The Newtownards Wildfowlers Association (NWA), which is affiliated to BASC, was founded in November 2000, by 18 experienced and dedicated shooters. NWA has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and it has developed into the largest of the four clubs on Strangford Lough. Current membership stands at 75, which includes several old age pensioners, one lady and five young shots. They are a sociable, friendly and diverse group of characters!
Instruction, mentoring and active encouragement is given to both young shots and new members. This includes a pre-season tour of the Lough which identifies access points, how, where and what to shoot, no shooting zones (reserves), tidal information and danger areas. Additionally, clay shoots are held for members throughout the summer months, where shotgun safety is taught. Regular gundog training classes and competitions are held which assists with the collection of shot quarry.
Increasing public awareness of lawful shooting activities is a key aim of NWA and many members can be seen at local game fairs throughout the summer, manning a punt gun and wildfowling stands. The major annual event is the John Orr Memorial Charity Clay Shoot, held in memory of one of NWA’s founder members; and so far donations in excess of £10,000 (£1,000 a year) have been shared between local charities such as the RNLI, Help for Heroes, MacMillan Nurses, Cancer Research, Marie Curie Trust, Downs Syndrome Charity, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Royal Victoria Hospital Children’s Ward and the Longstone, Clifton and Killard House Special Needs Schools.
During the open season, wildfowling takes place mainly on Strangford Lough but is not confined to it. NWA has long-term leases on two DARD forests in County Fermanagh for woodcock shooting and there is an ongoing search for other suitable venues and land for members to shoot.
The NWA is fully committed to conservation work and the protection of wild birds, animals and fauna in general. All members are required to complete 4 days work a year around the Lough, mainly in conjunction with the National Trust. They regularly help in the creation and management of a wildfowl reserve, assist with beach cleaning, and have a mallard rearing and release programme. Also NWA provides a significant number of wardens for the Lough and several members participate in the monthly count of wildfowl, waders and predators on behalf of the Wetlands Bird Survey and BTO.
The Association will celebrate its 10th year with a formal dinner, a BBQ and Quiz evening and has designed a range of special 10th anniversary clothing and badges.
With a very strong committee of experienced wildfowlers, the NWA aims to keep the sport of wildfowling alive by fostering friendship, encouraging good sportsmanship and safeguarding shooting for the future. Old age pensioners and young shots are granted free membership of NWA, although they are required to pay for their BASC membership and Shore Permit (if appropriate) through the Association. Should anyone be interested in joining, further details can be obtained from BASC Northern Ireland.