#Firsts – Wildfowling with Bethany Holland

BASC Ladies Introduction to Wildfowling

Monday 30th & Tuesday 31st October 2017

I was first introduced to the concept of wildfowling at this year’s Game Fair when watching a wildfowling demonstration in the main arena. I thought it looked fantastic! Inspired, I began researching more into wildfowling, and very quickly came upon the stereotype of the lone middle aged man, knee deep in mud on a dangerous marshland at crazy hours of the morning. Sounds great right?!

Safe to say I dismissed the idea.

Only a few months later however, I found the BASC Ladies Introduction to Wildfowling event on the BASC website. As a new shooter, and having never shot live game I was apprehensive about signing up, but the idea of wildfowling still fascinated me, so I put my nerves aside and made the phone call!

And so the date arrived, nervous, I arrived at the venue to be greeted by our friendly instructors and some equally nervous looking ladies! Kettle on, we sat down and had half a days instruction all about wildfowling, safety, equipment and laws. I never knew there were so many species of duck and goose, especially not that we can shoot! In the afternoon we hit the clay ground, practicing simulated shots for the morning. For me as a relatively novice shot, I found this practice invaluable for my confidence, the instructors supported me throughout and it didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t shot live game before at all.

After debriefing our first day and instructions for the morning it was off to bed!

My alarm woke me up at 03:30, and I was to be ready for 04:30. Adorning my waterproof camouflage trousers, Le Chameau Wellingtons and a jolly warm Seeland Field Coat; I was all set! We arrived at the Farlington Marshes and split off into individual instructor and shooting pairs. Whilst the world slept we made our way through the marshland to our spot – overlooking the marsh it was a truly breathtaking sight. There we patiently sat, armed with a spaniel for retrieving, a bird caller, flask of tea and our shotgun. I had wondered previously if it would get boring staring at the same scenery for so long. But I could not have been more wrong. We watched intently and peacefully as the sun rose and the marshland awoke. Birds had begun their morning calls, flying from their roosts; I felt a rush of exhilaration and adrenaline every time one flew close by!

Unfortunately no birds flew within our shooting range that morning, so I still cannot say I have shot my first live game with a shotgun. But as any hunter knows too well, we become a part of nature when hunting and thus at natures mercy with our opportunities for a catch!

Despite no catches that morning, our spirits were not dampened! With our group enthusiastically sharing in the wonderful experience of a marshland sunrise, we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved full English breakfast! As an extra surprise, our wonderful instructors brought us along some game they had shot this season as a consolation; Canada Geese sausages and a whole wigeon, enjoyed thoroughly by my family and myself that evening! The best meat is of course that we catch ourselves!

The experience overall has opened my eyes to a wonderfully exciting new element to shooting that without BASC, myself and the other ladies would have never had the opportunity to be exposed to.

My preconceptions of what wildfowling would be like could not have been more wrong. My image of the lone muddy man was long gone, replaced by the wonderful idea of feeling at the heart of nature, exhilarated by the thought of a catch and inspired by the dedication and passion of its participants.

Wildfowling is a sport that is slowly decreasing in its members, and has very few women involved. Alan Musselwhite, my instructor for the day and long time member of the Langstone Wildfowlers described how they only had one woman out of 50 members! Ladies! It was not all that long ago when woman were a real minority in all field sports, so lets step up to the challenge and increase our presence in the wildfowling world too! As a new shot still trying to find my feet in the field sports world, I feel driven and excited to contact my local wildfowling club and get involved, and I could not urge others enough to do the same!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Dan Reynolds for organising such an exciting and new event, and to all of the Langstone Wildfowlers for giving up their time to make it possible. Its people with such passion for their sport that help inspire others to keep it alive, and I feel privileged to have met you all.

Bethany Holland

All images Bethany Holland

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