As I sit penning
this article some two miles from home, sat in the Land Rover
watching for a doe to show me this years offspring, a skein of pinks
heading for the Humber pass over and I rue the fact that Foot and
Mouth Disease has effectively ruled out all sea side fowling. But it
also inspired me as I remembered the late Christmas present I
received last year.
On Christmas eve
the phone rang and it was Nigel he said that Tim had The Fever real
bad and needed desperately to head North to cure it. So having rung
Dick in Annan the plans where laid for Solway side on the Thursday
between Christmas and New Year. “Are we picking you up?” asked
Nigel. Need he really ask! This just happened to be the first
Christmas not already on the Solway in some 15 years as the
Millennium caper had scuppered our plans.
festivities and Boxing Day shoots over Nigel and Tim duly arrived at
about 2am in an already heightened state and by 3 we were on our
way. The conversation changed topic regular as Nigel and Tim live in
the East Riding of Yorkshire and me in the West but, by Shap, it was
full on geese as the weather was closing fast as we were down to one
lane because of the snow. “It won’t be like this at sea
level,” I proclaimed. How wrong I was for when we hit Iron Bridge
we all had high expectations of the morning flight.
Dick and Harry were
already sat in the Range Rover as we swung into the street and it
was only a cursory flash of lights in acknowledgment and we began to
steadily make our way to Priestside through the good couple of
inches that had by now accumulated.
and togging up in the car park were done swiftly and it was almost a
run down the merse, anticipation and goose fever running wild, even
though it was still dark and no prospect of light for some while
We split to the
left and right and each found "The" spot and tucked in
hard from the bitter driving snow (thank you Lord for neoprene
gloves and wellies and waterproof, windproof clothing). Ever so
slowly that morning the light lifted. Then “Whoomp”! I was
brought to attention by the sound of Harry’s’ black powder eight
some 200yds away to my left. Focused now I was soon watching Geese
being buffeted in the snow and wind in that strange yellow light
that comes with these conditions. Realising now that any Geese would
quarter across me right to left I adjusted position.
Geese were now
airborne and the chap to my right killed a bird that was in a skein
quartering straight toward me, or so I thought. Anyway good shot!
For one thing I have learned in some 20 years going below the tide
line is that if a chance presents then take it for if you leave it
they don’t come that often in a season and you will always wonder
if that was “the one”. The next skein though saw me tucked up to
the sparse cover very tightly, tingling with anticipation, sure
enough onward they came their voices audible above the wind. The
heavy old eight came up sweet and the lead bird crumpled landing
some twenty yards out in front. Elation was so high that I
completely forgot the second barrel but warmth and satisfaction were
mine and I was happy in my world.
Ten minutes passed
before I had another offer but they veered on the strong wind to the
gun next door who duly peeled one out. Flaring hard they came my way
and the gun went up but the feeling wasn’t right and I lowered it
again. My feeling was right though because as I focused once more a
single honk brought me to the realisation that twenty geese were
coming straight down my throat. Quick as a flash the gun swung sweet
once more but this time evasive action was required as I rolled out
of my hide in the mud and snow the Pink only a matter of feet away.
All went quiet then
for a while before the” hounds of hell” were unleashed and
Barnacles where crawling all over the marsh even landing amongst the
guns. Just being there, protected or not, couldn’t have failed
to evoke the emotions of the spirit that runs in all true
fowlers blood. All too soon though it was the reality of numb
fingertips that signalled it really was time to give it best and
head back to the car.
Up from my hole I
emerged to see heads, all of a like mind, popping up. Collecting my
two Pinks I wheeled along the foreshore to find Dick and Nigel
already nattering together. “Any luck” I enquired. What followed
is a basic translation from the Scottish to English to the effect
of: "You invite Sassenachs and they shoot the geese quite
obviously coming straight towards me." “Well at least I
didn’t miss them,” was the only reply I could give in defence.
For as it transpired Dick hadn’t even dirtied his barrels. Nigel
meanwhile was in fits of laughter at the original transcript and by
the time Harry and Tim arrived we were all laughing. When Harry did
appear though he was carrying his Pink, the one he plucked out of
the half-light as the morning’s first shot. Nice one Harry!
Back in the car
park Harry prompted Dick about the flight and once more the
“friendly” banter started. To end it for good I cried “best of
three falls” and in age-old tradition the Scots and the English
were tussling in the snow on Scottish soil. Albeit with no ferocity
and part of the humour of the moment. Purely banter - everyone was
laughing at two Advantage clad figures having a friendly warm up on
a bitter cold morning.
Just as a footnote,
whilst in the car park, barnies were still active and one “pack”
that flew only fifteen yards above contained a pure white one.
Another funny sight! Then
merriment over it was back to Dick's to relieve him of some home
cured bacon in the form of breakfast and a hot cup of tea. Beautiful
it was too!
You must agree! To
be amongst friends on a red-letter flight (some of us), shoot Geese
and a hearty breakfast really was my idea of a late Christmas
My wish for this
year! I think I’d like an early one this time- the end to foot and
mouth disease- then we can all get back to normality in our lives.