Whistling Wings Under The Moon Light
Like I said we start out on the eve of the start of this season, I just cant sleep, the alarm is set for 3am, as I lay there going over in my mind, have I got all my kit, I have this niggle I had forgotten something, so I get out of bed and check everything for the god knows how many time, all is good and I get back into bed and doze off, then it starts, the dreams I mean, remembering all the seasons that have come before, since my first time when I was a very young boy with my Pappy (grandfather) my ole Dad and my Uncle Dave, even with my own children, remembering all the friends and family that have long since passed, the dogs oh so many great water dogs, the retrieves most vividly living in my minds eye, the adventures I have had the privilege nay honor to have been on with so many great teachers of the art.
I then start to feel that breeze on my face and the smell of the water, the sight and sound of wildfowl echoing through my dreams from monotonous flights back in the sands of time, a 3am alarm, what alarm? I was up and ready with my second mug of tea before that alarm went off, I am always the same for either Traditional Ferreting or Wildfowling, especially if its the first trip out of the season, my Dad said I have never changed even since my first day out in the field at the age of 2 well almost 3, on that frosty cold winters morning on a December Wednesday way back in 1974.
The light started to come up with the first rays of the sun rising in the East, we heard the Ghost Riders in the distance, that's the wild geese honking across the sky, a shiver went down my back, just the sound of geese makes me tingle all over, just like the first time I heard them when I was a young boy, both the boys were like cats on a hot tin roof, then the mallard started to call, so the boys laid it on thick with their Buck Gardiner Double Nasty Mallard calls, 3 mallard dropped right into their decoys, a volley of shots rang out and 2 ducks dropped into the decoy pattern, that marked the start of another great season, I had a sword of Teal come right past me, as always I was in ore at just the sight of fowl on the wing, I never so much as raised the gun, like I said it was the just being there for me, you don't have to shoot, I like that choice, I always have a gun with me no matter what Country Sport I am out doing, then its my choice weather to fill the game bag or not, some of the best shots I have ever taken have been with a camera not a gun, this is something I am passing down to the Young Sports, there are too many people who are just blood thirsty, this is not how I was taught, you take from Mother Natures living pantry only what you need, you also put more back than you take out, thus why I say conservation is at the core of all I do, Country Sports in its essence if practised properly is the biggest Conservation Body in the world, but like with all things those few rotten apples spoil it for the whole barrel, so I will teach my Young Sports the right way, good ethics and conservation first, only take what you need for your table, obviously pest control etc there are some exceptions to this, but again with good ethics you can find a balance.
As the light fell I could hear those Wild Ghost Riders echoing across the marsh, then I saw them they were coming right at me along the river, the dog looked like she was on charge with her batteries almost full ready to go, they came right over me not twenty yards up, I did not even raise the gun, nor even close the breach, I was again in ore at the sight and sound of these magnificent Ghost Riders, my senses fully awake watching them fly by sounding their horns as they came and went in that fleeting moment, the dog did not seem so pleased, I did not need a goose for my table, I still have one in the freezer from last season, so I wont replace it until that one is gone, probably for Christmas Dinner, we don't have many geese round these parts so I harvest them very conservatively, I then started to hear Teal and Wigeon going past high over head, they were heading for the big splash in the flooded pasture just over the way, their whistles and pips talking to my very soul as their whistling wings played an enchanting tune of far off distant lands, I heard a chuckle of mallard in the distance, so I got on my double reed call, a bit of a lazy hen with a few feed chatters, then there they were, they circled me so I chuckled again on my call, this time I flicked a little grain I had in my pocket from feeding my pheasants, this made a rippling effect like ducks feeding in the margins, they saw it alright, in they dropped slipping air paddles down wings set, as they sort of froze in the air I mounted the gun, came up through the green head, tail, body, beak, bang, he dropped to my shot not 20 yards away, the hen already on her way down tried to gain height, but to late I was already on her, I swung through and she folded to my shot, I sent Tess on to retrieve my Fresh Wild Mallard that I had just harvested from Mother Natures Pantry, she did so in fine style, there were more coming our way but I was happy to watch them fly by, I had all I needed for my table, the night fell and Tess and I left the marsh none the wiser we were there, all I will say the plum sauce went beautifully with those wild duck and I and the dog were stuffed after eating them.
So there I am with my Ole Dad sat behind our duck blind, decoys out and dogs sat to heal, Goose had his New Jack Pyke hunting coat on to keep him warm, Tess insisted on getting in the pic with Dad and I, Dad’s first shot was a wood pigeon that came flighting out of the grain barn across the field, I do have to go back and deal with a pigeon problem in that barn but that's for another day, the light started to fade and the first whistling wings were heard over head, I started calling very gently, I didn't want to blow the duck into another County, sometimes less is more especially when it comes to game calling, a mallard turned in from way off, I gave a few clucks of the feed chatter and in he dropped in, wings set paddles down, Dad mounted, one shot he was on the water belly up, Tess was sent in and she retrieved it in fine style I might add, we saw lots of duck that flight and Geese in the distance, just as we were about to retire for the evening a brace of mallard dropped right in unseen, as they lifted Dad mounted swung through like a well oiled machine, both duck fell belly up in the decoys, I sat there as wide eyed as I did as a boy watching him shoot, he just makes it look so effortless, this was one of those Father and son memory moments, he just looked at me and said are you going to take the dog out to retrieve them or not boy, nothing changes there then, I have been the TV remote and game retriever since I could remember, I would not have it any other way.
Stay safe and well one and all at this ghastly time of our second lock down, keep your chins up for The Wildfowl are Coming On The November Full Moon.
Whistling Wings Under The Moon Light Part 2
By The Ole Hedge Creeper