had not. That gear really does what it says on the tin/ I am really impressed with it and recommend it to anyone, also accompanying me apart from my trusty hound was a young man, I had been coaching in all field sports matters since he was a young boy. I have known Josh since he was born and indeed he is the same age, as my No1 daughter Shannon, both have shot together and ferreted together many times.
Alas my daughter now prefers hunting on horseback, and no longer comes ferreting or shooting with her ole Dad or other brother or both, who still loves it all with a passion. Well at least she is still involved in some way with field sports and well she sort of follows after me in that way, as I used to ride the hunt as well as follow it, many years ago now I simply cannot put a poor horse through carrying my lump of a body on his back anymore, and it hurts more now when I come off, so I will leave that were it is in my past with fond memories of gallops across the hill side with the hounds in full cry…
Back to this evenings sport the wind was getting up pretty strong and the rain was forecast for this very evening, some may say sod that, but to a wildflower that’s music to our ears as that is perfect Wildfowling weather. I have said it before and I will say it again you have to be just a little bit barmy to be a wildfowler as the worse the weather the better we love it.
Well we got down on my beloved North Somerset Levels and moors, with plenty of time to spare as I wanted to walk a few ditches, work the dog and give Josh a good chance on the snipe bog. We had a brilliant fall of snipe over the last couple of years and I wanted to see how Josh fared with these rockets of little twisters as this is snap shooting at its best.
As we walked down the ditch Brook my trusty hound, caught scent of something on the wind I knew what the dog was saying to me and anyone who works their dogs as much as I do will know just from the body language, what your dog is telling you. Well those of you that have no idea what I am talking about I suggest spending some quality time with your hounds and you will soon learn what I speak of.
I said to Josh get ready I think we’re about to flush some mallard, as I sent the dog on into the reeds then almost on cue a pair of mallards flushed right up in front of us not thirty yards out from right to left, Josh was up on that old green head drake faster than a peregrine in a stoop but not as fast as me on the duck, Bang! Bang! As two shots rang out, and both ducks fell in slow motion side by side.
My duck landed on the bank and was an easy retrieve but Josh’s green head landed belly up on the river, and was floating off. This is where a good dog comes into its own and you really should not go Wildfowling without a dog, as I sent my brook on with Josh to go and retrieve his prize from mother nature’s pantry, I think the smile on this young wildfowlers face said it all as that was his first shot of his new gun and what a prize to have but a magnificent green head mallard all plump and lovely.
I can see it now sat in the middle of his families dinner table, all golden and crispy and steaming hot, with all the roast trimmings and vegetable’s to go with it, and some proper gravy I must stop now as I am making myself hungry and may eat the laptop if I carry on like this. If I say so myself I have seen this young man grow from a boy to a rebellious teenager and now back to the fold as a young man in field sports. I have walked with him most every step of the way as I do with many a young sport to this day and being privileged to be able to watch this young man shoot really made my heart smile and as my Pappy would say your cup of heart tokens runneth over…
On we moved to the snipe bog and I say “How many cartridges have you got?” As he says, “Almost a full belt why?” I laugh and say that might be enough to get maybe one of my little twisters as he looked at me with a look of are you joking, with a mix of humour thrown in for good measure. As we pushed forward into the bog I could hear the shrill (call) of alarm going up from the snipe and for about half hour Josh’s barrels blazed red hot…
When he had a pocket full of empty cartridge cases he said “I think I need more practice as I did not even get in the same county as them and you were right, I fired right and they went left and vice versa how can you shoot those so well Rob?” I just smiled and said years of practice lad, and a lot of luck I think our laughter could be heard a few miles away.
Evening flight was spectacular as the wind really got up, as the silver grey clouds raced across the sky like speeding chariots, with sunbeams breaking through the clouds it looked like golden spears being thrown down from the heavens as a battle of the hunting gods raged in the heavens above. I cannot do it justice with mere words the beauty of the evening and how spiritual it all felt.
As the light dimmed and the wildfowl started to move, with all the quacks and whistles of mallard and teal filling the air as the shrill of the snipe overhead caught the corner of our fowler’s sight. It was then we first heard the ghostly call of a flute on the wind echoing from the far off distant fore shore. What was it you ask? Well the sound that sends a shiver down my spine every time and has done since I was a Young Hedge Creeper out on this very same wetland with my Pappy (Grand Father) all those years ago.
