The Waterfowler's Bedside Book
A new book by Eric Begbie for everyone who is interested in waterfowling, wildfowling, duck hunting and goose hunting, together with the natural history of waterfowl and other forms of shooting sports.
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A superb collection of waterfowling and wildfowling tales from a well known waterfowler. It covers duck hunting and goose shooting in America, Britain and Canada and deserves a place at every goose and duck hunter's bedside. Second enlarged edition.
Here's a sample:
It was not any surprise to learn that many American notables such as Ernest Hemmingway and Clark Gable had hunted here before. As a British wildfowler I was readily able to appreciate the wild grandeur of the famous Delta Marsh, just north of Portage la Prairie in Canada’s Manitoba province. As we settled down into the waist-deep water, a perfect watercolour sky of apple-green and tutu-pink faintly illuminated the eastern horizon and we paused to catch our breath before setting out the decoys.
The first part of the journey had been relatively easy, using quad-bikes to tow our canoes through half a mile of dense reed-beds, cutting a swath as we progressed. Only when the under-layer of malodorous mud became too squidgy for even the balloon tyres, did we manually drag the canoes, loaded with decoy sacks and guns, the remaining 50 yards to the water’s edge. That’s when the fun really began. There was a bitter north-easterly whipping through the phrag and, even by keeping very close to the edges as we paddled round the big bay, it took a good half-hour to battle our way to the East Point.
In my naivety, I had imagined that we would have hunted either from dry land or from a canoe slid into the reeds. But no. At the reedbed edge, the water was three feet deep and Bert duly advised me that the canoes would not provide a sufficiently stable shooting platform. So, allowing the dogs to remain in the relative comfort of the craft, the plan was that we would stand just inside the phragmytes and cat-tails for as long as it took to persuade the ducks to pay us a visit. Now I understood why Bert had insisted that I wear a pair of his thick neoprene chest waders rather than the expensive breathables I had acquired for the trip!
I wanted to rush to set out the six dozen decoys we had brought but my companion and mentor assured me that there was no need to hurry. Shooting time would not begin for another thirty minutes. I guess that of all the Canadian and American restrictions that I had encountered on my travels it was the concept of time limits that seemed most unnatural. Dawn and dusk are the prime times for UK fowlers and the best sport is often obtained while it is still quite dark. It saddened me to realise that our transatlantic brethren are denied the most spiritual of all wildfowling experiences – flighting geese or wigeon under a full moon. However, when in Rome……
There was a definite plan to setting the deeks. Farthest out went the bluebills and canvasbacks, working on the principle that diving ducks preferred deeper water. Inshore of the divers went the mallard and teal and then, for good measure, a small flock of swimming snow geese were situated fifty yards to the west as confidence decoys. Bert placed the farthest away divers at 35 yards from our position, explaining that they would act as range-judging markers. Now that Canada had succumbed to the political correctness of non-toxic shot, it was important to shoot only within the restricted range of steel.
With the plastic ducks swimming in front, we retreated to the canoes and enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee while waiting for “shooting time”. During that period, our spread of deeks was augmented, albeit temporarily, by several flights of ducks – mainly scaup and the odd goldeneye – that decided to look in for a visit.
Finally Bert announced that the magic hour had arrived and shells were slipped into the chambers and magazines of our guns. Bert used a very old Wingmaster pump-actioned shotgun while I hade brought my well-tested Beretta semi. With a daily limit, that year, of eight ducks apiece, I almost wished that I had brought over my normal over-and-under, especially when my friend suggested that we restrict ourselves to “greenheads” or mallard drakes. This was not only a sensible conservation measure but also a pleasant way of spinning out our meagre limits over most of the morning.
It was one of those days, well known to every true waterfowler, when it would not have mattered a single iota if I had never pulled the trigger. The spectacle that unfolded before our eyes was one of these once-in-a-lifetime scenes where, for the better part of three hours, flight after flight of ducks traversed the wild sky. Bert’s calling skills had been honed to a fine pitch and often he was able to turn birds that I would have let pass.
In the event, we both stopped short of our limits and slid the guns into their sleeves. Just watching the fowl and playing with them as we tried to lure them to actually land amongst the decoys was sport enough. We had become bewitched by the incredible magic of the East Point of the West Marsh.
Also read about waterfowling in Wildfowling Magazine International online.