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Wild Fowling - Ducks On Flight Ponds - (By Bob Laidlaw)


The evening flight!

As the sky lightened in the east, around twenty mallard fell from the darkness tumbling and twisting making a tremendous noise calling to each other.

When it comes to duck shooting I consider myself pretty damn lucky to have so many options open to me. I personally have the rights to one good pond; one of my Saturday Syndicates has at least another ten ponds that are always available after our "walk & stand" day, plus another really good pond of around one acre on another local farm. This one will cost me a drink for the farmer but if I do my reconnaissance properly, I know this one will produce the goods and so is always worth the money.
When shooting flight ponds for ducks I have just a couple of simple rules:
1, Always do your recon over a couple of days as one simply wont do it. Just because the birds are there this evening, there's no guarantee that they'll be there tomorrow. They could have just dived in there for shelter as some of the other local lads are shooting nearby ponds. If they're there two nights in a row you have a better than average chance of getting some sport on the 3rd night. Also look for tell tale signs like feathers and droppings around the banks.
2, Always take a torch and a dog. I tend to shoot the evening flights and by the time the ducks stop coming you can bet it will be dark. I wont leave wounded birds so I always do a thorough pick-up after shooting. Stumbling around the pond in the dark can be dangerous so the torch is essential.
Wounded ducks are almost impossible to retrieve without a good dog and there's nothing worse than leaving a wounded duck or goose on the water to suffer.
Those are my rules, I'm sure you have some of your own.
Last fowling season was tough going in the Eastern Counties of the UK as so many of the inland ponds were completely dry due of course to the lack of rain. At the time of writing this, May 2012, it's been raining pretty much non-stop for six weeks so no problems next season me thinks.
During late December 2011, I had been watching the one-acre pond with great interest as large numbers of Mallard, Tufted Duck and Greylag Geese had been visiting the pond during the evening. Just a day or two before shooting the pond I did another evening visit only to find that pond was more or less deserted.
I phoned the farmer who said he was seeing lots of activity in the morning at first light but nothing much in the evening. Clearly the birds had changed their routine without asking me first - bloody nerve.
Next morning, which happened to be Xmas Eve, I arrived in the dark and parked the truck a few hundred yards back from the water. As the sky lightened in the east, around twenty mallard fell from the darkness tumbling and twisting making a tremendous noise calling to each other. This aerobatic
display was followed just a few minutes later by the same spectacle again and then again.
The high pitched whistle of widgeon over head was clearly heard and this followed by the barking sound of two Egyptian geese flying low over the pond but not stopping.
Then for the icing on the cake came the unmistakable sound of Greys as they headed in from a westerly direction. They were touching down in groups of between four and ten birds at a time.
I remember thinking; my God there must be standing room only on the water. All this excitement going on and I hadn't taken my blood pressure pills yet. Well that was that, it had to be a morning flight, no question.
I was to shoot the pond directly after Christmas and I would do one last recon the morning before.  
The morning before we were going to shoot I did the final recon, arriving again in the dark and parking in the same spot. The sky started to lighten in the east but where were the mallard? A couple of teal dropped in but not much else. It didn't take long for me to realise that this was a totally different situation to the awesome spectacle of a few days before. They've changed the feed routine again.
As I approached the pond on foot to check that there was still plenty of barley in the shallows and on the bank, the place erupted into a mass of ducks and geese flying noisily from the pond, maybe 100 plus birds leaving in blind panic. Yep, that confirms it, they're arriving in the evenings again.
A quick change of plan and after a few phone calls to the guys, we're back on for an evening flight.
The next night was a great success with the final bag being 25 Greys and 12 Mallard, certainly worth the time and effort.

This bag was well worth the effort

"This bag was well worth the effort"

In my humble opinion, the main ingredients for successful flight pond shooting is feeding the ponds on a regular basis of at least once per week with what ever you can get your hands on, including barley, stale bread, rotten potato's or potato peeling's. Always ask friends and family to keep a carrier bag or sack for old veggie scraps and stale bread that they have, you'll be surprised how it mounts up and the ducks love it.
Secondly, don't over shoot the pond, as the birds will soon work out that this is not a safe place to be. I always try to leave the water in peace and quiet for two weeks at least, but the longer the better.
Finally, I would never consider a morning or evening flight without doing my recon properly. I can't think of anything I would rather do less than stand on the edge of a pond in the cold and dark for two hours only to draw a blank. As the old saying goes, if the jobs worth doing it's worth doing well.

Good hunting.


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