It was about 1730 when I got back from work on Tuesday. I didn’t bother getting changed, just slipped a coat on, shoved some cartridges in my pocket and took the O/U and Ros out to have a look and listen at what was about as daylight ended.
It’s a good time to be out and about, only beaten by it’s opposite where you can’t fail but to achieve that feel good sensation being secreted in a hidey-hole or up against a heavy hedge with your dog or gun (or both) as the sun rises and the natural world comes to life.
Now I wasn’t particularly looking to shoot anything. It’s just that whenever you go out without the gun the opportunity always presents itself for a shot or two. The same with the dog, no dog at heel always means you will come across a good potential slip on a fox or Roe. I really only wanted to go and sit up somewhere and listen to the cock pheasants going to roost as with all the noise they make it is a good time to make mental notes on where they are roosting.
We made our way around some fields noting runs in the grass, holes in hedges and the ever-increasing number of Roe prints in the soft soil. There’s a strip of field beans that we have left at the far side of a field adjacent to the farm for the pheasants and it was here that I noticed a single Roe Doe standing in the middle. We were right on top of her before she made a break for the adjacent wood and in a flash she had disappeared. Ros stood no chance, as the deer never even broke the cover.
Beans to the right wooded ‘belt’ to the left and woodland ahead. Not much room for a run on deer, that’s if you can spot them in the beans.
We continued around this wood to the other side where Christmas trees are planted and where we also have one of the release pens. There are always rabbits here but I have yet to take one with a dog, you can only really shoot them, as a single hop will take them into cover at nearly any point.
As we turned in towards the Christmas trees I saw a single rabbit sitting with it’s back to us. With the wind in my face in was an easy shot with the quarter-choked barrel. I left it to Ros as I carried on round just in case another was still about in the clearing in front of the pen but there wasn’t. With the shot rabbit returned to me and placed in the netting of my game bag, we continued the outing, retracing our steps back towards the beans. Now why would I want to go back to the beans? Well, after firing off the barrel I heard a commotion in the wood, a commotion that could only be made by deer and I was right. On approaching the beans the Roe was spotted again, this time in the wooded belt running alongside the beans and next to an old Chapel. Now I could go on about how I allowed the dog a run that resulted in a fine specimen for the freezer but that’s not what happened, I just let it be for another time.
We continued on down to the lake. Here we have an old hollow tree uprooted and planted back in the ground upside down and with a bench next to it made from some of it’s old branches. Here Ros and I stopped to listen to the wildlife wind it in for the night. We had not been there long when I heard the cries of geese coming in to overnight at the lake. In they came, about two dozen Canada geese, squawking as geese do and splashing down onto the lake. Now I like a bit of goose so decided to give them another opportunity of coming in at a better angle for a shot so but one across them to get them up. Once back on the wing they made a real wide circle going out of sight at one point but not out of earshot. Ten minutes later they were back but still along the wrong flight line so another shot put them on they’re way again. Another ten minutes passed, maybe a bit longer, I wasn’t clock watching. In they came again and at the right angle this time. I let off both barrels and dropped a goose into the lake.
With hills sloping up on either side this 2-year-old man made lake makes an irresistible overnight spot for all wildfowl.
Whilst I had been waiting for my prime targets there had been a lot of duck flying in. Dozens upon dozens had swept in and settled only to make a hasty exit at my efforts to move the geese on. I hung around a bit and was rewarded with 3 lovely ducks flying right across me. One barrel bought one down. It was now 1930 so I decided to give it a rest for the night. I could just make out the duck lying in the water so tried to get Ros in to retrieve. Now in the daylight she has no problems getting stuck in but tonight? No way José. Despite hurling numerous sticks near to the duck to tempt her, she was having none of it so plan two came into force…the boat.
It was dark, the boat was half full of water and I only had my mini mag light in my pocket. Remember, I had not come out with the intention of returning home with a goose and a duck. My leather boots soon soaked up the cold water as did my trousers as I turned the boat enough to let some of the chilly water escape from the plastic boat and down the front of my trousers. I started to row in to the lake in the direction of the last sighting of the duck, Ros following me lakeside. There is a fair old current in this lake as it is fed by a fast running stream and held back by an oak slated sluice. This meant that the duck had moved position considerably in the time it had taken me to fumble my way onto the lakes surface.
