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The Fur Feather and Fin Guide to Wildfowling

Along with clay pigeon and pheasant shooting, wildfowling is one of the most popular yet lesser known about field sports in the UK. Not only does it present the opportunity to bag some of the country’s wildest game birds, but it also enables wildfowlers to experience the very best of the British coast and push themselves to the limit when it comes to braving the winter elements. Below, we’ve provided our very own guide to wildfowling to help you decide whether this is the field sport for you! 

A flock of brown and green ducks flying over an estuary

What is Wildfowling? 

Wildfowling is a term that is used to refer to the practice of duck and geese shooting, which, rather than in the midst of the countryside, usually takes place on coastal marshland or estuaries. Unlike pheasant shooting, wildfowling is a more isolated sport and requires both patience and skill from shooters if they wish to be successful.  

As previously mentioned, the target game for wildfowling is wild duck and geese, both of which migrate to British waters in the winter from colder locations in the Arctic Circle and Scandinavia to enjoy the slightly milder UK climate. 

A brace of wild ducks paddling through water on a sunny day

Wildfowling Clubs

As previously mentioned, while wildfowlers usually shoot alone, there are many wildfowling clubs across the UK that you can become part of, most of which are happy to take on novices to the field sport.  

Upon joining, beginners will usually be taken out on what is known as a flight (a session of wildfowling) to establish whether wildfowling is the field sport for them. If they enjoy themselves, they can then sign up for a club membership, which normally costs somewhere in the region between £85 and £160 per annum and usually includes a BASC membership too.  

While being part of a club can make wildfowling feel much more inclusive, it is important to note that most clubs will have certain rules that must be followed. For instance, some may require you to keep to a bag limit, have a gundog or impose shooting restrictions. 

What Quarry Species Can be Pursued When Wildfowling?

Before heading out, it is crucial that a wildfowler is familiar with the legal quarry species in their area to avoid shooting protected birds and consequently, breaking the law. While at first, it may be difficult to differentiate one bird from another in the hazy morning light, over time, you will become used to the sights and sounds of different species.  

When trying to identify a bird, always remember to listen as well as look, as sound can be just as important as sight on cold and foggy mornings when visibility is poor. Every duck and goose will have a distinctive call that they use to communicate with one another and this can be used in the identification process. Additionally, as well as their physical silhouette, it is also worth studying the flight pattern of each species as this can also be used to indicate whether you are aiming at legal game or not! 

Two Greylag Geese flying over a river

Wildfowling Etiquette

Just as there are specific rules to follow when shooting, certain etiquette must be observed when wildfowling:

  • Always be aware of other wildfowlers and, if shooting at the same time, leave at least two shots distance between you and your fellow wildfowler.
  • If you are part of a wildfowling club, always stick to the bag limit. If there is no bag limit or you are not a club member, be canny with your shots and only bag what will be eaten. 
  • Many are of the opinion that if you arrive late to a wildfowl and don’t have a hide where you can take cover, you should pack up and go home as not to disturb others who arrived on time. 
Ducks running on water as they are disturbed

How to be Safe When Wildfowling

Whether it’s game shooting or wildfowling, safety must always be a top priority in any field sport. For wildfowlers, the mudflats and marshlands can be dangerous places and present several problems that must be considered.  

If you are wildfowling in an area you are familiar with, you will know where the dangers are. However, if you are on new turf, it is always best to be cautious. As well as watching the tide to ensure you don’t get stranded, always look out for fog, ditches, and quicksand as these can all present serious problems that could cause you to injure yourself.  

We hope you have found this guide to wildfowling helpful, especially if you are considering giving this popular field sport a try. If you do decide to try your hand at wildfowling or are an experienced professional already, why not treat yourself to a personalised cartridge bag before heading out this winter?