The Countryman's Weekly

Increase your success with fieldcraft

June 30
15:38 2015

FIELDCRAFT is a subject that is touched upon in many articles including my own. A sound basic knowledge of fieldcraft increases our chances of success tenfold. Fieldcraft is knowing your quarry and its habits, as well as the area you shoot and why and when your quarry is likely to be there. It’s not just about having good equipment and the latest camouflage clothing.

We can relate fieldcraft to a number of everyday things. For example, cooking a new dish; it’s simply a case of having all the ingredients to put together and following instructions, and with time and/or experience it becomes second nature to us.

Fieldcraft is no different, but the instructions are written by nature. In this case I will relate fieldcraft to wildfowing, but you can relate fieldcraft to any form of shooting wild quarry.

A game diary has, with time, become my set of instructions for success. Looking back over a season it’s always nice to remember a red letter day, but a diary to me is more important as a log of precise records that can be used to aid future wildfowling trips, very like a recipe book.

Following an evening’s wildfowling I write up my diary. Entries into my diary consist of date, location, a brief description of the weather, wind direction, temperature, moon phase, tide size if shooting the coast, high and low tide times, state of tide on arrival, time of arrival and time taken to walk to a spot. I also note whether I used decoys or not.

Obviously if the final meal is to be a success then ingredients need to be accurately measured; wind speed, floodwater – or lack of – tide size, moon phase and temperature are required in quantities. If the correct amount of all ingredients are put together in the correct quantities then we should have a successful outcome.

Obviously with nature being the provider of the majority of ingredients, success isn’t as simple as going to the shop. But with the use of a game diary, over a period of time we will be able to look back and determine which meal/quarry is best pursued with the available ingredients, and sometimes all the required ingredients come together perfectly and result in a perfect meal, or in our case the flight of a lifetime.

Once you have noted essential ingredients in your diary you should add anything else you think might be of interest, such as something you may have noticed in the area you’re shooting. Perhaps make reference to a flightline the geese were using in relation to a certain wind direction, or note where the tide had pushed the geese to on the estuary overnight; anything you can add that may benefit you in the future.

Additional information you might log could include something you feel you did wrong or something that worked well that you hadn’t tried before. Failures as well as successes should be logged, as there’s always a reason for failure and knowing that reason may prevent failure in the future, and indeed aid success.

Wildfowl are without doubt creatures of habit; you will likely encounter them in the same place at the same time over many seasons or when certain conditions arise such as floods, severe cold or strong winds.

Over the course of a few seasons you will notice your records follow a pattern. I shoot a lot of teal over the season and information noted in my diary has proved more than useful. The information logged regarding teal follows a distinct pattern, thus instructing me when and where will be worth shooting when in certain weather conditions.

One of my favoured haunts is a stretch of river, but only when all around the area is frozen. Diary entries confirm that during wet spells the river is a waste of time; teal don’t like the fast current caused by floodwater and numbers on my fed flightpond dwindle too.

Teal can be hard to track down during prolonged wet weather. Last season was a classic example; they spread out far and wide so the chance of success is reduced. During such conditions I’ll set about trying to bag other species such as mallard, wigeon, pintail and shoveler, which show well on flood water and splashes. So as you can see, in this case I don’t have the ingredients for one particular dish but have enough for another.

I have records of pink-footed geese in my local area which show that they show on one particular block of pasture fields during frosty weather in December every season where they will remain until the season end. I am therefore aware that during December I have to keep an eye on those fields, both during the day and at night when the moon is influencing.

Notes regarding moon phases are vital when shooting wildfowl. Take note of what time geese or ducks moved when the moon was influencing, and indeed at what particular phase of the moon wildfowl are most active. Also make note of moon phases in relation to daylight forays; you will notice a pattern of wildfowl behaving differently when the moon influences.

Today we have at our disposal the computer, and you could make up a spreadsheet for your records and be as technical as you like. I’ll stick to my trusty game diary, as computers and I are not the best mix.

I was called a technophobe the other day, and I have to agree, but the reason for that is I’m out pursuing wildfowl most of the time and allow little time for learning to use computer programmes. While out, I’m gaining experience of these particular quarry species, which is what fieldcraft is all about, taking note and then putting all the ingredients together to get the desired result of success on future forays.



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