What to Expect
Wildfowling is about the whole experience – planning of the trip, the journey north, meeting your guide over a pint the first evening, and learning his plans for the next morning. On the day itself – the alarm at an ungodly hour, a quick cup and then off to the field. Next is setting the decoys and building the hide. As daylight arrives, it brings the sights and sounds that start off a new day, along with the anticipation of the arrival of the first birds. As your surroundings start to come into view, the distant calls of a party of geese – will they come? All this excitement before a shot has been fired! Raymond’s skill with the call and decoy placement will now be put to the test! The next two hours offer the peak of excitement, and if all goes to plan, everybody will get chances. When things work out really well, a halt will be called so as not to make an excessive bag, and educate all the local geese of decoys. The enjoyment of a flight is not dependent solely on the size of the bag.
Safety and Sportsmanship
Each guest will be required to sign a safety declaration which confirms that they understood the rules of the shoot, and will abide by them. Raymond will also give a safety briefing before each shoot, and all guests will abide by it. Guests are also required to have third party insurance, either through BASC membership, or other insurance. Geese are large birds, and often look closer than they are, so, Raymond will decide when the shot is taken. Good hides, decoy placement and light shooting pressure make it most likely that the geese will come into good range. Raymond, not content with those on the market, has had Greylag calls specially made by Hammond Calls in New Zealand. These sounds like geese - not like somebody blowing a goose call, and are available in his shop.
The Orkney Islands have become a major wintering ground for Greylag Geese. There is a locally bred population of around 20,000 which is added to when the Icelandic birds start to arrive in October, and through into November. Pinkfeet Geese are met with most in October, although there are always some to be found throughout the winter. The geese feed on stubble fields until the grain is all eaten, and then turn their attention to the grass fields. This is mainly when they come into conflict with the local farmers.
There are also good populations of Wigeon, Mallard and Teal on the Islands, and we have a number of flight ponds which can be shot on evening flight. These are fed daily, and of course this can attract geese as well as ducks! These ponds are shot only occasionally so as to give good sport, but we will not take an excessive toll on the population.
When geese are using a field, we will have to make use of whatever cover is available. It may be a ditch, wall, hedge, or rough grass/heather. The ability to bring geese properly into range is very much dependent on being well hidden. Raymond has a number of different methods of hide building, depending on conditions. The only part difficult to hide is your face, and the top of your head. A face mask and dead grass coloured hat is therefore a good investment; a black hat always gets a funny look! We also use layout blinds particularly when there is straw on the stubbles, or there is rough grass as cover.
What will the weather be like? Well, it could be just about anything, but rarely too hot! Early in the season, extra layers are not required, and most camouflage clothing is warm, and waterproof enough. Later in the season, extra layers may be required as the temperatures drop. Orkney is a windy place, but that helps to keep the geese low! Waders may be required in ditches occasionally, so bring them if you can, otherwise, Raymond’s shop has a good stock.
Raymond has two labs; Bruce, his older black dog, and Pete, a young fox red lab. If you intend to bring your own well trained dog, remember to have your own lead and anchor as dogs leaping out of ditches as geese are being shot is very hazardous.
The best size of group for wildfowling is from four to six guns. If your group is less than four, we may book other guns to make up numbers for your visit, but never making more than six in total. If you are four or more, no other guns will join up with your party. Your guide will focus on setting decoys, hide building, calling and retrieving birds – he will not carry a gun.
There are numerous self-catering lodges and small hotels to choose from in Kirkwall, and around Orkney. We recommend the West End hotel in Kirkwall, and can arrange accommodation if you wish.