Masters of the sky

Shooting Times & Country|March 18, 2020

Masters of the sky
There are a lot of people who turn their nose up at driven duck but done properly it is a glorious sight to behold, says Charles Grisedale
Charles Grisedale

Like many, I have occasionally been appalled and disgusted when duck have been on the menu on a shooting day. I will not go into detail. What an absolute waste of such potential. Experienced Shots struggle at five cartridges per kill. It is not that they are out of range — you will be warned not to do that — it is because they are a challenging target. Duck will change height and direction at the flick of a primary feather if they see you, hear shooting or for any other duck reason. You must blend into your available cover, with minimum movement. Then pick the best possible targets.

I have always dug ponds, creating habitat for waterfowl, plants and insects. My first was at the age of seven, with my pocket money, formy Muscovy ducks, and I now have more than 100 pools under my belt.

It was a natural development that mallard and shooting would feature in my life. Forty years ago I bought mallard from game farms, then spent all August teaching them to fly. The only successful way was to walk them away from the pool and, with a dog or two, encourage return flight back to the pool, until free flight was achieved. If that failed, sewelling and black umbrellas often featured — anything to get them airborne.

Now there is another issue: polluting wild stock with mongrels.

The right colour

I started hatching my own from this stock but at least 15% were totally the wrong colour. The eggs were also miscoloured. There was a clue here. For many years we have overcome these problems, breeding from correctly coloured mallard, only using drakes and hens that have survived the shooting season by their flying abilities. Pretty well every wild duck that flies over west Wales calls in here.

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March 18, 2020