Here I am all these years later with a young sport, whose eyes were as wide as they could be. As he himself had heard that ghostly enchanting flute music since he was a boy and yet to get close enough to try a shot I am speaking of the ghost riders the wild geese and not for the faint hearted, I telle boys my heart beats from my chest at the very thought of and for Josh well he truly has goose fever just like me.
As the sound came closer and closer, our breathing shallowed and our hearts beat like a marching bands drum, as we strained our eyes to see them in the dim light Then there they were riding like a skein Harley Davidson motorcycle across the sunset way out of range but what an awe inspiring sight, as I tipped my cap and saluted them and thanked the good Lord for blessing us with such a spectacle.
The evening flight simply was magical and to take but a few wild ducks for the table from the mothers natures pantry, was a blessing bestowed upon us to go with the heart stopping sight of that evening flight as we both left for home with full hearts as well as game bags.
A few nights later I got a call from a good friend, who has a wonderful free range chicken farm, but with chickens, you get rats and that’s what my friend was calling about. He had seen me in action on another friend’s farm dealing with foxes with the simply brilliant night vision unit the NS200 from NiteSite and asked would it work on my Air Arms S410 for the rats? I laughed and said of course I have accounted for thousands of rats using that combo and if he wanted me to come down I would.
Well I think just by the higher pitch of excitement in his voice, said it all as he explained he had tried everything from poison to traps, and could not control the scaly tail little blisters I suggested we get my Woodspring Rat pack in too and hit them with the terriers and smokers, so that’s another article. I will write when we have done that as I love working terriers and indeed running dogs and well any gun dog or ferret too.
Well on with this article it was agreed I would go down Sunday evening and try my hand at culling them with the night vision and an air rifle combo, also accompanying was Josh as he wanted to have his first go at ratting with an air rifle, using the night vision. As soon as we got there my Farmer friend was waiting with his son who would normally be out shooting with but, alas tonight he was too tired, but he asked “Can my mate Jack stay he is from the farm down the road?”
Of course not a problem for me the more the merrier, and as it turned out this young farmer had never really shot before, so it was a chance to teach another young man gun safety and field craft etc. We got into the empty chicken unit as the flock had been cleared out and the unit was all shiny and clean now, waiting for the new flock to come in soon. So I set up the chairs the rifle with the NiteSite on some stalking sticks and turned the lights off.
So now sat in complete darkness as a storm raged outside with wind rain and hail lashing down, and us sat in the dry of the chicken unit First to have a go was Josh as all three of us sat there watching the TV screen, I let Josh and Jack take centre stage and sat back watching it all unfold in front of me.
I love this NV unit from NiteSite I call it shooting rats on TV, as both the young men got excited there’s one, as the eyes of this big rat looked at them from up on a beam in the barn roof. Josh took his time placed the cross hairs on the rat’s head and pulled the trigger pheeeeeewt as the pellet sailed true, and the rat dropped and sounded like a brick hitting the floor of the chicken unit (barn) the excitement of “you got it you got it” rang out from young Jack.
As Josh turned around and said “I like this mucker, this is a lot of fun.” Well for about an hour Josh gave them rats hell and showed no quarter to them. Then I said right its Jacks turn to have a go now as the young men swapped seats and I sat behind them I told Josh to teach Jack what to do Not because I was being lazy I wanted to see how much Josh had learnt over the years and had he taken in, what I had taught him about passing on my Pappies teachings.
Well I could not of been more proud as I watched Josh teach Jack gun safety,, breathing and talking of hold over and under and windage, when out in the field as he relayed stories from times out with me and how I had taught him.
Jack shot really well and listened and took it all in, and in fact turned out to be a complete natural with an air rifle, I look forward to teaching him some more and indeed Josh too.
As I type I have had a phone call to go back to the farm and have another go at the rats and young Josh and Jack are going to be accompanying me too so watch out for the next article of tales from the chicken shed.
We finished off with two very happy and high spirited young men, who had cut their teeth rat shooting the Ole Hedge Creepers way with a nice pile of very dead scaly tailed ratticuss.
One well happy farmer and an extremely proud Ole Hedge Creeper…
Well until the next time, I hope you have enjoyed this article and please keep those letters and emails coming in, and Greg and I will try and answer you all personally.
Wildfowling Sunsets & The Ratticuss.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper.
Aka: Rob Collins.