In confined spaces a mini mag light gives a good tight beam but, hanging from your mouth as you try to illuminate the surface as you row…well, it’s useless. If anyone had seen me I would never have been able to live it down, but it was all that I had and after getting so wet I certainly wasn’t planning on going home to get my lamp and returning.
Eventually I managed to make out the silhouette of the Mallard and made a good clean pick up from the seriously listing boat which obviously wasn’t built with a 17 stone bloke leaning out of it in mind. I continued to row around the lake for the Goose but retrieved no body from the water. All I could think of was that although it had been hit well, it had survived the fall and had managed to make it onto one of the two small islands that were left when the lake was dug to provide safe nesting. There was no way I was going to risk transferring myself from boat to island that evening, not by myself, I’d had enough. I squelched my way back home, hung the duck up in the game room and persuaded my father to go down in the morning to pick the goose up.
The following morning I was up early and off to work in deepest darkest Essex. No phone call came to confirm retrieval of the goose. I got home and questioned Adam, the farm ‘boy’ about it. They had gone down to look for it, had even traversed the lake to the islands but found no goose. Feathers where seen at the side of the lake but that was all. Must have been a fox. It would have been a job for it as the silt is quite deep quite quickly at the waters edge but what else could it had been?
That weekend I found my goose. It was about 200 yards away from the lake in the next field. There wasn’t much left of it, just the wings and the breastbone.
A 12-13 llb bird dragged from the silty side of a lake, through a hedge and 200 yards up a field, then eaten. The work of a good strong fox.
The Friday morning of the same week I had a phone call from my father. 100 + Canada geese were sitting on another lake near to us which we have the key to. The deal is, we swipe the undergrowth on a regular basis in return for some shooting. I phoned my mate Norman and arranged to meet him at mine for 1700 to set up an ambush on the geese.
It was about 1730 by the time we finished chatting and drinking coffee. Adam joined us in the newly shod Daihatsu as we made our way down to the lake behind my father in the landrover. The plan worked like a dream.
We crept around to the back of the lake but outside of the perimeter fence. Dad sneaked in through the gate and with Ninja like stealth made his way through the fauna to the lakeside. Radios allowed us to confirm we were all in position before Dad let a shot off across the geese. Up they got, some going back over my father but most coming straight over us. My weapon of choice for this ambush was my Berretta 301 semi auto with the full choke dropped in and loaded with 32 gram 4,s. I find anything smaller just tickles these thick-feathered birds. The other 2 were using game guns with quarter and half chokes along with 32 gram 6’s, this was there downfall.
As the geese flew over I picked one out of the 50 odd and dropped it with the first shot. I quickly got onto another straggler and dropped that also, both dropped straight down into the field a few yards away from me. The other 2, in awe at the numbers flying above them seemed to have problems concentrating on just the single bird and missed everything.
We picked up the geese and made our way to the other lake that I was at a few nights before. Duck was in abundance as we arrived so we quickly got into our pre arranged positions. As the darkness fell we managed 4 ducks between us before we decided it was just too dark to see them coming in. We used Norman’s lamp to spot the duck that landed in the lake and I made my way in the boat to retrieve them with a little more success than I had on my own the time before.
We got them back to the game shed. One Goose weighed in at just a touch under 13 IIb and the other just over 12.
The evenings bag the following day. Thank god for the plucking machine in the corner!
Just to show that it doesn’t always go to plan, the following Friday we done the same thing. The 50 odd geese were wary from the start. We got into the same positions and dad done the same thing within the lakes boundaries. Most of the Geese got up before a shot was taken…and flew in the opposite direction from where we were standing. The others were seriously spooked and after dad took a shot, also went in the opposite direction to our positions. They soon learn.
We did end up with one eventually. We drove around the other lake with the lamp out the window and Tubbs running alongside just in case a rabbit became available. There were plenty about but it was too still and too light for him to have any chance. We stopped, as we were about to leave at the other end of the field just to see what duck were coming in. Within minutes the tell tale sound of geese came into earshot and they flew right over us. We all missed!
A minute later a straggler flew over and Phil, who had joined us for the night in place of Adam, dropped it with his fully choked barrel and a 36 gram 6.
It was his first Goose. He was happy…his girlfriend wasn’t, she thought it was cruel…bet she eats some though!
Written By I.Sellick