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Wildfowling in the 21st Century
Creekcrawler gets a stiff neck looking forwards and backwards at the same time!

A new century, indeed a new millennium, has dawned since the last printed issue of Wildfowling Magazine went to press. Now that all the hype and the fireworks have died down, what does the new age hold for the sport of wildfowling?

Will we see a continued decline from the golden era that seemed to last from about 1890 - 1980 or will there be a revival in our fortunes? Can our sport change to meet the challenges of the future or will we become bogged down, both literally and metaphorically, in the marshes and estuaries of the last century?

It is, of course, tempting to look backwards and fondly remember times when most of our sport below the sea wall was carried out without too much worry about political interference or attacks by "animal rights" campaigners. To an era when wildfowling clubs across the country were growing and thriving. To the days before shotgun certificates, non-toxic shot, the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the loss of the name WAGBI. To be sure, the final 20 years of the last century probably saw more restrictions placed upon wildfowlers than most of us had expected.

Nevertheless, we must shake ourselves out of this frame of mind. Memories are fine - but they do belong in the past. Let's concern ourselves with some of the more positive indications of where the future of our sport might lie.

For a start, the wild populations of many of our quarry species seem health. Some are growing, many are more than holding their own and few give much cause for concern. International awareness of the importance of co-operation in waterfowl management should help to provide early warning signals of any threats that emerge.

In the past there was a real worry that the industrialisation of our estuaries and marshes would continue until there were no fowling grounds left in Britain. That threat has been largely removed by government acceptance that planning considerations must take account of environmental issues. Sometimes we complain about bureaucracy but, in this case, it seems to be working in our favour.

So, I do not accept that the future for wildfowling is as dismal as some people suggest. What I do maintain is that we must, as a body of sportsmen, have a firm action plan for the coming years so that we can actively promote our sport. Some of the matters that we should be acting upon are:

Improving PR - The public and, in particular, politicians need to be constantly reminded about all of the positive things that wildfowlers do for the environment.

Re-establish the links of trust and co-operation between wildfowling organisations and conservation bodies. Some of our own number are sceptical about this but those of us who worked actively in that field in the past know that we can generate an enormous amount of goodwill by getting influential conservationists on our side.

Re-vitalise our club network - there still are some healthy and active fowling clubs but many others appear to be struggling. Some now even have to advertise for members. Personally I would like to see more of the subscriptions paid to BASC coming back down to club level.

Most important of all - find ways of attracting more young people into our sport.

If we can positively promote each of the above action points and successfully win back some of the ground we have lost, then I see no reason why the sport of wildfowling should not have a rosy future in the 21st century.

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