It was a cold wet and windy night as we left Chrisís for Humberside and silly oíclock in the morning. I dosed on the drive up. The storm had gone as I woke up at the crunch of gravel as we came to a stop at the marsh. It was quite still as we kitted up gathered the dogs from their scamper round and set off for the little promontory that had become our favourite spot for early morning fowling. We propped up the pallet and some cammo net on a couple of short poles by the glow from the chemical works and snuggled down behind it. More organised now out came the flask and a cup of hot tea, Chris doesnít drink coffee, but he does like his tea like me, weak and wazzy with lots of milk. So we were ok there. Sam my young Springer and my first attempt at gun dog training shuffled around. He was still on a lead as no where near steady enough to be free, he was along for the experience not to work. Holly Chrisís lab just sat watching this misbehaviour.
Gradually there was paleness in the eastern sky heralding the arrival of dawn. Our senses quickened we always keep looking against the glow of the industrial lights but with the coming of dawn combined with high tide pushing the birds off the flats we hoped for some action. The sun started to creep over the horizon beyond the far bank of the river and I unloaded my gun and propped it against the net, using my Lanber for wildfowling was becoming a trial as the environment was so unfavourable for it, I opened my bag and reached for my camera. Itís a Fugi Finepix 602, itís a bit old now but gets used for all this sort of stuff. Its been caving and all sorts. But its still well up to the job and I was glad I had it this morning. The colours just built and built as I took photograph after photograph. One of which is above, I had two framed and gave them my mum for her birthday, though not an anti she is not normally into shooting photographs.
Nothing showed on the shooting front but I was so pleased with the pictures it didnít matter, and if we saw nothing all day the trip had been worth it already.
Since our first trip and my experiences with the local dealer and no non toxic shot I had been down to Cheshire Gun and was now the proud owner of some Tungsten Matrix No1 and No 4 and a small mortgage to pay for it, I drew the line at Bismuth which was what Chris was loaded with, I didnít want to feel disinclined to shoot when something did appear in case the price had gone up on the international metals market and I blasted my investment out into the dark waters of the Humber to be lost for ever.
The lights of navigation buoys winked there safety message.
Ships passed by each way and the pilot boat guided them out then came rushing back up stream to collect the next one before the tide turned. At first they were dark shapes with their navigation lights and now they were clearly visible, in he dark it was eerie, as a while after they slipped past with the heavy beat of their engines fading, their wake arrived at the shore with the weird noise of breaking waves on the bank.
We chatted, Chris fished out his flask and we had another welcome brew. As we chatted I saw two birds approaching, duck I thought, but what species, on they came, low over the water rising up as they reached the river bank, ďChrisĒ I said nodding in their direction, we were too slow, two greylags passed by over the marsh. I was surprised at the size but they seemed much smaller directly head on, but I had learned a few things. Quarry identification was vital especially when the light was bad.
We had a walk around the marsh and the dogs had a great time in the splashes and getting very, very muddy indeed. I threw Sam a dummy into the water and he did well retrieving it. Small birds moved around, the sun was warm. Smaller boats chugged up and down the river. We went as far as our boundaries it was just lovely to be out. The environment was new and the air fresh, a seemingly unique smell of the seaside mixed with mud, sounds of industry, agriculture, nature and the rush of the river and the whistle of the breeze through the reeds.
Over the fields behind us a helicopter arrived. We were mystified as to what it was doing. It hovered and moved around. It looked as if it was herding the huge flocks of wood pigeons it was disturbing as it moved them from wood to wood across the large open fields. We guessed it was probably to do with surveying for creating marshland flood defences. We hoped so as it would improve our shooting. We also thought about investigating the possibilities of getting some pigeon shooting for the middle of the day or even some fishing in this mighty brown water that made its way to the sea. I thought itís a good job lead is not banned for the size of weight you would need to hold the bottom in this tidal race of water.
As it was the middle of the day our thoughts, as shooters do, turned to food. We wandered our way back to the car, stowed our guns and drove the few miles to the main road and the chip shop, we sat inside on a bench and had the most fantastic fish and chips, it was good value and fantastic quality, this could become a habit of our wildfowling day. Not exactly the epic expeditions I had read about, with long marches using a wading stick by compass bearing in thick fog listening for the sound of the geese ahead. Sitting in some distant water filled barrel cold wet. Fingers and mind numb with cold, your coffee full of glass from the broken flask where you fell over a stile and your butties squashed and torn by the box of massive fowling cartridges for your 10 bore.
Another brew I think before we brave the wilds again, I parted with my £1.60 and we sat back watching the traffic go by.
Time to return to our fantastic hunting endeavour with our full bellies and a happy heart, ever keen to return home with food for the table, or was it the owner wanted to shut the shop. We made our way back to the marsh and speculated whether we could bring my caravan up and park just where our cars were, there is plenty of room and then we could spend a few days on the marsh without the travel and not miss Coronation Street.
We got our boots back on and off on to the marsh. The wind had freshened and I put my Barbour on. Its an old jacket now, long ago has it lost its sticky wax coating for the creased well worn look of a proper jacket rather than its fashionable accessory counterpart seen on the streets of our towns getting out of Range Rovers with low profile tyres.
We had a walk around again carefully investigating the splashes. Chris decided to put some decoys out on a splash that looked ďpromisingĒ we thought, I donít know how to think like a duck, but then perhaps its mostly a matter of luck anyway and the feed that one of the local guys was putting out was probably the key issue and we were near the feed bin which probably meant one of the better fed splashes. So perhaps it was promising after all.
As Chris had the waders, and they were his decoys, it was his job to put them out. He unwound the strings that tether them to their weights so they didnít all drift to the windward edge of the splash. He chucked them around in a most professional manner, much Hollyís excitement as she wanted to go out and bring them back. I stood in the shallows tossing out the dummies to him from their huge net bag.
My list of required gear was expanding. Different gun as I didnít like taking my ďbestĒ gun on the marsh. (see ďA Local Gun Shop.Ē) waders, better cammo head gear and hat, decoys etc. The more you do I think the more the list grows. Or perhaps I am the most welcome of gun shop visitors, a collector of bits of kit.
Coastal wildfowling is perhaps unlike any other type of shooting, the quarry either shows or it doesnít and this time as on many others like it, it didnít. Lapwings and Curlew cruised around in large numbers. We staked out our splash and waited for the mallard and teal to come in, the night was pleasant enough and we stayed late. Happy enough chatting, sharing a bit of chocolate and the odd fluffy sweet from some long lost packet, thinking about the roar of the gas stove making a brew before setting off back. The anticipation that at any moment a stray goose or a flight of ducks could come by, watching for the birds against first the setting suns afterglow and finally the bright cast of the works near by. As the air cooled the wind freshened and the clock ticked round we called it a day. We bundled the dogs back into their crate slipped boots off and shoes on and set off for the two hour trip home.
Another long day and nothing to show for it, well not really, good company, a bit more training for Sam my Springer, a good lunch and some nice photographs that I have often looked at since. There is no such thing as a bad days shooting.